During the past year we have all experienced trials and suffering in many ways.

Many of us have lost friends, neighbours and loved ones.

Young people have suffered with the closure of schools, problems with exam grades, or a University experience reduced to online learning and dismal career prospects.

Many businesses have struggled, and even failed: some employees face an uncertain future, while other workers - notably in in the NHS - are at breaking point, with the burden of work and the stressful situations they face.

Last, but by no means least, we have been unable to meet others, visit the sick, go out for a meal, or meet up with family for a weekend break.

Many of us have found ourselves imprisoned in our own homes.

About 2,000 years ago, the early Church faced many trials and much suffering too.

Though their suffering was from persecution, they also experienced imprisonment, loneliness and even death.

The Apostle Paul wrote his letter to encourage the Christians in Rome, with these amazing words: ‘suffering helps us develop endurance, and endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation.’

Trials and suffering are never easy to endure. But in my experience, they can make us bitter or better.

In my lifetime I have experienced many hardships, health, finances, relationships.

There have been some desperate times.

But looking back I wouldn’t want to change a thing.

Because, through these trials, I have forged deeper relationships, become more resilient and honed my priorities.

Bitter or better?

The choice is yours.

Kevin Cook

Lay Reader

St Thomas’ Church