Word for the Week
Short reflections on Bible passages, with a frontline focus...
How long, LORD? Will you forget me forever?
How long will you hide your face from me?
I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.
Many of us imagined, two years ago, that by now life would have returned to something like ‘normal’.
While Covid restrictions are disappearing, a secondary epidemic is working its way, less visibly, among humanity: an epidemic of struggles with mental health, of people asking the very question the psalmist asks: ‘How long?’
Initially it may have been, how long will this last? How long will we be unable to see loved ones? How long will I have to home-school? How long will my job be at risk? How long will I fear for those I love? Now many have moved to weariness and heightened anxiety due to economic pressures as well as international conflicts.
Not everyone struggles with their mental health, of course, and not all who struggle do so in the same way. But statistics indicate that one in five adults worldwide suffer with a mental health issue.
In our congregations, places of work, schools, and among families and friends, there are people for whom the question ‘how long?’ is a pressing one, for whom the world is a threatening and unsafe place, and where the absence of God feels far stronger than his presence. What does it mean to speak of ‘good news’ when we or those around us are struggling?
Jesus promises to give us ‘fullness of life’. It’s easy to feel a sense of disconnection with fullness when you struggle with crippling anxiety, deep trauma, or any other form of poor mental health. It’s easy sometimes to simply focus on one aspect of Jesus’ teaching – ‘fullness of life’ – when things go well, and ‘take up your cross’ when life is more challenging.
In the teaching of Jesus, however, the two go together. The abundant, or full, life we are promised is an invitation to share in the life of Jesus himself, to be ‘in Christ’. This fullness is a promise of the presence and the love of God alongside us, a life where we can follow God fully even when our thoughts and emotions are in disarray.
As Christians, we can share the good news that God, Immanuel, is with us, transforming our lives and our world from the inside, with the promise that there is no experience in our world, our bodies, or our minds that can possibly separate us from his love.
Revd Prebendary Dr Isabelle Hamley
Secretary for Theology and Theological Adviser to the House of Bishops
How might you learn to see who is struggling on your frontline, and share the good news that God can be with them in the struggle? Join the conversation in the comments below.
Watch and discuss our event Wisdom Lab: Strength in Weakness where Isabelle, along with Revd Dr John Swinton and Revd Dr Chris Cook, explores how as Christians God works in and through our limitations and struggles.