Daily reflections from the Bolton Circuit

Rev Hilary Howarth – 22nd November 2020


Hands up if you’ve cried during this lockdown? I’m comfortable to say there have been moments when I have put my head in my hands and sobbed. I always feel that a good cry makes us feel slightly better and releases some tension.

On Saturday, after the sudden news of the death of June, a committed member of the Triangle family, and the death of the Mum of a friend, I sat at my desk and cried. There is so much suffering going on in the world at the moment, so much loss and heartache, my love and prayers goes out to everyone who is struggling with whatever they face. I feel it especially when each day we see the numbers on the news of those who have died in the last 24 hours from the virus and sadly, the steady rise of the overall total. I feel it because each one is not simply a number on a screen – each one is a Mum, Dad, Grandma or friend. Each one loved and sadly missed, leaving behind a grieving family who may not have been able to be with their loved one, or able to say goodbye in the way they would want to.

The plight of people in Ethiopia and Tigray has also upset me this week. Those poor families, forced to flee for their lives and the terrible stories they have told of atrocities committed by people intent on evil.

I’ve cried tears of joy as someone else described to me how their neighbours gathered at the top of their drive to sing happy birthday to them and present them with a cake. What a wonderful, thoughtful thing to do.

I’ve cried angry tears after watching the amazing film “Mangrove” on the BBC last Sunday night and the treatment of black people who came to the UK in the 1950’s and 60’s and the way racism is rearing its ugly head around the world once again.

I’ve even cried at the soppiness at some of the television adverts! But I think that’s more to do with the fact that I hope and pray we can be with our family this Christmas. I guarantee there will be lots of tears if we can (and sadly, a few more if we can’t).

Last Sunday I preached about talents and posed the question. What are your gifts and talents and how are you using them to serve God and others? I hope you were able to find some time to reflect. Anyone who has ever heard me preach will know how emotional I can get. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve had to stop during a sermon and compose myself and tell myself to “get a grip”. I’ve always got embarrassed about it, and apologised for it, but a lovely lady once told me she believed my tears were God’s gift to me. It’s a gift I am happy to accept.

During this painful time in our lives, I have turned to the Bible and found great comfort in many different places. In John 11 it simply says “Jesus wept”. He didn’t just cry a few tears; he broke his heart with the depth of sorrow he felt. In the garden of Gethsemane, the time of Jesus’ greatest trial, he was so overcome with his emotions at what lay before him, that once again he wept.

The Psalms give us a place of lament and the words to cry out when we can’t articulate what we feel. As you read them, you feel the pain and anguish of someone blinded by tears. “By the rivers of Babylon, we sat down and wept as we remembered Zion” from Psalm 137 – look to Psalms 27, 39, 18, 104 and the list goes on. They give us assurance that in our pain and tears, we are not alone and we can cry out to God.

But perhaps as we turn back to the Old Testament and then to Jesus in the gospels, we can turn to the final book in the Bible – Revelation 21 and these words of promise from verse 4 “‘He (God) will wipe every tear from your eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”

In the tears you shed – of sorrow, joy, anger and frustration – and the tears you shed and you don’t know why – may God heal your heart.

Prayer: Lord, thank you that whatever we are feeling, we can call out to you. In our call and in our tears may we find deeper healing for life’s journey. Amen.