I wonder how many, like me, are only able to take in so much news at the moment, with the underlying pandemic situation we are now watching war in Europe, add to that the rising cost of inflation, the threat of off the scale energy bills and more. Many of us are exhausted, and anxiety is our constant companion, low lying, but ready to bubble up without much provocation. We noticed this recently when one of my churches was approached by a local person wanting to help out the Ukrainian’s with gifts of blankets, etc, we simply don’t have the space, but what ensued was public criticism on Facebook of a wonderful group of Stewards, much angst was expressed, bringing with it feelings of guilt, shame and helplessness. That said, the person who asked us for help was doing so with the best of intentions and a desire to help, so I understand their frustration, which only brings on more guilt, shame and helplessness!
Guilt, shame, and helplessness , probably sums up how many of us are feeling, we want to help, we want to give, we want to do something, but our emotional and mental capacities are stretched thin, we are coping rather than thriving, and that is not where we want to be.
Now of course it might be that you personally are not feeling anxious, but I suspect many around you are, and you will be impacted by that, anxiety is there in the shopping queue, in the person totting up what they can afford, in your neighbour who has family in Eastern Europe, in frustrations with Government, in the watching as local petrol stations raise their prices yet again. We have been conscious of our vulnerability and human frailty for over 2 years now, we have watched deaths from Covid-19 recorded daily, had hopes raised and dashed by new variants and lockdowns, and now our news if filled with bombs, and heartrending interviews with different Ukrainian people as they try to grapple with what is happening to them.
One of the things we are so often told to do in times of great stress is to care for ourselves, to get enough sleep, to make sure we eat well, exercise etc. I don’t know about you but I have struggled with that, I have put myself back onto a healthy diet so many times recently, and then slipped again, my attempts at exercise have been sporadic, though I do now have a daily routine, it has all felt like work, consciously choosing self care, self care while others hide in basements and underground stations, self care while others are running out of food and medicines, just like self care while others mourn their loved ones and friends are either worked to the bone in the NHS, or are suffering in ICU. Guilt, shame and helplessness are right their on our shoulders.
But self-care is essential, perhaps starting with when to say no, and then adding the other things like diet, exercise, daily routines, sleep etc as we can. Maybe we need reminding that Jesus tells us to love ourselves, in fact to love others as we love ourselves, and it makes huge sense to say that if we neglect ourselves then we simply won’t have the capacity to care for others as well, and of course there they are again, guilt, shame and helplessness. We need to break the cycle!
I am going to try to put into place a Lenten discipline of turning to prayer when I turn off the news, of turning to Christ with the things that are burdening me, and if you are anything like me then I am sure that you could write quite a list, I have written out my favourite Bible Passage, Jesus invitation to rest and placed it where I have my morning coffee and listen to the radio. I am also trying to use an examen practice at the end of the day, but in all of this I am also going to seek to be gentle with myself when I forget. I can’t rid myself of anxiety, but I can refocus myself on the loving God who walks with me, who goes before and follows behind me, and in all things works for the good of all. The one who holds the end from the beginning is with us, understands and holds us. All will be well, All will be well.
Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.
Matthew 11: 28-30