In these times of turmoil where everything is changing, new rules are continually appearing, and worries and fears are gripping many people’s lives, it can be hard to know what to do or who to rely on.
So, what will help you to stay grounded in such a crisis and enable you to feel mentally strong? How can you cope with the challenges that this pandemic or any crisis throw at you?
At the Archbishop of York Youth Trust, we were thinking about this very thing over the summer, conscious of all the changes and challenges that young people would face as they returned to school. And this got us thinking…maybe it is time to talk about the things that have not changed? Maybe it is time to take our focus a little wider and remind ourselves of the things that remain, and talk about these?
Think for a moment the image of a tree. I am sure we can all agree that they are beautifully formed and wonderfully designed. In a storm the branches and leaves can be thrashed around and blown from pillar to post, but it is quite rare for the tree itself to fully break. And that’s because the roots penetrate way down beneath the ground, creating a foundation that is so strong that the tree can survive even the wildest of storms. Like an iceberg, when you look at a tree, you do not see the half of it! There is a deep and unseen structure that ensures the tree stands strong, is resilient and can withhold even the toughest of storms.
So, what might these strong roots be in our lives? What are the things deep within us that remain, and that we can rely on to stay strong in difficult times?
In the Bible in the book of 1 Corinthians, the early followers of Jesus speak about the importance of Love. It is a famous passage that we’ve all probably heard before at weddings, but it concludes with these words:
‘And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love’
Faith, Hope and Love are all virtues or character traits. They’re not academic qualifications or things that we can particularly measure, but they are things that we all recognise and can hold in common. Being rooted in character virtues like these and many others, such as kindness, compassion, perseverance, and courage, are important roots to keep us healthy and strong in difficult times. And the fact that we can all hold these things in common and draw on them together, makes them powerful and deep roots that help form solid foundations in our lives.
Christians have a personal faith in Jesus that helps to keep grounded and strong in difficult times. For you it could be something similar or maybe it is your faith in your family or friends – those who you can rely on to share and support one another – an essential root in this time.
So many of us have been pulled together by ‘hope’ during this season. Though we can’t see the end of the virus yet, there is a confidence and growing expectation that if we work together and focus on the important things, then we will get through this. Plus, we have seen hope arise in other ways a result of the crisis. Our environment, which is facing a crisis of its own, has breathed a huge sigh of relief as the amount of greenhouses gases that are being pumped into the air has radically reduced during this pandemic. Suddenly, new signs of hope have emerged for a better world and a better environment.
And finally, and most important of all, is love. We believe love has shone forth in us all during this season. From caring for our neighbours, the vulnerable and those shielding, to supporting children and young people as they navigate through this time. Standing up for justice and joining movements like Black Lives Matter which call for an end to the disease that is racism and point to a better way that is rooted in equality and love.
And these three remain….faith, hope and love. Everything else might change around us but being rooted in character virtues such as these is ultimately what will see us through. And more than just see us through – being rooted in character is what leads to human flourishing. A better world for all, set on a deep foundation of love.