I started at the beginning of COVID lockdown on 23 March 2020. Now six months and 176 posts later I have come to the end of my ruminations on “The Gospel of John”.

It has been a long journey. I am grateful for those who have faithfully walked alongside me in these meditations. Your presence has been an encouragement and a source of light, reminding me repeatedly that none of us walks alone.

I am pretty sure, when we started out six months ago, it never occurred to me that, all this time later, we would still be struggling to find our way in this COVID wilderness. I think I may not be entirely alone in feeling that navigating this strange awkward new reality has become a tiny bit tiring.

But, if the Gospel of John has taught me anything, it has surely taught me that the external circumstances of life will never conform perfectly to my will. There will always be awkward, difficult and painful bits along the way. One of the sobering insights in John’s Gospel is Jesus’ statement in John 16:33, where he is reported to have said,

I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world. (NIV)

The Greek word translated “trouble” is thlipsis. It means: pressure, affliction, tribulation, distress, or strait – as in a narrow passage of water. We are in a time of considerable thlipsis.  So much has been stripped away; life has literally become more narrow. And, with that narrowness comes friction, frustration and sadness. It is tempting to seek ways to escape the pain; but COVID has removed our access to many of those activities we might have resorted to in the past to distract ourselves from the sometimes troubling realities of life.

Jesus refuses to allow us to avoid facing the challenges life brings. Jesus wants us to live in the reality of what is and to refuse the temptation to avoid seeing the fullness of the human condition, even when it seems bleak.

Carl Jung wrote,

There is no coming to consciousness without pain. People will do anything, no matter how absurd, in order to avoid facing their own Soul. One does not become enlightened by imagining figures of light, but by making the darkness conscious.

What is the darkness these days call me to face? What are the truths I need to see that I try to confine to the shadows ?

For Jesus, there is good news in the pain. The good news is that pain has the capacity to open us to the awareness of a deeper reality, a deeper consciousness. Pain, if we allow it to do its work in us, can become the gateway to that consciousness where we see that indeed, the love, peace and holiness embodied in Jesus continue to “overcome the world”.

At the announcement of the impending birth of her son, Mary was told by the angel Gabriel, that the child she was about to bear

will be great and will be called the Son of the Mot High, and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his ancestor David. He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end. (Luke 32, 33)

The kingdom of Jesus is the kingdom of love, peace, and holiness. There is no power, no kingdom, greater than the kingdom of Jesus. Everything in Jesus’ life tells us that the path to the realization of this kingdom lies along a painful road. We do not get to an awareness of this kingdom by asserting our will or demanding that life conforms to our wishes, needs, wants, and desires. We need to come to the limit of our resources and the end of our determination to impose our will upon our circumstances. It is here in this “narrow” place that we find the promise in the midst of the pain. Pain opens us to the possibility of something deeper within ourselves that is enduring and cannot be defeated.

Having said all that, and firmly believing every word, I do also believe that there are things we can legitimately do to help us find our way through the pain. We need to develop the inner resources that will enable us to persevere in the face of the uncertainties and confusion of these times.

So, for the benefit of my own journey, IASP will be taking a break for a while.

May we all use the time these COVID days have brought upon us to find moments of rest and deeper insight in our lives.

Be safe and well. God bless you all,

Christopher