desolation row

she’s taking photos of the future

she’s painting the background black

the walls they’re closing in on her and

she’s not pushing back

and the minutes pass like hours

the weeks they pass like years

as eyes keep filling up until

there’s no room for her tears

and she’s stuck inside of silence

not knowing where to go

so she’s resigned to living on

Desolation Row.

.

now there’s no hope for tomorrow,

as there’s no dream for today

her thoughts they’re going nowhere,

and those thoughts won’t go away

and her only true companion

is her cold contactless phone

it’s never very far from her

it keeps her on her own

but the only calls she’ll ever make

in the life that she’ll forgo

are the calls she’ll make whilst dying on

Desolation Row

.

After Bob Dylan


Related posts:

To read ‘together in line’, click here

To read ‘the wrong patient’, click here

To read ‘beaten’, click here

To read ‘Resting in Pieces’, click here

To read ‘Crushed’, click here

To read ‘Masked’, click here

To read ‘She’s The Patient You Don’t Know You Have’, click here

To read ‘Eleanor Rigby is not at all fine’, click here

To read ‘Contactless’, click here

My Back Pages

‘Ah, but I was so much older then, I’m younger than that now.’

As a boy, I spent my early years playing. I did not endeavour to please anyone as I did so, though my parents no doubt were happy to see me having the fun that all children ought. I did not seek to play better than those I played with – what would be the point? I simply played, and was glad to do so.

Then came school and, though I did not seek to impress, I was, from time to time, rewarded. Stars for pleasing the teacher. And I saw that the number of stars I received was compared with those that were bestowed on others. I was, I realised, in competition with my peers.

School continued and the tasks set me became more complex – the rewards more contingent on my reaching a certain standard. ‘Work hard’, they said, ‘and you might do well – you might progress’. Which I did. But there was always a next stage, never a point beyond which one could simply stop and rest.

And so I continued on to university – where those who strived hardest secured the best jobs. Then, inevitably, came work. And the rewards dried up, replaced now by the threat of sanctions. Instead of rewards for achieving, now there were punishments – even for those who were simply standing still. Good enough was no longer good enough. ‘You must improve’, they said, ‘You must be better, you must do more’.

And then, finally, came criticism. Initially implied, then explicit. It was not merely that I was not good enough, rather it was that I was to blame.

So harder and harder I worked until, finally, I stopped – exhausted – defeated.

And I realised I had grown old. And not only in years

Oh for a lesser load, and a little rest, for a yoke that was easy and a burden that was light. Oh to be treated gently, by someone strong enough to cope with my weakness, someone who, rather than treating me harshly and constantly demanding of me ever increasing levels of perfection, was lowly of heart. Oh to be cared for by someone accepting, someone forgiving, someone who could, and would, provide for me the long desired perfection I had long been striving for and thereby offer me rest for my soul.

And so I remembered my days as a boy. And I sought to become like a child again, someone who was wiser than the foolish adult I had become, someone who accepted his need of help. And as I did so I looked to simply enjoy doing what it was that I was meant to do.

Because the world can be a cruel taskmaster and competing in a misguided attempt to prove our perfection makes losers of us all.

Perhaps though there is someone out there who, even now, is glad to see me imperfectly endeavouring to do what is right, someone who cares for me, someone who isn’t only out to criticise and condemn. Perhaps there is someone out there who loves me that much.

I happen to believe there is.

If I’m right, what a relief that would be!

[‘My Back Pages’, is the title of a song by Bob Dylan from which the line ‘Ah, but I was so much older then, I’m younger than that now.’, is taken. It appears on the 1964 album, ‘Another Side of Bob Dylan’. This blog is an updated version of one originally written in 2018. It expresses, of course, more of an aspiration of where I would like to be rather than where I actually am. As with much in life, we journey on to become what we already really are.]


Related blogs:

To read ‘Rest Assured’, click here

To read ‘“The Medical Condition” of “Hannah Arendt is Completely Fine”’, click here

To read ‘Somewhere over the Rainbow’, click here

To read ‘Professor Ian Aird – A Time to Die’, click here

To read ‘Expressive Individualism and the Drive for Perfection’, click here

To read ‘Nicky Alexander’, Dr Perfect?’, click here

To read ‘Don’t forget to be ordinary if you want to be happy’, click here

To read, ‘The Already and the Not Yet’, click here

Getting in touch with your inner Womble.

Sometimes, being a GP feels like something akin to being a Womble – that’s right, sometimes it seems that we are dealing with rubbish all day long!

