We’re to profit what whatever the Lord sends. That’s not to say he sends the suffering, simply that in this fallen world where sickness and death happen, and where fallen men and women consort with each other, that will happen; the only question is how we deal with it.

During this last difficult year I’ve had plenty of time to reflect, not least on the blessings of friendship, family and fellowship; from all those sources help has come. It prompts a reflection which might be of use to those of us who read here, where we often go on about different churches. My fellow elders have been a great help, but what has been interesting and instructive, is that help has come from other Christians, not least our local Anglican vicar, who has been a great source of assistance, not least on spiritual matters. I’m genuinely unsure a male vicar could have spoken to me as this woman did. Now that might be my fault, as I’d probably not have spoken to a man the way I could to this lass, but either way, she helped me get something I’d not otherwise have had. I’m no fonder of bishops than I ever was – they seem to me a great waste of time of space, and most Christians I know seldom have a good word for them as a species, but I’ve to admit that my doubts about women in ministry have been shaken. I know my Catholic and Anglo-Catholic friends, who hold to a different view of the priesthood cannot go there, and respect that; but it would be poor form were I not to acknowledge what I’ve received from that woman’s ministry.

Anglican and Orthodox friends have been helpful, as have Catholic ones, and therefore,in suffering, we were made one. They didn’t ask my views on any doctrine, they simply popped by to offer their help, even if it was just a bit of time and the offer to go down to the shops so I could stay with Mrs S. What I saw was what they saw, which is that as Christ’s children, we are bound to help one another. No one asked anything save to help, and I asked for nothing, not even their help, because it was given freely. It seemed a type of Christ’s love for us all – unasked for, but prompted by love, and therefore prompting love.

It seemed to me that each had come to Christ as he called them, and each did what he, or she, could, according to the gifts Christ had given them. I wasn’t asking them whether they held to the Westminster confession, any more than they were asking whether I adhered to episcopacy or Trent or the spirit of Vatican II. They saw an opportunity to witness, as did I. In many ways it is easier to give than to receive, and it drove home something I’d long known, namely that if you always give and never receive, it isn’t good for your spirit.

I’d rather not suffer. I’m not a masochist, or a Labour supporter (supposing there’s a difference) and if I’d my way, I’d as soon things went smoothly and no one had pain. But if you can’t do anything about that bit, you can about how you react. Here, reliance on Jesus is crucial, and critical to that is spending time with him. I’ve had a deal of time this last year when I’ve been helping Mrs S, and I’ve tried to spend more of it in prayer – coming away from that surprised at how little time I used to spend in it – and I thought it otherwise.

To realise that being a Christian is a matter of prayer and witness may seem obvious – but I’m not sure that what’s obvious is always realised to be such. That could be just me, but if these words speak to you somewhere, they’ve been useful.