It’s hard to imagine how much has changed for those living through the unrest in Syria. Not so long ago families went shopping, lived in houses with all mod-cons and enjoyed the freedoms of modern transport. Food was available, neighbours were friends. Schools, hospitals, businesses were day to day realities. All that has changed – houses have been blown away, good sanitation is a thing of the past. Clean water, food, means of cooking or providing heat – all resources which now have to be purchased at great cost from scarce supplies. Friends and neighbours have become competitors – working for their own survival often at the cost of others. A way of living which had been reasonably straightforward has been turned upside down.
Of course our hearts go out to these folk and we pray for peace and justice for the people in Syria. However, I have also taken to wondering how I would cope if these things happened to me. There’s the physical coping – the resourcefulness needed to change a lifetime’s habits to find innovative ways to provide for my family. Whether I’d be fit enough to cope with all the change which would be forced on me – the poor diet I would have or the physical effort it would take just to exist. But there’s the spiritual side too – what would happen to my faith in God and God’s people? Is my faith built on the fact that my life has been relatively easy? What would I believe if everything were taken away and the future seemed dark and bleak? One of my favourite psalms (Psalm 46) speaks of God’s help and strength even when the world is falling apart – ‘God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble’. I believe I’ve experienced that. God’s very presence when we are going through dark times – not necessarily to stop the struggle but to provide a deeper hope and assurance that there is a way through to tomorrow.
As I think of all those who are in dark and difficult places today I pray that they will experience God’s comforting presence. I hope too that if I was in that place that someone somewhere would pray the same for me.
By the Revd Pauline Godfrey, Discipleship and Vocations Officer