I look out of the main window of our lounge, and watch the strong gale lashing heavy rain onto the window panes. As the deep area of a low pressure weather system drifts across the UK, I am just about housebound, not able to take out my equipment to start work on my domestic window cleaning business. Not that the job would be entirely impossible, but rather such an endeavour would arouse wrath from my clientele, who would be obliged to pay for the work done. So much for the first working day of 2012, a year that promises the Queen's Diamond Jubilee and the London Olympics, both events looking so promising to be ablaze with pageantry glory.
The Christmas break is over, here in the UK it's the first day back at work for all of us who has a job. But for the benefit of our American readers, I need to add an explanation to the last twelve days of the winter break.
I understand that in the USA, there is just one day of holiday, Christmas Day itself. Then it back to work the next day, unless Christmas falls on a Friday or Saturday. Christmas 2011 fell on a Sunday, perhaps seen by some as the worst day of the week, as the next day is a normal Monday morning, ushering in an average five-day working week. Now to all American readers, if what I had written is inaccurate, please let me know on the comments forum below!
Here in the UK, businesses (other than Retail) shut up shop on Christmas Eve, and remain closed right through until the January 2nd, with Boxing Day (December 26th) also a holiday. Because both Christmas and New Year fell on a Sunday, Tuesday 27th was also a Bank Holiday, and so was Monday, January 2nd. This makes today, the 3rd, the day all businesses re-open. This long, annual winter break had been slammed by the Press for many years, particularly over the 2008/2009 holidays when both Christmas and New Year (also a Bank Holiday) fell on a Thursday, which meant that businesses could not be bothered to open for the one day Friday 2nd, therefore remained shut until Monday January 5th, 2009, twelve days from Christmas Day itself. No wonder newspapers on that year went to town with their blasting of the bosses' apparent apathy which was the major cause of loss to the British economy by billions of pounds.
So with such a long respite from working over the Christmas period, today I was eager to get back to business, after twelve days of reasonably dry weather. But what do I find after getting out of bed? Fierce winds and heavy rain. Certainly not window cleaning weather. And I'm not alone. I would not at all be surprised that not a few employers of construction projects and of other outdoor occupations had told their workers to stay at home. But energy bills still need to be paid, the bank expect the mortgage to be paid on time, the landlord will still demand his rent, groceries still need to be purchased. Then there are those dreaded credit card statements which will arrive, after going into overdrive with the presents and other Christmas festive goods. So by natural thinking, the timing of today's adverse weather could not be worse! So screamingly frustrating. It would be tempting to cry out:
O God! Why, why are you messing us about? Do you get a kick out of all this??? You could have sent the rain over the Christmas break. We had all twelve days of holiday!
That would be the natural thinking of an outdoor worker such as myself. Then to add to this, I watch my neighbour, dressed in suit and tie, climb into his car to make for the office, where he expects to do well. Meanwhile, in the City, bankers trade and make a killing, executives receive bumper bonuses, and in the papers, a report is published that our train fares have risen by over six percent, bad news for the daily commuter, yet alongside this, our Members of Parliament were claiming refunds from first class travel expenses due to a loophole in the Parliamentary regulations. Meanwhile, Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs (our Interior Revenue Service) went soft on big money-making corporations while small businesses were hit hard by the Taxman.
Isn't there a God at all? Or is God the God of the rich, the middle-class, the well educated and the well-to-do? Is God, if sovereign, so crushingly unfair? Tempting it can be for me to think this way, at least I know better. Actually, the Bible does not teach fairness, nor that life would be fair for everybody. Rather it has this to say to all believers:
And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. Romans 8:28.
I could add that while Christmas was centred on the birth of Christ, in Luke's Gospel we read the Doxology, where Mary cries out in Elizabeth's presence that, God had scattered the proud in their inmost thoughts, brought down rulers from their thrones, but have lifted up the humble, had filled the hungry with good things, but have sent the rich away empty. (Luke 1:51-53).
In all things God works for the good of those who love him. No matter what sort of things life can throw at you, they are for the good. Yes, it's difficult to say that when you feel that you are suffering a day of clouds, passing through the deepest darkness, a sense of despair. Just after Christmas Day, I felt myself sinking into deep fear, the fear of Hell itself. I lay awake on the bed, literally trembling with terror and shaking all over. The fear kept going into Boxing Day, I suffered loss of appetite, I could hardly eat. I can identify with the writer of Psalm 88:
For my soul is full of trouble and my life draws near the grave.
I am counted among those who go down to the pit; I am a man without strength.
I am set apart with the dead, like the slain who lie in the grave, whom you remember no more, who are cut off from your care.
You have put me in the lowest pit, in the darkest depths.
Your wrath lies heavily upon me; you have overwhelmed me with all your waves.
You have taken me from my closest friends and you have made me repulsive to them.
I am confined and cannot escape; my eyes are dim with grief.
While sitting next to my wife, and clinging on to her, I examined my fear and decided that an evil spirit had entered my soul late that evening, for the fruit of the Holy Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control, against there is no law - not terror! There and then I asked the Holy Spirit to fill me, and almost immediately the fear melted away and my appetite returned. But the fear came and went for the next couple of days, until the Wednesday, when I completed a stiff workout in the gym and was then bathing in the sauna. (Not very spiritual perhaps, but where in the Bible does it say "Thou shalt not Sauna. Thou shalt not take care of thy health"..?) Suddenly, while swimming, I was thinking of the Lord and of my salvation, I felt a tremendous surge of the Holy Spirit within me, and in my mind's eye, saw the Lord himself, in front of me, assuring me that I was his, and he mine. Soon afterwards, someone with me in the sauna mentioned that he reads the Bible from time to time. Immediately I blurted out excitedly, "Jesus Christ is my Saviour too!" It was after that I realised that if I confess him before men (there were three others in the sauna beside myself) then Jesus would confess me to the Father before the angels. It was a moment of sheer joy.
So what might have happened about midnight on Christmas Day? I think that God withdrew his presence. I believe it was an act of discipline in order for me to partake of his holiness. Lately before then I was becoming spiritually flabby, allowing sin to creep into my daily living, particulary over the Christmas festivities. But during the period of intense fear, I also felt a purification of my soul. And sharing my plight with the church elders I also found very helpful.
All things work out for the good of those who love God. Being disciplined by God is a good sign, a proof that you are his child. Furthermore, it would always be for the common good, so not to perish with the world.
The weather forecast looks better for tomorrow. I'm anticipating getting some work done at last.