Life is uncertain! Things happen unpredictably that bring adversity into our lives.
The Covid-19 pandemic disrupted work and travel around the world, the outbreak of war in Ukraine has sent energy and food prices skyrocketing, and abnormal weather due to climate change has caused unprecedented flooding.
These large-scale events have direct personal impacts. Many have lost loved ones to Covid-19. People have lost their jobs. Higher interest rates and higher prices tip some working families into poverty. Severe flooding causes loss of possessions, disease, and even loss of life.
Most people are sufficiently resilient to cope with such events and the uncertainties they bring. It is harder to deal with random events. Today you or a loved one seems fine, tomorrow you are faced with a diagnosis of cancer.
You are shopping casually in a mall when an ‘active shooter’ alarm spreads panic. You are liming by the corner mini-mart and bandits brandishing guns enter and rob the shop. Your child heading to university becomes one of many victims on the flight downed by a missile.
Such random catastrophes prompt deep questions of why me, or why him, or why her? As the gospel reading says: “Then of two men in the fields one is taken, one left; of two women at the millstone grinding, one is taken, one left” (Mt 24:40–41).
Trinidad and Tobago today is a difficult and uncertain place, gripped by crime and the fear of crime. Children cower under their desks from gunshots just outside. Homes are invaded; even presbyteries are not spared.
The heightened vigilance of ordinary life now produces anxiety and stress. The inability of those in authority to deal effectively with the scourge provokes anger that produces even more stress.
Inability to cope with uncertainty and loss is sometimes reflected in mental breakdown and post-traumatic stress disorder. All of us are potentially vulnerable. Coping and resilience, as individuals or as societies, require solid anchors in our lives. We are anchored by a familiar physical space, the space we call home.
We know this when on a flight back to this country, we first catch sight of the Northern Range, Port of Spain and the Caroni plains, and San Fernando off in the distance.
We are anchored by family and friends. Home is where the heart is. Close connection to other human beings is critical to our well-being. The sights, sounds and smells of children or grandchildren at play, picong and old talk, and food cooking help to fill and uplift our spirits, bringing the joy and peace we crave.
It is when these anchors, important as they are, fail or are absent, that we need an anchor that never moves, no matter how turbulent the storm or how anxious the times.
There will be storms, there will be pain and loss, as we make this our pilgrimage on Earth. But with an unmoving anchor, we can weather any crisis of any kind. Herein lies the paradox of the disciple of Christ who, in the face of uncertainty, pain and loss, finds hope, consolation, and joy with God’s grace.
The season of Advent is a reminder of the coming into this world of He who would be our immovable anchor, our rock, if we accept Him as such.
Uncertainty, pain, suffering, and loss are inescapable in the human condition. But with Him, we have hope, we are resilient. These trials become bearable, even as the grace they bring draws us closer to God. And grace is everywhere!