As we grieve the death of Queen Elizabeth, Kate Patterson says that, as Christians, we can mourn differently to the rest of the nation.
We knew it was coming yet it was still a shock. I found myself close to tears when I heard that the Queen had died. Why is this changing of the guard so significant? It is a seismic change for our nation. In my lifetime, changes have rolled in at great pace, some good, some bad, but through it all, since the day that she pledged to serve us, the Queen has always been there, holding our fragmented British identity together. She’s seen 15 Prime Ministers come and go; while she remained constant. The loss of her reassuring presence is all the greater because our nation is more unsettled than ever, reeling from the combined impact of Covid, Brexit, war in Ukraine, economic instability, cultural change, climate change and tectonic shifts in the map of global power.
How as Christians do we respond to this loss? I believe we have a unique opportunity to point people to the faith that the Queen held so dearly, to point to hope. In the words of Paul: “We do not grieve as those who have no hope” (1 Thess 4:13-18). That’s not to say that we don’t grieve as Christians – we definitely do grieve and I think for many of us, this loss of the Queen brings back other bereavements. But our grief is not the grief of despair. We grieve with hope that God can meet us in the present with all we need to meet its challenges and we grieve with hope of the joy of eternal life. The Queen herself faced deep sorrows and challenges but told us: “I draw strength from the message of hope in the Christian gospel.”
I believe we have a unique opportunity to point people to the faith that the Queen held so dearly.
As a child, she saw that hope carry her through the horrors of the Second World War. As a 13 year old in 1939, she handed her father, King George, this poem by Minnie Louise Haskins,
And I said to the man who stood at the gate of the year:
“Give me a light that I may tread safely into the unknown.”
And he replied:
“Go out into the darkness and put your hand into the Hand of God.
That shall be to you better than light and safer than a known way.”
All her life, the Queen held the hand of the Servant King, choosing to serve, aware she got things wrong but trusting that every day brings a new beginning with God. She said: “I know that the only way to live my life is to try and do what is right, to take the long view, to give of my best.. and to put my trust in God.”
We grieve with hope that God can meet us in the present with all we need to meet its challenges
That trust led to a life of kindness, service and true humility, the kind that doesn’t take yourself too seriously. Sky news has a wonderful interview recounting when two American tourists met her walking in Balmoral. They asked her to take a photo of them and she played along with it, never letting on who she was. She kept that sense of fun to the end.
No wonder she was loved by so many. When I was a child, to later embarrassment, I was such a fan that I adopted an extra middle name – Elizabeth. I did eventually leave behind the rampant royalism and the middle name but I remain deeply grateful for our Queen who embodied so much of the best of Christian values – service, kindness, humility and hope. In her death, as in her life, may she point many to Jesus who she followed faithfully to the end.