By: Meagan Gillan, retired Director of Advocacy for Victims of Abuse, a ministry of the Evangelical Covenant Church
There is a light at the end of the tunnel, Friends, and thankfully, it is not a train barreling toward us!
After nine long months of isolation, anxiety, uncertainty, uncounted losses, and the death of more than 300,000 Americans, the vaccine that will protect us from the Coronavirus is on its way. Though it will be months before many of us receive the vaccine, just knowing that it has been developed, approved, and is being distributed to those who need it most is encouraging, to say the least. It gives us hope.
As we endured months of lockdowns, riots, fear, and isolation, it was hard to kindle hope, even for the most positive among us. There were moments when it seemed like the isolation and fear would never end, and the mysterious, killer disease would plague us forever. For many, it seemed hopeless. For some, it has been genuinely traumatic.
Anxiety and trauma are closely related. When we feel anxious, we feel uncertainty, worry, and fear. We don’t know what will happen, and we sense we may not be able to cope with whatever comes. Extreme anxiety can lead to panic attacks, sleeplessness, an inability to concentrate, and more. Trauma has a similar effect on us. It comes as something that has overwhelmed our ability to cope, causing us to fear for our life or our well-being. Anxiety can easily flow from trauma.
Both trauma and anxiety are powerful, yet their power can be reduced by a few simple gifts that are common to our faith communities:
- We can give the gift of safe space to process. During the pandemic, many churches ramped up their small group efforts via Zoom, and found that people needed to talk about the experiences they were having. When we process together, we learn that we aren’t the only one feeling fear, worry, or painful emotion, we gain hope.
- We can teach about and model resilience. Resilience is the ability to adapt and recover following a traumatic, anxiety-producing experience. By sharing models, like that offered by the Trauma-Informed Congregations Network, we defuse the power and scariness of trauma, showing it to be something common to all humans, and something that can be overcome.
- We can give the gift of calling for justice. We can speak up every time we encounter racism, classism, ageism, and other disparities. We can work to help others find their voice and be empowered to speak up and speak out in order to make things right in the world.
- We can give the gift of giving. While giving back to our communities is good for those who are helped, it is also good for those doing the helping. When we give, we awaken strong positive feelings in ourselves and activate endorphins that warm our hearts and brighten our outlook. When we call others to give to the community with us, we empower and build hope.
- We can give the gift of hope to one another. The sacred texts of our faith traditions give us reason to hope. In community with one another, we can grab hold of those texts and remind each other of the Great Story of God who gives hope.
Today, we need these gifts more than ever. There is a vaccine coming, and though it won’t solve every problem that has emerged in the last nine months, it offers us bountiful hope. As we look forward to a return of whatever “normal” is, let’s keep giving the gifts of safe space, resilience, justice, and hope.
Rev. Meagan Gillan has served for 40+ years in ministry with her pastor-husband and, recently retired, she remains engaged in ministry and actively grandparents seven children. She can be reached at email@example.com.