You might have seen in the papers or online over the weekend that during the current crisis a quarter of adults have “tuned in” to or watched a religious service on TV or online, and of those, one in five say they have never previously gone to church. In young adults, aged 18-34, one third had watched a service.
It is easy to say- and no doubt many people will say, that these people are seeking “any port in a storm”. But it is also true that for some people a time like this brings a real crisis of faith. I’ve had a conversation with a member of my own family who just asked me “How do you square this with your faith?” because he couldn’t square it with his understanding of how the world works.
People in pain will sometimes turn away from God or lose faith, just as some will turn towards God. CS Lewis famously said “God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our consciences, but shouts in our pains.” Pain is still pain- and God does not will suffering, but nonetheless we may learn of God’s presence through suffering.
I am not alone in feeling really encouraged that people have been turning to prayer, and that many of these have been young people whose prevailing narrative in life so far may well have been about securing their lives and futures through exams, jobs, housing and so on. Not that I have anything against exams, jobs and housing! But if people are beginning to open their hearts to other ways of thinking and being, and opening their hearts to God’s spirit, we can expect good things. We know that God hears our prayers- I wonder how the prayers of these many people are rising up- as a cry for healing of our nation, a shout of praise for those key workers we depend on, a song of lament for those who have been lost.
I am reminded of that beautiful passage from the prophecy of Jeremiah (Chapter 33)
31 “Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah, 32 not like the covenant that I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, my covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, declares the Lord. 33 For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people. 34 And no longer shall each one teach his neighbour and each his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the Lord. For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.”
Let’s keep praying for our nation, that people would know the presence, peace and consolation of the God who loves them so dearly.
Let’s keep praying that our church will be a beacon of God’s love, light, hope and truth.
Let’s keep thanking God for the blessings we have already received, keeping our eyes on Jesus, praying for the work of the spirit in our hearts.
May you know God’s blessing and presence today.