When I initially signed up to write this column for The Tartan, I was thinking ahead to the end of the school year. I was imagining topics centered around transition, rest, change, graduation, even vacation. Instead I am left with writing about uncertainty, fear, restlessness, anger, confusion, and isolation. I did not know how I was going to write something both honest and positive about all of this; I was not sure I even wanted to try. 

These have been strange and trying times for all of us in different ways. One thing I am fortunate in is that I have chosen over the past couple years to engage with social media content that is aimed at prioritizing mental health and wellness, and those accounts have been sending out daily reminders that it is okay to feel whatever you are feeling about this time, and also to remember that no feeling is final. I find that my emotions and mental health has been fluctuating much more often, with melancholy and loneliness often quickly overtaking the moments of joy, and often a heavy numbness setting in over everything else. 

I say this because I want to be positive and encourage others, but I also want to be honest about my struggles. Sometimes presenting a façade of cheerfulness hides a darker reality; although unintentional, hiding any trace of a troubled heart can cause others to feel unable to open up about their own struggles. This can especially be true in church set- tings, where some of us may have been admonished to “be joyful always” and not complain in the face of the many blessings we’ve been given. However, the scriptures also devote time to stories of people grieving freely and honestly (including Jesus). There is an entire book called “Lamentations,” and many of the Psalms are laments as well. 

When declaring his mission to his community, Jesus said of himself that he would be “close to the brokenhearted.” He didn’t say He would instantly make everything better, or that those feelings would evaporate magically. He said He’d be with us. And He is with us. He is with us when we reach out to one another from our phones and laptops; when we write each other encouraging messages; when we share jokes and memes and pictures of children and pets that lift our hearts for a moment; when we pray for each other; when we gather virtually to protect each other, even though we long to be together in person. 

In these confusing times, let us remember that He is with us, and we are with each other, though we are apart—in the moments of joy, and in the moments of grief.
He is there; He is here. 

Strange Times by Jessica Richards