Life’s Instability

Sometimes sorrows seem to gang up against you. For me, recent events have made life feel more precarious then usual. It can’t all be shared in a public post like this, but the following illustrates what I am talking about.

Our volunteering with ASSIST, the Sheffield charity supporting destitute asylum seekers, has been disrupted over the last few months by the angry resignation of several experienced volunteers, provoked by disciplinary measures taken against one of them, action which most of us found difficult to comprehend. The person involved was a highly respected and valued member of our team, to whom many of us owed a lot. The inevitable results of the resignations has been disruption of the work we do and extra pressure on those who are left.

A few weeks ago the minister of our church suddenly and without warning resigned, not only from the church itself, but from ministry altogether, leaving us all bewildered. This has caused much sadness and thrown future plans and expectations into disarray, and for me, possible extra responsibilities.

Last week, one of our friends here in Chapeltown deliberately walked in front of a vehicle on the motorway and killed himself. We had got to know Ron well, having been introduced to them by our daughter shortly after we arrived here more than three years ago. We had been with them less than a week earlier. He leaves a wife, children and young grandchildren.

Events like this give rise to feelings of sadness, confusion and regret, sometimes also of anger and guilt. When they come together over a relatively short period of time they cause a general unease and insecurity. Circumstances and people that seemed stable have proved unreliable – the world has changed and I am not sure I feel at home in it any more. Of course, there are all sorts of things that cause people even greater feelings of dislocation.

On top of personal disruption, national and global instability is one of the features of our time. At the end of this week the UK is due to leave the European Union, a baffling and destabilizing event whose repercussions will be felt for years to come. In the USA, the world’s most influential democracy, rancorous division and accusations are having a deeply damaging affect on political life. Technological innovation is profoundly and rapidly revolutionizing economic and social relations. Perhaps most significant of all, global warming threatens the survival of human civilization itself.

Growing economic prosperity and political stability have for a long time provided a foundation for confidence about the future. It is becoming clear that we can no longer take these things for granted. Events that bring disorder to our personal lives, some of which are partly the consequence of these broader trends, are more difficult to cope with in such an environment.

One of the consequences of all this can be paralysis. When the normal framework for living seems to be disintegrating, it is hard to find a secure basis for doing anything. I need to remind myself of moral values that do not change, and to hold on to those. Sometimes what is needed is just courage and endurance to see things through, and not be overwhelmed by feelings of lostness and threat. We may need help from others to do that. Sometimes we can offer a steady hand of friendship to others.

The words of Jesus are apt: “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid”.

Peter Shepherd (January 2020)

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