Some keys to mental health during a pandemic

A British doctor and his wife were subjected to a two-week ‘lockdown’ of ‘shielding’ on arrival by air in Australia, because of the worldwide Covid-19 pandemic. A guard patrolled outside the unlocked door of their tiny furnished room, a mere nine paces by four. In a newspaper article he reported three daily practices that helped them maintain their mental wellbeing (reserving some more for a later essay):

[] enough light;

[] mood-boosting music; and

[] physical movement.

Personally I would add – for starters:

[] comfortable warmth (neither freezing nor overheating);

[] fellowship (at least by telephone during lcokdown); and

[] wholesome musings.

But for now let’s follow the doctor’s recommendations.

Here are some biblical references (all from the New Living Translation) to enable you to enjoy daily mood-improving heaven-on-earth.

  1. Light

The Lord is my light.’ is how David burst into song in Psalm 27:1.

Months of lockdown with no sign of any scientists developing medical preventative, or a guaranteed cure, any time soon had pushed many over the emotional edge into depression, or anxiety, or even suicide. But the practical question is: How does one go about actually ‘living in the light’ (1 John 1:7)? If too bright a light is flashed into one’s eyes it could, in fact, be blinding!

1 (a). Your word is … a light for my path’ and ‘The teaching of your word gives light’ (Psalm 119:105 and 130). So, a thoughtful reading of some Scripture will enlighten one’s day, however bleak the current news bulletins. But, of course, it depends on how you read it, and how you view your circumstances by its light. I’m reminded of the Scottish preacher who would pause in his sermon to encourage his congregation to enjoy the truth he was presenting: ‘Put that on your tongue.’ he would recommend, ‘and suck it like a sweetie’! That, surely, is musing, is it not?

1 (b). As Paul assured his disciples in Corinth: ‘… God … has made … light shine in our hearts’ (2 Corinthians 4:6). But, it is up to us to adjust our viewpoint diligently, as our Lord himself taught: ‘Your eye is a lamp that provides light for your body. When your eye is good, your whole body is filled with light. … If you are filled with light, with no dark corners, then your whole life will be radiant, as though a floodlight were filling you with light’ (Luke 11:34 and 36).

Or, to put it another way, as Paul did in 1 Thessalonians 5:5-6, ‘… you are … of the light and of the day. So …, Stay alert and be clear-headed.’ Talk to yourself to help focus your attention on the divine reality and not on the circumstantial ‘facts’. We must take care not to turn our backs on the light; that would cause us to walk in our own shadow. In Numbers 8:1-3, ‘The Lord said to Moses,  … “When you set up the seven lamps in the lampstand, place them so their light shines forward in front of the lampstand.”‘ Paul lived with just such an attitude: ‘… I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us,’ but ending with this thought: ‘But we must hold on to the progress we have already made’ (Philippians 3:12-16).

  1. Music

David, feeling enlightened by, and now secure in the Lord, continues his song: ‘… I will hold my head high … singing and praising the Lord with music (see Psalm 27:4-6). But, lest we become thoughtless and casual in our singing of praise songs, consider the following realities.

2 (a). Non-empathetic singing can actually make the sad heart of a listener even more distressed. ‘Singing cheerful songs to a person with a heavy heart is like taking someone’s coat in cold weather or pouring vinegar on a wound’ (Proverbs 25:20).

2 (b). The triune God engages in singing, so heaven has always resounded with music.

[] Zephaniah disclosed this wondrous revelation of God the Father’s own singing: ‘… the Lord your God is living among you. …He will take delight in you with gladness. … He will rejoice over you with joyful songs (Zephaniah 3:17), adding: ‘With his love, he will calm all your fears.’

[] And, according to Hebrews 2:11-12, ‘… Jesus … said to God, “… I will praise you among your assembled people.”‘ That is a quotation from Psalm 22:22 – a song that begins with the foretaste of Jesus’ cry of dereliction on the cross: ‘”My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?”‘ (Psalm 22:1; compare Matthew 27:46 and Mark 15:34).

[] Paul completes the triune theme in Ephesians 5:18-19, ‘… be filled with the Holy Spirit, singing  … and making music to the Lord in your hearts. And give thanks for everything to God the Father in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ.’

Paul practised what he preached. When he and Silas were interned in the jail at Philippi they consoled their aching wounds by singing God’s praises at full volume at midnight, and were instantly released from their shackles by a heaven-sent earthquake (Acts 16:25-28). Similarly Jonah, when imprisoned in the acidic darkness of the sea monster’s stomach, recited ‘songs of praise’ that gave the beast chronic indigestion, causing the prophet’s vomited escape (Jonah 2:9-10)! Yes it is possible to ‘sing the songs of the Lord’ while in dire circumstances (Psalm 137:4)!

  1. Movement

The King James’ Version regularly translated the Greek verb peripateo as ‘walk’ to refer to the daily activity of the Christian life Modern translations tend to render it as ‘to live’. It gave us the English adjective peripatetic used, for instance, about teachers, say of music) whose work is not limited to one school but they move about to teach in several. The Greek word has two parts: peri = ‘around’ and pateo = ‘to tread down’ (think of the levelled ground that’s the base of a garden ‘patio). It was used in Luke 10:17-19 (The Passion Translation) about treading underfoot serpents and scorpion. On returning from their itinerant missions, Jesus’ disciples reported in their excitement: ‘”Lord, even the demons obeyed us when we commanded them in your name!”‘ Their Master explained to them, ‘”Now you understand that I have imparted to you … authority to trample over [Satan’s] kingdom”‘ and he promised them: “‘You will trample upon [pateo] every demon before you and overcome every power Satan possesses. Absolutely nothing will be able to harm you as you walk in this authority.”‘

The Christian’s walk must not be restlessly haphazard, but purposeful. How about considering the following phrases in your home group – probably conducted these days via Facebook. (these quotations are from the English Standard Version.)

[] ‘Walk in the light’ (1 John 1:7).

This requires transparency. How opaque is your interaction with your fellow-believers?

[] ‘Walk … in the truth’ (3 John 3-4).

The Greek noun alethea used here means ‘reality’. God’s reality has been revealed in Christ.

[] ‘Walk in love’ (Ephesians 5:2).

This implies that we must do so sacrificially, inconveniencing ourselves to serve others.

[] ‘Walk by the Spirit’ (Galatians 5:25) .

Spirituality is not just mechanically keeping rules, but living creatively, surprising even ourselves by listening to, and carrying out, the promptings of the Holy Spirit.

[] ‘Walk in him’ (‘Christ Jesus’, Colossians 2:6)

This means treading in all the above – in transparency, reality, sacrificially and in spirituality.

This entry was posted in Miscellaneous Content. Bookmark the permalink.