But that’s not the only reason I feel an affinity to those inhabitants of Wimbledon Common that scurry around, diligently clearing up after others. Nor is it simply because one of those fury little creatures takes his name from the town in which I live. And no, I do not live in Tomsk and, though I may be a little on the short side (5’4” thank you for asking), neither am I particularly hirsute. My Wombleness is much more layered than that.

‘People don’t notice us, they never see.

Under their noses a GP might be

We GP by night and we GP by day

Looking for ways to take problems away.’

Furthermore we all sometimes find ourselves having to dance. But even though the one on which we are led may seem a merry one, it is a dance that we are accompanied by nothing as delightful as the Minuetto Allegretto. Instead we are encouraged to quick step to the cacophony of sound that emanates from NHS England and the media, and to waltz to the unearthly din generated by the government, QoF and the appraisal process.

‘Oh slave now like your partners

Young GP’s were told

With satisfact’ry colleague feedback

You will work ‘till you’re old’

Unless of course you burnout young.

More positively though, like Wombles, GPs are organised, work as a team. GPs are tidy and’, for the most part at least, ‘GPs are clean’. Furthermore we are ‘so incredibly utterly devious’, that lesser known Womble characteristic that enables us to make good use of the things that we find, irrespective of how limited those resources that we come across actually are. Just as it is with Wombles, so it is with we GPs – our communities would be a lot messier without us. Our work is hugely valuable and, though our efforts may not be valued by some, most of our patients, really do appreciate all that we do.

So…

When the sun doesn’t shine and it’s cloudy and gray

And it’s only the beginning of the GP-ing day

And the CQC inspectors say that they’re on their way

When the phones are going crazy and you just can’t see

How you will even find the time to drink a cup of tea

And every patient says that you must see them urgently

When the newspapers are saying things that just aren’t true

And everyone is laying blame for everything on you

And they’re telling you exactly what it is you’ve got to do…


Remember, remember, remember, remember Remember, remember, remember (member, member, member)

(Altogether now)

Remember you’re a GP (Remember you’re a GP) Remember you’re a GP (Remember you’re a GP) Remember you’re a GP (Remember you’re a GP) Remember you’re a GP (Remember you’re a GP)

Remember, member, member, what a GP, GP, GP, you are.

And remember too just how loveable and cuddly you really are!

And with that, like Orinoco, I’m off to get an extra 40 winks!


To read ‘A Hard Year for Us All’, click here

A Hard Year For Us All

.

A HARD YEAR FOR US ALL

.

Oh, where have you been, my GP team?

Oh, where have you been, whilst you I’ve not seen?

We’ve worked every day of this dreadful pandemic

We’ve managed all kinds of conditions systemic

We’ve delivered shots at the Covid vaxs clinic

We’ve tended the folk whose hearts are ischaemic

We’ve been close at hand to those emphysemic

And it’s a hard, and it’s a hard, it’s a hard, it’s a hard

It’s been a hard year, for us all

.

Oh, what did you see, my GP team?

Oh, what did you see, whilst you I’ve not seen?

We’ve seen patients in person when we’ve needed to

We’ve seen desperation in not just a few

We’ve seen the dyspnoeic as they became blue

We’ve seen those with conditions requiring review

We’ve seen palliative people their dying all through

And it’s a hard, and it’s a hard, it’s a hard, it’s a hard

It’s been a hard year, for us all

.

Oh, what did you hear, my GP team?

Oh, what did you hear, whilst you I’ve not seen?

We’ve heard news reports that caused us to bridle

We’ve heard people saying that GPs were idle

We’ve heard some denying the pandemic was viral

We’ve heard people crying as they fought for survival

We’ve heard those describing their thoughts suicidal

And it’s a hard, and it’s a hard, it’s a hard, it’s a hard

It’s been a hard year, for us all

.

Oh, who did you meet, my GP team?

Oh, who did you meet, whilst you I’ve not seen?

We’ve met with so many their mood melancholic

We’ve met young and old with a too high systolic

We’ve met those in great pain from their biliary colic

We’ve met breathless people from causes embolic

We’ve met those depressed by hardship economic

And it’s a hard, and it’s a hard, it’s a hard, it’s a hard

It’s been a hard year, for us all

.

Oh, what’ll you do now, my GP team?

Oh, what’ll you do now, you who I’ve not seen?

We’ll watch as the problems towards us they throng

And lean on each other to somehow stay strong

And wonder how long all of this may go on

And whether or not we still want to belong

In a job where some things they seem sometimes so wrong

Cos it’s a hard, it’s hard, it’s a hard, and it’s a hard

It’s been a hard year, for us all

.

