#3: Find Peace in Something Bigger Than Just You
When life gets hard - when we feel like we're in over our heads, facing a problem beyond our individual capacity to solve - often those are the circumstances that can most powerfully awaken our innermost selves, our inborn spiritual awareness. The storms and adversities of life can prove to be some of our mightiest teachers - allowing us to tap into a depth and breadth of awareness that is rarely available to us in less challenging circumstances.
Finding Strength in a Higher Power
Throughout human history, in the most dire of circumstances, human beings have discovered precious stores of strength, comfort, and inspiration by looking to a force stronger and more powerful than themselves. Looking to a Higher Power is a fundamental idea, for example, in the 12 Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous - an organization that teaches alcoholics and other addicts to find power beyond their own natural strength to overcome the life-destroying bonds of addiction. AA encourages their members to look to a higher power as a source of strength - whether that be God, nature, or even the AA group itself - something bigger and more powerful than the individual alone.
Whether religious or not, many people find solace and inspiration (including during difficult times) by climbing to the top of a tall mountain, standing on the shores of mighty ocean, walking through the tall trees of an evergreen forest, or hiking through a vast gully or wilderness. The rich serenity of being alone with the grandeur of nature can be a significantly empowering and healing experience.
For some, their "higher power" is found in community. As we tap into the unique strengths, perspectives, and abilities of one another, we build a greater strength than any of us is capable of individually. We can buoy each other up, inspire and instruct one another, and powerfully support each other in moments of weakness or pain.
Some find comfort in belonging to a religious organization, where worshippers combine their strengths to fulfill a common good. Others prefer a more solitary approach to tuning into their spirituality, through individual reading, meditation, or prayer. Often a blend of these approaches brings particularly powerful benefits.
Finding Refuge from the Storm
2001 was a transformative year for me - and for many others. On September 11, 2001, thousands of people lost loved ones in the midst of the 9-11 attacks in New York City. In that normally hard-nosed city, it was inspiring to observe how so many New Yorkers called upon their powers of community to pull together in this crisis - and also called upon their powers of faith, seeking God's help to get through that overwhelming and heartbreaking crisis.
Earlier that year, in April 2001, I had written a song for a class at my church, to accompany a lesson entitled "Finding Refuge in the Storm." At first, it was just another song, one of hundreds I had written over my lifetime. But a few months later in June 2001, that song became something much more for me - an anthem of strength, a beacon of saving light, a literal lighthouse in the raging dark sea of my life at that time.
I lost my youngest son in June that year, when his life suddenly and unexpectedly ended, without any warning. At first, I thought the grief would utterly overwhelm me, plunging me into a lifetime of darkness and pain. I had never felt such profound heartbreak, hopelessness, and despair.
But in the midst of that terrible darkness, I remembered that little song I had written few months earlier, "He is My Refuge." That song renewed my hope, restored my soul, and regenerated my strength. It reminded me that I was not the only human being to have passed through terrible sorrow - and I would not be the last. For millennia, others had passed through seemingly crushing circumstances - but had come out triumphant by turning to that Higher Power who in absolutely customized and personal ways, had helped them through their crises and heartbreaks. Their stories shored up my own broken heart. Their assurances regenerated my own flagging faith. I got through my crisis largely on the strength of that song, and its healing message.
Over the years since that time, I have sung this song to thousands of people, in various classes, conferences, and meetings. I recorded it, put Power Point images to it, and incorporated it into many speaking engagements. Then, just a few weeks ago, a friend pulled those resources into a music video format, and was released just this morning YouTube, to share its message even more broadly. Here is that video, as a gift and message of hope to you.
Moving Through the Uncertainties of Our Current Crisis
As discussed previously in this series, our lives have now been disrupted and transformed by this most current crisis, involving the coronavirus. Even if we are never touched personally by the illness itself, all of our lives have been impacted substantially by the conditions surrounding this illness. The event cancellations, venue closures, financial impacts, social distancing, and other conditions associated with this pandemic affects all of us.
None of us can effectively foresee how long this will last, or what the ultimate consequences will be. But of this we can be sure: The "higher powers" that have sustained human beings throughout all human history can sustain us as well - those grand powers of faith, community, and nature.
How we understand and apply those principles in our own lives may vary from person to person. But in whatever form is most fitting for us, we can indeed find "refuge from the storm," comfort to our anxious hearts, and new hope for our discouraged souls, by drawing on something bigger and more powerful than ourselves.
By so doing - whether you climb a mountain, fall to your knees in prayer, read inspiring literature, write a comforting song, or reach out in compassion to some person even more troubled than yourself - you can find renewed strength to get through this current challenge effectively, purposefully, and even joyfully.