“Casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you” (1 Peter 5:7).
Adele Laurie Blue Adkins is one of the most popular and acclaimed singers on the planet. She has sold more than 120 million records, won fifteen Grammy Awards, and has been named Artist of the Year by Billboard three times. Time magazine has twice named her one of the most influential people in the world.
And yet, when Adele and her husband Simon Konecki were recently going through a divorce, she says, “My anxiety was so terrible, I’d forget what I had or hadn’t said to [her son] about separating.” At one point, she told a radio interviewer, “I was having an anxiety attack and I called my best friend to try to talk to her to calm me down, but she didn’t b—— answer.”
The voicemail of that call is on her new album, to be released November 19. She says the album, titled 30, focuses on the drama of her personal life: “I feel like this album is self-destruction, then self-reflection, and then sort of self-redemption.”
The most common mental illness in America
Harvard University reported last February that “the global pandemic has deepened an epidemic of loneliness in America.”
The National Institute of Mental Health estimates that 31 percent of US adults experience an anxiety disorder at some time in their lives. Anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in America, affecting forty million adults ages eighteen and older in any given year.
Before I proceed, let me make this clear: if you are dealing with depression or another mental health challenge, I urge you to get help. Psychologists, psychiatrists, and other counselors can be as vital to our emotional and mental health as physicians are to our physical health. I am not a trained counselor and do not intend in this article to replace their vital and valuable expertise.
Rather, I’d like to focus on a biblical component in mental health that our secular culture often overlooks.
The health benefits of attending religious services
Research shows that attending religious services provide a wide range of health benefits:
- Medical workers who said they attended religious services frequently were 29 percent less likely to become depressed, 50 percent less likely to divorce, and five times less likely to commit suicide than those who never attended.
- Regular service attendance helps shield children from depression, substance abuse, and premature sexual activity.
- People who attended church as children are more likely to grow up happy, to be forgiving, to have a sense of mission and purpose, and to volunteer.
- “Deaths of despair” (deaths by suicide, drug overdose, or alcohol) are reduced 68 percent for women and 33 percent for men who regularly attend religious services.
One reason is that connecting with the God who made us connects us with the “abundant” life his Son came to give us (John 10:10). As Tim Keller notes in Reason for God, Jesus’ miracles did not suspend the natural order—they returned to it. They reversed the Fall by producing in miniature a kingdom of justice and equality without blindness, sickness, darkness, or death.
However, to experience the abundance our Lord offers, we must be connected to its source.
“And saw the signs that he did”
Luke’s Gospel portrays Jesus praying to his Father at his baptism (3:21–22), in private (4:42; 5:16; 6:12; 9:18), before choosing his disciples (6:12–16), at his transfiguration (9:28–36), and in Gethsemane (22:39–46). He was transparently honest about his need for his Father’s help: “I can do nothing on my own” (John 5:30).
Then he extended this fact to his followers: “Apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:5).
As a professional speaker and writer, this statement challenges me every time I consider it: “The kingdom of God does not consist in talk but in power” (1 Corinthians 4:20). Not our power but his: “Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, says the Lᴏʀᴅ of hosts” (Zechariah 4:6).
Acts 8 reports the astonishing fact that Philip “went down to the city of Samaria and proclaimed to them the Christ” (v. 5). This despite the fact that Jews and Samaritans hated each other (cf. John 4:9). But on this occasion, “The crowds with one accord paid attention to what was being said by Philip, when they heard him” (Acts 8:6a).
Here’s why: the sentence continues, “and saw the signs that he did” (v. 6b). Luke explains: “For unclean spirits, crying out with a loud voice, came out of many who had them, and many who were paralyzed or lame were healed. So there was much joy in that city” (vv. 7–8).
Philip did what he could by proclaiming the good news of God’s love. Then he trusted the Spirit to do what the Spirit could by manifesting signs of supernatural healing. The latter attracted people to the former and opened their hearts to the message of grace.
Viktor Frankl on the path to change
The anxiety and loneliness of our age is an open invitation to the good news that God loves us and offers us a life filled with peace “which surpasses all understanding” (Philippians 4:7). The rising tide of relativism, immorality, and vitriolic secularism is an open door for followers of Jesus to speak his truth in love (Ephesians 4:15).
Tomorrow, I plan to discuss some truly amazing ways Christians are making a transforming difference in our world. For today, let’s focus on the source of such transformation. Let’s follow Jesus’ example by seeking the kind of intimacy with our Father that cleanses us from sin (1 John 1:9), leads us into God’s best (Proverbs 3:5–6), manifests the character of Christ in our daily lives (Galatians 5:22–23), and empowers our witness in the world (Acts 1:8).
Holocaust survivor and psychologist Viktor Frankl observed, “When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.” The good news is that when we ask God to do the latter, he also does the former.
Jesus wants to reverse the Fall in your life and in mine. Then he wants to reverse the Fall in our culture through our influence.
Will you settle for anything less today?
NOTE: The Ten Commandments hold the key to how life works and how to live if we want to live well. They’re also the focus of my latest book called Biblical Insight to Tough Questions, Vol. 10. So please request your copy today — and get the “rules of the game” for a life well lived.*
*Get dozens of our culture’s toughest questions answered when you request the entire 10-volume set of Biblical Insight to Tough Questions. This would be a wonderful collection for your library or to give to someone you love this Christmas.