How does a young adult in 2020 learn to cope with the stress and anxiety of the world? How do they resolve the unease they experience, and instead live in the promise of peace and joy found in Jesus? Rebecca Hoverd shares her learnings from a course designed specifically for this purpose.
I recently read some comments that said our heavy and constant use of the internet leaves us aware of many problems in the world but with almost no way to solve them. Additionally, the overwhelming amount of content that we have instant access to leaves us with input overload and endless distractions. It is conditions like these that sometimes leave me thinking there’s no wonder we have such an increasing prevalence of anxiety amongst our young people in New Zealand.
Many of my friends, both those who follow Jesus and those who don’t, are passionate about working for justice. We want to right past social wrongs and fight for equitable practices. The problems of our world tug on our heartstrings but we can’t fix everything. We are left feeling confused about our own privilege, anxious about what we can do to help, and perhaps unsure of where Jesus is in this.
Enter Soul Tour
Over one weekend in February 2020, I got to do a Soul Tour Team Builder course, along with the leaders in our youth ministry at Windsor Park Baptist Church. Basically, Soul Tour is a course for young adults to grow in their faith and work on some of their core beliefs in a group setting.
The course presenters, Matt and Belinda Stott, have backgrounds in theology and counselling, respectively. Combining a thorough but easy-to-understand curriculum with real-life examples, they talked us through several concepts and topics. These included how we accept responsibility for our lives, core assumptions we have about ourselves, and unbearable feelings and core emotional needs.
Personally speaking, I was a bit unsure and nervous about doing Soul Tour. I already had an idea of a few things I wanted to work on in myself. I didn’t know how emotionally deep the content would be. The idea of being as vulnerable as I had imagined in front of 50 or so young adults from my community did scare me a little. But working on ourselves is important and if something might help me be a better person, then why not? In the end, I found the course topics to be hugely relevant in my life and as I serve at church, in study, and in my relationships with God, my boyfriend, friends and family.
Theory vs reality
Early on in our course, Matt Stott commented that the curriculum is not based on what works in theory, as if we were rational people to whom the theory should ‘theoretically’ apply. Playing on a Dr Phil-esque quote—“How’s that working for you?”—Matt said theories on how to improve our thoughts, emotions and behaviour are wonderful hypothetically, but unfortunately they don’t really work in effecting real change in people’s lives.
I understood and agreed with that sentiment. While at times I had a few thoughts such as “But shouldn’t we deal with that first?” or “Shouldn’t the person I have a conflict with instead fix this thing?”, I realised that in reality we are imperfect people and what sounds good in theory often doesn’t play out in reality.
As young adults, many of us have been through significant things already, with diverse experiences that have formed us into equally diverse adults. It’s far more realistic (and biblical!) to see that the world isn’t perfect, and that the people who live here are just as layered and complex as we each are.
During the course, I was encouraged by the fact that there was no expectation that we would be transformed into people with no problems and an impeccable ability to handle anything life throws at us. Instead the idea was shared, and embodied by Matt and Belinda themselves, that we could be a little bit more content in life, and equipped to better understand and process the good and bad, and the small and large things that happen in life.
I learnt how to unpack some of the lies the world tells us about our identity and how to live with a bit less stress. For example, I don’t need to find my identity in what other people think of me, or my individual success and achievements, or put pressure on myself to always measure up to what society deems as right. Instead, I can enjoy doing things for my personal enjoyment, and ultimately find my self-worth and identity in Jesus. I saw I could gain the sort of contentment that I see in the people I love who really know and trust Jesus. I know I want and need that, and I know my young adult community wants and needs that too.
Emotions not always trustworthy
What I also enjoyed learning is that while I like to think I can be thoughtful, considered and sometimes logical, I know my emotional reactions to what I perceive as injustice can overwhelm me. The world sometimes puts out this idea that we can trust our emotions, that our feelings are justified and reliable, and, ultimately, an authority to dictate our behaviour. However, trusting our feelings without question can be hugely problematic.
I found that Soul Tour helped me to question what is happening below the emotions. What thoughts do I have that result in these emotions? What beliefs or assumptions, further down at a subconscious level, have I perhaps misguidedly bought into and which cause these not so helpful thoughts? A way to unpack these emotions can be to consider what you are telling yourself: is your emotion based on the truth or what someone else has said? Subconsciously, are you believing your worth comes from other people and so letting their opinions fuel your thoughts and emotions?
Jesus, our hope and our guide
It’s not a secret we live in a flawed and broken world. We read about it in our Bibles and we see it out our own windows. As a young adult who follows Jesus in today’s world, I know I am not the only one who wants to do something to make this world a more just and equitable place.
That ambition, along with the pressure and expectations we place on ourselves to perform the way we think the world expects us to, certainly causes stress and anxiety. Learning to unpack the lies you may believe about yourself, or learning how to process the grief you experience as we navigate this crazy world may help you find freedom and enjoy life to the fullest, as Jesus promised. Remember, he told us we would encounter trials in this world but to take heart, for he has overcome the world.
Contributor: Rebecca Hoverd
Rebecca is a young Aucklander who studies law, loves coffee and enjoys writing as a way to process her thoughts and ideas. She is a member of Windsor Park Baptist Church, where she serves in the youth ministry and helps to run a community blog called Rhythm.
Sour Tour at a glance
- Soul Tour is a six-day course for young adults, focusing on personal development in a holistic approach. The aim is to help participants gain skills to better understand their own mind, emotions and behaviour.
- The curriculum is adapted from David Riddell’s Life and Counselling Skills course, drawing upon Christian-friendly understandings from various disciplines including psychology, philosophy, counselling and theology.
- Soul Tour has also been adapted into a 12-topic Team Builder course option for churches and organisations, which usually takes place over a weekend.
See soultour.co.nz for more information.