Kamal Abu-Shamsieh is the Director of Interreligious Chaplaincy Program at the GTU and lecturer in Practical Theology.
Spiritual Care, Resilience, and Community
The coronavirus pandemic is the most difficult challenge we have faced in the 21st century. The unprecedented closure of educational institutions, businesses, borders, and houses of worship has a direct impact on our quality of life. We have been asked to stay home, to avoid hugging or shaking hands, and to maintain a spatial distance. The shutdown impacts our souls and spirits. It’s common to feel anxious, stressed, confused, and bereaved. At a time like this, how is it even possible to care for our physical, mental, emotional, spiritual, occupational, environmental, and social well-being?
"We can find strength in remembering that we are connected and interdependent."
These days require resilience, the ability to sustain our purpose and our sense of self and direction. Despite the need to maintain physical distance, we can find strength in remembering that we are connected and interdependent. We can offer one another words of hope, maintain relationships, express our emotions, and empower ourselves by drawing on the resources available for support. We can sustain our spiritual well-being by going out into nature or practicing art. We can meditate, pray, write letters, breathe, and laugh. We can read and ruminate on holy writings that promote healing, hope, comfort, and safety. We can practice rituals, sing, and chant. We can maintain silence and stillness. We can check in on loved ones.
Here are some additional suggestions for sustaining our resilience:
Develop a Positive Mindset: At times of crisis, I refer back to the foundation of my faith. The Quran assures me that whatever will happen is already decreed by God. This is a time to reaffirm trust in God, and our belief in God’s goodness. At the same time, the coronavirus pandemic reminds us of our vulnerability. In order to maintain positive thoughts and patience when faced with loss of physical wellbeing and loss of life, we must keep hope alive by reflecting on what inspires us as we move through this difficulty.
Flexibility and Perseverance: Resilience is strengthened through perseverance at times of hardship. Reflect on what your faith tradition teaches about ways to ease difficulty. When houses of worship are closed, the break in our usual practices can invite us to rethink the meaning of rituals, how we pray, or even what we ask in prayers, even as we adjust our lifestyles and worship practices to ensure the common good.
Control and Community: This pandemic reminds us we are not in control. Coronavirus has disrupted our lives in ways we’ve never experienced before. Although we cannot control the pandemic, we do have control over our responses. The Prophet Muhammad, PBUH, teaches that none will experience the depth of faith until they wish for others what they want for themselves. This is a time for building community, for caring for one another and responding to the needs around us. Let us remember that even maintaining physical distance from one another, though it may feel isolating, is an effort to care for one another.
Seek Help and Mentorship: In chaplaincy circles, we believe every chaplain needs a chaplain. In these difficult days, seek out supportive mentors and wisdom that is in line with your system of belief and morality. This is a time to reach inward and outward, to check our own support systems and to deploy resources to help others.
Spiritual resilience leads to satisfaction, nourishment, and fulfillment. Building our spiritual health and resilience can enable us to encounter difficulties more effectively. Even in these difficult times, remember that you are not alone! Smile. (Smiling is a form of charity in Islam.) Let us be joyful, and seek to lighten the pain of others, even as we pray that Divine healing will be upon us all, and our world.