Letter from the Vicar
Facing an uncertain economic future as a nation and worry about the possible consequences of a second wave of the pandemic, it’s not surprising that many of us are struggling to make sense of the new norm. All this uncertainty about the future undermines our sense of well-being and our confidence to just get on with life. Making decisions about which activities we will get involved with and which we will avoid. Assessing which risks are reasonable and which greater than we are prepared to encounter is difficult for us all and when these decisions come thick and fast, they are exhausting too. It’s no wonder we are all feeling the strain.
With all these insecurities presently in our communities it seems to me that hope is needed now more than ever. In making this claim for hope I am not referring to the wishy-washy version of it, which is commonly spoken of today. This version of hope amounts to little more than wishing on a star but rather, the resilient version of hope which the Bible speaks of, as being founded on the unchangeable nature of God.
Hope only really comes into its own in dark days when we can’t see the way forward. If the path ahead is clear, then we travel by sight, reliant on our own resources to keep us on track. But when we don’t know the way hope gives us the courage to move forward, it gives us the security to act. Being in social isolation felt like action had been suspended; there was no work, school, shopping or socialising just staying at home and keeping safe. Staying at home was, in itself a deliberate act to safeguard others, but it felt like inaction. It reduced the necessity of making everyday choices for many of us, to a minimum. This has made it stressful for us to re-engage again with life. Hope cannot necessarily guarantee us safety or security on the journey of life it does give us the assurance that our destination will ultimately be found in God and in his love for us, his children.
So, let me just draw out a few ways in which I believe having hope in God can have an impact on how we live our lives and why both as individuals and communities we need reserves of hope to draw upon right now.
One of the unfortunate realities of living under stressful circumstances is that our relationships with those nearest to us can take a real battering. Hope is built on a recognition that God forgives us when we mess up and invites us to share his forgiveness with those who have hurt us. Without forgiveness we cannot repair our broken relationships changing the future we might have had to something quite different. The ability to give and receive forgiveness is essential for all communal living, that’s why we teach it to our children, so that they can make and keep friends. Knowing that forgiveness is a gift from God can give us the hope to reach out and offer forgiveness even before we feel like we have the grace in ourselves to do so. Trusting that God will supply the gifts we need, but do not feel we have, breaks the chains of resentment and unforgiveness. We hope in the provision of the one who is faithful to forgive us when we don’t deserve it, so that we might find the grace to forgive others before they deserve it too.
Another major impact of the lockdown is that many of our young people who have lost half a year of their education. If this has been an exam year or has occurred right at the beginning of their working lives, they are facing a future that looks grim. For them to continue to believe that the future holds something worthwhile for them will take real resilience. Grandparents can encourage young people to stay hopeful and positive by recognising the gifts and experience that they have to offer and by praising them for all the positive steps they take to pursue opportunities. When things are tough and we are tempted to despair, we often need others to believe in us until our confidence is restored. As well as creaking bones, age can bring perspective; troubles pass, better days come. Maybe holding out hope for a young person you know might be one of the ways you can help rebuild what has been lost through this pandemic.
Finally, for many families the impact of the pandemic will be experienced through job losses and resulting financial difficulties. Food banks are expecting an increased demand for their services as the government support for furloughed employees comes to an end. We can all offer a small sign of hope in a kinder society as we support the food bank collection in St Bega’s porch, Eskdale Green.