By Bishop L. Jonathan Holston
“This is how God showed his love for us: God sent his only Son into the world so we might live through him. This is the kind of love we are talking about—not that we once upon a time loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to clear away our sins and the damage they’ve done to our relationship with God. My dear, dear friends, if God loved us like this, we certainly ought to love each other. No one has seen God, ever. But if we love one another, God dwells deeply within us, and his love becomes complete in us—perfect love!”—1 John 4:9-12 (MSG)
In the midst of our fast food, drive-through, one-day Amazon delivery world, we recognize patience is hard.
We know God’s desire for us is to pause our self-imposed time limits, to stop the urge to do life by ourselves and to linger a little longer in God’s presence.
But, it seems we are in an unrelenting, unwavering, unyielding storm that won’t end. For the past 22 months, we have lived in the midst of a global pandemic complete with variants, racial unrest and political divisiveness.
The mantra of relentless attack has crept into our conversations, teaching us to never back down, that the fight is never over and the only answer to any question is to destroy, even if destruction of one means the destruction of many and the obliteration of sanity and hope.
Can you say this with me: social distancing, washing hands, wearing masks and vaccinations—all necessary to reducing the spread of COVID-19, delta and omicron—have made us feel isolated and lonely, increasing our levels of stress and anxiety.
These are frightening, stressful and overwhelming times that have taken a toll on us literally and emotionally.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, one-third of all Americans have experienced depression or chronic anxiety during this time of pandemic, unrest and divisiveness. Professionals from the United Nations to the World Health Organization are warning of widespread repercussions resulting from grief, increased personal stress and panic responses.
During the month of February, many in our world celebrate love. Love is a gift. As we’re told in 1 John 4:7-10, “This is how God showed his love for us: God sent his only Son into the world so we might live through him. This is the kind of love we are talking about.” God gave us the greatest gift of love through Jesus Christ.
Maybe a simple gift of love we can give ourselves and others is to attend to our mental, physical and spiritual health. Caring for our minds, bodies and spirits should be a priority in our lives.
Perhaps God is trying to show us the things we think we have to do to be happy are really not that important.
Even in these trying times, we might realize we don’t need to worry so much about what is being done and what is not being done, because God is at work putting into motion plans “for our welfare, and not for harm, but to give us a future with hope” (Jeremiah 29:11).
While we breathe, perhaps with hope, we may recognize how God is at work, doing what God does best—redeeming dark situations with miraculous light.
Friends, whether laity or clergy, young or old, if you are feeling anxious, worried, isolated, depressed or disconnected because of what is happening in the world, be still and know that God is God (Psalm 46:10), and give yourself the gift of caring for your mental health. Our conference is offering multiple ways for us to take these next faithful steps—trusting, believing and knowing God is with us.
We are united with one another in the love of Christ; a love shown to you and me in the crucifixion and handed out to all of us in the Lord’s Supper.
In this era of expediency, may we seek ways to slow our pace enough to feel the warmth of God’s perfect love and reflect it into the world. May we choose to prioritize taking care of ourselves and one another, resisting the urge for impulsive reactions and destruction, and instead choosing to follow the one who has cleared the way for us.
By Bishop L. Jonathan Holston