What in the world is happening?

Such is the question asked more and more frequently of me. Just when we thought we were close to getting our feet under us as we recovered from COVID-19, we’re faced with even more changes and challenges.

Instead of finally waning away, COVID 2.0 has emerged with the name “Delta.” And I shudder to think that scientists are now raising concerns for more variants after this one.

In addition, we are experiencing an end of involvement in Afghanistan after nearly 20 years. But instead of a joyful event, the resultant assumption of power by the Taliban seems ominous and foreboding.

Closer to home, hurricanes, floods and fire add to the sense that everything is changing – for the worse. And this month is the 20th year since 9/11, with all its implications that many of us still remember so vividly.

At a time when we need to be able to talk honestly and openly with others, we find that the divisions that separate us are so great that no meaningful dialogue is possible. Instead, the number of videos showing people acting out to the limits of civility – and beyond – increase daily.

I don’t pretend to understand all this or have simple answers to the anxiety, fear and despair that so many are feeling. What does seem to be at the core of our search for some relief are the answers to four rather existential questions of life: Am I safe? Do I belong? Am I worthy? Am I valued?

Many people will answer these short questions by listing specific people in their lives, often close to them, to back up their response of “yes.” And for some people, this will be sufficient – for a while.

But when governments, institutions, friends, family and even life partners don’t adequately or reliably meet expectations, anxiety, fear and despair result once again.

For people of faith, it is the belief in a higher power, one who can provide a sense of security, belonging, worth and value, that provides the strength and motivation to keep on even in the darkest of situations and time.

This connection with a higher power can, perhaps, be done individually. Still, the history of humanity points to the benefits of being in community with others who are also seeking and searching.

Traveling along with others along this journey through life, seeking a more holistic understanding of our position in all creation and the nature of the One who created it all is key to not becoming overwhelmed by all that is happening.

For me, it means being part of a church is key. Church offers me a life connected to God and connected to one another as the most meaningful life there is – even when the world seems to be changing so quickly.

You might have other names and practices, but I trust you will seek to find your group. There are likely more challenging times ahead.

Pete Berntson is the pastor of Church of the Palms United Methodist Church in Okatie.