I am aware that statistics can prove anything and nothing as well as everything in between, but they can also make for interesting reading particularly when it's too cold and wet to go for a walk.
Take the latest figures from Pew Research. A recent survey which spanned adults across 14 developed countries has shown that only one in 10 Brits believe the pandemic has made their personal faith stronger. Indeed there is not one country where the majority feel their religious faith has been strengthened during the current pandemic.
This got me thinking. How do we learn to hang on when things get tough, and can we do anything at all to strengthen it? As I pondered those questions several things jumped out.
It seems to me for example, that when we are faced with questions like this we ought to begin by being honest both with ourselves and with God. It's tempting to think that some things are off limits, and we should never admit to feelings of confusion and doubt or even anger. But that's a bit daft really given the fact that if there really is a God He knows what we are thinking anyway. His 'CCTV' can capture our thoughts as well as our actions.
So, let's be honest. There are times when God simply doesn't seem to make sense. As the Christian writer James Dobson once said "Why would God allow this to happen to me? It is a question that all believers - and many pagans - have struggled to answer. And contrary to Christian teachings in some circles the Lord typically does not rush in to explain what He is doing."
Prayer then, doesn't have to consist of mere pious platitudes.
But we can do more than pray. We can spend time reflecting on what God has done in the past - the late Lord Sacks constantly emphasised this. I often do this because I have seen the most amazing things happen even though there have also been times when I have questioned God's ways and entertained many a doubt. Refreshing our memories can nourish our faith.
This is why we should particularly remind ourselves of the evidence for the resurrection of Jesus. This was either the greatest deception/delusion in history or it is the gamechanger for 'life, the universe and everything'. I approached the evidence as a confident sceptic but came away an increasingly persuaded believer.
Unlike my father, I've never done a parachute jump but I do know it takes faith to leap out of a plane! I think it's like that with God. I launched out in faith years ago, knowing there was good evidence to back up my decision, and God has never let me down.
Over the years though I have come to see that embracing the present can prove a source of encouragement, too, because God does not want us to spend our time wallowing in self pity or depressing inactivity. Throughout this current pandemic I have discovered that God will always give us the opportunities to serve Him if we really want them. This has been as true for me throughout the pandemic as at any other time in my ministry.
And so I would suggest that if you want to see your faith strengthened, you should do one simple if hugely challenging thing: ask God to make Himself real and to show you if you can do anything to share His love with this hurting and confused world.