WHEN THE CHURCH IS CLOSED...
. . . the presence of God remains.
The past few weeks (as I write, we are still in lockdown) have been unusual times. They have raised all sorts of fears and questions, made us aware of our own and others’ vulnerabilities, faced us with disruptions to normal life and helped us recognise what it is we really value in life.
We are not the first generation to live through something so big and beyond our control that normal life has been suspended. Plagues and pandemics have happened before and no doubt will again. I’m ever thankful that I live in the 21st century rather than, for instance, in the 14th when the Black Death arrived. We have far greater understanding now of how to limit the spread of this disease and we are able to stay more connected through technology with people we care about.
But some things are the same. We today are faced with the fact that human beings can’t control everything and that something hidden is causing so much heartache and pain. The invisibility of the virus is one of the things that causes so much fear: now as then.
Since the 16th century, people have found a particular spiritual exercise helpful to keep them grounded in difficult times. It originates with St Ignatius of Loyola and reminds us that whatever we go through God remains present. You may like to give this simple version a go. If doing it each day sounds too much, why not try it once a week?
At the end of each day ask yourself these questions:
· What has been good this day? What has brought joy?
· What has been difficult today? What has made you sad?
· Where has God felt close to me today?
· Where has God felt far from me?
You could then turn your answers into prayers: thanking God for the good things and the times when we’ve felt close by and reminding yourself that God doesn’t leave us in tough times. Perhaps you might like to pray for others in dark and difficult places and ask God to being hope.
Undertaking something like this reminds us that God is not confined to our church buildings but is everywhere, and cares about every aspect of our lives: good and joyful, sad and painful. Jesus experienced all human emotions and can relate to how we feel, regardless of whether that is happy or hopeless.