It was with great sadness that I, along with you all, heard of the Queen's passing. As we take time to mourn our loss together, whatever our feelings about the monarchy, let's acknowledge that the Queen was a solid, faithful figure, always there – most of us haven't known a time when she wasn't on the throne.
It will take some getting used to not having her around. The media is, quite rightly, full of stories about her life and reign.
Many Christian leaders have written tributes noting the role that her faith had, and I certainly admired the way she spoke increasingly of Jesus in her Christmas messages.
Here are some of the things I have learned from the Queen's life, which I hope to incorporate in my own – and gently encourage you to consider for your own life too.
May we be able to say, as she did in her Christmas speech in 2002: 'I know just how much I rely on my faith to guide me through the good times and the bad. Each day is a new beginning. I know that the only way to live my life is to try to do what is right, to take the long view, to give of my best in all that the day brings, and to put my trust in God!'
1. Have a servant heart
Even six years before her coronation, the Queen spoke of serving others in a speech to the Commonwealth on her 21st birthday: 'I declare before you all that my whole life whether it be long or short shall be devoted to your service.' It is indisputable that the Queen's reign was hallmarked by sacrifice and a servant heart.
In John 13 Jesus blew his disciples' concept of his ministry out of the water when he took a towel and a bowl of water and began to wash their feet. They were aghast but he said: 'I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you' (v15). Are we willing to serve others, even when it may be uncomfortable or put us out?
2. Keep showing up
There must have been times when the Queen would rather have had a duvet day than undertake the duties that had been arranged for her, and yet she remained steadfast and faithful. Even during her husband's funeral, which I'm sure would have been far easier away from public scrutiny, she sat alone, masked.
What a poignant image of a faithful public figure, following what was the current social distancing guidelines in the pandemic, even in the midst of her grief. So many shared that image when the news broke of the unlawful social gatherings in Downing Street.
Our integrity as human beings matters and, like the Queen knew, our actions are being watched. We are being 'read' and, when we show up faithfully even in those moments that perhaps we don't feel like it, those around us see. While others in a position of leadership may abuse it, the Queen didn't. Whether we are leaders or not, let us be faithful and steadfast in what God has put before us each day.
3. Don't be afraid to speak up
The Queen's Speech in more recent years had a more defined reference to her faith, which was noticed. Back in 2017, The Guardian said that of her by then 65 annual Christmas speeches, 17 referred directly to her Christian faith.
She explained how it was 'the anchor in my life' (in 2014) and in 2016 said: 'Billions of people now follow Christ's teaching and find in him the guiding light for their lives. I am one of them because Christ's example helps me see the value of doing small things with great love...'
In 2000 she used her speech to describe Christ's life and teaching in detail, saying they 'provide a framework in which I try to lead my life'. While we may not have the opportunity to give speeches that are broadcast to millions, we are urged in scripture to: 'Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect' (1 Peter 3:15).
In this day and age, when people are 'cancelled' for holding an opinion different to the crowds', there is a cost attached to doing this. But as Christians we are called to be different, and to count the cost (Luke 14:25-33).
4. Be honest
I personally found it refreshing when the Queen did not shy away from referencing difficulties in her family. For example, in 1992, a year that saw a fire destroying part of Windsor Castle, three of her children divorced and ongoing scandals surrounding Princess Diana and Prince Charles, she described it as 'annus horribilis' in a speech. While not commenting directly on events, she was not afraid to be honest about finding the year difficult.
Too often we can pretend that life is fine – even think that that is what we should do as Christians – and yet the truth is we need to be honest, and to find ways to process our pain well. Jesus himself said: 'In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world' (John 16:33).
We can and should acknowledge the difficulties, speaking up rather than stuffing down our pain. But, ultimately, we can take heart from knowing, as the Queen did, that Jesus is our 'anchor'.
5. Ask for support
During her coronation speech, the Queen referenced asking the public to pray for her on her coronation and beyond: 'that God would give me wisdom and strength to carry out the promises that I should then be making'. While she was absolutely resolute in her sense of duty over her long reign, she understood right at the start that it was a huge undertaking that she couldn't do in her own strength. Knowing that God's 'power is made perfect in weakness' (2 Corinthians 12:9), she reached out to him for strength, and asked others to uphold her in prayer as she did so.
We each need that support as the body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12:12-31). We are made for community and function best when we are connected, holding one another and each doing our part so that others can flourish too.
While it can be a natural human tendency to hide away when we are struggling, it is so important to speak up when we feel we need extra support. Let us be gentle and supportive of one another, too, as we navigate this time of national mourning.
Claire Musters is a writer, speaker and editor who blogs at clairemusters.com. Her most recent books are Every Day Insights: Disappointment and Loss and Grace-Filled Marriage. The latter was written with her husband, and they have provided a series of free videos to accompany the book, which can be accessed on the Big Church Read website. Claire also writes and edits for Premier Woman Alive and Christianity magazines as well as hosting the Woman Alive Book Club. All of her own books are available to purchase directly from her; for more information and to get in touch with her, do visit her website.
(This is an adaptation of an earlier article published in June 2022 to coincide with the Queen's Platinum Jubilee.)