Julianne Stanz

A Space for Grace

Stanz is director of discipleship and parish life for the Diocese of Green Bay.

Portrait of Julianne Stanz

From fear, frustration and fatigue to flourishing in faith

By Julianne Stanz | Special to The Compass | March 8, 2022

A couple of weeks ago, I was blessed to be a part of some days of reflection throughout the diocese. These events always bring me great joy and I look forward to them with a great sense of optimism and hope. During these days, I often hear incredible stories of how men and women are living their faith, often in the midst of very challenging circumstances. The witness of these holy people inspires me to be a better wife and disciple. 

When the event concludes, I usually stay to talk with some of the people about their experiences and what has been going on in their lives. Recently, I started to notice some common themes, regardless of the age and background of the people — feelings of exhaustion, increased frustration, tension and a sense of floundering.  

Let’s face it, the last couple of years have not been easy ones for most of us. With the recent news of the Russian invasion of the Ukraine, the effects of the pandemic still unfolding around us and inflation increasing the costs of everything from milk to gas, it’s no wonder people feel like this is a time of hardship. We long for peace, peace in our hearts, peace in our homes and peace in our world. 

Researchers have noticed an uptick in mental health issues in the last couple of years, but also one that sometimes gets missed, called “languishing.” So what is it? Floundering or languishing is not burnout — most people will still have energy. Languishing is not depression either, but a general sense of malaise, joylessness and aimlessness. 

The term “languishing” was coined by sociologist Corey Keyes who noticed that many people who weren’t depressed also weren’t thriving or flourishing either. It is a sense of stagnation, dullness and emptiness that erodes our general sense of peace and joy. One woman whom I spoke with recently put it this way: “These days, I feel that fear, frustration and fatigue are nipping at my heels constantly. Maybe it is just the winter blahs, but this year I feel like I am floundering.”

So how can our faith help us combat the three “fs” of fear, frustration and fatigue which exacerbate feelings of floundering, especially as we move more deeply into this Lenten season? Here are three reminders from the Scriptures: 

  • Fear. The Israelites floundered for 40 years in the blistering wilderness. The disciples experienced persecution, violence and opposition. But through it all, they kept their focus on God as they encountered fear. In Matthew 8:25-27 “the disciples went and woke him, saying, “Lord, save us! We’re going to drown!” He replied,?“You of little faith,?why are you so afraid?”?Then he got up and rebuked the winds and the waves, and it was completely calm. Never underestimate the power of God who can always quiet fears just as he calmed and quieted the stormy waters swirling around the disciples.  
  • Frustration. Whether you feel joyful, optimistic and energetic right now, it is likely that you also will experience frustration, be it big or small. God knows that we will experience frustration and reminds us: “In this world you will have trouble.?But take heart! I have overcome?the world” (Jn 16:33). Lent should be a time of increased prayer, fasting and almsgiving — and taking the time to slow down will decrease our feelings of frustration and spiritual hunger.  
  • Fatigue. At times the pace of life can ground us down, leaving us tired and irritable. In the Bible, we hear over and over how God calls us to rest — to rest our minds and bodies but, most importantly, to rest our spirits in him. “He will not forget your work and the love you have shown him as you have helped his people and continue to help them” he reminds us in Hebrews 6:10.  

God does not want us to flounder, but to flourish. As we move into Lent, we look forward to evenings of abundant light as our days become longer and we look ahead to the first signs of spring. We enter a sacred time of transition and transformation — a time when fear, frustration and fatigue give way to the new light and life of Jesus Christ.  

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