By Wayne Farris, Pastor, Journey Foursquare Church
As this new year dawns, so many of you feel the weight of nearly two full years under pandemic conditions. We have lost things, both real and imagined. We have lost loved ones and have not been able to celebrate or memorialize them. We have lost the ability to travel to see family or embrace former traditions. We have lost jobs due to resulting economic conditions and lost the stability of the life we once knew because of the financial fallout. Some have lost friendships because of disagreements regarding social and political protocols. Many have lost hope as familiar comforts and freedoms have slowly seeped away, and the toll on our mental and emotional health has become so burdensome.
I am empathetic to all of these plights, particularly the strain on our collective mental, emotional, and even spiritual well-being. If you are in such a place of despair, I pray you will reach out to friends, pastors, or mental health professionals at whatever level you need to find the clarity it will take to move forward.
My friend, former Seattle Mariner and Yakima Mayor, Pastor Dave Edler, says, “The past two years have been a series of losses, and as Americans, we do not know how to grieve well.” This is profound. Our culture long ago lost the art of lamentation. To authentically lament a loss, understand, process, and walk-through stages of grieving, allowing ourselves to move forward in a healthy fashion. We simply don’t know how to do it. And when you aren’t trained or allowed to grieve any one loss well, you can imagine that a series of losses could potentially be devastating.
If you can resonate with any of that loss or despair at any level, let me encourage you toward self-care and help:
- First, even if the church is not your thing, as a pastor, I would be remiss if I did not mention the power I believe we can find in prayer and Jesus. He experienced every loss and pain we could ever imagine, and He did it so that you and I could again have access to and relationship with God. It would behoove us to make use of that access. Consider Suncrest Worship, Journey Foursquare Church, or any of your local community or Catholic churches. Not just for building your faith, but for the vital connection with others that you will find.
- Then find a place to serve, to be a part of something bigger than yourself. As a regular contributor to Forbes magazine, Dr. Margie Warrell often writes about companies that provide outreach and community service opportunities for employees to take part in. She notes, “Research shows that people who have connected to a purpose that is greater than themselves… are happier, more contented, enjoy richer relationships and are more resilient in the face of adversity than those who haven’t. They are also far more inspiring leaders.” (Forbes, Dec 2018)
- Don’t forget to stay “tuned into yourself” and each other. I don’t mean that in any ethereal sense. I mean, listen to your body and your mind; take walks, get fresh air, get sunlight; call or Facetime friends and family to stave off natural isolation. Consider having a friend or neighbor over that you haven’t visited with for some time. Connect wherever possible. Try to remember what activities and hobbies you used to do to feel good, and, to whatever extent you can, make a way to do them again. All of these things: Natural light, oxygen, personal connection, doing things that make you happy, release hormones – Dopamine, Serotonin, Endorphins, and Oxytocin – that produce happiness and energy while keeping depression and fatigue at bay.
- If you are processing loss or grieving, remember that it is okay to feel those emotions. Give yourself space and grace to process those feelings. As you do so, remember to stay hydrated and eat right. The grieving process is hard on us physically, and we can often neglect our bodies while working to understand our hearts.
- If you are struggling to grieve or experiencing depression, get assistance. Depression is a very normal and understandable state of being, and there is help. Consider seeing your physician for applicable medicine. Consider seeing any number of local counselors. Here are a few I recommend: Dragonfly Wellness & Education: 509-724-0221, The Genesis Institute: 509-467-7913, and Jan Vetter Counseling: 509-260-8445
If you lost a job or need assistance, I encourage you to take advantage of the great food banks and clothing closets you’ll find locally at:
- Loon Lake Food Bank: (509) 233-8450
- Springdale, Ford and Hunters Food Banks (see page 1 for details)
- TumTum Food Pantry (TumTum):(509) 276-5472
- Greenhouse Community Center (Deer Park): (509) 276-6897
- Rural Resources: (509) 684-8421
- Serve Spokane (North Spokane):(509) 998-5722
Having cared for yourself and others, you will be better equipped to tackle whatever 2022 brings.
Because the truth is, 2020-2021 were not the “best” years; they were not the “worst” years; they were just years – 52 weeks, 365 days, another couple of trips around the sun. They held a pandemic, but it was not the only pandemic our world has seen. They’ve held financial and political chaos, but certainly not the first we’ve ever experienced. They’ve held social upheaval and unrest, but again, this is not new.
We are not the first to lose loved ones, lose jobs, have financial concerns, etc.
When it comes down to it, your journey – your story – is going to consist of two influences: (1) what you choose to write into your life and (2) what (and whom else) you allow others to write into your life. Both are your choice!
You cannot keep yourself completely from pain, loss, or harm, but you do get to choose how you respond to it; you get to choose what part of your story you allow it to write. And you can also choose to keep yourselves in love, friendship, kindness, service to others, and devotion to something bigger than you – in my case, Jesus.
One thing we can count on, this next year will, again, have its share of losses, doctor’s diagnoses, and hardships. Life is hard, and people are messy – this won’t change. However, it will also have opportunities for laughter, graciousness, service, and worship.
So, here’s to 2022! I earnestly pray that yours be filled with peace, joy, and so many of the little things that fill your heart. “Another” year? A “better” year? I do not know. But I know this, it will be 52 weeks, 365 days, and it’s your journey – your story. I encourage you to make it a great one. May it be full of passion and purpose. And, may you write it, and live it, well, my friends.
Wayne Farris is the Lead Pastor at Journey Foursquare Church in Nine Mile Falls and the Lead Chaplain, of Stevens County Fire Protection District 1. Contact Wayne at Wayne@JourneyFC.org