16 Mar Hope, Good News, & Community
At the end of last week, I was scrolling through news feeds when this headline jumped out at me (perhaps you saw it, too): “the American Psychological Association’s annual ‘Stress in America’ poll (published last Thursday) found that U.S. adults — already weary from two years of the Covid-19 pandemic — are now overwhelmingly troubled by inflation and the war in Ukraine.”
According to the results, 87 percent of those surveyed cited rising costs of everyday items, such as groceries and gas, as a “significant source of stress.” The same high percentage said their mental health was greatly affected by what has felt like a “constant stream of crises without a break over the last two years.” And 84 percent said the Russian invasion of Ukraine is “terrifying to watch.” The APA’s report used words like “unprecedented” and “startling” to describe the poll’s findings, in large part because of the uniformity of the source of our collective stress. “We don’t usually see 80 percent of people telling us that [one] particular stressor is stressful for that many individuals,” said Lynn Bufka, a clinical psychologist and APA associate chief.
I doubt that many, if any, of us are surprised by these findings. For starters, a lot of us count ourselves among the 80% who are deeply troubled or concerned about these same issues. And we recognize that both individually and collectively, our patience, our coping abilities, and our internal reserves to deal with crises large and small are diminished after 24 months of Covid-19. Many of us have thankfully survived the pandemic, but I don’t talk to many folks who feel like they have thrived during it.
The church is uniquely positioned to respond to people who are experiencing high levels of stress. One of the most important things we can do is offer community. “Stress can feel really isolating,” said the APA report, before encouraging people to remember that they are not alone because the current stressors are “being experienced by most everybody.” In past times of national crisis, the church has welcomed people, giving them a safe space to process fear, grief, or stress, while simultaneously providing a visible, tangible reminder that “we are all in this together.”
A second way the church can speak uniquely into the current storm of stress is to offer hope. We are good news people! We have not just a message of hope, but we know the source of hope—our friend and brother and Savior, Jesus Christ. As we “lean in” to our faith, praying for our world, our loved ones, and yes, even our enemies, as we talked about on Sunday, we have a life-changing word to share with those around us: “God loves you. God is at work. God’s power to redeem is still transforming lives. You are not alone.”
Realizing that 80% of people walking around you or living beside you or serving you at the grocery store or working in the next cubicle are overwhelmingly stressed, this is a perfect time to be a living example of hope and to invite people into community. And as an added bonus, doing so will help alleviate your stress, as well.
Yours for the Kingdom,