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Mental Health, Rhythms and Reacclimation

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This week’s post is a guest post by Vinnie Adams, Faith Church’s Special Needs Ministry Director; it appeared in the most recent edition of Faith Church’s triennial magazine called The Paper; it is very insightful and helpful so we wanted to make sure you had a chance to read it. Thank you for these thoughts, Vinnie.

On February 20, 2021, Faith Church began a weekend sermon series called Rhythms: The Way of Jesus. Do you remember that?

Being a worship leader and having been on staff for almost nine years, I’ve seen many sermon series come and go; and (admittedly) there are only a handful of them that I can pull from the top of my memory when it comes to the title, taglines, themes, texts, etc.

But Rhythms is one of them.

I can’t remember a sermon series that has been quite as timely, useful, important and prophetic as Rhythms was – and, if you’re practicing what was preached, still is.

You know, it is possible that our rhythms before the COVID-19 pandemic were already far from healthy or Jesus-informed. And in the midst of our worry and hurry to return to “normalcy,” the question to ask is, “how will now be different than then?”

One thing that struck me during the Rhythms series was the inseparable connection between the rhythms of my life and my mental health. For example, my busy, task-oriented, performance-based, making-up-for-my-failures, people-pleasing thought patterns (whether conscious or subconscious) have pulled me away from abiding with Jesus (John 15), which is the very space I need as an antidote for all of my “stinking thinking.” In other words, my mental health and my rhythms (or lack thereof) feed off each other, and they need one another’s help to get better. And similar to our rhythms, it is possible that our mental health before the COVID-19 pandemic was already not in the healthiest place. So, again, the question to ask ourselves is, “how does now compare to then?”

Right now, statistics are showing that most people can’t answer that question favorably.

See, all of the things that affect your mental health – your family of origin, your past, your physical or chemical disposition, the influence of culture/society – none of them have magically disappeared over this past year and a half. In fact, I’d argue that the culture/society influence has only gotten heavier and (potentially) more damaging.

Then, add COVID-19 and the pandemic on top of all of that.

For some of us, the pandemic changed everything.

For others of us, nothing changed – but that didn’t mean things didn’t get harder.

Even for those of us with an optimistic outlook:

  • Instead of ‘less’ expectations, the pandemic brought ‘different’ or ‘new’ expectations.
  • Instead of the quality time you thought we’d have with God, self and family, you experienced more isolation.
  • Instead of being a rockstar of the circumstances like your Instagram friends, you felt like your household and life was a complete mess.
  • Some of the places you used to be able to go to escape – the store, the bar, that friend’s house – you couldn’t go there anymore.
  • Add on top of that, being more addicted to technology than you’ve ever been in your life – to a point where you know it’s a problem, you might even say you’re done with it but you’re still glancing at your phone every few minutes of the day.

If you believe that none of this affects your mental, emotional and (even) spiritual health, then I want what you’re taking.

But if it has, or perhaps it’s visibly affected someone you love and care about, I want to offer a few things to think about.

Being a visual thinker, let me use a Venn Diagram.

First of all, how are you?

This isn’t the walking-past-each-other-in-the-hallway “how are you,” it’s the “look at that dark green section in the center of the diagram, take a minute to reflect, and give an honest evaluation of where your soul finds itself.

Seriously.

Take a second to (1) thoughtfully answer that question, and (2) tell someone who loves you and you can trust. Jesus is at the top of that list, by the way; and while He already knows what’s on your mind, He’d love to hear from you about it.

Secondly, if you are concerned about the state of your mental health, don’t shrug it off. As we (God-willing) reacclimate into a post-COVID world, the time is now to address the things you’re experiencing (for the first time or in an increased manner) like self-medicating behaviors, the desire to sleep all day, the anxious thought cycles that seem inescapable, messed up sleep patterns, increased irritability and stress, and even suicidal ideations. There is no shame in reaching out for help; and if you’re feeling a nudge right now, take the step and reach out. I can’t encourage you enough, friend.

Third, try on the rhythms of Jesus.

Come into spiritual recovery.

God wants to cultivate your inner life as much as he wants to see fruit from your outer life. In fact, His design for you is this order.

To this end, let me close with Watchman Nee’s exhortation from the book of Ephesians,

“Sit, Walk, Stand.”

God raised us up with Christ and seated us with Him in the 

heavenly realms in Christ Jesus. – Ephesians 2:6

You have a seat at God’s table. Sit in it. Rest in it. To understand and experience your position, He’s asking you to do nothing but sit in the work that is already done (by Him).

I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the 

calling to which you have been called. – Ephesians 4:1

Out of your seated position with Christ (not out of your own power or striving), get up and walk, aligning your steps with Jesus. The world will relentlessly tug at your soul to follow a million different things, and Jesus won’t be found in that shouting match. He will faithfully be found, waiting for you, as He whispers, “Come. Follow me.”

Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against 

the schemes of the devil. – Ephesians 6:11

And finally, despite your feelings (no matter how strong they are!) and circumstances (no matter how bleak they are!), your position is not one of defeat. Your position is one of victory; not at all dependent on you, yet 100% given to you. Therefore, stand up in that victory! The enemy hates you and me the most because we’re God’s kids (he calls us ‘enemy,’ too). The devil and his army can and will fight, and we are no match for him on our own; but Jesus has already crushed him, the battle is already won. Therefore, do not back down. Stand in the victory that Jesus has already won, which He gives to you.

Sit in Christ, walk in Christ, stand in Christ, repeat.

Children of God, this rhythm is for you.

So come, sit.

He will lead you from there.