"I Feel Like a Lump of Coal"

I was recently in a Zoom meeting when someone said “I feel like a lump of coal”.  We were discussing the current world crisis and its effect on the church and ourselves as individuals.  The person who said this was feeling very low due to her own personal circumstances and I began to think about the meaning of what she said.  A dirty piece of coal does not look attractive and seems quite useless.  In fact, unless it is in a fire burning with other coals, it will not do what it is meant to do.  If a single coal is taken out of the fire, it no longer burns - it dies.  We are like coals and we need fellowship with others as part of spiritual growth.  This is very difficult in the present situation when we can’t meet together in groups and it is easy to feel alone and isolated.  

Coal is made of carbon and we can learn a lot from exploring the various kinds of carbon.  We are all equal in the eyes of God.  We are one but we have different characters, even changing at different times.  Lead pencils are not made from lead but from graphite which is a soft form of carbon that is shapeless and can be slippery but it leaves marks - hence its use in writing and drawing - communicating to others. This challenged me as various things had been pointing me to do more writing.  Illness had prevented me from doing strong, energetic activities but I could write.  In fact that is why I am writing this reflection.  In these days of isolation and lockdown, we can communicate with the written word when unable to meet in groups. We also have to be careful in what we say whether spoken or written, as words can have different meanings for those reading them.

Carbon is also used to make other substances stronger.  An example is when it is mixed with iron to make steel. Relationships with others and with God are an important part of life.  This can be difficult in the current situation.  Strains are put on relationships at home and we ask questions about where God is in all this.  But carbon on its own can become very strong.  Running blades used by athletes are made of 100% carbon fibre.  The fibres are arranged in a specific way to become incredibly strong, enabling speed for those who need that extra help.  We sometimes struggle with aspects of our lives - emotionally, spiritually and physically - but God will give us more strength as the burdens grow greater.  

Then there are diamonds - the hardest known natural substance, capable of cutting and grinding for industrial purposes or to make beautiful jewellery.  But diamonds are only formed under pressure.  Maybe we don’t feel very useful or valuable at the moment.  But remember, it is the pressure that forms the diamonds.  We were formed by God - he has plans and purposes for us - and while we are under pressure, remember that this is a time of development for what he has in future for us.  Losing my husband was a very difficult time.  I became depressed and felt weighed down because of the burdens.  I didn’t know it then, but that experience has been used to help others.  Time has changed in the way we talk about mental health and there is more openness now.  Pressure causes problems but the long term results can turn into a real blessing.  

Carbon has been described as ‘the element of life’.  Carbon is made by God, not man. I believe God uses us all in many different ways - some we may not even know yet - but he created us all uniquely.  We are all carbonand equally valued in his sight.  Be encouraged.  Please contact the church if you are affected by any of these things - we will be happy to support you.

Ruth Calcott


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