Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more…See, the home of God is among mortals.. God will wipe every tear from their eyes. Death will be no more; mourning and crying and pain will be no more. Rev. 21:1-4
Neuroscience researcher and writer Dr. Wendy Suzuki, in her book Good Anxiety, states that “we are living in the age of anxiety, a situation that makes us feel as if we are locked into an endless cycle of stress, sleeplessness, and worry, and in urgent need to fortify our wellbeing and imagination because anxiety has become a fact of life in the planet.” Our individual as well as our collective experience of the pandemic that we are still in, the state of our country’s soul, the economy, the war, the massive shootings that took place last weekend in Buffalo and California, have all deepened the impact on our mental health. Most of us if not all, have experienced or experience more frequently now anxiety, stress, insomnia, panic attacks, deep grief, trauma, despair, and hopelessness.
We may find ourselves in a constant longing for the world as it is now to pass, a longing to have the capacity like the writer of Revelation, to assure the passing of this world as it is now and see a clear vision of a new world where crying, pain, and death are no more, a world where the thirst of our fear, our grief, our longings have found the healing waters life again.
How do we connect with and use our divine-given imagination and individual and collective power for healing and transformation in times like these? I find comfort remembering how Jesus journeyed through his own mental health challenges. When he knew his death was imminent, before being crucified, he experienced isolation and loneliness; he experienced in his body and spirit sadness, fear, anxiety, deep mental anguish, and he did not hide his feelings and needs but asked for help from God in prayer and also from his community, from his disciples. And later after Jesus’ resurrection, through Mary Magdalene we learned how Jesus meets us in the liminal spaces between despair and hope, how God meets us at the tomb of our loneliness, our grief, when we are unable to see possibilities and imagine a future with hope.
When John wrote about this vision of new heavens and earth, it was in the midst of a very challenging context when his community was experiencing deep loss, grief, and hopelessness. In the midst of their deep suffering John reminds his community that God is always at work creating with us and through us a world that replaces those conditions of isolation, stigma, crying, and suffering alone, so that everyone can have access to healing in a variety of ways, through mental health care, through supportive communities rooted in love and compassion. Yes, it is ok to need and to have Jesus and a therapist and meds, you can have Jesus and a supportive community.
When John talks about seeing a new heaven for the first heaven and earth and the sea are no more, he is bringing back to his community’s memory a familiar image of creation, where out of the chaos, God separated the waters and called a new world into being. He is reminding a suffering people longing for healing, when you feel like you feel now, like your world is ending, remember who God is. God is among mortals, God dwells with us and will wipe every tear from your eyes, death will be no more. When you experience and feel like you have reached your capacity and feel overwhelmed like your world is ending, remember that God is the Alpha and the Omega the beginning and the end. Remember that God is always making all things new and offers you the water of life that like the primal waters of creation is filled with possibilities.
When we work together to assure that here and everywhere, everyone who has ever experienced stress, loss, loneliness, grief, panic, anxiety, trauma or any mental health condition, whether because of genetics, life, systemic oppression, or stigma – When we work together with God to assure that everyone everywhere can have the healing they need – God is wiping away our tears. Together with God we make the vision of a new world become a reality in the here and now.
Rev. Nancy Rosas
Rev. Nancy Rosas (she/her/hers) is the Pastor of Pilgrim-St. Luke’s United Church of Christ, a WISE (Welcoming, Inclusive, Supportive and Engaged) for mental health spiritual community in Buffalo, NY. She encourages and nurtures her sense of joy and resilience through the practices of yoga and meditation, photography, gardening, writing, and being outdoors on a regular basis.