Letter from John Woodhouse

Dear friends

I wonder how the strange times in which we find ourselves have affected you. In relatively stable, peaceful and prosperous times we can be lulled into a beguiling sense of security. Can you remember when it felt good to be free from the anxieties, fears and longings that 2020 brought us? There was a time (for many of us, at least) when the world seemed to be a relatively safe place, we felt reasonably secure, and our worries were small.

What a difference 2020 made! While here in Australia we may feel that we are returning to those safer days, and we are relieved, a glance at the news tells us that the world is very far from that, and our anxieties can rise again. We can find ourselves longing for those stable, peaceful and prosperous times.

God calls us to a more realistic and harder way, in which we find sure confidence only in his goodness to us. We are to understand — even in the best of times — that life is fragile, our wealth will perish and we ourselves are actually weak and helpless. We are to realise that we are utterly unworthy of God’s favour, and yet in Jesus Christ he has demonstrated his love for us. A true estimate of our circumstances and of ourselves — even in the best of times — should arouse fear. Only God’s unexpected, undeserved and surprising goodness to us gives sound ground for hope.

This apparent tension — fear and confidence — ought to be present as we pray. Listen to David:

But I, through the abundance of your steadfast love,
will enter your house.

I will bow down toward your holy temple
in fear of you. (Psalm 5:7)

In other words, faith in God because of his goodness towards us is very different from the proud self-confidence we so easily feel when life is going well. True faith is accompanied by proper fear. This is because faith in God’s goodness always undermines our pride and self-sufficiency. And vice versa!

Therefore let us beware of the dangers of “the good times”. Yes, let us give thanks to God when we enjoy peace, prosperity and good health. But only when we really believe that these things are flimsy will we discover the brilliance of the steadfast love of the Lord. We turn and pray to him because we really do need his help! It would not be a bad thing at all if we were rather more troubled and fearful, if that led us to call on our God. He is ready to hear our prayers and to come to our aid.

Your brother in Christ

John Woodhouse
Acting Senior Minister