By Bishop L. Jonathan Holston
“We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.” 2 Corinthians 4:8-9
It has been said that “when you reach the end of your rope, tie a knot in it and hang on.” Friends, it has been almost a year, and our circumstances remain much the same. Vaccine distribution has begun, but it is clear that the realities of the COVID-19 pandemic will remain with us for some time yet.
So many of us experienced something of an adrenaline rush that propelled us through the challenges of 2020. As we deal with the ongoing pandemic, many people are feeling more foggy and fatigued. The adrenaline rush has waned, so how do we amass the energy necessary to sustain us through the final stretch of this season?
For Felecia and me, having a child accepted, attend and graduate from the Naval Academy was exciting for us, and it was demanding for him. In Karlton’s first year, the weeks following the winter break were known as the “dark days.” In his words, “these days were long, cold and dreary due to the weather and the next school break being so far away.” Following their return to school from a wonderful time with loved ones during holiday leave, the dark days embodied a monotonous rhythm of work, formation, studies and sleep, which did not lead to very much excitement. Spring break and the reprieve of summer were still too far away.
Business psychologist Merete Wedell-Wedellsborg, in an article published in Harvard Business Review, writes that resilience and stamina are the keys to sustainment during these months, these “dark days” of winter amid a global pandemic. In order to build this resilience and stamina, we must prioritize what is important over what is urgent, and we must offer encouragement to others as we simultaneously receive it for ourselves when it is offered.
Naming the challenges of these times means that we acknowledge their existence and then seek to overcome them. To persevere. To get back up when we get knocked down. As people of faith, it is in these moments when we so desperately seek God. We cry out in the wilderness of our lives, believing that God is with us, no matter the challenges we face.
There is opportunity right now to re-evaluate what is most important. Reflection is a powerful antidote to the “dark days” of this global pandemic. Remember why you spend your time, money and energy on the things you do. Turn your focus toward others, opening yourself to opportunities to offer encouragement and love.
The apostle Paul wrote letters encouraging those in the church to remain steadfast and resilient in the face of trials. And this is still true for us today.
Faced with seemingly insurmountable odds, feeling hard pressed on every side, these are the moments when we seek most earnestly after God.
Just as God led the Israelites through the wilderness, providing manna to eat, leading them on their journey as a pillar of fire, so God is still guiding us today, journeying onward with us through the dark days of winter, toward the marvelous light of the promised land.
By Bishop L. Jonathan Holston