Dark Times in a Life

There have been far too many dark times in the course of my long-legged life. Times when the world suddenly felt a more dangerous place, overshadowed with threat and fear. For my first twenty or so years, I wasn't paying enough attention to be really concerned about them. The Korean War, the Suez crisis of 1956, the 1963 Cuban Missile Crisis, the Six Day War of 1967, even the Vietnam War, kind of passed me by. (I feel guilty, saying that about Vietnam: I should have known better, as so many of my generation did.)

I became more aware after I was married and we had a young family; which I suppose are not a bad reason for being more invested in what's going on in the wider world.

1979 was a dark time, with the election of Margaret Thatcher and its effect on our society and economy. Then the Falklands War in 1982. By then I was a priest and often perplexed about whether and how to preach about some of these events. Did I dare to say what I thought, or should I try and be balanced when it was clear that Christians in my congregation could sincerely hold different views from mine?

Of all the dark times to date, the one that troubled me most was Saddam Hussein's invasion of Kuwait, on my 41st birthday. Somehow I sensed that this was an event which really would destabilise the world, almost as if it threw it off its axis and it would never right itself.

I think I was right. Since then the dark times have rolled on and on as if the world had entered a tunnel without end. Successive Gulf Wars, a never-ending war in Afghanistan, 9/11 and the invasion of Iraq that followed (it wasn't just wrong, it was illegal), the 2008 Stock Market Crash, the Syrian civil war, the barbarity of Islamic State. It's a terrible enough list and I know I have left out many other wars and insurrections and calamities that have driven millions of ordinary people to flee their homes and face the horror and dangers of being displaced persons, in preference to the almost certain death of staying in their native land. And we in our wealth and security call it 'the refugee crisis'.

Add to all these the looming crisis of climate change, the Brexit referendum, and the Covid-19 pandemic. If you weren't feeling depressed when you started reading this, you probably are by now.

It's the task and challenge of our times: How can we live a life of virtue, goodness, love, and hope as we try to set a course through such times? We who enjoy wealth and relative peace that give us so much greater responsibility to remake the world, to build a world in which all can enjoy peace, freedom, security, a decent life?

If ever there was a time for the simple daily prayer 'God help us', I reckon it's now.