• Mike Plant

What are you finding difficult?

Why ask this question?

One of the ministers in the EFCC What’s App Discussion Group posted a blog which he regularly reads for stimulation and encouragement. The person writing said that he found when he asked people how they are during the pandemic – sadly of course this is almost invariably by phone or on zoom nowadays – he had become frustrated that if he asked people, ‘How are you?’ they invariably replied that they were Okay. He has now started asking them what it is that they are currently finding most difficult. I felt when I read this that this really does have a capacity to be helpful. We automatically tend to shy away from examining what is really going on in our lives because in actuality it is quite painful delving into what is difficult and unpleasant and it is easier if we can avoid thinking about it. We also have a tendency, which is directly linked to our fallen human nature, to want to be independent and self-sufficient when God made us to be inter-dependent and therefore insufficient in ourselves.

We are told in Romans 12: 15 + 16, ‘Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight.’

What this clearly means is that we are to be involved in one another’s lives. They cannot manage without us and we cannot manage without them. What do you find most difficult? For myself, the problems of the pandemic are, particularly now, the lack of contact with other people and the sense of isolation that comes from this. This isn’t meant to indicate I think emails, letters, phone calls, zoom meetings etc are valueless but simply to say that they cannot replace face to face contact. One text I haven’t dwelt on previously is in 2 John. Verse 12 reads, ‘Though I have much to write to you, I would rather not use paper and ink. Instead I hope to come to you and talk face to face, so that our joy may be complete.’ John of course was not isolated as we are currently compelled to be but was separated from Christians whom he loved and with whom he wanted to be in contact. There is a joy in being with people we just can’t get from other means of being in touch – it is not that God cannot keep us but that some normal means of grace and spiritual support are not available in the same way in lockdown.

God still blesses us when we cannot be with people I certainly wouldn’t want to imply that there are not real joys in other forms of contact. Recently Margaret and I were talking with a Christian woman who we befriended when she was forced to flee her country because of a risk to her life and came to the UK and was sent to Middlesbrough. She was a Christian when she came to this country but found settling down in a church and growing spiritually was quite a problem. Certainly we were concerned for her and she seemed rather uncommitted and cool spiritually at one stage. It was not surprising because she had changed continent as well as country and instinctively looked for friendship/fellowship with those from her own country and background. She found in time that the spiritual bonds of belonging to Christ are far deeper and stronger than national and racial bonds but that is a lesson many are slow to learn. Over the years we have seen her commitment to Christ deepen and mature and that has been a great joy to us.

Just this week we decided to have contact with her via zoom as a good way to spend part of our day-off. She talked about the Bible books they are studying at her home church – Ecclesiastes and James – and how fascinating she was finding them and the fact she was studying them personally as well as listening to the preaching about them. When we closed our time together I prayed and so did she. It was a blessing to reflect on the past years when we had tried to support and encourage her and she had been slow to respond. The time and effort we gave has been abundantly rewarded.

Yours in the Lord,

Mike Plant

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