After Bob Dylan’s ‘A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall’ – in the week of his 80th birthday.


Related Posts:

To read ‘If’, click here

To read ‘I knew a man’, click here

To read ‘Reintroducing GPs Anonymous’, click here

To read ‘On not remotely caring’, click here

Reintroducing GPs Anonymous

Today is the Glorious 13th – the day that marks the start of the GP shooting season. Admittedly, this year, many seemed to have jumped the gun but, with headlines a plenty in the national papers, it is clear that the annual tradition of having a bop at your local provider of primary care services is, once more, well and truly underway.

This is not to suggest that the criticisms aren’t entirely appropriate, it’s not as though we’ve been experiencing unprecedented demand of late, or that we have had to struggle to balance the twin concerns of managing patients safely whilst avoiding unnecessary contact in light of a global pandemic. On the contrary, we have all been enjoying more time on the golf course having finally been able to take up that executive club membership as a result of the vast profits we’ve made from administering Covid-19 vaccinations.

In recent years it’s been increasingly accepted that GPs are to blame for most of the problems in the NHS and being a GP is now, quite rightly, seen as something for which we ought to be ashamed. Surely, then, it’s time we considered getting ourselves some help.

Whether it be our delayed diagnoses, our inappropriate admissions or our failure to offer enough appointments, it’s time to face up to the uncomfortable truth, GPs are the problem. Having for years been told this repeatedly it’s finally time we listened. The facts, as they say, speak for themselves – it really is all the fault of we GPs.

We must deny it no longer. We must stop trying to convince ourselves we’re OK and instead acknowledge our failings. After all, if we don’t, how can we expect anything to be done to help us. We will just go on making our own life, and everyone else’s, miserable.

Everyone’s aware of how embarrassing GP behaviour can be. You know the kind of thing, how we love to spoil people’s fun by advising those with a fever and a new continuous cough not to visit their great aunts for tea or how we refuse to allow our waiting rooms to fill up with patients who wish to discuss the sudden loss of their sense of smell. Without a doubt it is selfishness such as this that leads to A&E departments being inundated with such patients who are thus forced to waste precious hours of their time seeking a proper medical opinion.

And then, of course, there is our wilful ignoring of patients whose symptoms clearly suggest that they have cancer but who we deliberately neglect to refer preferring instead to put an unnecessary burden on secondary care services by recklessly admitting patients to hospital just for the fun of it.

So let’s all face up to our problem. I’ll go first by introducing myself:

My name is Peter – and I’m a General Practitioner.

If you’re similarly afflicted, come and join me – I’m setting up ‘GPs Anonymous’ in the hope that together we can support all those who are stricken with the affliction that is ‘being a GP’.

But perhaps you’re still not convinced that you have a problem. If so, can I urge you to ask yourselves these four screening questions? Answer two in the affirmative and you may have a problem – answer ‘Yes’ to all four and you’re in real trouble.

C – have you ever felt you wanted to cut down how much general practice you do?

A – have you ever been annoyed by criticism of your actions as a GP?

G – have you ever felt guilty for what you have done as a GP?

E – have you ever started doing your ‘GP thing’ early in the morning?

Extra phone lines will be installed should demand for this new service prove overwhelming.

But why do people fall into the destructive behaviour patterns that are characteristic of general practitioners? Some have suggested that in some cases there may be a genetic component – seeing your parents behaving as GPs seems to predispose some to follow a similar path. Mercifully, however, this is becoming less common. Others experience a little bit of general practice early on in their medical career and naively imagine that it’s a good thing – something that they can control. After all, just one attempt at a ten minute consultation can’t hurt can it? But before long they’re out of control – only in it for the extortionate pay, the long hours of ‘off duty’ and the kicks one gets from the systematic mismanagement of those who thought they were there to help.

It’s a tragic condition but now, with the arrival of ‘GPs Anonymous’, there is at last some real hope for change. So please give generously, together with your help, this year we can rid the country of the blight that GP’s have become.

And then won’t everyone be happy?

[This is a reworking of something I wrote previously. Apologies to those who may have seen it before but sadly it continues to seem ever more relevant today.]

someone left a cake out in the rain

Today I sat outside a shop, the rain it pitter pattered,
But even though ‘twas cold and wet to me it hardly mattered.
For I took consolation in, something that’s quite unhealthy,
A shortbread slice adorned the way so loved by those who’re wealthy.

