I’ll cut straight to it: We haven’t yet paid the psychological bill for the last two years.
The pandemic, the high-octane politics, all the tension––what we have just emerged from is two years of global trauma. And trauma has a “cascade effect.” Because folks rally in the face of big challenges (as you all had to rally to figure out church in a covid world). But when the crisis passes, that’s when the impact starts to show up.
I’ll bet you are seeing the fallout in your own lives and in your congregations even now––the short-term memory loss; irritability; rise in anxiety; the general weariness. Folks are barely showing up. Those are all symptoms of the trauma we’ve been through.
The NY Times ran a story on the fact that the mental health industry is currently overwhelmed. I’ve been a therapist for 30 years; I have a lot of friends around the world who are therapists, pastors, people in the caring ministries. I don’t know a single one who has an opening. It’s a sign that the human soul is in a bad way right now. Folks are beat up, running on fumes––including pastors who had to face their own personal pandemic challenges, but also rise to lead their people.
Ed Yong won the Pulitzer for his coverage of the mental health consequences of the pandemic. He wrote,
“People put their heads down and do what they have to do, but suddenly, when there’s an opening, all these feelings come up,” Laura van Dernoot Lipsky, the founder and director of the Trauma Stewardship Institute, told me...“As hard as the initial trauma is,” she said, “it’s the aftermath that destroys people.””
It has to do with reserves.
Whenever we are called upon to rise to some challenge, we tap into our reserves. Even for good things like a wedding, birth, or grad school. We “dig deep” to overcome. But at some point, you have to then take care to replenish your reserves.
Right now, we’re in a sort of global denial about the actual cost of these hard years. We just want to get past it all, so we’re currently trying to comfort ourselves with some sense of recovery and relief. But as I said, we haven’t yet paid the bill for all we’ve been through. It’s like telling a survivor of sexual abuse that the trauma must be over because the abuse has stopped.
Now I know, I know––talk of resilience is “in.” It’s mainstream. Everyone is buzzing about “being strong,” and “bouncing back,” offering all sorts of remedies from mindfulness to yoga to outdoor challenges. But you and I know the Gospel has a much, much better answer.
Biblical resilience is not sucking it up; it’s not self-made. As Paul wrote,
I fall to my knees and pray to the Father, the Creator of everything in heaven and on earth. I pray that from his glorious, unlimited resources he will empower you with inner strength through his Spirit. Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. (Ephesians 3:15-17 NLT)
Biblical resilience is imparted to our humanity through our union with Christ; it is given to us by our Creator. This is why the Gospel is such good news. We are rescued, restored, renewed not through sheer self-will, but through the presence of the Living God working in the depths of our humanity.
But of course, you know better than anyone, dear pastor, that it doesn’t just “happen.” Folks have to align with God, come into union with him, choose to draw upon his strength. And here is where we find what I believe to be is the real danger of this hour.
Christians are just as worn out and depleted as anyone else. In our weariness, we are vulnerable to our enemy. I’ve been receiving texts and emails for about six months now from mature believers telling me that for one reason or another they are “tapping out.” They are walking away from Jesus. There’s almost always a reason, a personal heartbreak. They feel abandoned; they feel betrayed. What they are not aware of is that in their depleted condition, they have come under the influence of the enemy, telling them they don’t even believe anymore.This is why I wrote my new book, Resilient – Restoring Your Weary Soul in These Turbulent Times. I want to help you help your people recover from all we’ve seen through their intimacy with Jesus. I want this for you, and I want this for your people. And so I pray the very prayer Paul gave us in Ephesians for you––I pray that our Creator God would strengthen you with a mighty inner strength, through the power of his Spirit, deep in your inmost being. May he restore your reserves and give you new resilience.
Order the companion study guide, coming October 2022