As our social distancing and self quarantining continues fear continues to be prevalent among us. It’s a scary time right now. Our routines have been dismantled. Anxiousness fills our minds. Fear about our loved ones and day to day lives moving forward stays on the forefront of our brains.
So how do we focus on hope when fear abounds in our daily life? It’s important to note that we are not the first ones to have a life changed and occupied by fear. There have many historical events that changed peoples lives. They have all brought an opportunity to identify what really matters to people.
Often in times of great struggle or uncertainty people turn to find God. This is because our relationship with God is more important then we usually tend to acknowledge. Our daily lives get overrun with responsibilities and obligations. In this time we each have this opportunity to seek God in the midst of chaos.
So what do we do with this fear? How do we seek God during this time? How do we deeply connect with the divine? Let’s explore further.
Acknowledge Your Stress, Worry, and Fear
This chaotic time is something we have not known. But most likely you are feeling some level of stress, worry, or fear. Often we may not even recognize our stress. Other times we run from it and eventually get to the point where it is too much. Stress can come out in many ways.
Here are some things to look for:
- Difficulty sleeping or concentrating
- Change in eating and sleep patterns
- Constant fear and worry (checking phone for new updates constantly)
- Increase use of alcohol, drugs, etc.
- Health problems worsen or unexplained headaches, etc.
- Irritability, anger, short tempered
Know you do not have to bear these emotions or the emotions of your household alone. Take this opportunity to sit with your feelings and start on a path of resilience. Be vulnerable and acknowledge your feelings. This will not only help provide some relief for you but give others opportunities to support you as well as share their own. Being real with ourselves in these moments puts us on the journey to figuring out how to manage them. With any loss of life there is a natural grieving process we go through. This in particular is challenging because we are a part from the people we connect with on a daily basis.
Its important you take care of yourself during this time. There are many ways to do this. It's important you connect with others through text, phone, or video interface, exercise and take care of your body, and talk with others about the facts. Faith can also be a major resiliency factor in these times. Faith provides hope in times of uncertainty and calms our fears. There are some ideas of how you can find your faith during this time below.
NAMI provides some wonderful ideas of taking care of your mental health in this article "Mental Health Coping Strategies." You can also check out the CDC's recommendations for "Coping with a Disaster or Traumatic Event." Hang in there we are all in this together.
Remember fear only has a hold on us if we allow it to. Lets end this section with a famous quote from a Kansan.
“I am not afraid of tomorrow,
for I have seen yesterday and I love today.”
- William Allen White
Avenues for Faith
People are using unique ways to connect their faith groups. I have seen virtual worship's, a car drive up worship, family church time, or even neighborhood get togethers (with distance). Now is exactly the time to try something different! Some people are anxious and stressed and need the comfort of knowing God is in their lives.
Online Worship - There are various churches providing online worships through interfaces like zoom, skype, Facebook Live, or live streaming services. I encourage you to check out these options. This last week Midlands Mission Center hosted a Thursday night connection group via zoom to worship and dialogue together. If you are interested in joining next week go to our contact us page and submit a request and I will get the information to you. You can also check out Community of Christ Online Ministries for more options.
Spiritual Practices - I have heard many people say this last week has really helped them draw away to spend time with God. Finding a spiritual practice that works for you is essential. Spiritual practices are acts that help us connect with the divine in a deeper way. Check out our past blog posts on spiritual practices for more insight. Practicing kindness, prayer, exercise, meditation, silence, music, knitting, scripture study, etc. can all be forms of spiritual practices. Find one that works for you and do it.
Out of the Box Ideas - Be creative in expressing your faith. People are sewing face masks for hospital staff. Others are creating scavenger hunts in neighborhoods and cities you can do in your car. Some are asking elderly neighbors to get groceries for them to ensure the most vulnerable are isolated and safe. Faith in action is using love to think of others. Use your creativity!
Connecting to God
Connecting to God is about searching your heart and seeking something greater than yourself. Holding the understanding the gospel is not about me. When we move out of the way and focus on God and others we see with different eyes. I encourage you find a quiet place, close your eyes, and search your heart and mind for God in this moment. God's spirit is all around us and through us. God is in our suffering in these dark hours. God's spirit breathes in you! Allow love to come forth and there you will find God. There you will find hope amidst the fear.