.

But as I then about me gazed, beneath those skies of grey
I saw ‘twas only me who ate that treat baked in a tray.
No millionaire did with me share, as I sat there and shivered,
On days like this I guess the rich have their cakes home delivered!

together in line

unrelenting sadness lingers

hope slips through her outstretched fingers

no pill can tend a grief like this

and words well meant their target miss

with soulful eyes replete with tears

she sinks beneath a sea of fears

together though, we stand in line

her breaking heart now breaking mine.



Related Blogs

To read ‘the wrong patient’, click here

To read ‘beaten’, click here

To read ‘Resting in Pieces’, click here

To read ‘Crushed’, click here

To read ‘Masked’, click here

To read ‘She’s The Patient You Don’t Know You Have’, click here

the wrong patient

THE WRONG PATIENT

.

It’s not that she no longer knows

the reason for her tears

It’s not that she no longer feels

the pain of all those years

.

It’s not that she no longer cares

to make her daily calls

It’s not that she no longer stays

confined within her walls.

.

It’s just that now she doesn’t see

a reason to go on

It’s just there’s nothing left that’s right

in a world where she’s

so wrong.

.

Not any longer



Related Blogs

To read, ‘together in line’, click here

To read ‘beaten’, click here

To read ‘Resting in Pieces’, click here

To read ‘Crushed’, click here

To read ‘Masked’, click here

To read ‘Patient’, click here

To read ‘She’s The Patient You Don’t Know You Have’, click here

To read a few Covid-19 related poems you could start with ‘Old Hands’, by clicking here

To read ‘Spare me a doctor’, and other medically themed poems click here

And for an attempt at something humorous, click here, for ‘How the Grinch and Covid stole General Practice’s Christmas’.

Easter Sunday 2021

Happy Easter!

It was Good Friday, but now, as surely as day follows night, sunshine follows rain, and a more normal life will surely one day follow this pandemic, it’s Easter Sunday. A day to both remember and celebrate the most significant event in history, a source of hope powerful to sustain in even the darkest of days.

The following is an updated version first posted last year.


Easter Morning. The tomb is empty and Jesus is raised. Obviously.


I say obviously because it never could have been any other way. Some people have a problem with that – they say irrational things like ‘Dead people don’t come back to life – that’s simply impossible’. But the Bible says just the opposite, the Bible says it was impossible for Jesus to stay dead!


‘God raised him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it.’ (Acts 2:24)


Granted, the dead rising to life again is not a common occurrence. But if the rationale for you not believing in the resurrection of Jesus boils down to, ‘It can’t happen, so it didn’t happen’, then you are not being intellectually honest with yourself, drawing your conclusions on preconceived assumptions which are not based on fact. And it’d only take a resurrection to happen once for you to have to change your point of view. 

At the end of a lecture he had given on the reasons for his atheism, noted philosopher Anthony Flew, was once asked the question, ‘But what if Jesus was raised from the dead?’. ‘Well,’ he replied ‘If Jesus was raised from the dead, that would change everything’. His response was consistent with his lifelong commitment to go where the evidence led, a commitment that would, a few years before his death in 2010, ultimately lead to him coauthoring a book which was entitled ‘There is a God’.


It was the apostle Peter who made the above statement regarding the impossibility of Jesus staying dead. It is interesting to note the change that had occurred in Peter since Good Friday. After Jesus’ arrest he had been running scared, denying to everyone that he had ever even known Jesus. But here, on the day of Pentecost, just seven weeks later, he stands and publicly proclaims, to a crowd of thousands, the reality of the resurrection. The reason for the change in Peter isn’t hard to find: ‘This Jesus, God raised up,’ he says, ‘and of that we all are witnesses.’ (Acts 2:32). 

Like Anthony Flew, Peter had followed the evidence.


The evidence for the resurrection is well documented and a couple of links follow for those interested:


http://www.desiringgod.org/articles/historical-evidence-for-the-resurrection


https://biblicalstudies.org.uk/article_resurrection_anderson.html

But why was it not possible for Jesus to stay dead? This is a philosophical argument and is based on the nature of death and the underlying reason for it. We tend to think that death is normal – the inevitable end to the wearing out of our bodies after long years of use or, alternatively, the tragic result of some violent insult, overwhelming infection, or malignant growth, something that our bodies cannot withstand. But the Bible says that there is a more fundamental reason for why we die. And that, it says, is because of sin. 

