I turned over my Southampton FC calendar at the beginning of the month to find a photograph of manager Mark Hughes. The only trouble is that Mark Hughes is no longer the manager – and hasn’t been for quite a while. He was when the calendar was prepared, but managers of Premier League teams change with alarming frequency.
Our lives are full of changes of one sort or another. Society around us changes – laws are adapted, customs changes, behaviour is quite different. Our culture changes – think of the kinds of things you see on television, the songs that are sung, the books that you read. Science and technology have moved on – just think about the many things we use every day today that weren’t even imagined only twenty years ago. Our relationships change – our friends move away or pass away, partnerships split up – people move in and out of our lives.
Now, some of those changes are for the good. All sorts of things that have happened over the past thirty, twenty, ten years have changed our lives for the better in many, many ways. The range of food in the supermarkets, the possibilities of recovery from certain illnesses, an improved standard of living, a longer period of peace, easier communications. (Although it has to be said that there are always those who lose out through such changes.)
But there are many changes that are quite bewildering, which don’t seem to have made life better for us. A greater perceived threat of crime, for example. Less stability within communities, less advantageous working conditions, considerably less security in many areas of life. And those things can often leave us wondering just what there is to hang on to. Where do we go for a sense of stability and security?
At the end of this month the United Kingdom is due to leave the European Union and many of the changes that will come with that are, as yet, unknown – and quite confusing for many people. The potential is there for complete and utter chaos in many areas. How do we cope with the uncertainty and the anxiety that it will bring for many people in all areas of society?
Many centuries ago a wise prophet in the Middle East wrote a book which has been known as Lamentations. It’s a pretty depressing book about the ways in which his people were really going through the mill and finding life difficult and depressing (hence the name). But right in the middle of that long lament he says this
:GOD’s loyal love couldn’t have run out,
his merciful love couldn’t have dried up.
They’re created new every morning.
How great your faithfulness!
I’m sticking with GOD (I say it over and over).
He’s all I’ve got left.
(Lamentations 3:22,23 – The Message)
In the midst of all our uncertainty and problems we see the towering figure of God. He is a stable centre for us – described in many places in the Bible as “a Rock”. We can rely on him to be there for us – even when we perhaps don’t even acknowledge him. We can rely on his keeping his promises, on loving us and caring for us whatever the situation.
The prophet who wrote that lament – usually thought to have been called Jeremiah – hung on to that hope and found that it was vindicated. God did watch over him and his people. And God followed up on the promises he made to Jeremiah and others by sending his Son, Jesus, into our world to show us that he was serious about helping us, that his faithfulness was real.
In fact, God demonstrated just how serious he was about it all by allowing Jesus to die – and so dealing with the problem of our human failures – and then bringing him back to life, to show that even death is not the hopeless end we thought it was.
In all the changes that take place in our lives, amidst all the bewildering ups and downs, through all the problems and difficulties, God is there to help, to offer his “loyal and merciful love.” Whatever else is going on around us, it’s because of God that we can “keep a grip on hope.”
Rev Ian Hayter
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Last updated: December 27th, 2018