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Holding fast

"After Job had prayed for his friends, the LORD restored his fortunes and gave him twice as much as he had before." Job 42. 10

I hate to be a merchant of gloom, just when it seemed that things were getting better. But news of the dashed hopes of an early return to school in England have been compounded with more distressing stories about the buckling of hotel chains and stately homes. Hearts might not bleed for their wealthy owners (though, as fellow humans, they matter too) but they have staff who depend on them, not to mention their surrounding communities which provide goods and services, whose livelihoods are also at stake. And of course our hearts do bleed for those who are particularly vulnerable: as well as the elderly there are those with health conditions, learning difficulties - and what about the animals, birds and fish in our zoos and rescue centres...?

On the back of the instinctive responses of sympathy and charity, minds turn to underlying causes: what have they/ we done to deserve this? This very conundrum is the core theme of the Old Testament Book of Job. In those days material wealth was considered a sign of divine approval. So, when Job's life is torn apart by wave after unrelenting wave of misfortune and tragedy, the inevitable question is: what did Job do wrong? But the book is written in such a way that we know that Job is an innocent man whom, through not fault of his own, God has allowed to be tested by Satan.

Despite the advice of his friends and the derision of his wife, Job refuses to abandon his trust in God's goodness and in his providence. So Job is eventually vindicated and his fortune is restored, doubled indeed! What can we learn from this story? That God will restore the financial security of all the faithful hoteliers, aristocrats and zoo-keepers? Hardly, though he may. But Job points us to Jesus: a greater innocent whose suffering was not arbitrary, though it was undeserved like Job's, and whose faithfulness and trust earned a double blessing for us all - forgiveness of sins and eternal life.

What has this to do with lockdown, its injustices and inequalities? Principally that life in a broken world is unfair and inconsistent. But God is neither and his ultimate will is to restore the whole of creation to the integrity in which he made it and which reflects his own nature as Creator. Our conduct will determine how sincerely we believe this. May you find in God the inspiration, power and wisdom you need to live faithfully through these perplexing times...

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