A couple of hours ago I read a comment from a 26year old, on an online forum ‘Covid, my furlough has ended and now a fuel crisis. What next?’
She sounds a bit battered and bruised by the lockdown, the vaccine controversy, the M25 protests (apparently she was stuck in the tailback caused by the first one and missed a morning’s wage) and now the gas shortage and price hike. Maybe she needs to stop the watching the news for a few days, give her heart a rest. I think she feels as if the world is spiralling out of control, as if chaos is just over the horizon, and she is helpless. I added a comment to her comment but I don’t know if she’ll read it, so this is my reply to her now. Here it comes, it’s hardly news but; The world has always seemed to be spinning out of control. That is the way of the world.
I look back on my 72 years and this is what I find:
A couple of weeks after I was born, China was taken over by the communists (wasn’t me, honest!). A year later came the Korean War (btw the Pope was busy claiming infalliblity and declaring that Mary was assumed into heaven and didn’t just die like the rest of us) then came the Nuclear bomb, and live testing…. then smog in London killed 12,000 people in just a few weeks… and forget our miserable whinges about empty supermarket shelves – food and fuel rationing continued in the UK for 10 years after the end of the war. I don’t remember any of that but it’s in the history books.
Fast forward to the years I do remember and let’s see if things became calmer and altogether more stable… surely there were no shortages in the fabulous 70’s, the years of kipper ties, platform boots and flares? Yep, that was the decade that saw massive inflation, poverty wages, and the railways and miner’s strikes. All this resulted in the government declaring a 3 day working week, caused by the fuel shortages, closing production in industry and limiting transport, TV broadcasts were curtailed, products were unavailable, pubs were closed. After all this, unsurprisingly, the Tory Government lost the election and Labour came in.
‘Ah, I’ imagine my left wing friends saying with relief ‘and then it all became more stable?’ Not quite, because then we promptly tumbled into the ‘Winter of Discontent’ with more and more radical strikes in just about every industry – car manufacture, miners, road hauliers, NHS workers, rubbish collectors and even grave diggers. Rubbish piled up in the streets and bodies rotted in mortuaries and in unrefrigerated containers. Not surprisingly there was another General Election and the Tories see-sawed back into power.
So, do I fret and fume about the state we’re in just now? Not really. Do I trust any one lot of politicians to sort it all out? Not really.
And as for Covid! Let me take a breath and dive back in – I grew up when people vanished for years on end into TB Sanatoriums, when children died from Polio, when smallpox was rife in the third world.
And yes! There are a dozen wars and the news is full of death and fear and desperate refugees…. I know. When I was a few years old my Dad was fighting the Mau Mau in Kenya, part of a Colonial Force opposing freedom fighters. We called them ‘the enemy’, we called them ‘terrorists’ but whatever they were, whatever we were, it was a brutal fight on both sides. And now the Middle East is in a terrible state, yes, I know. This is not new. Jesus was born into the poverty and pain of the Middle East, into an occupied land, ruled by the savagery of the Roman Empire, torn by tribal conflicts, crippled by religious bigotry. His parents fled into Egypt with him when he was still an infant, a family just like the refugees we see stumbling out of Afghanistan, out of Syria, fleeing across the English Channel. He was born into a time like ours. The Middle East is a troubled place. I lived there, in Egypt, and we went to school in an Army ten-ton truck with machine guns mounted and manned fore and aft. I grew up in a world of enmity and fear. My Dad was run down by Arabs, and then to make sure he was dead they reversed over him (he wasn’t dead, just had a metal plate in his head for the rest of his life). It’s the same old, same old.
I lived through years of trouble in Northern Ireland, society so divided and so bitter that when my mother was dying she had to be flown back to England because no Omagh hospital would take the Catholic wife of a British soldier.
The world has always seemed to be spinning out of control, mankind has always been a mess, a broken , angry, barbaric mess. But in that chaos there is kindness too, and amazing acts of bravery, there are organisations like the Red Cross, Medicine Sans Frontiers, a thousand NGOs. There’s the love of Christ, the presence of our merciful God. And the world will survive. Even in the chaos there is joy and new life, kindness, truth and mercy.
Maybe you have to be 72 to have the perspective that I have. But even if you’re only 26 and can’t yet see the wider picture, you can listen to the words of Jesus
‘In this life you will have trouble, but take heart, I have overcome the world.’
And just today I read in Colossians , describing Jesus,
‘He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.’
He holds all things together. The world is a beautiful place, and for all the wickedness and greed of man, we travel from dawn to dusk and from dusk to dawn, just as we always have.