There is a Balm.

The death toll in the UK from the COVID-19 virus has topped 32,000. Worldwide the number is approaching 300,000. A tsunami of suffering, grief, and anxiety is crashing over us.

Thousands have been furloughed from their jobs. Businesses have closed down. Families face shortages of life’s essentials. Those with the fewest resources at the beginning of the pandemic have been hardest hit.

We are all feeling the strain, especially since none of us can see clearly when this will end and what the new normal will be like. And yet some refuse to take even simple measures to protect their vulnerable neighbours from infection.

My heart is troubled. But I am not disheartened.

White vigilantes shot Ahmaud Arbery to death. He was a 25-year-old unarmed black man jogging through their neighbourhood in Georgia, USA. Viewing Arbery through the lens of their own prejudice, they presumed that a running black man must be a criminal.

My heart is troubled. But I am not disheartened.

When I dwell on what is happening in the world and in our society I become sad, appaled, anxious and angry. I know there will be some of you who will want to share a Jesus-y bit of wisdom with me. John 14:1 springs to mind “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in me.” So, let me just be straight up here: If you’re telling me that Jesus is telling me that having faith means that the world won’t break my heart, give me a migraine, and sometimes send me running for the hills, then I’ll never be faithful. Count me out. Because I don’t see how you can love in the midst of this beautiful, horrifying, electrifying, messy place called Earth without being shattered.

Now I don’t mean that life on this planet is crushingly depressing. My spirit soars at the everyday heroism of NHS staff and care workers. Sunrises and starry nights leave me amazed. Our dog Rolo… well, don’t get me started.

And yet, greed, selfishness, violence, prejudice, oppression, and poverty stir something deep within me. These ways of being—and the carnage they leave in their wake—cannot stand. We must resist them. We must persevere in our pursuit of a world in which every human being is treated with the dignity they deserve as the beloved children of God, a world where no one is expendable, no one is replaceable. Where the elderly in care homes are as valued as a few billionaire businessman desperate to boost their profits. In other words, we cannot allow ourselves to be disheartened even if our hearts are troubled.

I think that’s what Jesus was telling his friends on the night before he died. Here’s my version of the passage I mentioned above:

‘Things are going to get worse before they get better, life will be messy, and loving others will leave its mark- scar tissue on your soul. But, but always remember I’m with you in all of this. Sometimes it won’t seem like we are getting any where, trust me love wins out and in a few days I will prove it to you!’ (John14:1 Totally Unauthorised Version)

Michael Curry, Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church in the USA who famously preached at the wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markel and left most of the Royal Family looking like they had been hit in the face with a wet Haddock, frequently draws on the text of Spirituals to make a Jesus’ point. One he often quotes is -“Sometimes I feel discouraged/ And think my life in vain/ But then the Holy Spirit/ Revives my soul again./ There is a balm in Gilead.

I admit. At the moment, my heart is troubled. Maybe yours is, too. But I am not disheartened. For there is a balm if you seek it.

God bless and stay safe


3 thoughts on “There is a Balm.

  1. Ian Bosman

    You have said what every thinking Christian must be feeling and believing. Jesus is with us in all the pain and suffering and anxiety as he lived among us and is still with us because he understands.



    Thank you so much, Alan, for your wonderful reflections and this one in particularis so close to all I believe. On another note I was so pleased to hear this morningthat Covid 19 is thought not to like heat and humidity which explains why at this present time it is not spreading in Sub Saharan Africa and India as much as I feared. When it started I prayed so deeply that it would not hit the developing world with their lack of resources but ‘God didn’t agree to that’ but they do seem to be being kept safer so Allelujah and Praise to His name now and foerver.



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