How do we grapple with silence, grief and pain and still hold on to hope?  The coronavirus pandemic hits home for different people in different ways. For a very few, life continues, almost as normal. For many, many others, everything has been turned upside down. Regardless of our individual responses, this global epidemic has already significantly altered our society and is making lasting changes to our world.

In my home city of Stoke-on-Trent, my own charity, Saltbox, helped to take a lead in working with the City Council and other voluntary sector organisations to launch a Covid 19 website where folk in need could register & others who were willing to help could volunteer. Wonderfully, over 700 local people registered to help with a range of tasks such as shopping, prescription collection and even dog walking for those not able to get out.  It was really encouraging that churches were clearly seen making a difference alongside other voluntary sector groups.

You may remember that earlier in the year the Queen addressed the country, reminding us that this is a significant time of crisis. Many have been furloughed. Many have lost jobs. Businesses have closed. Perhaps the virus has hit you or those close to you and you know the toil it takes on even a healthy person who may struggle to get through it. Sadly, many of us will know someone who has lost their life to Covid.

This is a time of shock, fear and grief. The wall-to-wall coverage of hospitals straining under the burden of patients fighting for their breath. The messages from friends, family and neighbours informing us that someone has died can strike a hard blow. The notion of a country whose Prime Minister is incapacitated by the very crisis he was leading can leave us feeling vulnerable and afraid.

It’s okay to grieve. It’s okay to lament. It is okay to hurt. As a Christian, I know that I am not immune to these feelings. Earlier in the year I celebrated the strangest Easter in my lifetime. Death, burial and then miraculous resurrection seemed suddenly more real. Christians even more hold on to their faith and the knowledge that Christ is our hope of glory.  In the darkness between Jesus’ death on the cross and his rising from the grave, there was the silence of Saturday. It was a day of loss and mourning, an empty and confusing time. The disciples who had put down their fishing nets to follow Him were left bereft.

Pain is real, grief is among us, and we cannot rush lament. As a Christian, I still believe in the goodness of God even in the midst of brokenness and suffering.  The resurrection of Jesus reminds us that death is not the end.  His reassuring resurrection appearance to the disciples reminds us that, even when we are physically and emotionally “locked-in”, Jesus can still be a very real presence to us. 

Let’s pray for those we know who are struggling. Let’s pray for divine wisdom for our government our local authorities. Let’s pray that in this time of shaking that many might draw close to God. Let’s pray for the Body of Christ. Because Jesus is alive then he is just a prayer away. Why not take a moment now to be quiet and to read Psalm 23 or perhaps say the Lord’s Prayer.  I believe that in the midst of suffering there is hope.

Lloyd Cooke is the Chief Executive of Saltbox based in Stoke on Trent.