Sign-up for free e-newsletter

Viewpoint from Rt Rev Alan Winton, Bishop of Thetford 14/08/2015 

alan winton+ Alan Thetford
The Rt Rev Alan Winton
Bishop of Thetford
Looking out one Sunday, I realized that, with over 100 people in church, there was scarcely anyone in the congregation who hadn’t been through some time of real suffering and difficulty in the ten years I served as their Vicar. The sun may be shining as you read this, but in Great Yarmouth, on the beaches of the Norfolk coast and in locations all around the world, there will be people living through times of real hardship
It may be ill-health, their own or that of someone they care about; it may be struggling to make ends meet or to find work; it may be living amidst fear or violence or natural disaster; it may be worrying about their family
dove leftWhen we faced a time of real testing with serious illness in my own family, life was an immense struggle. It was a challenging time to be a Vicar, trying to care for my congregation and community when I felt so anxious and concerned. It wasn’t till some time later that I came upon verse 7 from Psalm 31 that has become a favourite of mine. The Psalmist says to God in prayer: “you have seen my affliction and known my soul in adversity”
It’s a verse that rings true for me. Though life was very difficult and I longed for things to be different, I never felt abandoned by God. It was hard to feel happy, but there was always a sense of God being present with us
When people suffer, they often ask profound questions of God: where is God in this; why does God allow this dreadful thing to happen?
Dove rightWhat I found to be true and found expressed so beautifully in the Psalm is that God is like a true friend who doesn’t run away in the face of our suffering, but stays faithful. Faith doesn’t mean that we will live lives free of suffering and pain, but there is the promise that God is with us in the very midst of our pain and hardship
It is one of life’s mysteries that some people are thrown deeper into a profound reliance upon God through suffering, whilst others find that the idea of God slips away from them
I hope and pray that your experience will be of God’s constant presence and faithfulness, that you will be able to say with the Psalmist “you have known my soul in adversity” and draw strength from that knowledge