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Image: Tradingtoast.com

In the coming New Year I wonder if you can give yourself permission to anticipate a better year than this one. Or do you fear it could be worse?

What are you reading or listening to that inspires hope or that decays resilience?

I was fascinated therefore by Helen Tang’s thoughts on the pandemic. She writes as a senior medical student working in Saskatchewan conducting initial contact-tracing phone calls and investigations:

I would not be surprised if in a few months or years, we swapped the COVID-19 pandemic for a mental health one without being creative about ways to think upstream and prevent this. When we emerge from the pandemic, it will be crucial to offer support, such as providing free or affordable counselling, training more physicians in mental health and teaching children coping strategies in schools.

Self-Isolation isn’t the same as Solitude

She shares her first-hand, front-line account of making contact with persons who either have the virus or who have been in close contact with someone who has the virus. She comments,

“… for many individuals and families, self-isolation is a privilege that cannot be afforded or easily undertaken.

For young children and homes without adequate space, isolation is difficult or impossible. In this situation, the household has to isolate as a whole. This means that the countdown after exposure for those who are close contacts in the household does not start until after the person who has the virus is no longer deemed infectious. This can result in up to a 28-day isolation for some household members.”

Self-Isolation and Solitude as Privilege?

When Tang predicts that we may well swap “the COVID-19 pandemic for a mental health one” – she couches this in the awareness that we need to be “creative about ways to think upstream and prevent this.”

It is my guess that the privilege of resiliency during this pandemic is not so much based on economic factors, but on spiritual factors. In other words, the creativity needed to think and prevent a mental health pandemic is rooted in something ancient, not something novel. Those who have a robust spirituality that is connected relationally with the One who made us for Himself may well know that – live or die, rich or poor, succeed or fail – we thrive in a spiritual ecosystem however decaying the pandemics may be.

After all, we have been becoming, for some time, a demented, abortive, euthanizing, permissive, drug addictive decaying society; this pandemic has merely exposed the spiritual decay of societies that have lost touch with the connectedness of the Creator God. More mental health practitioners will not turn the tide. Only a spiritual renewal can address the deepest need of the human soul for when this or that pandemic, or this or that crisis comes through, as it invariably does and will, it is our spiritual connectedness that will allow us to live with gratitude or die with thankfulness.

The Secret of Being Content

Therefore, whether you may be in forced into self-isolation or are in blissful solitude, may you contemplate what the Apostle Paul wrote so long ago about the secret of being content:

I’ve learned by now to be quite content whatever my circumstances. I’m just as happy with little as with much, with much as with little. I’ve found the recipe for being happy whether full or hungry, hands full or hands empty. Whatever I have, wherever I am, I can make it through anything in the One who makes me who I am.

Solitude & the Secret of Contentment

For more on what to do with solitude, I recommend reading the insights of Henri Nouwen who so well articulated the difference between a crushing loneliness and a life-giving solitude:

Solitude is the Furnace of Transformation

Prayer and Presence

This is more enigma than dogma.