Your mental health—now more than ever

The phrase “mental health” doesn’t come up in the Bible. But that doesn’t mean God isn’t interested in our mental health. God clearly loves and cares about us, and that obviously includes our minds.

According to the Canadian Mental Health Association, mental illness affects people of all ages and backgrounds. Suicide accounts for 24% of all deaths for 15-24 year olds. And by age forty, about 50% of people in my country will have or have had a mental illness.

And that was before COVID-19.

The Bible is full of stories about people who struggled. Job, David and Paul come to mind. Psalm 88 (NIV) ends like this: “You have taken from me friend and neighbor—darkness is my closest friend” (verse 18). When you think darkness is your closest friend you are definitely going through something bad!

My gut tells me that, in the midst of COVID-19, most people are experiencing more mental strain than they’re used to, or perhaps more than they think they are.

Physical distancing limits many of our usual activities and the interaction we have with others—things which can be a consistent source of encouragement or joy. We may also be somewhat limited in the amount of professional help we can easily access.

Symptoms might be materializing now. Some won’t show up until later. It’s hard to be sure. Some people are saying that they feel “different,” but aren’t sure what it is—but it’s not good. I’m just speculating here, but we may be standing on the threshold of a mental health epidemic of epic proportions.

What is clear is that you need to be proactive (not just reactive) about your mental health.

I’m not a psychotherapist; I’m a pastor. And from my vantage point here are a few things you can do to be proactive:

  • Limit non-stop news (you can’t mentally sustain panic-mode indefinitely)
  • Get a decent amount of rest
  • Get your body moving
  • Be mindful of your diet (I’ve been snacking a lot, so I need to work on this one!)
  • Adopt a realistic approach to social media (not only when it comes to usage, but also about the ‘realistic-ness’ of what you’re seeing)
  • Reach out to trusted friends and lean on each other
  • Cut yourself some slack (we’re going through a global pandemic for goodness sake; stop beating yourself up for not “having it all together”)

Most of all we need to fix our eyes on Jesus like never before.

The basics like prayer, Bible-reading, worship and simple acts of service are huge. Recently I listened to an interview with a mathematician and philosopher named John Lennox. He said that “the world can give us medicine, but only God can give us peace.” This is a peace that is real, deep and enduring. And it is something we get specifically through knowing Jesus. He is:

  • The “Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6)
  • Our peace with God (Colossians 1:20; Ephesians 2:14; John 14:6)
  • The one whose peace surpasses all understanding (Philippians 4:7)
  • The one whose peace is different from anything else and which combats fear (John 14:27)
  • The one who can rule in our hearts with peace (Colossians 3:15-16)

He is also our rest (Matthew 11:28), hope (1 Timothy 1:1), and rescue (John 3:16).

Let’s be honest. No one really knows how this is all going to wash out. Things could return to something like “normal” fairly soon, or we could be in this boat for a lot longer.

That’s why we need to be proactive (not just reactive) about our mental health.

I’ve talked to many people who have—for whatever reason, at some point in their lives—come to the stark conclusion that they weren’t “fine.” Something I’ve noticed is that people tend to be “fine” until they aren’t fine. And when you start to not be fine, darkness can quickly ripple through your life.

There’s nothing wrong with you if you’re struggling. It’s not because you’re weak, unfaithful or faulty. It’s because you’re a human being and things are seriously messed up.

So be proactive:

  • Limit non-stop news
  • Get a decent amount of rest
  • Get your body moving
  • Be mindful of your diet
  • Adopt a realistic approach to social media
  • Reach out to trusted friends and lean on each other
  • Cut yourself some slack
  • And fix your eyes on Jesus—our source of peace, rest, hope and rescue.

Writer Max Lucado says that God “wants not only your whole heart; he wants your heart whole.”

For him, for the people you care about, and for you.

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