Death is not part of how things should be – rather it is a travesty, the consequence of the presence of the wrong that is in the universe, the penalty for the sin of which we are all guilty – myself more than anyone. An awareness of this opens the door to our being able to better understand how Peter can make his assertion that it was not possible for Jesus to stay dead. 

It is because Jesus was sinless, that death could not hold him. 

If we struggle to believe anything about the Easter story, it shouldn’t be the resurrection of Jesus – that bit stands to reason. The amazing part of the story is that he ever died at all. That the author of life should die is a great mystery – but die he unquestionably did. As it is for his resurrection, the evidence for Jesus’ death is overwhelming, even bein* attested to by a paper published in the Journal of the American Medical Association in 1986. You can read it here: 

https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jama/article-abstract/403315

So what then was the reason for Jesus’ death? The answer to that can be given in one word: Love. The love he had for those he came to save, those he was willing to lay down his life for, [John 10:15], those for whom his death would bring eternal life. 

The reason that Jesus’ was born in the first place was ‘to seek and save the lost’ [Luke 19:10]. As the apostle Paul once wrote, the ‘saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners’ (1 Timothy 1:15). 

Jesus knew this and understood that the salvation he had come to achieve would be realised through his death. ‘The Son of Man must suffer many things’ he said, ‘and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised.’ (Luke 9:22). That is the reason why, when the time of his crucifixion drew near, Jesus ‘set his face to go to Jerusalem’. (Luke 9:51).

Jesus went to Jerusalem on purpose, with the expressed intention of dying there. 

But why did he have to die? More than that, why did he have be killed? Why couldn’t he have simply slipped away quietly in his sleep at a ripe old age? The answer to that question is that ‘the wages of sin is death’ (Romans 6:23). If justice is to be upheld, sin must be punished, and the penalty for sin is death. 

We all want to live in a just universe – we cry out for justice when we see others maltreated especially when that injustice is particularly great or when we are find that it is who are the ones who are experiencing the injustice. The only time we are unhappy with justice is when we are guilty! I believe speeding drivers should suffer a penalty but many were the excuses I had for why I shouldn’t have had to attend the speed awareness course I was invited a few years ago!

God is, by his very nature, holy. He is perfectly right, perfectly just. And if he is to remain just, His standards must be he upheld. We, on the other hand, are not what we should be. We know, if we are honest, that we don’t live up to even our own standards let alone those of a holy and righteous God. Therefore, since as has been already been said, the ‘wages of sin is death’, we have a problem. We all deserve death, myself included and, unless a suitable substitute can be found, we face the prospect of experiencing that punishment ourselves.


But this is where the bad news of the law of God becomes the good news of the gospel. Because, not only is God holy and rightly angry at injustice he is, at the same time, merciful and gracious. God gave his only son to be a penal substitute, one who would act as the wrath absorbing, justice satisfying, atoning sacrifice for our sins. One who would gladly take our place and suffer for us the punishment we deserve. 

At this point it is important to remember the mystery of the Trinity. God, though one, is three persons. We are not, therefore, seeing here a loving Jesus who absorbs the wrath of an vengeful despotic God. On the contrary, Jesus is himself fully God even as he is fully man. And the Father and Son, along with the Holy Spirit are one. As the Father loves the son, so the son loves the Father. Therefore, the death of Jesus, planned and agreed by all three persons of the Godhead before time began, and pointed too throughout the Old Testament [see for example here and here] reveals a loving Father every bit as much as it reveals a loving son,

The Old Testament prophet Isaiah had, some 700 years prior to the crucifixion, prophesied how God would one day lay on Jesus our sin and punish him in our place: ‘But he was pierced for our transgressions;’ he wrote, ‘he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned, every one, to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all.’ (Isaiah 53:5-6). 

Jesus, because of his love, both for his Father and for us, willingly took on our sin and died in our place so that we need not suffer that punishment ourselves. He was put to death so that ‘whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.’ (John 3:16). For our sake [God] made [Jesus] to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. (2 Corinthians 5:21). 

That is, God treats Jesus as if he had lived like us so that he can justly treat us as if we had lived like Jesus. This is what it means to say that God loves us. It’s not that he thinks everything about us is just peachy, but rather that he treats us well despite how little we deserve his kindness. He loves us, not because we are lovely, but because he is loving. 

And how great is that love with which he loves us. We cannot conceive how vast that love is. ‘For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his steadfast love towards those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us’ [Psalm 103:11-12]

‘In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.’ (1 John 4:10). ‘The wages of sin is [indeed] death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.’ (Romans 6:23). ‘And this is eternal life, that [we] know…the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom [he has] sent.’ (John 17:3).

