Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. 2 Corinthians 4 v 16-18
Yesterday morning I spent time in pastoral conversation with a colleague who is recovering from the coronavirus. For weeks we have been in contact only by texts that yielded a small insight into their journey with this illness. In those texts, I had been privy to some “dark night of the soul” moments; the worst times, when their temperature was so high and fever so frightening that they just wanted to die and when their child also contracted the virus and was taken by ambulance to intensive care. Dark, frightening, painful, exhausting days; these are the days of serious, life threatening illness where death feels like the only kind and possible outcome.
However, I also had a conversation last night with a friend who is a Doctor working on the frontline who spoke with a smile about people getting better. Yes, there are still new cases of the virus and new admissions to hospital every day but there are also people being discharged as the NHS staff are seeing the results of their kindness and care in some people coming through the worst and going home to restart their lives.
Perhaps you read about or heard about Ada Zanusso who fell ill to coronavirus at her nursing home in Biella in northern Italy on March 17, eight days after the Government imposed a lockdown on the country. This 104-year-old Italian woman survived the 1918 Spanish Flu and has now become the world’s oldest person to survive the coronavirus. Yes, people are dying but people are also living.
Jesus told us in this world we would have troubles (John 16 v 33), and absolutely no one is spared (Romans 5 v 12). Yet coping with any degree of suffering becomes easier when we understand God’s overall design to love and transform our broken world. We may not be guaranteed physical health in this life, but those who trust in God are promised spiritual security for all eternity (John 10 v 27-28). Nothing can touch the soul.
It can certainly be difficult to accept some of the sorrowful twists and turns that life brings our way. And there are few things that can stir the human soul more than the news of an illness diagnosis. However, through our faith we know that Jesus cares about the impact of illness. Our Saviour wept when His beloved friend Lazarus died (John 11 v 35), and His heart was touched by the sorrow of Jairus’ family when their daughter was ill (Luke 8 v 41-42). Jesus not only cares; He is at hand to help His children. Our God is an “ever-present help in trouble” (Psalm 46 v 1). The Holy Spirit, the Comforter of our hearts, dwells with us, and He will never leave (John 14 v 16).
We may never understand the reasons for our particular trials this side of eternity, but one thing is clear – for those who love God, trials work for them, not against them (Romans 8 v 28). Moreover, God will give us the strength to endure any trial (Phillippians 4 v 13).
Ultimately, God’s will for us is to glorify Him and to grow spiritually. He wants us to trust and depend on Him. How we react to our trials, including the trial of illness, reveals exactly what our faith is like. Our suffering is never meaningless. God uses suffering to change us, to minister to others, and, ultimately, to teach us about His love for all creation.
We hold before you God all those who have lost their lives to Covid-19 and their families and friends who deeply mourn their passing.
We remember too those who have died during this time who did not have the virus but whose death and funeral have been marked under restriction and we pray for the families and health care staff impacted by the trauma of these circumstances.
We pray that their memories may be honoured and that the sacrifice made in the lives of all people in lockdown will be seen as a fitting tribute to those fighting the fight for health at this time.
And we pray too for those who are getting better. Strengthen their recovery, aid their process of adjusting to life at home again and help them to return to life with a new sense of joy and thanksgiving.
In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ who comforted those who mourn, who healed the sick and who offered life in all it’s fullness we pray.