Dear, oh dear, oh dear.
“So you’ve come back again? Dear, oh dear. Anyway . . .”
For the record I am writing this blog as Kwasi Kwarteng is still in the air, flying back one day early for crisis meetings with his embattled Prime Minister. Who knows what the situation will be when you read this sentence?
Just now I notice that former Conservative leader, William Hague, has told the BBC that he has never seen anything like the current political turbulence engulfing Liz Truss's government. Even, it seems, the Daily Mail has deserted her: PM ‘has 17 days to save her job.’
Which gives the context to King Charles’ opening remarks, picked up by the assembled microphones, as he greeted Ms Truss for her very first weekly audience. (Amazingly it is not beyond the realms of possibility that it could be her last!)
We’re not quite sure what the King was trying to say to his PM except to say, to quote this morning’s Times: “It is likely the King was offering a personal word of encouragement for the occupant of a great office of state as she endures a torrid time in office.”
Without making any political judgement on her policies and position, Liz Truss is clearly under huge pressure of a magnitude that few of us will ever experience, abandoned by most of her party and derided in much of the media. You wonder how a single human being, flawed like ourselves, is able to withstand this appalling weight of office.
You may have seen the episode in “the Crown.” Netflix’s miniseries, when Margaret Thatcher is forced from office. She rushes into 10 Downing Street, pushing her way through her officials, runs upstairs at speed to her private apartment, where she bursts into tears, unseen.
As the Times concludes in its leader: “That is as it should be, and it redounds to the King’s credit that kindness of heart supersedes any other consideration in performing his duties.”
All we can do at this time is to pray that our PM is able to make the right decision for herself and the country.
“We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers and sisters, about the troubles we experienced in the province of Asia. We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired of life itself.” (2 Corinthians 1:8). The apostle Paul opens his heart to the church at Corinth.
Something traumatic happened to Paul between writing his two letters to this unruly church, even to the extent that “we felt like we’d been sent to death row, that it was all over for us.” (v9, Message translation)
In his excellent biography of Paul, Tom Wright makes much of this experience in the ministry of this extraordinary apostle. We’re not told what it was but it nearly crushed this indomitable individual.
As Wright writes: “Not only is (Paul) physically and emotionally battered, he doesn’t mind if the Corinthians knew it.” (his italics, page 106) The apostle opens his heart in a way uniquely for the writers of his era. He does so because he knows that the only explanation for his resilience is God himself – and he wants to make sure that the Corinthians know this
So Paul continues: “But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead. He has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us again.” (2 Corinthians 1:9f) He understood perfectly well that it wasn’t his faith that saw him through but God himself.
However, what is truly remarkable is not just that God supports us in our suffering but that in Jesus he has chosen to suffer with us and in a way which is beyond our experience.
“If the grim realities you are facing at this time seem dark and heavy and almost unbearable,” writes Quentin Cook, “remember that in the soul-wrenching darkness of Gethsemane and the incomprehensible torture and pain of Calvary, the Saviour accomplished the Atonement, which resolves the most terrible burdens that can occur in this life.
“He did it for you, and He did it for me. He did it because He loves us and because He obeys and loves His Father. We will be rescued from death-even from the depths of the sea.”
Even then, as we saw a few weeks back, Jesus still needed the support of his closest friends. “Taking along Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, he plunged into an agonizing sorrow.” (Matthew 26:36).
And that is how God often works – he sends someone to support us, sometimes just by a kind word, through the most stressful of storms, such as for Paul. He informs the terrified sailors: “Last night an angel of the God to whom I belong and whom I serve stood beside me and said, ‘Do not be afraid, Paul.” (Acts 27:23)
For that is the Gospel in a nutshell: “Do not be afraid, (your name).” As we submit to Christ, even our ambitions and our decisions, so we know that come what may, he will see us through. “When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze.” (Isaiah 43:2)