I recently read a book - “Austerity Britain” – which is an historical account of the years immediately following the end of the Second World War.
In May 1945, Britain had just won victory in Europe, followed a few months later by victory in the Far East. The wartime Coalition Government had gone to the polls only to be replaced by the first majority Labour Government in the nation’s history.
Many of the nation’s cities had been bombed out of all recognition: there were not enough homes for returning servicemen, the Workhouses were still operating and it is estimated that over 40% of the population lived in what Beveridge, the architect of the welfare state, described as “want.”
The scale of the war effort meant it would take years to recover. In fact, two years after the end of the war rationing got more severe and in the midst of the coldest winter for 200 years (1946 to 47) there were fuel and power shortages.
But, we know something of later part of the story. From such inauspicious beginnings in 1945, the Welfare State was founded, cities were rebuilt, unemployment disappeared (for a time) and the standard of living of millions of people rose to levels beyond their wildest dreams.
Our experiences suggest that where some things are hard to imagine, others are not all they seem. Some changes take a long while to materialise, others (much needed ones) sometimes never happen at all and we are left wondering “if only.” I was not alive at the end of the war but reading this book I wonder how many dreams of a “New Jerusalem” were shattered in the harsh reality of the modern world.
We can all feel let down. Circumstances may prevail against us – it can be the “system’s” fault when you have a problem with your bank; the computer may say “no” when we want to hear “yes” and sometimes, other people let us down. We mustn’t ignore the fact that we also let ourselves down. Reality, on such occasions fails to live up to our expectations and promises (even those we make to one another or ourselves), are easily and quickly broken.
There are many promises in the bible, usually beginning with the words “I will.” Unlike us, God always delivers. His promises never fail for He is always true to His word.
One of the many promises which brings great comfort for many is this:
He (God) will never leave you nor forsake you
(Deuteronomy 31:8; Hebrews 13:5).
Whatever our circumstances may look like, we can be sure that they are not hidden from God. Our concerns, fears, hopes, dreams and our expectations are all an open book. God does not necessarily promise to change our circumstances – and we may consider that to be so unfair when others seem to get a better deal – but He does promise that He will be with us to help and strengthen us in the face of adversity and triumph alike. The only condition is that we are prepared to talk to Him about it and to listen to the answer.
Praying “Thy Kingdom Come,” as churches across Britain are dong at the moment, is in many ways a dangerous activity.
We have to couple it with “Thy will be done,” which implies that we are prepared to be wholly dependent on the way God responds to that form of communication we know as prayer. We’re used to self-determination, finding our own way so depending on anyone else isn’t an easy task, especially when the demands of answered prayer seem to great.
Remember, though, that alongside “I will,” God says “I have.” Not only will he respond to our prayers, He has the means to do much more than we could ever ask or imagine – let’s think big, love extravagantly but act wisely as we build a new Jerusalem.