In recent years I have become a great fan of podcasts. If I’m on a long car journey I will try to download a few on my phone or, if I’m doing some chores in the kitchen, it’s great to be able to tune into all sorts of interesting shows.
Sometimes it’s talks or sermons from churches or Christian magazines. Sometimes it’s interviews on everything from mental health to fitness. There is such a rich variety of podcasts to listen to about just about every subject under the sun.
One that I connected into recently was a show called ‘Life, Interrupted’ by Simon Thomas. Simon is a well known TV presenter, having presented Blue Peter and football on Sky Sports. In 2017 his world fell apart when his wife Gemma died very suddenly at the age of 40, just 3 days after being diagnosed with a rare form of Leukaemia. He was left to bring up his young son on his own and I heard him interviewed about this overwhelming experience as he tried to come to terms with such devastating loss.
In this series of interviews, he speaks to other people whose lives have been interrupted, perhaps by the diagnosis of a serious illness or addiction. He speaks to various people who have suffered terrible experiences about what sustained and supported them through their worst moments.
He, himself, is a man of Christian faith and he spoke in very powerful terms of how his church family supported him through the worst time in his life.
Perhaps the current pandemic brings that sense of life interrupted close to us. All the normal patterns of life have been placed on hold. We can’t go out to see friends or family can’t come to see us from abroad. We can’t go to those activities that normally sustain us, whether they are sporting pursuits or regular meetings for social activities, or minding grandchildren, or whatever it might be.
The toll on the nation’s mental health is huge as so many people have been isolated and shielding. Many have been made redundant. Others are struggling to learn how to do their job in a totally new way. University students will be heading off in a couple of weeks to a very different experience to the one they had anticipated and it seems as if many lectures for the first semester anyway will be taught online. Schools are getting used to operating in bubbles, which try to keep particular classes together for their learning and playtime and the strain on our teachers is enormous as they shoulder these new responsibilities.
I spoke with someone recently who described the huge cost of the pandemic on their physical and mental health.
There were those feelings of isolation and anxiety. Other medical conditions couldn’t be attended to in the normal way with face to face appointments and the usual outlets for socialising had all been closed off. It certainly had all the hallmarks of a life interrupted and, I suspect, that this has been the experience for most of us to a greater or lesser extent.
When we think of a life interrupted we usually think of it in negative terms. I think of acquaintances of mine who have suffered serious injuries in accidents and how everything changed in an instant for them and for their loved ones. We think of this pandemic in terms of its impact on the economy, on people’s sense of wellbeing and there are devastating effects rippling through people’s lives.
The other possibility, however, is that our lives can be interrupted for good. I think of people I know who have found a living faith in Jesus sometimes at a time of personal crisis or serious illness. Maybe a friend shared their faith with them or invited them to a church service or an alpha course and suddenly the person of Jesus became a living reality for them. What might formerly have seemed boring or mumbo jumbo of no relevance to their lives suddenly becomes something of enormous life changing significance.
A key moment in my own life came in my late teens where I was invited to attend a group at school where people read the bible together and tried to apply it to their lives. It opened up a new and very exciting possibility for me – that God loved me and had a personal interest in my life. I discovered that, through surrendering my life to His authority, a new peace and sense of purpose was gifted to me through this new relationship.
It didn’t mean that all the challenges and difficulties in my life disappeared – far from it! What I did discover, however, was a new perspective and a promise of the presence of Jesus with me through His Holy Spirit. This has made an enormous difference to me as I have navigated my own journey thus far through the pandemic.
This coming Sunday is known as Vocation Sunday and it’s a Sunday when, in church, people think about their life and God’s plans for them. For some people this may begin a process of exploring the possibility of the ordained ministry. For others it opens the possibility of seeing their current role or employment as God’s plan for them. We don’t always see the possibility that God has strategically placed us in a situation or role to be His person or representative to those around us.
God needs people to use their gifts of administration and organisation to serve churches and help them to run properly in compliance with regulations and governance. He needs people with financial and technology skills. He needs people with practical skills to build and repair and maintain things. He needs people to be pastoral carers and to relate effectively to children and young people. God calls some to a ministry of prayer to intercede or pray especially for those whose lives are currently interrupted by the devastation of bereavement or illness or unexpected loss of employment.
Maybe He has called you to interrupt someone’s life for good through sharing your faith in Jesus – a relationship which may bring hope, encouragement and strength in challenging times. Maybe the current challenges are an opportunity to reflect and explore areas in our lives that require challenge or correction. Let’s be open to this possibility that, while life is currently interrupted in the sense that we can’t just go on as normal, it can also be interrupted for good. Perhaps God is receiving our attention in a way that He hasn’t been able to do for some time.
In saying this, there are some who find these days an incredible challenge to their faith. Let’s be honest about those struggles as we phone and pray and support each other.
If anyone would like to take part in our Thursday evening prayer meeting at 7 pm, or our own parish Alpha course online on Wednesday evenings from 8-9 pm, please drop an email to firstname.lastname@example.org and we would be delighted to send you the link to join us.
Looking forward to speaking again soon.
Much love to everyone,