The outcome of the EU Referendum, whether you voted leave or remain, means that we are all feeling more uncertain, vulnerable and insecure than we did ten days ago.
Economic, political and cultural changes have been set in motion. They are unstoppable and are going to affect us all. Like me, you have probably begun to wonder how the value of the pound is going to impact your savings, investments, pension and the interest rates on your mortgage. As we look a little farther into the future, we can expect travel around Europe to become harder, with the potential introduction of visas. Then there is the downgrading of the UK’s credit rating, which is going to increase the cost of our national debt. These issues will directly or indirectly impact everyone.
What the outcome of the referendum also highlighted is the underlying discord in our nation. The fact that a majority of MPs wanted to remain in the EU while the majority of the country wanted to leave, shows that our political leaders and our country are out of step with each other. The result is major political change, including a new prime minister and probably a new leader of the opposition. Add to this the fact that Scotland and Northern Ireland desire to remain in the EU, and the whole identity of the United Kingdom is at risk. This is symptomatic of the splintering of our society.
Culturally, relationships are strained to breaking point. Many of the 48.1 per cent of people who voted to remain in the EU are hurt and angry. While some of those who voted to leave are delighted, others have now become despondent. Most of us know people from other European nations working in the UK or visiting who are now unsure if they are welcome. Germany and France feel like we have rejected them and insist that we cannot have the privilege of free trade without taking responsibility for free movement of people.
In situations like this, our natural human instinct wrestles to find certainty, safety and security. However, we have to reconcile our desire for reassurance with the fact that it is going to take up to five years for the UK to untangle itself from the European Union, and so big upheaval and uncertainty is going to become normal.
We can, however, be encouraged by even a quick scan of the Bible, which shows an unchanging God who specialises in helping people and nations in great uncertainty. Through the prophet Jeremiah, God spoke to the nation of Israel at a time of significant turmoil, “For I know the plans I have for you … plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” (Jeremiah 29:11, NIV).
This shows us that God is someone who is for us, particularly in difficult times. This promise is very relevant to the United Kingdom in its current situation.
In the face of “not knowing” about the future, God invites us to have faith. As the writer to the Hebrews says, “To have faith is to be sure of the things we hope for, to be certain of the things we cannot see.” (Hebrews 11:1, GNB). It is worth remembering that the antidote to uncertainty is not certainty, but faith and hope.
Hebrews goes on to catalogue a long history of men and women who, by faith, influenced the destiny of nations. Beyond the crisis of the situation we find ourselves in, there is a massive opportunity for ordinary and reasonable people like you and me to step forward by faith and help to determine the destiny of our nation.
We can choose to engage in civic and political life like never before and prevent the rise of extremist groups. We can choose to remain as a generous and hospitable country that welcomes people of every nation. We can choose to extend friendship to people around Europe. We can choose to embrace difference and diversity and resist demonising people who we do not understand. We can choose to look out for those people most at need in our communities and not allow ourselves to become obsessed with self-preservation.
In this time of great uncertainty, vulnerability and insecurity we can choose to have faith in a God who specialises in helping people and nations in great uncertainty. We can choose to trust in a God who provides us with hope for the future.