This then is how God loves us. Jesus death is not just a sign of God’s love, it is an act of love too, one that achieves our salvation. One that achieves our rescue. If I’m walking along the river with my wife and I turn to her and say ‘Darling, I love you so much and because I want to show you how much I love you I’m going to throw myself into the river’, and then, having made my declaring, I promptly proceed to do just that and drown, I am, what is commonly known as, an idiot! If however, as we walk along the riverbank she falls in and begins to drown, and I jump in to rescue her but, in so doing, lose my own life, then I have acted out of love. I will have demonstrated my love by my actions, by what I have done, by what I have achieved. I will have done a loving thing, but one that is no where near as loving as that which was done by the son of God who, of infinitely greater worth than I, died for those who were only deserving of death.

God then, in the death of his beloved son, at great personal cost, rescues us from himself so that we might enjoy knowing him forever, no longer having to live in fear of his righteous anger towards us. God’s justice was satisfied by his wrath being directed toward another, toward Jesus, the one who willingly absorbed it all for us on the cross. So completely did Jesus’ death pay the penalty for our sin that there is now no longer any of God’s anger left over to be directed at us. That is what is meant by Jesus’ death atoning for the sins of those he died for. That is the meaning of ‘propitiation’ in the verse above. God hasn’t merely laid aside his anger at sin only for it to rise up again at some later date, on the contrary, it has gone for good, even as it was fully poured out on Jesus. 

That is why Jesus, as he hung on the cross, cried out ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Mark 15:34). Remarkably God was turning his back on the son he loves so deeply in order to save we who have ourselves turned our back on God. And it why the apostle Paul can write that ‘There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.’ (Romans 8:1). All condemnation towards those whose only hope for salvation lies in Christ is gone! The job of satisfying the requirements of the law and thereby maintaining God’s justice even as he forgives we who have sinned and deserve death is complete. As Jesus died he said ‘It is finished’ (John 19:30). He wasn’t talking about h8s life, rather he was talking about his work of atonement. And he was right, the resurrection on Easter morning proving that his sacrifice really was fully effective in paying the price for all that we have done wrong. God’s grace really is completely sufficient for even the chief of sinners. 


Rest assured, knowing God for all eternity will not be dull like some people imagine. We have all had moments in our lives when we have experienced something truly beautiful – a glorious sunset perhaps, a magnificent mountain view maybe or perhaps waves crashing powerfully against a rocky coastline. These are awesome sights, ones to be fully enjoyed enjoyed. But they are mere a faint echo of what we will one day experience, they will pale into insignificance when we see God face to face, when heaven is on earth and the dwelling place of God is with man. ‘He will dwell with [us], and [we] will be his people, and God himself will be with [us] as [our] God. He will wipe away every tear from [our] eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things [will] have passed away.’ (Revelation 21:3-4). 

Seeing God and experiencing that future new creation will be infinitely more satisfying than the happiest times this world has to offer, better even than Easter Day. And the prospect of that future joy might just be enough to sustain us through the saddest times this world affords – days like Good Friday.


Easter morning – the tomb is empty and Jesus is raised.That’s good news – but not unexpected. It was always going to happen.


It was Good Friday.

But now it is Easter Sunday.

Obviously.


Happy Easter.


Addendum:


If you have read thus far, I am (a) surprised [I believe the expression is TL:DR – Too long: didn’t read] and (b) grateful. Thank you.


I am aware that this has been long but some things need more than the length of a tweet if one is to have any chance of conveying their importance.


I am also aware that there will be some, perhaps many, who will consider what I have written as naive, irrelevant and perhaps even offensive. If that is you I trust you’ll accept my words as a genuine attempt to explain things I hold to be of first importance for us all to know and understand. If, as a doctor, I genuinely believed I had a life saving cure for your terminal illness, you’d consider it cruel of me if I withheld that treatment from you even if you didn’t share the belief in its effectiveness. So consider me foolish by all means, but I hope you’ll not consider me unkind in writing as I have. If one can not write of these things at Easter time, then when can one write of them?
For all that however, I hope that there may be others who will agree with what I have written and, rejoicing with me at the news of Jesus’ life death and resurrection know that this news is simply too good not to share.


