By Andrew Heath
We have all had different experiences from the start of the COVID lockdown, to the gradual opening of restrictions and now with restrictions tightening up once again in England. Our different experiences have been related to our different jobs and caring responsibilities, but these have also been influenced by who we are and what we believe. Regardless of our situation or beliefs we have had to make decisions unlike any we have made before.
Some of these have been complex and literally matters of life and death. I was born in Africa, and some people there and elsewhere in the world are having to decide whether to follow lockdown rules to help keep their community safe, or to try to find day work so they can feed their family – a choice with no good outcome. Fortunately, few of us are in this situation, but we still need to make decisions and, as Christians, need help from the Bible.
My own lockdown situation has been having my wife, Robyn, working in the hospital most days of the week, while I was working from home and trying to make sure our daughters were keeping up with their online learning during the school term (which was successful most of the time), and trying to separate them from various screens over the holiday period (less successful as I never had a good answer as to why lots of screen time was fine for online learning, but not during the holiday).
In my work at the University of Bath I am very fortunate to be supported by a very strong and dedicated team, including some from the St Barts community. In this role I had to make quite a few difficult decisions related to the disruption we have had. I have worked in research related roles even before graduating from University (I was fortunate to have my studies sponsored by a research organisation), and “evidence-based decision making” is the natural thing for me to do. With a new situation like the one we are currently facing, there is limited evidence for some of the decisions we need to make, and there is not enough time to gather more evidence to be completely sure of the decisions needed now. What should we do? We can try and look at theoretical possibilities for all our decisions, but in theory there is no difference between theory and practice, but in practice there is (try to get your head around that one!). There must be a better way.
We are incredibly fortunate in that there is help for every decision we ever have to make. Philippians 4:6 tells us “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” I will admit that I am not the best at following this as even after prayer I do sometimes worry about whether I have made the correct decisions. We are told that we don’t need to rely on the evidence of this world (“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding;”: Proverbs 3:5) but this is difficult to do at times.
I was going to include a bit on how faith and deeds with reference to James 2, but soon realised that this is far too big a topic to adequately address in a blog post. Prayer and trust in God are probably good first steps to help when we want to know “What should we do?”