In my conversations with pastors, I am hearing a common theme; emotional conflict between the joy of people returning to church and the underlying residual effects of having lived through a pandemic lockdown.
Each of us managed life and death consequences every minute of every day during the months-long crisis. While we wore masks (or not) and washed our hands and took our temperatures, we were battling an invisible enemy who could rob us of our health, kept us from seeing and hugging loved ones, hindered us from our work, scattered our churches and ruled the daily consciousness of our families. The human psyche wears down under such unrelenting and long-term stress.
We are, collectively, experiencing new emotions as we rebuild our lives. Some, who are passionate and energetic under normal circumstances, find themselves without motivation. An underlying sense of grief and loss, detachment, loss of meaning and purpose may be accompanied by a sense of betrayal caused by the disagreements among friends and family about whether the disease was overhyped or not. Pastors have seen good friends leave the church over COVID, and the loss of friendship is a major factor in creating a sense of depression.
What you are feeling is the psychological aftereffects of a world-wide pandemic that wreaked havoc on the basic foundations of our relationships. Together, we will work through this dysphoria, but we must intentionally connect with one another and encourage one another (Hebrews 10:25) through the process of healing. Nearly every article Google displays on the psychological aftermath of COVID-19 agrees on one thing: we will be experiencing these recovering emotions for a long time, maybe years. It is not unusual to occasionally feel like quitting in normal times of ministry; this time of post-traumatic stress magnifies those feelings and makes them seem justifiable. Draw close to God and let Him give you the spiritual answers you need – and invest in sympathetic pastoral friendships.
Dr. Lynn Hardaway