Rumours of a new disease were reaching our ears at the beginning of 2020. By 30th January we had our first confirmed cases. On 24th March, India went into lockdown. Nothing has been the same since.
Now as we approach the end of 2020, the world, our nation, our communities and our lives are barely recognisable from just one year ago. How could life change so dramatically in the blink of the eye?
We are left navigating an uncertain and constantly shifting new normal; one that includes global recession, rising unemployment, worldwide fragile mental health, isolated ways of working, stressful and restricted schooling for our children, new approaches to church fellowship and a long, long road to recovery. It is overwhelming to say the least. So what do we do? How do we handle something like this?
The Lord is near. 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 your minds in Christ Jesus. PHILIPPIANS 4:5-7
The Bible’s instruction is wonderfully straightforward and refreshing for wearied souls: “in every situation . . . present your requests to God.” Even in this chaotic, stressful and long season, we can experience God’s peace as we trust every situation, every question, every trial, every loved one and every day into His loving, powerful hands.
That is what this collection of prayers is for; to help you prayerfully approach the challenges you face. We trust these prayers and reflections will give you confidence to enter God’s presence and the words with which to pour out your heart to Him so that He may fill you with His transformational peace.
Since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, for our ‘God is a consuming fire.’ Hebrews 12:28-29.
Right now our world is shaken. Every tentative plan it makes is tinged with uncertainty and worry. Every attempt at normal life is filled with restrictions and change. But as God’s children, we have an unshakable hope, for we are receiving a kingdom that “cannot be shaken”.
In His Word, God specifically calls Himself “the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our trouble” (2 Corinthians 1:3-4).
Why does God call Himself the God “of all comfort”? Because He knows His people will suffer in this world, and so He knows we will need His comforting presence. And that is precisely the role He gives Himself in these verses; He is our chief comforter for “all our trouble”; nothing’s too big and nothing’s too small.
Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good. His love endures forever. PSALM 136:1
The Bible never wavers in reminding us of this wonderful truth: God is good. Not “will be” or “has been” but “is”. He is good when we can feel His goodness; and He is still good when we can’t. He is good when we are surrounded by the love and kindness of family and friends; and He remains good when we are lost in grief and loneliness.
As lockdown continues to ease, and a new way of life emerges, this next season of Coronavirus disruption promises more uncertainty than ever. There are so many questions: how long will we be living in this ‘half existence’? When will we be able to visit family in complete freedom? When will our kids go to school normally? How are we meant to continue balancing part-school and part-home and part-church in the meantime?
Self-isolate. Bubbling. Social distance. These once-foreign phrases have become commonplace over the last few months. All around the world, there are people who are missing out on human interaction. They are still distanced from friends and family, working separately at home, bubbled into a very small or nonexistent community, and feeling more alone than ever. Perhaps you are one of them. Or maybe you just feel lonely for other reasons.
In just a matter of weeks, the dreaded COVID-19 virus turned the world upside down. And the effects of the coronavirus are still being felt.
We are being urged to keep our distance from others, even loved ones. We are trying to be frugal with our finances, with jobs under constant threat and savings being eaten away. We are keeping our families and little ones calm, while the anxiety silently threatens to overwhelm our already troubled hearts.
After leaving full-time education, I had a low-paying job. Money was tight, and sometimes I didn’t even have enough for my next meal. It was a season in which I had to learn to trust God for my daily provision.
That is a similar situation for many of us today. A year ago these circumstances were unimaginable. Now we face a global recession and the closure of many seemingly secure businesses—and growing unemployment.
At first it was just a big unknown. For some it was terrifying; for others, just a bit of a novelty. However we felt about it, the lockdown began an extraordinary shake-up of everything we take for granted; normal life changed overnight. We washed our hands, stocked up on supplies and listened intently to the news reports.
But that was months ago. We’ve long since stopped hearing daily statistics and new symptoms to watch out for.
Coronavirus has turned our world upside down, leaving many of us trying to work out a completely new way of life for ourselves and our families. It’s unsettling, stressful and lonely. And we simply don’t know how long this season of challenge and change is going to last.
When the brokenness of our world forces itself upon us so strongly, the comfort of God’s Word can step forward even more strongly.
Almost exactly twenty-five years ago, my wedding was abruptly cancelled with six weeks to go because of an immigration issue. I was devastated. The new arrangements we managed to make meant that none of my friends and only a few family members would be able to attend.
For all the years since, this part of my story has lain dormant in my memory. Now, quite unexpectedly, it has become a source of encouragement.
In these strange days of continued social distancing and less contact with our communities, creative ways to keep church families together have become a standard way of connecting. Now more than ever, online chat sessions and videos have become a place where we can share our hearts, pray together and study God’s Word. Some are making the helpful suggestion to remember God’s goodness for this technology and thank Him for it. Others, however, tend to say, “Yes, but . . .”
Which approach is right? Should we count our blessings, such as our brothers and sisters in Christ?
A journalist voiced his frustration when he saw people in other countries going about their daily lives while the coronavirus spread rapidly in his own: “We were screaming this message to the world when some countries kept playing and carried on living normally: look at what is happening to us! You need to stop and go inside.” Each country responded to the virus differently, because of political and geographical boundaries.
But as believers in Jesus concerned about disease and the welfare of others, we can pour out our concern to God, who isn’t limited by borders.