Many headlines are warning us of the brewing mental health need during this pandemic. At the same time we hear common mantras on promoting mental wellness.
Here’s a flavour of the advice we’re given:
In relation to your thinking, keep your mind active. Reframe unhelpful thoughts – tell yourself that realistically only a small number die and there are experts working hard to save lives. Emotionally, enjoy simple things, take on something new, and don’t judge yourself for feeling bad. Try some basic mindfulness.
Physically, take exercise, eat healthily and look after your sleep. In your activity, keep a structured routine, plan and set goals. And then, of course, find ways to keep in touch. ‘Stay together while staying apart’: talk, share how you’re doing and even look beyond your own world to extend kindness to others.
Now, there are important themes in these wellness tips. We are afraid. We are vulnerable. We are weak. We need purpose and hope. We do need others. But whilst the advice has much common grace, it contains some approaches that as Christians we might hesitate over.
Also, it does leave deeper questions. To whom are we turning in our need? In what are we placing our trust? Where do we go for escape or refuge? The risk is that we find ourselves leaning upon techniques of distraction or mindfulness, upon rational thinking or routine, or upon others who realistically may not always be there.
I wonder then how as Christians we respond to this? Have we words that go beyond the accepted wisdom of wellness? How do we trust God in our current need?
In my thinking, is my mind active towards the Lord? Does the reframing of my gaze upon life in this pandemic arise out of the Lord’s true and living words to me? It is then that my perspective leans less upon science and statistics and more upon His personal reassurances: ‘The hairs on your head are numbered’. Does my response to anxious thoughts go beyond distraction – a turning away from what troubles me – to a turning to God with what troubles me?
Emotionally, rather than cultivating positive feelings or mindfully detaching from judging my heart, the Lord invites us to pour out our hearts to Him (Psalm 62:8). We are free to be emotionally honest towards our ever-receptive Father in heaven, the God who is a refuge for us.
The care of our bodies and the structure of our days are not just the means of achieving good mental health; they are the fruit of a healthy heart issuing in purposeful living to the glory of God.
Relationally, our motivation to ‘stay together’ is that we are connected as God’s family and so moved to love our brothers and sisters, drawn by our Heavenly Father.
Do you see how true wellness is not centred on a plan, but on a Person? It’s not about performing techniques, but about personal trust. It’s not primarily cognitive, emotional or behavioural – but relational.
Growing spiritual wellness
How are you doing in this time of trouble? How is it with your soul? How are you growing in turning to the Lord with your concerns and feelings, calling to Him, pouring out your heart to Him?
How has God spoken to you in His word over this pandemic? What words have landed as manna, or quenched your thirst in this wilderness? Where has He quieted your heart? Given you hope and purpose?
How can you share this with others? How can you be a channel of grace and blessing as you talk of how the Lord has met you and ministered to you at this time?
And then, what will our testimony be?
‘Whatever my lot, thou hast taught me to say It is well, it is well, with my soul.’
More about Biblical Counselling UK is available at www.biblicalcounselling.org.uk or you can contact them at firstname.lastname@example.org or c/o Christ Church, Christchurch Street, Cambridge CB1 1HT