Since 1949, May has been Mental Health Month in the US.
In recognition of this vital emphasis, actor Ryan Reynolds wrote on Instagram this week about “my lifelong pal, anxiety.” He added, “I know I’m not alone” and stated, “We don’t talk enough about mental health and don’t do enough to destigmatize talking about it.”
In related news, three-time Grand Slam tennis champion Naomi Osaka has announced that she will not speak with reporters during the upcoming French Open. She explained: “I’ve often felt that people have no regard for athletes’ mental health and this rings very true whenever I see a press conference or partake in one.” She ended her statement by conceding that she’ll face a “considerable amount” of fines for her decision, but she hopes the money will go toward a mental health charity.
Mental health issues are in the news every day, either as the story or the story behind the story. As a tragic example, the gunman who killed nine people at a California rail yard this week is thought to have suffered from major mood swings because of bipolar disorder, which became worse when he drank heavily. A New Yorker article reports that three in four US workers say they’re burned out. And the World Health Organization recently warned that people who work fifty-five or more hours per week face a greater risk of dying from strokes or heart disease.
Article calls for stadium to cancel Promise Keepers
Evangelical Christians certainly have reasons for anxiety these days.
A USA Today writer called on AT&T Stadium, home of the Dallas Cowboys, to cancel the Promise Keepers Men’s Conference scheduled for July 16 and 17, claiming that the stadium is “helping to mainstream hate speech.” Vandals toppled a statue of Jesus and burned an American flag outside a Catholic church in Brooklyn, New York.
A federal judge denied a request from the College of the Ozarks, a Christian university in Missouri, to be exempted from a Biden administration directive that allows biological men who “identify” as female to live in women’s dormitories. An emeritus professor of neuroscience and psychology at Duke University has been removed from an American Psychological Association email group for suggesting there are only two sexes.
A new study found that 43 percent of millennials “don’t know, don’t care, don’t believe God exists.” And LifeWay Research reported this week that for the year 2019, Protestant church closures outpaced church openings in the US.
Three steps to help and hope
Last Sunday was Pentecost, marking the day God’s Spirit filled God’s people in Jerusalem and ignited the mightiest spiritual movement the world has ever seen (Acts 2). Preaching on this theme, Pope Francis stated: “Dear sister, dear brother, if you feel the darkness of solitude, if you feel that an obstacle within you blocks the way to hope, if your heart has a festering wound, if you can see no way out, then open your heart to the Holy Spirit.”
In days of anxiety and stress, how do we open our hearts to God’s Spirit? I have been meditating on Psalm 121 recently in my personal Bible study and suggest that we take three steps prescribed by the psalmist.
First, admit your need for help: “I lift up my eyes to the hills. From where does my help come?” (v. 1).
The psalmist knew that hills could hide his enemies or shelter his allies. However, he could not see either from his present position. All he knew was that he needed “help” (the Hebrew word refers to assistance, support, or strength).
This is the critical first step. Any Twelve Steps program begins by calling the person to admit their addiction or problem. The first step to receiving medical help is admitting that we need medical help. A guide cannot lead those who do not believe they need to be led.
What need would you admit today?
Second, turn to your best source: “My help comes from the Lord” (v. 2a).
Why is the psalmist so sure?
- He knows what God has done in the past: “Who made heaven and earth” (v. 2b). If God could create all that is, doesn’t he have the power to meet your need today?
- He knows what God will do in the future: “He will not let your foot be moved” (v. 3a). God assures us, “I the Lord do not change” (Malachi 3:6; cf. Hebrews 13:8).
- He knows what God can do in the present: “The Lord is your keeper; the Lord is your shade on your right hand” (v. 5). All of God there is, is in this moment.
Have you brought your need to your Lord?
Third, share your hope with others: “The Lord will keep you from all evil; he will keep your life. The Lord will keep your going out and your coming in from this time forth and forevermore” (vv. 7–8).
Who do you know who needs what you know?
“What matters supremely”
Sometimes God heals us medically. Sometimes the Great Physician uses mental health professionals, transparent relationships with trusted friends, and communities of care as his hands of healing. Sometimes he heals us miraculously through means that transcend human agency. Sometimes he does both.
And sometimes our loving Father responds to our need not by removing it but by redeeming it. When Paul prayed three times for God to remove his “thorn in the flesh,” the Lord responded: “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:7–9a). As a result, the apostle could testify: “Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me” (v. 9b). And he could add: “When I am weak, then I am strong” (v. 10).
In his bestseller, Knowing God, theologian J. I. Packer wrote:
“What matters supremely . . . is not, in the last analysis, the fact that I know God, but the larger fact which underlies it—the fact that he knows me. I am graven on the palms of his hands. I am never out of his mind. . . . He knows me as a friend, one who loves me; and there is no moment when his eye is off me, or his attention is distracted from me” (his emphasis).
God is looking at you right now. Are you looking to him?
NOTE: For more on experiencing and sharing God’s unconditional love, see my latest website article, “Ross and Rachel on ‘Friends’ nearly had a real-life romance: Bridging the gap from our Real Self to our Ideal Self.” For more on finding our true value as God’s creation, see Mark Legg’s article on our website, “Why did an online image sell for $69 million?: NFTs and the true value of life.”