It’s April Fools’ Day. Usually you see lots of April Fools’ pranks on websites and in the papers. I haven’t yet noticed any today (maybe I’ve just missed them)! Somehow it feels as though nobody is ready for any sort of joking around. The last thing we need is fake news.
Lots of people generating our news are exercised about how many people we are testing and why, and how many respirators we have and where, and whether or not we should all have been better prepared for this after the last NHS pandemic “drill” in 2016 showed up serious gaps in provision. It feels as though this is no time for a joke.
Most of us are reaching out for support and reassurance. Those of us trying to do our jobs are really tired, and those of us who are not able to do our jobs are really frustrated. We’d love a hand to hold but we aren’t allowed to hold hands. We’d love to go down the pub and forget it all for an hour with a friend, but the pubs are shut.
But we can still offer one another support. A phone call isn’t the same as meeting in person but it is really important. Letters mean so much to people too. If you can, write a note to someone and say hello. Tell your friends you are praying for them. In this odd time, people are hungry for contact and hungry for normality.
And- importantly- join your friends in lament. The bible, particularly the Psalms, are full of lament. The Psalms rehearse both the pain and confusion we find ourselves in, and our faith in God. For example, Psalm 77 (v8-9) says
Will the Lord reject for ever?
Will he never show his favour again?
8 Has his unfailing love vanished for ever?
Has his promise failed for all time?
9 Has God forgotten to be merciful?
Has he in anger withheld his compassion?’
Jesus asked his friends in the garden of Gethsemane to pray with him- not because he wanted jollying along, but because he wanted them to entreat God’s blessing and participate in his grief. The support we can offer one another by sharing our sense of disorientation and loss can be a huge and healing gift. We are not asked to pretend that all is well- to bring “fake news” to those who are struggling. Rather, we are asked to participate with them in a deep truth- the Good News, that even in our most troubling times, God remains with us:
“Can a mother forget the baby at her breast
and have no compassion on the child she has borne?
Though she may forget, I will not forget you!
Our loving God remains with us, always present to reach out to us, comfort us and uphold us. And that is Good news indeed.