Seek the ‘Sonshine’ through the storm

Every fortnight people from a farming background, or who have a heart for the countryside, offer a personal reflection on faith and rural life. They hope that you will be encouraged by it.
Farmers can be under pressure for many reasons, including the weather and its impact on workFarmers can be under pressure for many reasons, including the weather and its impact on work
Farmers can be under pressure for many reasons, including the weather and its impact on work

We have been blessed by wonderful weather.

I know that for farmers, like my uncle and cousins who were planting potatoes, the ground conditions were absolutely perfect. For those taking an early first cut of silage, however, the dearth of rain meant a lighter crop than we would have liked, and we hope this can be recouped later in the season.

Of course, the weather is just one of many external factors that we have no control over. Coronavirus has hit beef, lamb and milk prices hard, and the outworkings of Brexit lie just around the corner. Farming by calendar, rather than by conditions, frustrates us all, while one in seven cattle herds in Northern Ireland have had to cope with the added pressure of TB and the utter devastation of losing generations of breeding and animals we deeply care for.

Life for the farmer is often a series of storms where we feel that no matter how well we farm, there is just so much that lies outside of our control. But facing up to the fact that we are not in ultimate control of anything can be a liberating and a wise perspective to gain, especially for our mental health.

If you are feeling overwhelmed, may I encourage you to please seek help? Talk to a family member, or a friend, who you know will listen well and be supportive. Please also contact your GP as medical intervention may help. Other excellent support is available from organisations such as Rural Support: freephone helpline: 0800 138 1678 Mon to Fri 9am to 9pm. Lifeline is available 24 hours a day, for anyone experiencing distress or despair: 0808 808 8000.

I would especially encourage you to seek help from the One who is in ultimate charge of our circumstances: God’s Son Jesus. This is a vital discovery Jesus’ disciples make in Mark Chapter 6. Here, they find themselves in the middle of the Sea of Galilee, but after hours of rowing, they can’t get near the safety of the shore.

Yet Jesus does not leave them to flounder, but comes to His frightened friends, walking on the water saying something to them that makes all the difference, ‘“Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid”’ (Mark 6:50). “It is I” is literally, ‘I am’, a phrase that God uses to describe Himself. Therefore, Jesus is saying that He is God. Who better can we turn to, especially in a storm, than to Jesus, who is God through and through, God’s very own Son?

Jesus also says, “Take courage!” It means that Jesus fires His followers’ hearts with courage. When the storms come, we all need to be fired up and fortified by this inner bravery.

Finally, Jesus adds, “Don’t be afraid.” In the storm, it would be completely understandable to be afraid, but when our trust is in Jesus, then we don’t need to be swamped.

‘Sonshine’ through the storm? Only followers of God’s Son, Jesus, have it. So if you are Jesus’ follower, please know that you are fired by His courage. And if you are not following Jesus, I hope that you come to a place where you see that you need Him. You can turn from trying to weather the storm by yourself and trust in God’s Son Jesus who loves you. He died for the fact you have lived your life looking to yourself, rather than looking to him.

Rev. Kenny Hanna is minister of Second Dromara Presbyterian Church and grew up on his family’s farm in the foothills of the Mountains of Mourne.

If you would like to talk to someone about this article, please email Rev. Kenny Hanna at [email protected] or call him on 028 9753 1234.