“Consider then and realize how evil and bitter it is for you when you forsake the Lord your God and have no awe of me, declares the Lord, the Lord Almighty.” Jer. 2:19
I think we can all agree that life has been stressful this past year. According to a recent survey by the University of British Columbia, 71 per cent of Canadians are experiencing an increase in stress since the start of the pandemic (https://www.med.ubc.ca/news/new-national-survey-finds-canadians-mental-health-eroding-as-pandemic-continues/). This is no small matter and has alarmed the mental health community. Too much stress can trigger issues of mental illness and deprive a person of a sense of wellbeing.
But stress can also have a positive impact. When preparing for a performance, stress can raise your adrenaline and produce exemplary results. It can also make you aware of new dynamics otherwise often overlooked.
Before we enjoy the summer openings and easing of restrictions, it would be good to reflect on what the stress of the past fifteen months has taught us. Norms have been obliterated and routines have been disrupted. When you are pushed off balance every step requires more concentration, and you notice the ground on which you must tread.
Many are realizing that some of the new stride is enjoyable. Better to be walking around the block than sitting in traffic. More time to smell the roses is better than rushing through exhaust fumes. More time for personal reflection has also caused many to re-evaluate life. When assumptions cannot be maintained, priorities are re-examined. New things are considered.
I think that is the spirit of the words of God through the prophet Jeremiah. It is a call to reconsider. Rather than considering a relationship with God as one of obedience vs disobedience, the prophet introduces an alternative view. God has orchestrated and arranged humanity in such a way that greatest fulfillment is experienced when living in peace with God, our surroundings and each other.
Selfish pursuit and disregard for God and others is contrary to the image of God in all of us. We are happiest when cooperating with the image God contained in us.
‘Consider then and realize how evil and bitter it is for you,’ said Jeremiah. Forsaking God is a loss of happiness for us. Having peace with our Creator is the only way to experience ultimate human fulfillment. Having peace with God isn’t as much about avoiding punishment as it is about making sure you experience the delight of life that God intended for you. Peace with God includes peace with others and peace with creation. Perhaps when seeing through the stress of the past fifteen months, we realize that this pace of living is closer to the life God desires for us all.
This summer as we prepare for new openings and less restrictions, let’s not restrict the new discoveries we have been able to experience. Let’s remain open to others and cherish the friendships developed. Let’s remain open to the Spirit of God at work in us, lest a return to busyness crowds out the divine.
Consider the benefit of a new balance to life; one that is centred on God and others.
By Willard Metzger, Executive Director, Citizens for Public Justice