From the Rector 22 March

FROM the RECTOR….

Harold Wilson, the former UK Prime Minister once said that ‘A week is a long time in politics’. And looking back over this past week, it is hard to grasp just how much our country and everyday life has changed. Many of us are still reeling from the various government announcements and struggling to come to terms with how we will now function as individuals, as a family and as a society.

And in this challenging situation with its uncertain future, fear and anxiety is a very natural response. Only a fool would not be concerned about the current situation. However, as I mentioned in my previous message to you, we must be careful not to be taken prisoner by fear and thus allow anxiety about ‘what might be’ to crush us. For crush us, it will.  When you go along with your inner fears and brood on what might be and how awful things could become, you simply feed the fear within you which then craves more and more of you and so completely emotionally overwhelms you.

I recognise that there are many real threats and awful things to worry about: be that in relation to the possible large number of deaths; the prospect of business failure and economic collapse; or concern about just how exactly your children will be awarded their A-Levels and GCSEs. These are all genuine concerns. But, at this stage, we have absolutely no control over their future outcome. And it is that fact (that we have no control) which causes us such awful fear.

Yet we have a choice and that therefore means we actually have some control. While we cannot control the big picture and the outcome of the crisis in our society, we today have a choice (and therefore personal control) as to how we this day will respond to fear.

Fear will arise (for as mentioned above, it is a natural human reaction). The choice before you is whether you go with your inner fears and brood on all that ‘might be’ OR whether you acknowledge your fears and bring them to God in prayer and then focus on what is good, what is lovely and what is praiseworthy. As the Apostle Paul said to the suffering Church in Philippi:

‘Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.’

However, this does not just happen naturally. We have to consciously and deliberately decide how we will respond to fear: to go with it OR to confront it. It is your choice: what will you decide?

On a purely pastoral level, I would urge you as a person to confront your fear because it will only just keep demanding more and more of you until you have nothing more to give and are emotionally broken. And then on a spiritual level, speaking to those who are Christians, I would encourage you to confront your fear because Jesus repeatedly calls upon us to do so.

Jesus Christ in the garden of Gethsemane went through a terrible time of fear as He thought about the dreadful death before Him. It was only as He sought the blessing and strength of God the Father through sustained prayer that Jesus was renewed in faith and granted peace. If our Lord Himself needed to seek help through prayer, so do each of us.

So as I conclude, let me give you some practical guidelines for seeking the peace of God.

Take time to be still before God – turn off  your phone – and just be quiet. Take several deep breathes and breath out slowly. Then say the Lord’s Prayer. Repeat the Lord’s Prayer once more and focus in on one line and then use that phrase to build your prayer around.

Then in your second prayer, acknowledge that there are real problems and genuine grounds for being afraid and recognise exactly what are the individual problems or possible problems which you are so concerned about. Then quite deliberately hand over in prayer those individual concerns and fears to God and ask Him to deal with them; ask Him to give you faith to trust Him in this uncertain situation; and ask Him to grant you peace as you live this day.

Continue in a prayerful attitude by now turning to thanksgiving and identify three individual things which you can thank God for. Then take a few moments to do just that. Allow a new sense of thankfulness to fill your heart and so drive out any lingering fear.

Finally look out in prayer (so to ensure that your prayers are not only about you) and pray for others. It may be for those in leadership or making key policy-decisions; the country at large; for others in our Church family; or the on-going ministry of our Church to those in need. Your prayers can make a real difference.

And after you have finished praying, fears can rush back in or doubts can arise. And indeed you should expect to feel that it was all just a waste of time.  So don’t allow those news fears or doubts any ground. Instead:

affirm in faith that you have been heard by God;

affirm by faith that God will deal with what you have brought before Him;

and

affirm a great truth from Scripture (such as Jesus Christ died literally for you).

It is important to affirm these great truths of Scripture for not only as they actually true but pastorally and emotionally, they help us put our current problems in perspective. And they remind us of God’s good and perfect love for us and remember, it is His perfect love which ultimately casts out all fear.

After spending time in prayer, then just get on with living this day as best as you can. Despite all the current restrictions, enjoy this day. Today is precious and let’s aim to enjoy the blessing and the good things which God has granted us. And don’t spend all day listening to the news!! Ration your intake of TV news and be mindful of fake news on your iphone. Instead, focus on what good, what is lovely and what is praiseworthy

Meantime, be assured of my on-going prayers for you and your loved one

 

Bryan