Choosing Hope: Finding Light in Times of Despair.
Spiritual immunization for the pandemic and political unrest.
Living with a pandemic and political unrest is taking a heavy toll. Alcohol consumption is up by 14% compared with a year ago; even higher for women. Depression and anxiety are making homes feel like pressure cookers. Makers of cannabis vape pens and cartridges are seeing booming sales.
How can we find a spiritual immunization for the cold dark winter that is coming?
We recently commemorated the yahrzeit of our matriarch Rachel. It is written that Rachel weeps for her children to this very day. The sound of her bitter tears can be heard high in the heavens above. The prophet Jeremiah describes God attempting to comfort Rachel: “Cease your weeping, wipe your tears…For there is hope – tikvah – for the future. Your children will come home.”
We need that hope. We, too, require that dose of light to combat the darkness. We know we can't control much of what is happening, but we can choose to live with hope.
How to go from hopeless to hopeful
We begin by giving ourselves a powerful boost. Plug into the desire to stop feeling stuck in the quicksand of negativity and despair. Decide now to make a conscious effort to radiate positivity.
Here are a few steps to take:
1. Shift your thinking
Change the way you handle life’s stresses. When you notice yourself going into negative territory or ‘awfulizing’ your life, stop. Replace the negative with positive. Don’t write the worst scenario possible. Eliminate toxic expressions: “I can’t do this anymore.” “This is not normal. I’m losing my mind.” “Everything’s crazy.” These verbalizations bring us into a bad place and spread emotional toxins into the atmosphere.
Instead of saying “I can’t”, say “It’s hard but I can.” Use words like, “It’s going to be all right”, “We’ll make it”, and “We’ll be okay.” Spread positivity.
We will get through this challenge. But how we get through the challenge depends on our self-work.
2. Find small pockets of peace
It’s not all or nothing. Maybe you can’t take that vacation you were planning or even go out for lunch with friends but you can find moments of emotional, mental and spiritual strength. A five minute stretch a couple of times a day while you're working, a brisk morning walk, facetiming a friend, sitting in quiet with a delicious tea or cappuccino, listening to a Torah talk or uplifting music – these are all small ideas that create a big impact.
What kind of self-care is realistic for you right now?
3. Have vision
When all we see is the darkness of today we live with a limited lens. "This too shall pass,” is a wonderful piece of Jewish wisdom. Nothing lasts forever. Not the good and not the bad. When this pandemic and unrest is over, how do you plan to rebuild your life? How have you changed for the better these past few months? What are the positives that came out of these days?
If you haven't discovered anything positive yet, now is the time to contemplate. Some families have rediscovered dinner time together and the joy that comes from sharing a meal and conversation. Others realize how much they had loved spending time with friends, family or hugs from grandparents but they had taken these moments together for granted. Think about how you will recapture the missed memories once we can join together again.
4. Know our nation’s past
Remind yourself of the miraculous story of the Jewish people. This is not the first time we have experienced incredible worry and fear. Through each period of darkness, when the world was ready to proclaim Kaddish on our nation, we triumphed. Our nation has an eternal promise from God until today: “God does not abandon His people.” If you study Jewish history you see clearly that there is a Divine plan in the world. We have risen from the ashes. As long as there is life there is hope.
Our nation lives. For 2,000 years we have wandered but we have not lost our way. Jerusalem beckons us. Our souls are alive, waiting to be reignited. Hope is in our hearts.
A story of hope to take with us these days:
The British Second Army liberated the Bergen-Belsen death camp in April 1945. On the first Friday after being liberated, the British Jewish army chaplain, L.H. Hardman, led the first Shabbat service for the gaunt survivors. The BBC’s veteran broadcaster, Richard Dimbleby, sounded on the verge of tears as he witnessed the first Shabbat prayer ceremony held openly on German soil since the beginning of that hellish time.
BBC radio reporter Patrick Gordon Walker describes what he saw.
“Around us lay the corpses there had not been time to clear away. People were still lying down and dying, in broad daylight…a few hundred people gathered together, sobbing openly in joy at their liberation and in sorrow at the memory of their parents, brothers, and sisters that had been taken from them, gassed and burned. These people knew they were being recorded, they wanted the world to hear their voice. They made a tremendous effort, which quite exhausted them. Listen.”
With people still dying around them, these surviving Jews sang Hatikvah – The Hope, which would become the Israeli national anthem. At that moment, these brave souls wanted mankind to know that despite the pain, the atrocities, the degradation, the indescribable suffering, we never lost our hope. We were determined to hold onto our dreams, our vision of the land of Israel, and the beauty of Jerusalem. No one can ever strip us of our hope. No death march can ever destroy our will to live.
At the conclusion of the song a voice declares “Am Yisrael Chai, the children of Israel still lives!”
Hold onto hope. We will make it through.
Photo credit: Sandy Millar, Unsplash.com