Most of us are used to the idea of having our competence assessed. We have work appraisals, or driving tests, or exams to pass. We learn skills and then we are supposed to know- at least in some specific spheres, what we are doing and how we should do it. We may even have certificates to prove that we know what we’re doing!
As a priest in this current crisis, I have to admit that I don’t know. I am used to organising Sunday services, taking communion to those who can’t get out, praying with those who are bereaved, holding the hands of people who are frightened, taking school assemblies, chairing meetings….Nothing in my training prepared me for being unable to see or touch the people in my parishes. Nothing prepared me for being unable to open my churches so that the lost, lonely and sad could take refuge in them for a few quiet minutes. Nothing prepared me for the possibility that I might be taking funerals for people whose families were barred from attending.
I am learning afresh a most important lesson for the followers of Jesus: that it is God who is our strength and help. Our accomplishments and skills may look impressive, we may have a cupboard full of certificates, but unless we are guided by the Holy Spirit, we get nowhere fast. When we strive and strive to do everything in our own strength, we soon become bewildered and exhausted.
The Psalms say:
Unless the Lord builds the house,
those who build it labour in vain.
Unless the Lord guards the city,
the guard keeps watch in vain.
It is in vain that you rise up early
and go late to rest,
eating the bread of anxious toil;
for he gives sleep to his beloved.
“The bread of anxious toil”- I wonder how many of us are eating that at the moment?!
The joy of finding that we do not have the strength for these difficult days is in knowing that we have a God who has more than all the strength we need. If we are able to offer ourselves- in our weakness and confusion, to the one who knows all things and sustains all things, we will find that our stress and anxious self regard are replaced by peace and patient diligence in the tasks we find ahead.
“I was pushed so hard I was falling, but the LORD helped me. The LORD is my strength and my song, and He has become my salvation. “
My prayer for all of us today is that we will find ourselves resting in the strength and certainty of God’s love, whatever we find ourselves facing