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How's Your Health? (Mental, That Is)

May 19, 2020

Arguably one of the biggest issues today in our world is mental health. It loomed large before the arrival of the COVID virus and all the accompanying restrictions and realities that accompany it. Everyone is experiencing some level of stress during this unprecedented, unpredictable pandemic.

According to a recent national poll by the American Psychiatric Association, more than a third of Americans say the coronavirus is having a serious impact on their mental health.

Nearly 60% say it is having a serious impact on their day-to-day lives. And 62% are anxious about the possibility of family and loved ones getting COVID-19. The feelings are normal, but if not buffered, all the stress can become toxic to one’s mental health.

The reports are that during this time period some of the worst things in our society are soaring: pornography use, depression, substance abuse, domestic abuse. Relationships are struggling because of varied opinions on the severity of the crisis and how to handle it. We have government officials and medical experts giving us their directives, and then we have armchair experts and others with questionable credentials telling us the opposite. “You should wear a mask because if you don’t you are irresponsible.” “If you wear a mask, you aren’t protecting anyone and it's actually harmful to you.”

The overload of information and misinformation is hard to figure out and leaves us anxious and stressed. But the Word tells us, “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind: (2 Timothy 1:7). How do we access that gift?

Here are a few brief “Mental Health 101” tips:

It is so important to learn how to manage your mind. Because our thoughts control our life, our mind is a battleground for sin. But our minds are also the key to peace and happiness. It is vital to work with God to change the way we think.

Do not be conformed to the pattern of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Romans 12:2 NLT

Focus on what you can control. There is no use in obsessing about when we will get a virus, when churches and concerts will open back up, and on and on. We have absolutely zero control over that, so we will just spiral downward. Our thoughts need to focus on living each day the best we can, in the situations that are ours to face. You can concentrate on your perspective, making alternate plans, and having fun and making progress in new ways you haven’t tried previously. You decide how awful or manageable, how damaging or growing this and other challenging times are by the way you think.

"Be careful how you think; your life is shaped by your thoughts." Proverbs 4:23 TEV

Take your thoughts captive to Christ. Pay attention to what you are subconsciously and consciously thinking. When you start to derail from a positive, God-honoring train of thought, grab those thoughts and talk to God about them. Let Him know, “This is where my brain wants to go, and I present it now to You. I don’t want to go there.” He will work with your honest desire.

Then, demolish the strongholds in your mind. A stronghold is a mental block. We are in a mental battle here. Strongholds are imaginations, pretensions, arguments that set themselves up against the knowledge of God. A stronghold can be a worldview like materialism, hedonism, secularism, atheism—there are many mental strongholds that people will set up against knowing God.

The stronghold can also be a personal attitude. Worry can be a stronghold. Seeking the approval of other people can be a stronghold. Anything you make an idol in your life can be a stronghold. Fear, guilt, resentment, insecurity, all of these things can be strongholds in your mind. A stronghold is always a lie that I believe and has become strongly entrenched in the mind. The Bible says that we are to tear them down.

Though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. [Our weapons] have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish any argument and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we TAKE CAPTIVE every thought to make it OBEDIENT to Christ. 2 Corinthians 10:3-5

Guard your mind from garbage. When our children were young there was a children’s song that went like this: “Input, Output—what goes in is what comes out!” It was warning children that whatever they repeatedly saw, they would think about. Whatever they repeatedly thought about would one day be acted out in their lives. That’s true for all of us. If we think discouraging thoughts, we will act them out. Whatever we dwell on is going to become reality eventually. The Jesus-followers in the days of the early church were in constant hard situations. But here’s how they guarded their minds:

Let heaven fill your thoughts. Do not think only about things down here on earth. Colossians 3:2 NLT

Long ago God spoke to His servant Isaiah and told him the secret of mental health in any day or age.

He who keeps his mind on me I will keep in perfect peace. Isaiah 26:3

Keep your focus in the right direction, and you will come out of this period closer to Jesus, more like Jesus, and stronger than you have ever been.