The Magnifying Effect
Recently, I ventured on to the South Downs with a six-year-old armed only with a stick the size of a shepherd’s crook, and a magnifying glass looped around his neck. He was fascinated by the ability of this device to instantly enlarge the view of whatever he chose to focus it on (which in all honesty was mainly rabbit droppings).
Our short expedition reminded me of a friend who had recently shared how the challenges of recent years had served to magnify existing pressures in her life; nothing new, just more (much more) of the same.
The magnifying effect is evident not only at a personal level, but at a societal level too. The past three years have exposed pre-existing cracks and fissures in our society, and deprivation and inequalities that were already there are now writ large. We can see these effects not only in education and health outcomes (with the gap between rich and poor widening), but also in the quantity and quality of interactions in our projects.
If we focus on the chasm between the level of need, and our own ability to meet it, we are in danger of despair, discouragement, or even fatalism.
As the summer draws to a close we need to bring a limitless God in to the frame.
John Piper draws a contrasting image to that of the woodlouse under the scrutiny of a glass, instead inviting us to lift our gaze to the heavens and magnify the work of God as if through the Hubble Space Telescope:
When David says, “I will magnify God with thanksgiving,” he does not mean, “I will make a small God look bigger than he is.” He means, “I will make a big God begin to look as big as he really is.”
The magnified need we face this winter must be matched, and surpassed, by the degree to which we recognise, glorify and magnify our matchless God. All the while realising that – like a telescopic view - our greatest, most meaningful encounter with him will still be a snapshot of all that’s left to see, and all the resources that are left to mine.
Perhaps our greatest challenge, and our greatest witness, as we serve the needy this winter, is that of being a non-anxious presence in a profoundly anxious world*. This won't come by diminishing the scale of what's on the horizon, but rather by magnifying God in the midst of it.
Written by Rachel Wilson
Mark Sayers, A Non-Anxious Presence: How a Changing and Complex World Will Create a Remnant of Renewed Christian Leaders (Moody Publishers, 2022)
At our Churches that Change Communities conference this November we are keen to make time for worship, ministry and refreshment of leaders who have been giving out tirelessly over the past three years. You can book in here.