This is a challenging time. I pray we will be led by our faith and that fear will be wiped away with hope. May you all stay healthy and well.
Find time to connect with God this week in whatever form you see fit.
In March or April if you drive along the Kansas Turnpike you will most likely see the Flint Hills on fire. Thousands of acres are often lit creating a smoke filled landscape during the day and an eerie red light at night. At nighttime it almost feels like you are driving through the depths of hell. The blazing fires are controlled burns to improve the health of fields and prevent unwanted growth. The ashes provide extra nitrate to the soil. When the fire dissipates everything is dead creating a sullen, black landscape.
Amazingly within a few weeks the same area transforms into a beautiful living, breathing sanctuary of green fields. The new brightness of the plants covering the landscape speaks to the spirit of God that is in all creation. A spirit that boldly, says the divine is present and here with us. A spirit asking us to be cocreators in this world ensuring that nature is taken care of. The act is also a reminder of how through death new life is waiting to vivaciously spring forth.
Sometimes it this through the fires of our life where we find new life. It hurts. It's painful. It changes us. But the new creation that emerges is bold and beautiful living with a new understanding of the preciousness of life.
What fires have you been through and how did it impact your faith? Are there obstacles we are avoiding because we fear what we do not know? Our faith is a part of us and is affected by what we encounter and live through. So what role does faith have during these life experiences? Let's explore this further.
Trials and tribulations are scary. We often fear certain events and avoid moving forward. Unexpected situations devastate us, and can tear us a part. However when we walk through the adverse situations of life somehow we emerge stronger, better, and more capable then we ever have been before. Adversity make us grow as people and makes us seek something greater outside of ourselves. It is through these acts that hope emerges. Faith develops and goes deeper as we seek and find understanding for the events that transpired. It is in faith and understanding where we develop hope for the future. Hope for ourselves, hope for others, and hope for life in general.
The video below is Nick Vujicic who was born without arms and legs speaking at Telford State Prison about his life and the hope we can have through the difficulties of life. Nick travels around the world speaking and inspiring individuals. This video is quite long but if you have time to watch some of it I am sure you will be amazed and find the message of hope emerging through him.
Refining Ourselves Through Adversity
Refining usually refers to separating the impurities out and purifying the substance. But something has to be placed or go willingly through the fires to be refined. Adversity also refines us. However often when adversity strikes it is hard to stay positive. Staying hopeful in the midst of adversity is a skill. You can check out the article "How to Stay Hopeful and Resilient Through Adversity" by Joe Wilner for some ideas. The article "Refine Your Life" talks about the life cycle and how growth and development are cyclical. It gives some great ideas on how to figure out where you are in the cycle. One important aspect I want to draw attention to is reframing obstacles. The article indicates we need to ask these questions.
1. What can I learn from this?
2. Where else in my life is the same obstacle showing up, and how has it served me?
3. What can I do to address it?
4. Where is my opportunity to stretch?
5. Am I ready to let this obstacle go?
Asking these questions changes your perspective to be focused on development and life balance. Too often we feel powerless with adversity but we actually have a lot of choice in how we respond. Faithfully responding to adversity by choosing to seek positive growth is powerful. This does not mean we cannot feel dejected, hurt, etc. These are important feelings that should be acknowledged and felt. They are part of the process but at some point we must choose to reframe our thinking. We must choose to overcome our adversity.
Whatever you are walking through know there is hope. New life is waiting to vivaciously spring forward in you its just a matter of time. Go through the process at your own pace, reframe your perspective, ask the questions that matter to you and move forward. Allow the divine to guide you and may you find faith in the process.
Thank you for all those that follow along each week! We appreciate all the positive feedback and support.
This week ask the questions above about a situation you are facing?
Our guest blogger this week is Tyler Jones. Tyler lives with his wife Autumn and 2 daughters, Summer and Sutton, in the Oklahoma City area. He is a member of the Edmond congregation where he is stretching his Elders legs as a new Co-Pastor. He is a doctor trained in internal medicine and works as a hospitalist (he only sees patients in the hospital setting). His time is packed full of kids activities, but any free time he gets he enjoys going to movies and binge watching TV shows.
