During a recent international prayer call attended by colleagues from several nations, the pandemic and its implications were discussed and prayed into. As we went from nation to nation, time and time again the subject of mental health came to the fore.
We shared together that it was not just certain people groups or certain age groups suffering in this way, but children, the young and not so young, those right across the social strata, across racial divides, rich and marginalised who were experiencing sustained mental pressure through isolation, loneliness, relational breakdown, fear of the future and many other issues.
As I listened to these reports coming from nation after nation, I began, in a small measure, to understand that the issues and challenges of mental health coming out of the Covid pandemic, could pose a greater threat to people’ s lives and wellbeing than the pandemic itself.
May I say at the outset that I have no expertise in this subject, I simply write in the capacity of a Christion leader, having been involved for much of my working life leading charities involved in mission, support for families and marginalised individuals facing some of the challenges modern society throws at them. In recent years and to the present time I am involved in the ministry of World Prayer Centre which brought me to be on an international prayer call.
As somebody with a fairly vivid mind and imagination I start by asking, what is the mind and what is the role of the mind? I often say to someone, “What’ s on your mind”? “Have you made up your mind?” “Why did you change your mind?”
The dictionary definition of the mind is that which thinks, perceives, feels, remembers, reasons etc. The mind helps us to make decisions and to give instruction. The mind helps us to be at peace or in a state of anxiety. The mind can help us to be content with what we have got or worry about what we haven’ t got. The mind helps us assimilate truth and lies, the mind tells us we are loved, accepted, forgiven, it also tells us we are not loved, we are rejected not forgiven and a failure.
In the issues and challenges that mental health is bringing to our nation and the nations, I ask, apart from external issues, what part does anxiety, worry, lies, shame, fear for the future, rejection, lack of forgiveness etc. play?
The question then has to be asked, how can we prevent these negative influences controlling our lives, keeping us from peace of mind, contentment, love acceptance and forgiveness.
In endeavouring to help face some of these issues I come back to the truths in the Bible as exemplified by the Son of God, Christ Jesus. I know that we are living in an increasing secular society, I know that the church gets things wrong at times, I know that we as Christians don’ t always live up to the standards we talk and preach about. However, having said all that, we come back to the eternal truth that Christ Jesus, the Son of God, lived on earth demonstrating His Father’ s Kingdom, was crucified for our sins, rose from death, ascended to the Father, so that all of us, whatever our status or place in society could know we are loved, we can be accepted and forgiven all our sins, and pray with true assurance and meaning, “Our Father who art in heaven.”
When Jesus was on earth, before He healed anybody, before He fed anybody, before He ministered to anybody, as He was being baptised, His Father spoke from heaven saying “You are my Son, whom I love, with You I am well pleased.” He was accepted for who He was, not for what He had done.
I wonder how many issues related to mental illness could be resolved if children and young people today knew they were loved by their dad? How many issues would be resolved if people knew their guilt and shame had been forgiven? How many issues would be resolved if people stopped striving for acceptance? How many issues would be resolved if people stopped using drugs or alcohol, striving to please, or the acquiring of ‘things’ to find some kind of fulfilment or peace of mind? How many mental health issues would be resolved if people worked for companies that put people before profit?
To help us all today, whether a Christian or someone searching for truth, I go back to the Holy Spirit inspired Word of God. An old prophet in the Bible called Isaiah wrote, “You (God) will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you. Trust in the Lord for ever for the Lord, the Lord Himself, is the rock eternal.” (Isaiah 26 v 3-4).
Saint Paul wrote, “Do not be anxious about anything but in every situation by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving make your requests to God. And the peace of God which transcends all understanding will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4 v 6-7)
Jesus told a parable (story) about two men who built houses. We assume they were fairly similar except that one was built on rock and one was built on sand. Both were fine until the storm came. Jesus said, that the people who followed Him, believed what He said and did what He said, would, like the house on the rock, stand when the storm came. Today all of us are facing many storms both in the natural and the physical and storms of whatever nature create fear, anxiety, uncertainty and insecurity.
As we stated at the beginning of this article, millions are facing the storms of the global pandemic, climate change, political and financial uncertainties that batter against our houses. All these together with the challenges facing our children and their children are affecting the mental health and wellbeing of millions of people around the world.
So a prayer for today:
Father God, today as we face the storms that at times would overwhelm us all, we want to know that we are loved, accepted and forgiven, to really know that truth and the peace of mind it gives us. We therefore turn to you repenting of our sin and unbelief and confess the shame, guilt and fear that we have allowed to control our minds and imaginations.
Father God, we choose to live today and every day with renewed minds, in the knowledge of who You are, Your love for us, in the power and strength that comes from Your Holy Spirit. Through and in the name of Christ Jesus your Son. Amen.
Ian Cole is the founder of the World Prayer Centre.