I’m just old enough to remember the serials that used to be shown at the cinema, before the main feature film. Occasionally as a treat my sister and I were allowed to go to the Town Hall, which doubled as a cinema, on a Saturday afternoon. Because we didn’t go very often we would be left with the cliff hanger at the end of the serial, never to know how the hero or heroine was rescued the following week. It was, I recall, often literally a cliff hanger, with someone left dangling by their finger tips from a cliff edge, when only a few moments before they had been walking on solid ground. The device of a cliff hanger is still used frequently in our TV soaps – although with more jeopardy involved for the central characters. It might be a cynical way of attracting more viewers, or keeping them loyal, but in many ways it also mirrors what happens in our lives so often.
Just as the hero in the old western serials would walk over the ground, oblivious to its presence, until something slipped or he was pushed, and left clutching at the very ground he took for granted only moments before, so we go through much of our lives. We too take for granted so much that is in our lives until a piece of news or a sudden illness brings us up short and we clutch at the very things we hardly noticed around us. The last year of lockdowns and restrictions made us realise how precious the time with family and friends was. We were aware of them in our lives but only when we couldn’t spend time with them were we reminded of their importance to us.
We often treat God in the same way. We are dimly aware of his presence, as we might be the air we breathe or the ground we walk on. Acknowledging him at Christmas or Easter as we recall the stories of Jesus birth, death and resurrection. Then we are faced with a crisis that is beyond our control and we clutch desperately at the God we know only slightly, feeling that our grip on him is slipping as we ask ‘why me’ or get angry on behalf of another. I remember the year in which both my sister and my mother died. It felt that I slipped over the edge of the abyss. Worry, anxiety and uncertainty left me floundering.
But although it felt as if I was only holding on with my finger tips I was in reality being held very firmly in God’s grasp. I may have slipped off one firm place but I found that God had put something even more solid under my feet. Life might have been very different but it was no less secure.
Just as we were able to be confident that the hero or heroine of the old serial would not be left in jeopardy for too long so we can truly trust that God will not leave us dangling from the cliff edge.
He promises that: ‘I will never leave you or forsake you’ and it is a promise that we can rely on.
At the end of Matthew’s gospel Jesus says to those who were on the mountain with him and to us today: ‘and surely I am with you always, even to the end of the age.’
You may not know the person of Jesus well; he may only be a character from of story most of the time, and God may only be a distant memory but God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, can be trusted. So when you feel that you are walking on the edge of the abyss and the ground is crumbling beneath your feet, turn to him and trust him. He will be with you and bring you to a safe place.