From the Rector
As mentioned in last month’s Church Review article people may be struggling with this third lock down mentally so we have been using the Bible Society’s ‘Lifting the Lid’ Bible study course during our Lenten midweek services which focuses on faith and mental health, drawing on well known Bible stories.
One in four people will have a diagnosable mental health condition in their lifetime. We in churches can offer support and space that listen and welcome people suffering in our congregations. During this Bible course we looked at how God treats those who feel exhausted, rejected, hopeless and heartbroken.
The story of Zacchaeus tells us how Jesus looks at outsiders who are stigmatised by their community. Jesus stops and notices Zacchaeus who was a tax collector for the pagan occupier and who was looked upon as a sinful person who cheated people but Jesus asks Zacchaeus for assistance therefore raising his self esteem, he goes to Zacchaeus’ house encouraging him on his own turf and valuing him by giving him ways to rethink his situation. These are all ways we can think about valuing those who are stigmatised and struggling especially with their mental health in our own communities and learn how Jesus treated people on the periphery of society.
We learnt that mental health can be defined as a state of well-being in which people realise their own potential and can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and are able to make a contribution to their community. Mental health affects how we feel about ourselves and others, how we interpret events, how we cope with life events and how we develop relationships. As previously mentioned a quarter of all people will be diagnosed with some sort of mental health issue during their life time and we as Christians are not immune to these issues. The Bible tells us of a number of characters who suffered for example the prophets Ezekiel and Jeremiah and not forgetting Jonah and Elijah. Elijah who prayed for death because he didn’t feel he could go on but was used powerfully by God despite his mental health challenges.
Elijah who ran for his life out into the desert until he came to a tree where he sat and prayed to die, he had fallen asleep when an angel came to him and woke him and gave him food and drink, he slept again and the angel returned and said get up and eat for the journey is too much for you. God gives Elijah hope to carry on. This shows us how giving people room to complain but not to be judgemental and to encourage with practical help like the angel giving Elijah a cake of hot bread and a jar of water first.
Depression is defined by at least two weeks of loss of interest in normal day to day activities; loss of enjoyment, lack of energy, sleeping too much or too little and a loss of appetite. We need to resist that telling someone to ‘pull up their socks’ is not the answer and that we should help people suffering from depression as we would help someone with a physical illness.
When the course dealt with anxiety it gave the Biblical example of the story of the disciples on the road to Emmaus. These two men were anxious about their belief in Jesus, he hadn’t appeared yet and they wondered had their hopes and dreams crumbled away. Jesus came to them and walked along side them and listened to their pain eventually taking the time to explain the scriptures to them and helping them to see things from another perspective only making himself know at the breaking of bread at the evening meal. In our everyday lives do we take the time to walk along those struggling with anxiety, to listen to their concerns instead of trying to ‘fix’ them?
Everyone gets anxious from time to time and it is a vital emotion giving physical symptoms like a racing heart, sweating, difficulty breathing and insomnia to name just a few but sometimes it becomes too sensitive and is triggered too often and it becomes a problem that begins to disrupt everyday life and instead of being a ‘fight or flight’ reaction it becomes an anxiety disorder that needs to be treated.
Physical exercise, talking therapy, connecting with people (even by phone), slowing down, and trying to be calm including prayer (while connecting with a higher power) can all help in dealing with anxiety when life gets too frantic.
Mental health is a term that popular culture seems to have adopted, especially during the pandemic. I hope this course has been of help to those who are suffering and to their support network, awareness is sometimes half the battle and I look forward to completing the ‘Lifting the Lid’ course during the remainder of Lent.
God Bless William
The funeral of our Nigerian parish reader Victoria Oyinade Osigbade-Osho took place in St. Maelruain’s on Thursday 25th February. We extend our deepest sympathy to her husband Samuel Sr., to her sons Samuel Jr. and Solomon and to her extended family and friends. She was taken from us all too young.