Back in March Boris Johnson talked about turning the tide on the virus in twelve weeks. To be fair to him, he didn’t promise life would return to normal by the end of June- but I suspect many of us assumed that would be the case. So we began to have in our minds a very difficult three month period before summer provided a sense of relief and then autumn would be like any other autumn with all the excitement of a new academic year. Gradually, though, it is dawning on us that this isn’t going to be the case. The earliest date we will be able to gather as a church is 5th July- and, if we are able to have a physical service then, it will be very far from our usual expectations of church. Meanwhile the weekend brought reports from the Bishop of London that church services may not go back to normal before Christmas. And, of course, it is not just church services. When will I be able to gather with my family? When can I see my friends? When can I do my job without the pressures of simultaneous home schooling? Nobody has any answers at the moment and the future stretches out uncertainly.
If I’m honest, it is this aspect that I have found hardest. In certain respects lockdown hasn’t been as traumatic as it might have been- but it does cast a sad dullness over most of life. Much that gives pleasure has been removed. I have been grateful for the compensations of virtual church but it isn’t quite the same. And it is the thought of this lasting (in certain respects at least) for months on end that raises the tricky questions- will I be able to cope emotionally? Will the church survive without a normal Sunday gathering? What will be left when this is all over? Those issues can begin to dominate thinking- adding to the sadness of our current existence.
On Sunday we looked at Jesus’ instruction in Luke’s Gospel “Do not worry”. And we considered his five antidotes to worry. You can watch it here (with a slight re-edit having been done to cover the period where we lost sound!). In particular we noticed the challenge that Christians should be distinct in the way we cope with the worries of the pandemic. But there is an additional verse that comes up in Matthew’s version (all the Gospels edit in different ways) that we didn’t think about where Jesus says- “Do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” (Matthew 6:34). In other words Jesus is saying- don’t worry about the next six months. Focus each day at a time.
There is quite a strong biblical theme of the Lord providing each day. In the wilderness in Exodus 16 God provides His people with manna to eat. But they are told quite specifically to collect it each day and not to store it. Essentially they are required to trust that the Lord will give them enough each day at a time- rather than expecting Him to provide six months of resources. In the midst of the agony of exile, Jeremiah notes that the Lord’s compassions are new every morning. Earlier in the year we considered the daily rhythm of Psalms 3-5- David brings his requests to the Lord in the morning and goes to sleep in the evening entrusting himself to the Lord. And we need His daily provision because Jesus tells us that it will be a daily act for the Christian to take up their cross and follow Him.
At the moment, every part of me wants to know what life will be like in October and how we’ll be coping with it. But I can’t know that and Jesus is quite clear- don’t worry about it! The Lord knows about October, He cares and that needs to be enough for me at the moment. Rather I am to wake up every morning thanking the Lord that this will be another day of His compassion and that, even if many things have been stripped away, there are evidences of His kindness. And I’ll ask for His help to get through another day of unexpected challenges. And, as I go to sleep at night, even it it’s been one of those bad lockdown days I’ll thank Him for getting me to the end of it and trust that He will provide what I need tomorrow morning. Over time the days where we pursue that rhythm will add up, the Lord will keep us going over the months- and this daily rhythm may even become a practice that we’ll want to pursue as and when life does return to normal.
These are trying times. The only way to get through them is to trust the Lord one day at a time.