Over the past year, Grace Farms Foundation’s Faith Initiative has hosted more than 80 members of the U.S. Army Chaplains Corps. In their work, the chaplains help soldiers wrestle with the most important questions of life—questions that our Faith Initiative also explores, like “What makes life most worth living?”
As the COVID-19 crisis became apparent, I reached out to the U.S. Army Chaplains for insight into how we can better equip ourselves to cope with the struggles of our present moment. In my conversation with Chaplain Thomas Solhjem, the Chief of Chaplains for the U.S. Army, we discussed how to deal with what some have described as a war, how love can sustain us in difficult times, and how this pandemic could change us for the better.
Please note that the perspectives presented herein by Chaplain (Major General) Solhjem are the personal opinions of Chaplain Solhjem, not policy statements of the Department of the Army or the Department of Defense.
Are we at war right now?
Time and again, we have heard the crisis posed by COVID-19 referred to as a war against the virus. Having experienced war first-hand, I asked Chaplain Solhjem whether this was an apt comparison. And if this is war, how do we cultivate the courage that we need to weather dangers that we can’t control?
“In this in this moment, in this pandemic, we’re suddenly confronted with precisely a danger that we can’t control. And we need to activate courage that maybe many of us haven’t cultivated…it is going to cause us to have to dig deep.”
“Love is the Power that Sustains Us”
As our conversation continued, I asked Chaplain Solhjem to share with us some inspiring moments from his career. He shared a few incredible stories that all spoke to the fact that in times of crisis, there are pervasive opportunities to act for the sake of our collective well-being–sacrificial acts of love.
“… love for our family, even though we’re separated, even though we’re restrained or constrained. Love is a powerful thing.”
What Does Life Look Like After This?
As our conversation concluded, Chaplain Solhjem asked to offer one final story and one final piece of wisdom–one of post-traumatic growth and how we can emerge better for having lived through this unprecedented time.
“But at the end of the day, this pandemic will end. And then what I would offer is, is what we’ve been able to gain through the struggle, can make us better, stronger.”
Life during the COVID-19 pandemic has changed in various ways. Many of us around the world are experiencing isolation, uncertainty, fear—the sorts of things that the Army chaplaincy has been helping soldiers deal with for many, many years. My hope is that our world can emerge from this better and stronger—embracing the type of post-traumatic growth that Chaplain Solhjem described to me.