Worst Case Scenarios
Where is the worst place you have ever been? That was the questioned asked by the pastor, during the children’s talk, at the church I attended yesterday. To which one little hand went up and one little voice answered; well, I fell into a bucket once! I guess it depends what was in the bucket but it showed that his life experience was short in terms of years and unpleasant experiences.
The pastor then told the story of Jonah and got our imaginations thinking what it must have been like to have been told to ‘pick a window you’re leaving’ and for Jonah to be in the worst place of his life, struggling in 60 foot waves; only to then be swallowed by a whale, which would not have been a comfortable experience, to finally being spat out on a foreign shore.
Later in the afternoon I visited an elderly friend in an old folks home and if we were to ask him that same question his answer would be, right here right now. This is the worst place I have ever been in all my life! Not meaning the conditions of the nursing home but his state of mind. He said that ‘he was a goner’. His life was coming to an end and had been made miserable by dementia and other debilitating conditions. He has lost the will to go on. Despite the fact that his life experience was much longer than our young bucketeer right now he could not focus on the good stuff of the past, only the misery he felt in the present through which he saw no future.
Now during that visit I was able to refer my elderly friend back to good times that he had known in the past. I encouraged him to recall how he had become a Christian and how he had been passionate about sharing his faith with others. I asked him where his bible was and he could not remember. However, one of the care assistants found it in a carrier bag in his wardrobe. So we opened this well worn book which contained many passages marked with highlighter pen and notes in the side columns. We discussed some of these verses and compared this to the experience of the exiles who returned to Jerusalm and, while rebuilding the temple, they rediscovered God’s law, hidden in the walls.
How relevant to us all. That we constantly need to rediscover what God has done for us in the past. How he delivered us. Much of the Old Testament is written in the context of exile and deliverance, mainly from Egypt or Babylon, and how God was with his people in their darkest hour. Then Jesus came into such a world and to a people who, as Isaiah describes them, ‘had walked in darkness and seen a great light’. Jesus is the light of the world especially where darkness is at it blackest.
Jonah found himself in a dark place. The Israelites were in their darkest days while in Egypt and in Babylon. My elderly friend perked up for a while after reading their story but unfortunately he would not remember my visit for long due to his dementia. He would need to be reminded over and over again. His greatest hope now lies beyond this life. Ours does too but we too constantly need to be reminded that God is with us throughout this life, even in our worst place scenarios. This is where prayer comes to our aid.
There is nothing that we cannot take to God in prayer and therefore, there is no ‘bucket’ too dark or too deep for him to reach into and draw us up from.
Here’s a prayer of intercession on the theme of light. It was written by Rev. Ian McLean, and posted on the Church of Scotland’s Starters for Sunday website.
Prayers of the People – Light in the Darkness
Heavenly Father, we are not altogether convinced that darkness is a thing of the past. Many people in this world of ours feel their world is one of darkness and gloom. Pressures crowd in upon us and get us down.
The causes are varied: bereavement, illness, money, worries about family, trouble at work or not having work, drugs, drink, boredom, doubt, weariness, futility.
Then there are the world issues: war, poverty, climate change, disease, unfair trade and so on. It does not help when we feel that as Christians we should be doing so much better than we are. Gracious and loving God, we rejoice that you are with us in our troubles, you know us and you love us – always.
Even though we have made a mess of things personally and collectively you remain faithful. We rejoice that your Son came not to a perfect world, but to a broken world, our world. To bring light to the darkness, our darkness.
We pray for our dark and dreary world, a world in need – in need not just of a technical fix, but in need of love and grace, forgiveness and new life, hope, peace and fellowship, in need of renewal, in need of YOU.
We pray that you would come alongside us and all those for whom we pray, that you would show us Jesus, the light of the world, the one who came (and who comes) to rid us of sin, to give us life and health and peace, peace that passes all understanding – not a temporary respite from trouble but the strength to overcome it and ultimately to receive life eternal.
You don’t wave a magic wand for everything to be sorted instantly – you require us to exercise our faith and to respond to your call to preach the gospel and to seek to live it out, to look to you for the strength that we need to share your love and grace. Help us to share the good news in word and action – the same good news that the fishermen were called to proclaim that there is a Saviour, a merciful king who loves us and whom we can love and adore.
We have been set free. Enable us to use our freedom to share in bringing in the kingdom. In the light of this we have something to celebrate, something to shout about – for even in our trouble and pain, even in our loss, we know that Jesus is with us.
Hear us as in a moment of silence we pray for those in darkness (of whatever kind) – let us pray that they may see and know the light of Christ:
The Lord is my light and my salvation. Hear our prayers, Lord, spoken and unspoken and answer them for Jesus’ sake. Amen