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Spiritual & Mental health amid a pandemic: 3 insights for those suffering

News outlets run headlines claiming “the world is broken” and that may feel like a harsh reality. We’re halfway through 2020, living in a global pandemic and are witnessing the severity of racial injustice. If 1 in 5 US adults experienced mental health difficulties last year, what will the statistics reveal in 2020?

Current circumstances can overwhelm us and I know that each time I read a new headline, the wall I hold up against stress and anxiety weakens. Even if you have not struggled with mental health before, the build-up of anxious thoughts can be a brutal battle to face. 

Your value and worth do not stem from your situation

Whilst the news cycle escalates with international stories of pandemic struggles and our communities struggle against Covid-19, if you’re anything like me it can feel as though our lives may never be the same again. Few compassionate people can let such perturbing headlines pass by without wincing at this new reality. 

We can take conscious time away from the evening broadcast in an effort to salvage peace and preserve mental well-being. However, I know preventing worry can only go so far. Thank goodness, then, that we can find comfort in the fact that we are able to take refuge in our affirmed identity in Christ. 

Ultimately, we can rest in the truth that God does not define us by our current situation. You are not anxiety. You are not sleeplessness, or depression or hyperactivity. Mental health trials are no match for the fundamental identity which the Creator has placed on you. You and I may be broken, and face brokenness regularly during this uncertain season.  Yetwe are also known intimately by Christ. As Paul writes in Ephesians 1:3-4, Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him…” Verses like these point us to the reality that we can replace anxiety-inducing activities with spiritual blessings like Bible reading, times of worship or contemplation with God. Ultimately, they allow us to step towards a more joyful situation.

Avoid COVID burn-out

Aside from the amount of information we are asked to consume daily, it could be that recently you’re facing situations for which you feel unequipped. In one week, you became a teacher to your kids, a work-at-home employee and chef for the family. Have you asked yourself: how am I supposed to deal with this?

We may not experience the simple comfort of pre-pandemic life. Instead, we must push onto a more pure joy, because God invites us to marvel at the joy of ordinary life. C.S. Lewis sees joy as “an unsatisfied desire which itself is more desirable than any other satisfaction”, and urges us to pursue the joy of the Lord (Nehemiah 8:10). 

By accepting that invitation we can step away from the stress we endure and instead re-tune our hearts to rest in the peace God brings. Romans 15:13 urges us to “abound in hope” because the God we worship is a “God of hope.” 

Your feelings matter to God

God grieves our suffering, whether it be physical pain or the mental sorrow many in our community face as a result of the pandemic. As Christians, I am convinced that telling ourselves and sometimes other people that we simply need “more faith” to get through mental struggles is at best unhelpful and, at worst, perpetuates the problem. 

Where do we turn when it feels as though nobody truly understands the turmoil in our minds? We turn to God. We are called to “pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-17) and through conversing with our Healer and Comforter we may gain a deeper understanding of our emotions and seek the peace of the Lord. 

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Invite God into your new everyday life today. You can begin by simply praying, “Holy Spirit, fill us with your peace and help us seek comfort at the feet of Jesus Christ.”