Here are a sample of conversations I’ve had with people over the last while:
– someone being made redundant at Christmas
– someone self-employed with no work in sight
– someone having to keep working part-time despite post-viral exhaustion
– someone with young kids having to sell the family home
– someone unable to afford to go to the doctor
– someone unable to buy Christmas presents for their children
– someone having sleepless nights about an unpayable mortage and house repossession
– someone sending off endless job applications with few if any replies
– someone struggling with depression and hopelessness about the future
– someone unable to pay college fees
– someone whose business has lost 50% of its turnover in 2 years
– a church leader not knowing if they are going to be paid each month
– someone working for free just to get some work
– someone having to sell a treasured collection in order to pay the bills
– someone working for a company doing significantly longer hours for significantly less pay
– and someone telling me that people are now queuing up outside job agencies in the early morning, dressed up for work, and waiting all day in case a temp post opens up
And I could go on.
Each conversation is just a slice of what is going on across the country. Many churches, charities, businesses, families are under increasing pressure. Where I work is no exception. Due to the property crash and tenants subsequently moving out, IBI faces extra costs of €100,000 pa which is unsustainable for a small institution. We’re praying and working hard towards a way forward but nothing is certain.
And in the midst of this, last week I was at an Irish premiere of ’58’ – a film made by Tony Neeves with Compassion International on global poverty (ref to Isaiah 58). It tells the different stories of what abject poverty looks like and does to people across the globe. And those stories are framed within a larger story of human dignity and an appeal to help end such poverty.
So Irish hardship needs to be kept in perspective. There’s hardship and there is abject poverty. But that’s not minimising its reality in the faces of the people I’ve been talking with.
In our church home group last night we were looking at Romans 5:1-11 which contains these words from someone who knew suffering up close and personal:
1 Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2 through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God. 3 Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; 4 perseverance, character; and character, hope. 5 And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.
This isn’t sentimental, soft, wish-fulfilment. Here’s future hope transforming the very real (and for Paul, often brutal) but temporary trials of the present. Here’s the reality of the present experience of God’s grace, peace, justification, love and empowering Spirit, giving hope for the future.
That’s good news that shines like a blazing beacon into the gathering storm-clouds of bad news over Ireland and the rest of Europe.
Comments, as ever, welcome.