ISSUES OF FAITH: Finding faith in quiet solitude

Listening to our hearts in the quiet

“FAITH SEES BEST in the dark,” said Søren Kierkegaard. In the last six months, we have heard similar words about the darkness created in our lives by this pandemic.

The forced isolation and lack of distracting busy-ness has affected us profoundly.

Suddenly, we have been thrust into a world where we have to come to grips with what is important and truly meaningful to us.

Despite the computer games, streaming abilities, television and social media, there is now much more time to just be quiet, to be silent, and that can be frightening.

We don’t always feel we have the strength to handle this silence in the dark.

For those prone to depression or anxiety, this has been a most difficult time.

Mental health experts report a huge increase in people needing help with their stress.

In relationships where issues had not been previously addressed, they suddenly loomed large and could not be ignored with partners having no real escape.

Sadly, there has been a rise in reports of domestic abuse involving both adults and children.

These are some of the tragic consequences of the pandemic with which we must grapple.

Many who regularly attended religious services which buoyed their faith, built connections with fellow congregants and provided powerful prayers and songs now have had to turn to online services.

Saying prayers and singing with others on Zoom just doesn’t feel quite the same.

Our Jewish Passover seders this year certainly couldn’t capture the joy of those we’ve always had in person, either with our families or communities.

And as we look ahead to the most important Jewish time of the year, our High Holy Days of Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur, there is sadness that we cannot gather for the ancient prayers and melodies which have kept us connected for generations.

All faith traditions teach that their spiritual leaders spent months alone in the wilderness or in solitary meditation. Buddha, Moses, Jesus and Mohammed all connected to their faith through isolation.

I would venture to say that people today who have relied more on spiritual practices that include personal meditation and not structures have fared better during these times.

We are often told that we don’t need buildings to find God. We need only go to a forest, mountain or ocean beach, or to watch a sunrise or sunset, and gaze at the galaxies in the night sky to connect with God.

Indeed, all Indigenous traditions have always seen their spirituality deeply intertwined with the natural world.

Here on the North Olympic Peninsula, we only have to step outside to immerse ourselves in that natural beauty.

This is called God’s country for good reason, and we should immerse ourselves in it often to heal our souls.

When we are feeling sorry for ourselves, we should always remember those who have suffered in the past, who had none of the distractions we have to ease loneliness.

Those lost in wars, genocides or natural disasters had their entire world taken from them in a finger snap.

Despite spending 2½ years in a 500-square-foot space with eight other adults, unable to even go outside, Anne Frank was still able to say, “At such moments I don’t think about all the misery, but about the beauty that still remains.”

So how do we hold on to our spiritual faith in these dark times?

In searching for God and meaning in our lives, we need quiet to listen to our heart.

The root of the Hebrew word for meaning is “to hear,” and we must find ways to listen — truly a gift this pandemic has given us.

We learn how little is actually in our control, and that we must learn to surrender, to let go.

A beautiful poem by Rabbi Karyn Kedar eloquently teaches this lesson.

“Surrender to the mystery of life and in doing so, open your heart to Divine wisdom.

“Surrender to that simple place of knowing where, in the softness and calm, God speaks to you

“Surrender to your desire to believe in goodness and beauty and love, for in all these are Godly waves of truth.

“To surrender is not to relinquish responsibility. Tend to what is yours, release what is God’s, learn to live with ambiguity.

“There is a force stronger than your will and ego. Have faith. Surrender.”

Be quiet, listen, then let go, and you will find a renewed connection with the Divine.

Kein yehi ratzon … may it be God’s will. Shalom.


Issues of Faith is a rotating column by five religious leaders on the North Olympic Peninsula. Suzanne DeBey is a lay leader of the Port Angeles Jewish community. Her email is [email protected]

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