Faith on the frontline

Being a key worker is not easy – not even in the best of times – and 2020 and 2021 have certainly been very far from the best. Doctors, nurses, carers, transport workers and essential services staff have all been persevering under some desperately difficult circumstances. Many of them have seen things, heard things, that will be impossible to forget. Some are being faced with suffering, even death, on a daily basis. And those burdens are hard to bear.

In the middle of such pressures, it can be difficult for key workers to pray. It can feel almost impossible to turn to the Lord even though, deep down, they know that he loves and he cares. And those of us around can find it hard to know how to help. So, if you have a brother or sister who is a key worker, why not share with them these three invitations from Psalm 86 – invitations penned by David in a time of distress that may just bring them a few moments of hope:

1. The Lord invites key workers to be weak
Psalm 86 starts like this: Hear me, LORD, and answer me, for I am poor and needy (v1). This isn’t David trying to brush himself up before he comes to prayer. This isn’t him pretending he’s OK. He’s not saying, “it’s fine – I can cope”. He’s turning to the Lord – the covenant Lord (the one who has promised to lead him and love him) – in all of his brokenness. That invitation is there for us and our key worker friends too. We don’t need to put on a façade of coping. We can come before him, and indeed our brothers and sisters in Christ, and be honest about the fact that life hurts. It’s OK to say that we’re burdened, overwhelmed and weak.

2. The Lord invites key workers to ask him for help
The second invitation comes in verses 2-4: Guard my life, for I am faithful to you; save your servant who trusts in you. You are my God; have mercy on me, Lord, for I call to you all day long. Bring joy to your servant, Lord, for I put my trust in you. David doesn’t hold back from asking God many things. He asks for protection, salvation, mercy – even glimpses of joy. He wants to know that even though life is hard, it’s not all bad. He wants God to remind him of hope. Maybe those are prayers we can pray with our key worker friends too? For God to protect them as they go about their roles, for God to have mercy as they walk, burdened, into work each day and for God to remind them that there is hope, even joy, to be found in their relationship with him.

3. The Lord invites key workers to trust
Verses 6 and 7 read like this: Hear my prayer, LORD; listen to my cry for mercy. When I am in distress, I call to you, because you answer me. David is able to pray as he has because he knows that prayer isn’t going into thin air. He knows God will hear and not just in a “vaguely noticing” kind of way but his Father will hear and act. Why can he be confident of that? Because of verse 5: You, Lord, are forgiving and good, abounding in love to all who call to you.

The world may feel bleak. The things that people are faced with day after day may feel overwhelming in the extreme. But over all the pain is the purpose of a God who adores – a God who is good and who has not left his children alone; a God who cares and is sustaining; a God who has plans which end in perfection. One day all the pain will be a dim and distant memory. David doesn’t say that in a trite way – he knows the pain can carry on for quite some time. But, in the middle of it, as David reminds himself of the character of God and the call on his life, even in the depths he can turn to the Lord and say, I will trust you – I choose to put my trust in you. Can we hold out that invitation to our friends on the front line too?

The horrors of being a key worker in the middle of a pandemic can be difficult to articulate. Those of us who aren’t in those roles may find it hard to understand. But the Lord does. So let’s encourage our brothers and sisters to turn to him and answer his invitations to be weak, to turn to him for help and to trust him for all they need. Confident that his love and care are never going to fail.