Related posts

To read, ‘Good Friday – 2021’, click here

To read, ‘The Resurrection – is it Rhubarb?’, click here

To read, ‘Real Love?’, click here

To read, ‘Hope comes from believing the promises of God’, click here

To read ‘John 3:16’, click here

To read ‘Water from a rock’, click here

To read ‘The Sacrifice of Isaac’, click here

Good Friday – 2021

Sorrowful yet always rejoicing.

I saw it again this week, tears amidst the laughter, smiles amidst the sorrow.

The first occasion came whilst I was watching an old episode of ‘The Repair Shop’. As an item of great sentimental value was returned to its owner, the recipient’s joy at its restoration was evident even as they were overwhelmed by the sadness brought on by the distant memories of the one with whom it was once associated. There was pleasure in the sadness, heartache in the delight.

And there it was again, in my patient. Distraught, she sat crying in my room, all hope seemingly lost. And yet, as we chatted, there was a smile, and then a laugh. Not one that indicated, even for a moment, that the sadness had gone. But there it was none the less, evidence that even in the darkest of moments there was still a glimmer of light.

And there it was again, in my patient. Distraught, she sat crying in my room, all hope seemingly lost. And yet, as we chatted, there’s was a smile and then a laugh. Not one that indicated, even for a moment, that the sadness had gone, but it was there none the less, evidence that even in the darkest of moments there is still a glimmer of light.

And it’s there in my own life too, genuine causes for sorrow sitting alongside sources of real joy, not least that associated with the excitement of hearing the news that I’m to be a grandfather. Sadness and happiness coexisting, neither one ever entirely absent, each simultaneously both intensifying and diminishing the other

Sorrowful yet always rejoicing.

Even in the good times, we can not deny the existence of sadness. And neither, on the darkest of days, must we imagine that there is nothing we can take pleasure in. Perhaps we cannot know what happiness really is without knowing the pain of sorrow and, for sorrow, to be fully realised, perhaps it requires the experience of knowing what it is to be truly happy. If so, if we are to be happy, it must be alongside our sadness. We must neither wait for the absence of sorrow before allowing ourselves to be happy nor deny our sadness because there are things to be happy about. Life is not black or white, it is a kaleidoscope of grey. It is not that we can not be happy because we know sadness, nor that we can not be sad because there are things to be happy about, but that, paradoxically, we can be happy and sad at the same time.

We can smile, therefore, even as we cry.

We too need to learn what it is to be sorrowful yet always rejoicing.

Today is Good Friday, a day like no other to ponder such things, as we wait for Easter Sunday.

What follows is something I originally posted a year ago. I find it helpful to consider these things, so as to make life more meaningful, more understandable, and more bearable. Perhaps you will to.

Because even the eternally happy God knows what it is to sometimes cry.


One Maundy Thursday I wished a good friend of mine a happy Easter break. He hesitated however to return my good wishes because, he said, that he understood that Good Friday was a day for Christians like me to be miserable. It got me thinking to what extent he was he right.

Paul, writing in his second letter to the Corinthians, describes Christians as, ‘Sorrowful yet always rejoicing’ [2 Corinthians 6:10]. If such a paradoxical existence was the reality for Christians back in Paul’s day, it is surely no less true a reality for Christians living the 21st Century. ‘Good Friday’, the name we give today, is itself a paradox – for how can we apply the adjective ‘good’ to describe the day of Christ’s crucifixion? For sure, it is a day on which Christians should grieve over their sin and what it was that Jesus had to suffer in order to secure their redemption, but, at the same time, it is a day for rejoicing in the triumph of his sacrifice as we anticipate and remember his subsequent resurrection from the dead on Easter Sunday.


‘Sorrowful yet always rejoicing’ – it was the experience of Paul and it was also the experience of Jesus himself. For he was himself ‘a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief’ [Isaiah 53:5]. Matthew recalls the words of Jesus to Peter, James and John, in the Garden of Gethsemane:


“My soul is very sorrowful, even to death; remain here, and watch with me.” [Matthew 26:38].


And yet the writer to the Hebrews has it that Jesus, ‘for the joy that was set before him endured the cross’ [Hebrews 12:2].


Suffering, then, is not the end of joy – it can even be the passage to joy. Again this is not a contradiction – but it is a paradox! A paradox that the second thief, even as he was being crucified alongside Jesus, understood. There he was, in just about as bad a position as it is possible for a person to be in, minutes away from an excruciating death, when he, nonetheless, made his remarkable request:


‘Jesus,’, he said, ‘remember me when you come into your kingdom’ [Luke 23:42].


