I’ve been getting a lot of desperate messages and texts over the past few days about how to process the re-emergence of the pandemic, the crisis overseas…it’s just been too much for us.
Most of us had experienced some form of trauma before 2020. However, we had the emotional margin to ignore and/or self-medicate those emotional wounds. As we walked through 2020, our emotional margin was spent on processing the news, protecting our families, understanding our surroundings, and accepting our circumstances. That coupled with the political and racial turmoil our country walked through over the past year and the fact that we thought we were nearing the end of this Pandemic, and it’s no wonder we are experiencing an universal mental health crisis and suicide epidemic.
Not only that, but we are a few weeks away from the twenty year anniversary of 9/11 and now it feels as though the work and sacrifice so many of made overseas is all undone. The promises, the hope – all erased in a few short days.
So what on earth do we even do now? How do we continue to live and cope in a world that seems to be disintegrating right in front of us? Sure, the world was never perfect. But we were always the observers – safe and untouched. Now it seems like the blows just keep coming and won’t ever stop.
I don’t have all the answers – but I can tell you what we’ve been doing as a family and hope that it brings you some encouragement and relief.
We need to accept what is and not bemoan what could be. We have to accept that this reality is all we have – we only have these moments – we can’t get any of them back. If we keep fighting our present circumstances, we will miss our lives and loved ones. I realize our world and all of these terrible circumstances suck. We need to process and mourn what was so we can accept what is: This moment. This moment is all that matters. This moment is all you have control over. This moment offers you a choice: Will you live to thrive or will you live to just survive?
We need to get comfortable with being uncomfortable. We live in an unsafe world…and the ironic thing is, we always have! We just got comfortable feeling comfortable. But change, growth, and transformation happens when we are uncomfortable. We are forced to confront ourselves and ask the tough questions: Why am I so miserable? What trauma have I been ignoring/self-medicating? What can I do to change my perspective? Why do I feel the need to buck authority? Why am I struggling to love? How do I care for myself and others during this season? How can I process my anger, frustration, and disappointment healthily?
Jesus set us up for this. He told us that “in this world, you will have trouble. But take heart, I have overcome the world!” Our world is broken. We are broken. It’s no wonder we are all feeling the enormous weight of the past few years. But us feeling weighed down is a sign that we are not surrendering our fears, anger, bitterness, frustration, hurt, and pain to Jesus. He said that even in this hard world, his “yoke is easy and his burden is light”. What is his yoke? His burden? They are his teachings, the greatest of which he said is to love God, love others, and love ourselves.
Honestly, I think my mental health is at its best not when things are going well for me and there’s peace on earth. My mental health is at its best when I am loving God, loving others, and loving myself. A simple way to figure out if you are doing this is to ask yourself, “What does love demand of me?” This question originated with Andy Stanley.
What does love demand of me…in the pandemic? With the crisis in Afghanistan? With my friend who is suicidal? With my kids who are scared? With my spouse who is discouraged? With my family who is disunified? With my neighbors who are on the other side? With my government? With the authorities God has allowed to rule? With my friends who are angry? With my co-workers who are frustrated? With my boss who is unreasonable? What does love demand of me?
In order to give love, I have to receive love. I have to remember to preach the Gospel (that Jesus died and rose again for me) to myself everyday. I have to recall those verses from Scripture that “perfect love casts out all fear”, that “God has not given us a spirit of fear”, that “we are more than conquerors”, and that “nothing can separate us from the love of Jesus.”
I am not belittling the enormity of what is happening in our world and/or how you are feeling. I am just giving you a starting place for how to process. I also know so many counselors and therapists are unable to accept new clients right now…but get on a waiting list and then reach out to a few friends and talk about how you can accept what is, get comfortable with being uncomfortable, and choose to love even when it’s hard.
Here for you.