When it comes to spiritual growth, any crisis is an opportunity to grow. In fact, the spiritually mature person is someone who has found practices and resources to deal with the suffering that unexpectedly disrupts or even shatters our lives. As a college chaplain, I offer spiritual guidance to people who visit my office. I know from personal experience that life is often difficult and very confusing. Together, we seek to support one another. I also know that asking the right questions is more helpful than pretending to have all the answers, especially in the darkest moments of life.
While absorbing alarming statistics about confirmed cases and deaths related to the coronavirus, many people are asking questions and sorting through their priorities. It’s almost as if we are all going through one big midlife crisis all at once—a global midlife crisis. Right now, many people delivering essential services don’t have much time for quiet reflection. Yet, I suspect even the busiest person in this pandemic–late at night–thinks back on their day trying to make sense of it all.
During a midlife crisis, we ask, “Is this it?” We wonder about our choices and priorities. The sudden death of a loved one or losing a job can put a person into a midlife crisis. In the middle of this pandemic, 22 million people are suddenly unemployed in the United States. Then there are those who experience a midlife crisis when they realize they have gotten all they ever wanted. Having accomplished all they set out to do in life, they still feel empty. As we face this global pandemic, many people are asking big questions, and that is a good thing to do.
One of the books in the Bible that examines life in this way is Ecclesiastes. You may be familiar with the words,
“There’s a season for everything and a time for every matter under the heavens: a time for giving birth and a time for dying, a time for planting and a time for uprooting what was planted…” (3:1-2 CEB)
We might say the writer of the book of Ecclesiastes was going through a midlife crisis. Life can be pleasant, but there are also dark days when life seems pointless. The author of Ecclesiastes writes,
“Sweet is the light, and it’s pleasant for the eyes to see the sun. Even those who live many years should take pleasure in them all. But they should be mindful that there will also be many dark days. Everything that happens is pointless.” (11:7-8 CEB)
Faith and doubt are not opposites. They actually compliment one another. Frederick Buechner wrote, “Whether your faith is that there is a God or that there is not a God, if you don’t have any doubts, you are either kidding yourself or asleep. Doubts are the ants in the pants of faith. They keep it awake and moving.” I believe that many of our best days are ahead of us, yet now is a good time to reflect on our past. I invite you to consider a few questions about your own life.
- What really matters to you?
- Have you been investing your time in what is most important to you?
- What spiritual resources and practices do you need in the midst of this crisis?
- Busyness is often a roadblock to spiritual growth. What needs to change in your life?
- Fred Rogers talked about finding the helpers in a time of a crisis. Who are the helpers around you today?
- How might you make a difference in the life of someone else today?
This is a difficult time for many of us, but God’s grace will sustain us. We will get through this together, asking questions and listening to one another.