The crisis through the eyes of a patient.
Our editorials have long warned that British society is vulnerable to the shaking prophesied by Haggai and re-iterated in Hebrews 12. We have taken the stand that it is no use praying against this shaking because we would be praying against what God has determined to do.
We have already witnessed the collapse of many businesses in this country following the recession of 2007-8, which now looks more like an initial tremor than the major earthquake. The recent downfall of Carillion is a further sign of the continuing vulnerability of industry and our financial sector.
Yet, as was pointed out the week before last, we seem to worship our institutions as golden calves, looking more to establishing financial security than we look to the Living God. It is as if, as milk is drawn from a cow, our institutions might become healthy through the flow of our money (this also goes for our planned withdrawal from Europe). The National Health Service is one such institution.
It so happens that, over recent months, the NHS has had a major influence on my family life; but for the care we have received, my wife would not be alive today. So I would like to keep focusing on this as an example of where our society is and as a prompt for prayer.
Through the Eyes of a Patient
It is one thing to assess the NHS from frequent news reports of its struggles through the high pressure periods of Christmas and the New Year. It can be quite another to consider the inner workings of the system through the eyes of a patient.
Over the last few years our family has experienced almost every aspect of the NHS because of the developing chronic illness that befell my wife. We have needed, at various times, the support of our local GPs, pharmacists, health visitors, provision of aids for home support, outpatient hospital visits, and emergency ambulance service and hospital care during the intensely busy holiday period. I was even visiting my wife in hospital during the time when the Health and Social Care Secretary, Jeremy Hunt, was visiting the same hospital (though not our ward!). Presently, we have need of social services and social care.
As a result of all this, personally I have arrived not to a point of judgment, but to the point reached by Jeremiah, the ‘weeping prophet’ (e.g. Jer 9:1). Jeremiah was a forerunner of Jesus the Messiah, who himself wept over Jerusalem and at the tomb of Lazarus.
Why? Because if you get into the heart of the NHS as a patient, you still find dedicated doctors, nurses and medical specialists, just as through all the years since its beginnings after World War II. If God is shaking the nation and if the NHS will be shaken as part of this, therefore, it must not be seen as a punishment to a totally ungodly system.
Indeed, if there is an element of judgment, perhaps we should all consider the part we have played in allowing things to get to this point. The NHS is vulnerable and some of us have taken it so much for granted that we put needless pressure on it.
As I waited for my wife to be taken from the ambulance to A&E on one recent visit, I had the opportunity of spending several hours ‘people watching’ in the waiting-room. Some clearly need not have been there, with transient troubles that could have been dealt with at home. Of course this is only part of the picture, but a pressurised system could be eased a little if we cherished it a little more and thought of one another more than ourselves sometimes.
Having said this, to me, the major problem for the NHS lies on its administrative side, from local management right up to parliamentary structures of oversight and planning. Adding to the pressure is the centralisation of hospital care and the closure of smaller regional healthcare centres, so that what was once personal and caring seems to be becoming more and more impersonal. Similarly, the separation of what is called ‘social care’ from the NHS seems wrong to me – finance-driven more than care-driven in its design.
These are enormous issues to consider but I touch on them to suggest that any shaking of our society in the coming days, which will likely impact the NHS as much as other national institutions and businesses, cannot be understood in a broad-brush way.
Getting to the Heart
How, then, are we to discover a path of prayer into the future? We need to find God’s heart, and obtain his perspective, which perhaps are hidden from us if we only observe our nation in worldly terms. The NHS is just one example; if we delved into any of our institutions we would find our hearts torn by their continuing potential and momentum for good, but with God written out of the balance sheets.
Intercession for Britain involves gaining a heart perspective; feeling the hurts more than judging the failures.
It is perhaps no coincidence that the film The Darkest Hour, portraying Winston Churchill’s struggles to lead Britain through the last world war, is currently being shown in cinemas. For anyone who was alive at that time and after, when people pulled together to rebuild and re-establish first a near-defeated and then a near-bankrupt nation, this must be a stirring film.
Yet the story behind the scenes is even more stirring. We must remember those who engaged in intercessory prayer for our nation through the war years and afterwards, who were given God’s own insights into the reality of the battle, physically and spiritually. Such prayer warriors, if alive today, would undoubtedly testify to their call to identify the true heart of a nation in crisis.
A Journey of Prayer
How then should we pray through our current crisis? God will show us if we are willing. My own path of learning has been through the illness of my wife, which has led me into the heart of Britain’s caring systems to experience both the pains of illness and the pains of the system – and also to witness rays of hope.
Are we willing to let the Lord show us his heart of compassion, as well as his displeasure, for the people of this nation? If so, he will lead us into experiences – perhaps quite unexpectedly – that draw us each into new depths of prayer. God is looking for those who will be willing to respond to this call.
Copyright © 2018, Dr Clifford Denton, Prophecy Today UK–All rights reserved.