First the immediate challenge of this time is that we have been significantly disturbed in recent months. For those of us who like predictability and a reasonable level of security, which is probably a huge majority of us, that causes us to classify these times as difficult.
I have a number of difficulties with “difficult.” Even if you leave God out of the picture there are people in Yemen, Syria and India who would tell us we have no idea what “difficult” is and who among us would look them in the eye and tell them they are wrong? And if you decide to bring God into the picture, as you undoubtedly will, especially the God of Jesus and the Bible, then we have to decide what to do with the claim that it’s all good – even the bad. Jesus makes it even more difficult for us to denote these times as difficult because he ends up on a cross and intends to do that and because he tells would-be followers to be ready to do the same. Like many of us I have ended a lot of my messages these last months with “stay safe.” I imagine Jesus’ response to that would probably be “No” or “Why?”
So how are we to be then? I think the first thing is to live fully and deeply the disturbance this has produced in us. Avoid escape at all costs. Are you exhausted? Let the exhaustion seep into you; don’t escape it – live it. Ask God is he still present in you and in your world when you are as exhausted as you have ever been in your life. Are you fearful? How far can you go into your fear and find that God is still there? Don’t do escaping – box-sets or booze or whatever your thing is. All that does is postpone the questions. Take all the rest you’re given but stick with the questions. Is God in charge or not? Is all going to be well or is that just some kind of pietistic nonsense we spout to make ourselves or others feel a bit better?
The second question following how are we to be is what do we do? With our neat little worlds looking like a tornado has just passed through are we supposed to tidy up or do we pack our bags. I propose the latter but suggest we don’t pack too much – a heavy load doesn’t make for comfortable travel. We should consider leaving behind everything that is for comfort or security. It’s probably not going to be much use. We probably need some tools because it will be hard work. And a decent sleeping bag and mat because we’ll need to rest well. And anything that will bring some fun for the journey, a tin whistle or a football. Bring plenty of questions, especially hard ones and leave most of the answers, especially the easy ones. Then begin each day like it’s the first one and live it like it’s the last one.