This piece was originally submitted to the Golden Thread Contest, a literary competition launched to honour writers 35 and under on the occasion of Canada’s Sesquicentennial anniversary. The stories collected during this initiative continue to exist as a part of the Voice From the Crowd collection, an online space that gives voice to the countless stories of faith that enrich the Canadian landscape.
My faith and faith community are my point of departure when it comes to making sense of all of the chaos, joy, adversity, and confusion that often colour everyday life. While conducting a research project for my Master of Arts degree, I began to develop an acute sensitivity to the important role of faith in helping both individuals and communities move out of chaos and adversity and towards a sense of coherence and hopefulness.
My project explored how Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) families withstand all the stresses associated with integrating into civilian communities after leaving military employment. In addition to all the stresses associated with entering into a new culture and community, these families all felt the impact of an operational stress injury. These injuries can be understood as persistent health difficulties connected to military service, such as post-traumatic stress disorder or a muscular-skeletal injury.
The participating women offered intense, and at times even traumatic, accounts of hardship that often kept me up at night. In the face of these experiences of hardship, they exuded an emotional strength and a commitment to the wellbeing of those around them. Even after I would call it quits for the day, their stories of stress and strength often lingered with me. If my project were a math equation, the findings wouldn’t add up. The strength exuded by the participants in light of their circumstances did not match their levels of social support and resources.
While defending my thesis, an audience member stumped me with the question of how I made sense of the participants’ emotional strength in light of their accounts of hardship. Like any good student, I quickly retraced my steps through all the research underlying the project and brilliantly came up with “I am still working through that”. My only answer to this conundrum now would be that their strength, their ability to hold on to hope, courage, forgiveness, and see the good in others, rests in God’s goodness and faithfulness even when not recognized in daily life or captured in scholarly literature.