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Ukraine: A Time to Test Our Faith and the Power of Prayer

In these anxious times, share with us how you are coping.

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Has the Russian invasion of Ukraine caused you anxiety and worry? You’re not alone.

My first attempt to start this blog was interrupted by Gracie, who was asleep outside my office door and having a bad dream, which required me to gently awaken her and assure her that everything was all right. She blinked away whatever images were troubling her, yawned and accepted a treat from my pocket, her tail thumping gratefully. She was glad that whatever it was, it was only a bad dream. Also the treat.

Of all the dogs we’ve had, Gracie is the one who dreams the most actively and frequently. Usually, she yips and growls. Sometimes her legs twitch, as if she is running down a deer or catching a weasel. But lately she’s been crying and whimpering in her sleep. She’s having anxiety dreams. About what, I can only guess. And I’ve been having them too. 

In one form or another I suspect many of us are having anxiety dreams about the dreadful, devastating situation in Ukraine. Not that my dreams are actually about the war. In fact, I rarely understand my dreams lately. I just wake up feeling unsettled and anxious, as fleeting, fragmentary dream images elude conscious recollection, like a mirror shattering into a thousand pieces and disappearing altogether. As I said, I sense I’m not the only one struggling with this.

The Star Wars movie character Ben Obi-Wan Kenobi says in one of his most famous lines, “I feel a great disturbance in the Force.” The Force, of course, is an energy field that connects all living things in the fictional Star Wars universe. Yet could the same be said about a spiritual force in our own world that links all praying and believing people? A force for goodness and compassion that we share as caring human beings. Could the fabric of that caring force be torn by the atrocities committed in this ugly, illegitimate war? Is that the disturbance I am feeling as it seeps into my sleep? That the world is in free fall? And let’s not let slip from our mind the misery brought down on the people of Yemen in a far corner of the world few of us give much thought to or even realize a war is raging and children are starving and dying.

Human suffering caused by indiscriminate violence visited on innocent people is an insult to our collective conscience. That’s why I think so many of us are feeling anxious and helpless, why I’m waking up in a spiritual cold sweat. I despair that anything can be done to save the people who are under attack. My emotions wheel from hope to anger to empathy to despair. 

Prayer, we believe, is our greatest weapon in the battle against evil and in the quest for peace and justice. Yet there are moments when my faith falters, and I think prayer alone is not enough. For the first time since I was a kid the specter of nuclear war has risen. We thought this threat to civilization had disappeared with the fall of the Soviet Union. Suddenly it’s a reality. 

Perhaps worst of all are the refugees, mothers and their children fleeing for their lives, more than two million of them with nothing more than the clothes on their backs, whatever they could stuff in a backpack and most with no definite destination other than to run from death. There is no escaping the images being broadcast to the world across every platform. We must help these people. (I have a friend who is dealing with her anxiousness by making donations to relief organizations. This is not a bad strategy. She says it makes her feel like she is helping in whatever small way to relieve the suffering of others.)  

All of this no doubt accounts for this angst that creeps through my day. Maybe this is a purifying spiritual moment, a test of faith and my belief in prayer. My mother had a suncatcher that said Prayer Changes Things. We need it to change things. 

I feel bad for Gracie. She certainly doesn’t know about war and the immeasurable cruelty human beings are capable of inflicting or the unthinkable prospect of a third—and likely terminal—world war. But I believe on some level she is picking up on this pervasive, collective fear, this disturbance in the force, and it’s influencing her dreams. She is uniquely attuned to my emotions. I want her to go back to chasing deer.  

Let me know: Are you struggling with anxiety and how are you dealing with it? And please keep praying. I may sometimes doubt my own prayers but never yours.

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