So, there I was, sitting in the intensive care unit as I do every morning when I work. I was talking to a patient who we’ll call John. John, who was well into his 70s, had been in the hospital, more specifically, the ICU for over 3 weeks battling a disease that was causing his kidneys to shut down. He and his wife, who was always by his bedside, were listening to me talk about trying to change our approach to fight this sickness that was destroying him. He had struggled on and off of the ventilator for weeks and had been undergoing daily dialysis treatments for his kidneys.
John was tired, but not only that, he wasn’t getting better. I could see how tired he was. As I finished my explanation of what we wanted to do next to try to help him, I stopped. I moved closer to him so I could be sure I would be able to hear him as he was very weak. “Do you still want to fight this”, I asked. “Do you want us to continue to keep trying new things, or are you wanting us to stop?” I leaned in close as he told me how tired he was. He didn’t want to keep going. He was ready to die.
Working in healthcare, and especially in the hospital, means that I am tasked with caring for people in some of their most vulnerable moments. It’s often said about those in healthcare, that we see people on the worst days of their lives. Death is just a part of my job. Not an intended one, of course, but one that is unfortunately unavoidable.
As humans, we seem to reach out in prayer more often when times are hard. I know I pray far more often when I’m struggling than when times are good. Prayer is especially strong in hospitals. We have employed chaplains whose sole job is to help provide counseling and spiritual assistance to people who are suffering. Sometimes, as the ones taking care of the patients, those directly involved in the decisions about people’s lives, it is easier to just let the chaplain and pastors take care of the spiritual needs of the patients. I know it saves time. It is hard to pray with patients. It’s hard to pray with people in general sometimes, especially strangers.
I often feel this internal conflict when it comes to praying with patients. On one hand, do they want me to pray with them? Believe it or not, some patients aren’t very fond of me, or their doctors in general. Doctors are the ones who give bad news. We are the vehicle of sorrow and despair. I often wonder if I’m the best person to be praying with people after giving them terrible news. This may not be a legitimate concern, but I wonder none the less.
On the other hand, if not me, then who? I am often placed in unique positions of vulnerability with patients and families. When I pray with people, for people, there is a shared moment of connection through God and the Holy Spirit. It becomes deeper than just a patient doctor relationship. How can I pass up the opportunity to share in that connectedness with someone who is longing for peace and comfort?
When praying for the sick most pray for healing. Sometimes this can be difficult. Do I pray for healing in patients who I know are never getting better? I’ve heard prayers where preachers exuberantly command the sickness to leave the body. They cast out cancers and disease with confidence and fiery passion. Don’t get me wrong, I believe that miracles can happen. There are times when I can’t explain why or how certain things happen, but I also know that those times are limited. People want miracles, but sometimes I know all too well what the future holds for people. I’ve seen it too many times before.
So what do I pray for when I pray with patients? Peace. Comfort. The presence of the Holy Spirit to rest with them and their families and loved ones. Instead of casting out sickness, I ask that worry and regret are forgotten. I pray that the love that God has for them will burn in their hearts and that they know that they have a God that cares for them deeply. I ask that whatever the outcome, whether it be good or bad, that they know that they are not alone. They will always have the love of their family, friends, and the peace of Jesus.
People fear the unknown, and there is no greater unknown than death. As I sat in the ICU with John and his wife, I took their hands and asked if they would like me to pray with them. As I did then and have done since, I became vulnerable with them. I opened my heart to them and they to me. We shared in a moment of connectedness and devotion that I will never forget. I never saw either of them after that prayer, but I know that the peace of the Holy Spirit was with both of them as it is with all of us if we allow ourselves to be open to it.
A big thank you to Tyler for sharing with us his unique perspective and powerful ministry. Please post any comments you have about the article as we would love to hear them!
This week take a risk by opening yourself to the moments you are placed in. Connect with those around you and be vulnerable to divine grace.
The views expressed here are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of Community of Christ. We believe individuals should be allowed to have their own opinions and be at different places in their faith journey.