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Mark Pickering reminds us of Jesus' example of compassion, clarity, and courage in the face of change and uncertainty
Navigating transition is often challenging and risky. Whether it's coming off a slip road onto a motorway, stepping into a rowing boat, or transferring a sick patient between intensive care units, that point of transition between one settled state and another can have disastrous consequences if not managed wisely.
Even harder is when the new situation you're moving to is uncertain, unstable, or inherently dangerous. That is where most of us find ourselves as 2021 unfolds. Gone are any thoughts that COVID would be an intense but short period of stress before we all got back to normal. Like the soldiers who left the UK in 1914, expecting a brief war that would be over by Christmas, we now know that the struggle is much longer, much harder, and involves many millions of people. Whenever COVID is finally 'over', whenever that might be and whatever that might mean, we like they will be in a world that is changed forever.
Currently, we see hope as the UK vaccination program proceeds rapidly and deaths fall; there is a reasonable roadmap out of current restrictions. Spring is here, and a hard winter is past. And yet, around the world, many nations are hitting new peaks of infections and deaths. The global vaccine situation is far more challenging, and none of us knows what new and unpredictable variants may lie around the corner. For the NHS, there is the immense challenge of record waiting lists, with 4.6 million officially awaiting care and over 300,000 waiting over a year. [1]
As we face the months ahead, let me suggest that we pray for three things that Jesus himself modelled, as the 'Servant of the Lord' from Isaiah:

Compassion - stress and mental health challenges abound, and most people have their own personal grief or struggle. Let us commit to compassion - towards others and ourselves - not breaking bruised reeds, [2] but binding up wounds - physical, psychological and spiritual.

Clarity - we need to stick to whatever vision God has called us to. What is it that only you can do in this season? Don't let the urgent crowd out the important or be derailed by the expectations of others. Jesus came to 'open eyes that are blind' and be 'a light for the Gentiles'. [3] What is he calling us to do?
Courage - most of us are weary and worn out; some of us may be tempted to give up. We will need the Lord's help to keep going, to speak up where necessary, to achieve the vision God has for us. Let us not falter or be discouraged until the Lord 'establishes justice on earth'. [4]
In all this, CMF's mission is more relevant than ever. This is the first year of our three-year plan, Wider, Clearer, Closer, and you will be hearing more detail on that as the year goes on. But for now, let me encourage you to consider our two underlying pillars of membership and engagement. Do you have a friend - nurse, midwife, doctor, or student - that you could encourage to join CMF or come to an event? Are you part of a local praying network, such as a Catalyst Team or a local group? We have some excellent online events planned - I'd love it if you could join us:
  • Our first ever NHS leadership conference for clinicians and managers - 27 March
  • The inspiring Refugee and Asylum Seeker Health course - 10 April
  • A fantastic National Conference - 24 April with associate pre and post-conference seminars
  • The exciting NAMfest - a great opportunity to introduce new nurses and midwives to CMF - 15 May
In every challenge, both known and unknown, that you and your colleagues will face this year, CMF is here to unite and equip you to live and speak for Jesus.
The people of Israel knew what it was like to live through difficult times of change. Even after the bleak period of exile ended, and the remnant returned to the land of Israel, things were not like they used to be. The new temple was a shadow of the former one, they had no king, and there was danger on every side. And yet God was with them, and the words of the prophet Isaiah came to pass:
Do not fear for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you...When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned... For I am the LORD, your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Saviour. (Isaiah 43:1-3)
Whatever this year may bring for us, let us not put our faith in vaccines, governments or health services. All of these may be part of God's good provision for us, but we should never risk idolatry by trusting ultimately in them, rather than in our sovereign Lord.

Mark Pickering is CMF Chief Executive.

1. Triggle N. Covid-19: NHS waits at record high as second wave hits care. BBC News Online, 11 March 2021.
2. Isaiah 42:3
3. Isaiah 42:6,7
4. Isaiah 42:4
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