I’ve been troubled recently by situations and events in my life, many of them clawing at the optimism I persistently hang on to and the desire I have to make a difference for good in the world.
My efforts to be a resource for hope and healing seem so miniscule compared to the war happening in Ukraine, the economic downturn that is impacting so many people, the natural disasters in Syria, Turkey, and elsewhere, and the seemingly never-ending layoffs that are occurring in the business sector across the nation.
I’ve also been reviewing The Pew Research Center’s recent findings in the last few years that reveal the younger generations are less religious than their Gen X and Baby Boomer counterparts.
In 2023, what does religion and spirituality mean to young people, and how would they describe their religious beliefs?
In short, as compared to previous generations, their belief in God or any form of a higher power or Divine/Transcendent has turned precipitously downward, with less than half of Millennials now stating they believe in God.
Couple this lack of bedrock belief in a higher power with the negative effects of the pandemic (including isolation, anxiety, and depression), and we are seeing unprecedented numbers of mental health issues facing this rising generation which I believe will have a long tail effect impacting society for decades, if not centuries, to come.
At every turn, the despair seemed to be overpowering. What can I, or any one individual, do to make a positive impact and reverse the negative momentum that seems to be happening in the world?
In my research, I came across a few initiatives that bolstered me and restored my hope in myself and humanity. Both involve spirituality. And both involve stories and storytelling.
Our shared sacred story
The Fetzer Institute is “helping build the spiritual foundation for a loving world: a world where we understand we are all part of one human family and know our lives have purpose.”
And they are undertaking a bold and audacious project that creates a common story of who we are as one global human family, connected in love, even across our differences.
In their words:
Fetzer is turning to leaders in the world’s major historic religious, spiritual, and scientific traditions to discern what we’re fondly calling a “shared sacred story”—one that honors our religious, spiritual, and scientific diversity while connecting us across these differences in love. These nine scholar-practitioner teams include Indigenous, Buddhist, Christian, Confucianist, Hindu, Interspiritual, Islamic, Jewish, and Sikh traditions. They will set out to retell their traditions’ historic stories in today’s time, integrating the contributions of modern science. By 2024, these teams will articulate a poetic interpretation of a shared sacred story for the entire human family.
This excites me.
It’s all there. And I cannot wait to contribute and see the product in 2024.
While the Fetzer Institute believes “smaller” spiritual stories are necessary and good but ultimately insufficient to position us to solve the world’s biggest problems (and thus they are pursuing the overarching single story that connects us all spiritually), Skylight looks for the moments of personal connection with the Divine and encourages everyone to share their stories of how, when, and where they connect with God and the Transcendent.
The stories below are about peace through prayer. Skylight is all about spiritual self-care and wellness, and welcomes everyone to share, no matter how “big” or “small” their story.
Check out the stories below and share yours HERE if you have interest!
“One day I went on a run to blow off steam. I was heartbroken, angry, and confused. After hitting the pavement for a while, I was physically exhausted and sat down next to some insignificant building where no one seemed to be. My heart ached and I decided to look up to the sky and tried to give away all my negative energy to God up there. I guess, in a way, I was praying – not out loud, not kneeling, and for sure not anything beautiful. But I let it all go and ended with a plea of, “Please make this better.” In my mess of a heart and in an exhausted pile on the sidewalk, I felt God. I felt heard. I felt lighter. And that peace at the end of my rope was exactly what I needed.” -Alexis
“I think the small experiences make the most difference, and that God has a talent for listening. I feel connected when I genuinely talk about my day with him. I felt connected recently when I moved to America from Denmark. In preparation, I prayed and told God I couldn’t do it alone. I shared the things I was worried about, and I felt cared for and heard. I felt peaceful, calm encouragement to pursue what I wanted to do.” -Viktor
“In middle school, I got picked on a lot, and I was having a really bad week. I got off the bus and was on the verge of tears. I felt like I needed to go pray and needed to know if God was real. I was thinking of all the things I was going to ask him—like if he knew me and what I was going through. I ran up to my room and as soon as I was on my knees, all of the answers to those questions came flooding in at once. It’s like he was hearing me as I was thinking those questions. I didn’t even need to say anything. It felt like he was hugging me and telling me everything was going to be ok. That was huge for me at that time in my life.” -Tyler
“In my adolescence, I sometimes spent the whole day reading some old love stories. Most of those novels had a bitter end. I got sad after reading the story for some days and thought love could deeply hurt lovers. Perhaps, I shouldn’t fall in love when I grow up; I should stay alone. Imagining such a future made me worried. When I shared about my fear of loneliness with my aunt, she handed me a beautiful hand-crafted mini Quran necklace and asked me to keep and wear it wherever I go. This solution worked for me. Years passed, and I say my prayers to the mini Quran when I feel lonely. Soon after prayers, I enjoy feelings of companionship from the Divine. My deep relationship with God vanished my loneliness.” -Zoreh
“Recently I was going through the lowest point I’ve been in a long time. I knelt down and asked for help and asked to be relieved of the pain I was going through. Right after I prayed, I felt like I should open to a specific part of the scriptures. As I read, I had an overwhelming feeling of peace come over me—like someone was giving me a hug. It was such a powerful feeling.” -Felicia
As I read through these experiences with prayer, my mind reflected on the hymn “Where Can I Turn for Peace?” The lyrics came to my mind reflexively, and slowed my mind and calmed my heart.
Where can I turn for peace?
Where is my solace
When other sources cease to make me whole?
When with a wounded heart, anger, or malice,
I draw myself apart,
Searching my soul?
Where, when my aching grows,
Where, when I languish,
Where, in my need to know, where can I run?
Where is the quiet hand to calm my anguish?
Who, who can understand?
He, only One.
If you are trying to find more and better ways to connect with God, try out a few of the exercises below to help you center and align yourself.