Like everybody else that day, the second thief saw Jesus suffering and dying on a cross. But unlike the religious rulers, the Roman soldiers and the other thief who was also being crucified that day, he didn’t see defeat. He continued to speak of Jesus as one who was coming into his kingdom. For him Jesus’ death didn’t mean an end to all the kingdom and salvation talk. Whilst all those others, those who mocked Jesus as they watched him die, were looking for a salvation FROM death, the second thief saw that the salvation Jesus was bringing about was a salvation THROUGH death. 

Jesus’ death wasn’t the end of Christ kingdom, on the contrary, his death was its beginning.

This is a profound truth – one we do well to try and grasp some understanding of.


Far from a simple faith, the second thief’s faith was remarkable. And it is on account of his wonderful faith that we should not be surprised by Jesus when he responds to him with these words:


‘Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise’ [Luke 23:43].


Jesus saw in the second thief somebody who got it! Somebody who trusted the power of God despite seeing that which to unspiritual eyes was nothing but weakness. Somebody who saw victory where most saw only defeat. Somebody, indeed, who understood the paradox of Good Friday.


That suffering is not irredeemable,

That sorrow is not incompatible with joy,

That even the darkest nights can be followed by the brightest days.


‘Sorrowful yet always rejoicing’? It was the experience of Paul. It was the experience of Jesus. It was the experience of the second thief.
And it will be our experience too.


Some of us are sick? Some of us mourn the loss of loved ones? Some of us worry over our future? Some of us have experienced great tragedy in our lives – some recently, some longer ago but who nonetheless still feel the pain just as keenly as if it were yesterday.


There is indeed much today for us to be sorrowful over. Some Christian types can sometimes well meaningly suggest we should always be happy. ‘Smile’, they say, ‘Jesus loves you’. But though they are right to proclaim the truth that God really does love us, they are wrong to suggest that we should never be sad, for even the eternally happy God knows what it is to cry. [1 Timothy 1:11, Luke 22:62]. Even Jesus wept at the tomb of his friend Lazarus, his grief no less intense for knowing that he would soon bring him back to life. [John 11:35].

Perhaps, then, even God knows what it is to be sorrowful yet always rejoicing. 

So it’s not wrong to be sad, it’s simply normal. The Bible never tells us to masochistically rejoice about our suffering. But it does tell us to rejoice inour suffering.


Because despite our sorrow – there is much to rejoice over! We truly are loved with an everlasting love, a love that transcends our current struggle, a love that means that we too can be sorrowful yet always rejoicing.

As we suffer we can rejoice because of the Gospel. The good news is that Good Friday was followed by Easter Day, that Jesus died for our sins, bearing the punishment we deserve, and that when he rose from the dead Jesus proved the sufficiency of his sacrifice. By it we are justified, counted righteous, declared to be ‘not guilty’.


Some of us grieve over our unrighteousness and can not even lift our eyes to heaven. We beat our breasts and cry out, ‘Have mercy on me, a sinner’ [Luke 18:13] But because of Jesus’ work on the cross on our behalf we are made right with God – regardless of our current situation.


Not because of our worth – but because of his grace.

Not because of what we do – but because of what he did.

Not because we are lovely – but because he is loving.


So, if you’re sorrowful today, remember you’re not alone, God weeps with you. And know that, because of Jesus, his life, death and resurrection, ‘Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning.’ [Psalm 30:5].


It’s Good Friday – but Easter Sunday is coming. Because of what took place over those two days nearly 2000 years ago, we can know real forgiveness for all those sins that we so bitterly regret, no matter how great they are.

But if that were not enough to rejoice over this Eastertide, we can also look to the future with a certain hope. Suffering is all too real today but the day is coming when God ‘will wipe away every tear form [our] eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things [will] have passed away.’ [Revelation 21:4]


‘So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal’. [2 Corinthians 4:16-18]


It’s Good Friday – but Easter Sunday is coming.


So may we all know happiness this Eastertide – even those of us who are sorrowful.

Especially those who are sorrowful.


Related Blogs

To read ‘Easter Sunday’, click here

To read, ‘Luther and the Global Pandemic – on becoming a theologian of the cross’, click here

To read, ‘T.S. Eliot, Jesus, and the paradox of the Christian Life’, click here

To read, ‘Why do bad things happen to good people? – a tentative suggestion’, click here

To read, ‘Suffering – a personal view’, click here

To read, ‘The “Already” and the “Not Yet”‘, click here 

To read, ‘Hope comes from believing the promises of God’, click here

To read, ‘Faith in the time of Coronavirus 1’, click here