HOW HAS THE pandemic changed you? This question can feel loaded, as though our answers should contain revelatory insights or transformational changes in our mindsets or lifestyles. My answers have varied. Since the pandemic forced my intense travel schedule to come to a screeching halt, I’ve realized just how unsustainable that schedule, with its impact on my family life, had become. I look forward to returning to traveling soon, but I am determined to be much more selective about it. I also often reflect on the ways that my family deepened our love for nature during the pandemic, breathing in the beauty of God’s creation. These are just a few of my answers.
But for some of us, the question elicits anxiety about going back to the broken “normal” of pre-pandemic times. For many, lurking behind the question is a recognition that some of the ways COVID-19 has changed us may not be for the better, and some of our struggles during this time may not simply go away because we are vaccinated and can now resume social activities. Sadly, the pandemic amplified a preexisting mental health crisis in this nation. A New York Times article by organizational psychologist Adam Grant popularized a new term: “languishing,” which describes the state of feeling aimless, joyless, and unfocused. This captures a wide continuum between flourishing and full-scale depression. Languishing can also have a deep spiritual dimension: We feel a sense of spiritual fatigue and emptiness or even feelings of abandonment and anger toward God. They can be compounded by the inability during the pandemic for most of us to experience in-person fellowship and worship.