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Living Well Trust’s youth and families programmes director Michael Wilkes. Photo: KELLEY TANTAU

Finding light in the darkness

As we approach Easter for most of us, we are making plans for the long weekend and looking forward to the much-needed break after hitting the ground running. I have plans for family to visit and our annual easter egg hunt for the kids is in preparation.
Yet as the season draws near, I thought it would be fitting also to consider the person that the season was first centred around and explore a hard but really valuable learning that we could take from the journey to Easter. Because for some of the people I work with, the season they are in right now is hard and their mind is no friend.
And maybe for yourself, or someone you know, it feels as if you’re in the wilderness thirsting and hoping just to make it to the other side.
If you are in that place right now and things feel desperate, please reach out for help. Find someone to talk to. Because there is hope. You have overcome every other wilderness season in your life before this one.
You have always come out of it in the past, so let’s have hope and believe that this time will be the same. Its ok to ask for help, we all need each other.
And no one feels like a hero in the wilderness, and this is a journey which I too must learn to accept.
After having just walked through his own mental breakdown, Anglican priest Harry Williams observed, “In Gethsemane (before the cross) Jesus was left entirely alone with his panic and horror. For Jesus there was no escape. But there was victory… The victory consisted precisely in not running away, in not trying to escape. It meant squarely facing the enemies inside – the doubts, the despair, the perplexity, the panic, the isolation… Jesus did not hide under a cloak of illusion, pretending to himself that things were better than they were”.

In our work in schools, we teach a therapeutic model called DNA-V (google it to find out more, its pretty helpful). And one key point is to notice the hard thoughts. We don’t need to fight them or run from them. Acknowledge the hard thoughts, but don’t sit in them.
The thoughts are there, but the thoughts are not you. You can pause, breathe deep and learn to notice the beauty around you for a moment. You can notice and acknowledge the hard thoughts and choose to remember what’s important to you and lean towards those things.
That was the moment in the garden. Jesus acknowledged his fear and pain but also moved towards his purpose. Every year I have a season or two where the dark clouds gather. I feel down and like a loser. But I know its just feelings and thoughts. I know they are not true.
And so, I acknowledge those feelings, I share them with my wife, and I keep doing the things that are important to me. Because I know that the feelings are normal and that the season will pass. So please if you are in that dark season now, share the struggle with someone and lean into the things that have value in your life, lean into the things that give your life purpose.
– Michael Wilkes is a Living Well Trust Youth Worker