Help in Lockdown (Ros' Blog)
I’m sure it’s true to say that nobody wanted to start the New Year with another total lockdown, even though most people can see the need for it and the sense of it. Those who are in the clinically extremely vulnerable category have been shielding pretty much since March anyway, and for them, the end of this crisis must seem a very long way away.
I have been thinking about this today as I’ve listened to news broadcasts and commentary, and I’ve been asking God what our response should be. My thoughts turned to the story of Nehemiah in the Old Testament. He found himself facing a time of national crisis, and in his real distress about it, he immediately turned to God for wisdom.
God granted him favour with the king; he was given leave of absence, safe passage and the resources he needed to rebuild the walls around Jerusalem and re-establish the city as the home of the Jewish nation. Perhaps, like many of us when we went into the first lockdown, he thought that was all he needed, and that the end would soon be in sight.
If so, he reckoned without the obstacles that were to come into his way; and yet at every turn it was his godly response that unlocked the solution to the problem. Before asking the king for help, he gave himself to a period of prayer, and only proceeded once he knew he had placed his trust in God. Faced with ridicule from those who opposed him, he confidently reasserted his trust in God.
When he found that his builders were becoming too exhausted to continue building while simultaneously repelling the enemy, he again asked God for wisdom and then divided them into two teams – defenders and builders – so that the work could continue uninterrupted. When some of those among his fellow-countrymen were facing real hardship and even starvation as a result of the nobles and officials charging them interest which they couldn’t afford, mortgaging their lands and taking their fields as security, he not only made them give back what they had taken from the people, but also modelled for them what a godly leader looks like, by refusing to claim from the people the governor’s allowance to which he was entitled. He taught the people by his words and his deeds what it means to follow God.
When his enemies tried to trick him into meeting with them, he discerned that their intention was to harm him, and refused to go. When they spread rumours about his motives and intentions, he remained focused on what God had called him to do and wouldn’t allow them to distract him. When a false prophet urged him to go and hide he responded with holy boldness and steadfastly continued the work God had given him to do. When he received letters designed to intimidate him, he remained fixed on God and refused to be scared. As soon as the task of building was finished, he appointed musicians to guarantee that the worship of God took a place of priority in the life of the nation.
He ensured that the people had access to the word of God, appointing those who would read it to them, and he made certain that they realised the words of God’s law were not intended to condemn them but to become a source of joy for them even in such a time of hardship as they had just been through. “Go and enjoy choice food and sweet drinks, and send some to those who have nothing prepared,” he told them. “This day is holy to our Lord. Do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.”
As we face another indeterminate period of lockdown, once again separated from loved ones, unable to go out and enjoy the freedom to which we might feel entitled, we can look to God and focus on him in the way that Nehemiah did, refusing to allow adversity to distract us from staying close to God and finding strength in the joy He gives.
But nor should we hesitate to make use of the sources of help that are available in our society. These, too, are God-given and may be what we need to get us through the period of lockdown. As mentioned in our recent issue of Vital Link, for any disabled person struggling during this time of uncertainty and in need of someone to listen there is help available. Perhaps you have lost a friend or are anxious and would like someone to talk to? We are delighted that two Christian Pastors, with counselling skills, and experience of living with disability, have kindly offered a listening ear through telephone support to the TTR family. Places are limited, but if you would like to speak to someone, please call the office on 01372 749955 or email us on firstname.lastname@example.org, and we’ll put you in touch with Alex and Anne.
There are other organisations, too, which are available to help people at this time. If you are struggling with severe mental health issues and finding it hard to go on, The Samaritans can be contacted by dialling 116 123. The mental health charity, Mind, has a helpline which can be reached on 0300 123 3393. They can also help people who find addiction and dependency getting the better of them. Young people experiencing a mental health crisis can find support by texting Crisis Young Minds Messenger on 85258. Anxiety UK is a national charity helping people who are struggling with anxiety, and their helpline can be contacted on 03444 775 774. For those at risk of losing their homes, for example if income has dried up and rent is in arrears, Citizens Advice UK can be contacted via their website citizensadvice.org.uk or by telephone on 0800 144 8848 for England, 0800 144 8848 for Wales, or, if you can't hear or speak on the phone, you can type what you want to say using Relay UK: 18001 then 0800 144 8884.
If you are working from or isolating at home, and fuel poverty is preventing you from heating your home adequately, you can find help and information by following this link to the Turn 2 Us site. If food poverty is a problem for you, you can follow this link to find your nearest foodbank.
Although our ultimate trust is in God, there is no reason why we should not use resources such as these if they provide what we need. They have been created by people whose love and care is inspired by God, whether or not they realise it. But whatever your need is during this new period of lockdown, we at Through the Roof are praying for you, and our prayer is that you will find God to be a source of comfort and joy in times of anxiety and uncertainty, and a faithful provider in times of lack. Please feel free to get in touch with us via email@example.com or 01372 745599 with prayer requests and we will pray for your specific need.
And look out for our online events, beginning with a rerun of our successful online retreat, Finding God in Lockdown which will take place in the week of 1st - 5th February from 2-4pm on the Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Follow this link for more information about the retreat.