12th November 2020
I recently bought a large bulb bowl and planted a selection of snowdrops, bluebells and aconites. It was not very encouraging planting something that looked dead and having to trust it will grow. Like a lot of gardening, we have to hope that nature will do what it’s ordained to do. Sometimes we have quick results, and when we plant a tree or shrub, we can see its alive, but in the case of bulbs or corms which are hidden from sight, it’s a case of waiting and remembering from past experience that it will (more than likely) spring to life. In the case of new gardeners like us, we have to rely on the experts to reassure us that all will be well, but for those of you who have been tending your gardens and allotments for years, you will have a wealth of knowledge and memories to give you confidence while you wait.
The natural world is undoubtedly one of God’s greatest gifts to us and I’m so quickly reminded of his grace and favour when I’m in the garden. For very little effort with our hands in the soil, he rewards us abundantly with new growth, and that’s true of our whole lives with him. In the case of the bulbs, it has reminded me of how there are times when life seems very uncertain, hopeless even – we have to leave things with God, like the bulbs hidden under the soil, and we have to trust that they will spring back to life again.
Sometimes we may find it difficult to call to mind the times in our lives when he was faithful and true, and that’s when we need to ask for help to reassure us of his steadfast love. At other times, we may feel more able to recall when he was there in our darkest hour, and despite our concerns, the storm did pass. It’s often only after an event has occurred, when the dust has settled that we’re able to see that God’s hand was guiding us all along and it’s good to make a note of those occasions, so that when, and if we face troubles again, we can draw on those positive memories. For as the prophet Jeremiah wrote, “Blessed is the one who trusts in the LORD, whose confidence is in him. They will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit” (17:7-8).
As I write this letter, we are uncertain of many things which lie ahead of us, such as how quickly will the coronavirus vaccine become available? How will we be able to celebrate Christmas and who will we be able to share it with? When will life return to some kind of normality next year, and what will that look like anyway? But let’s go back in our minds to two years ago and the days following the church fire; life felt very uncertain indeed, but we were quickly reminded that we are the Body of Christ regardless of where we gather to worship. Within a week we had a new home in King James Academy for our Sunday services, and we had an overwhelming response of love and support from the town, friends and family, far and wide. God blessed us richly in our hour of need.
It’s not always been easy, but here we are, still united as that same body, and growing stronger in faith because of those hardships. So, as we look forward to the weeks and months ahead, let’s try and trust that God will go before us like a pillar of cloud or fire to guide us, just as he guided the Israelites in the Exodus. “Neither the pillar of cloud by day nor the pillar of fire by night left its place in front of the people” (Exodus 13:22). God was faithful then; he continues to be faithful to us now. Let’s us join together in the words of this wonderful 20th Century hymn by Thomas Chisolm to remind ourselves of that fact.
“Great is thy faithfulness,” O God my Father,
there is no shadow of turning with thee;
thou changest not, thy compassions, they fail not;
as thou hast been thou forever wilt be.
Summer and winter, and springtime and harvest,
sun, moon and stars in their courses above,
join with all nature in manifold witness
to thy great faithfulness, mercy and love.
Pardon for sin and a peace that endureth,
thine own dear presence to cheer and to guide;
strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow,
blessings all mine, with ten thousand beside!
“Great is thy faithfulness!” “Great is thy faithfulness!”
Morning by morning new mercies I see;
all I have needed thy hand hath provided,
Great is thy faithfulness, Lord unto me!
Every Blessing, Heidi.