Last Saturday afternoon, about 50 of us attended a zoom talk conduct by Danny Ng, a clinical psychologist, on the above mentioned topic, and I would like to share some of my thoughts in this perspective which will contain a mixture of what the speaker has shared and my own further ruminations.
October is designated as Mental Health Awareness Month. The church has been organising talks related to one’s mental health since the pandemic started so this talk is in the third year running.
The title for last year’s talk was about how we can build resilience to cope with the challenges of life. We are not in crisis mode all the time but if we can cultivate emotional and mental wellness in our daily lives, perhaps we will be able to hold up much better when the storms of life hit us.
The state of mental wellness in Singapore is not encouraging – compared to the world’s population, we have a higher percentage of people experiencing mental illness; an extremely big proportion of Singapore graduates say that work and study commitments are their greatest source of stress; 1 in 3 youths has mental health symptoms such as sadness, anxiety and loneliness.
Much effort has been taken to raise the awareness of mental health in our country. I heard over the news that the floor and sides of the MRT train along the North-South line will feature the experiences of people with mental health conditions, their journey of recovery and the peer support that they have received in school, at home and at work. The purpose of this move is to de-stigmatise those with mental health conditions and garner more public support for them.
The good news is that those who suffer moderate to severe mental illness can turn to medication to correct the chemical imbalances in the brain; the patient can recover well without having to experience much side effect. There is really no shame in seeking professional help and we do not need to suffer in silence when help is readily available.
If presently we are both emotionally and mentally healthy, what can we do on a daily basis to guard our heart and mind so that we can continue to be healthy?
Our speaker, Danny Ng, shared with us, “The Christian call to emotional and mental wellness involved an intimate relationship with God, a surrendered will, and an obedience to walk the path with Him through all circumstances.”
First, Jesus came that we may have life and have it abundantly. Therefore, if we want to experience the fullness of life, the meaning and purpose of life, the satisfaction in life, we must cultivate an intimate relationship with him who is the giver of that kind of life.
If we want to grow in intimacy with the Lord, we must practise the spiritual disciplines of Word and prayer. There is no rocket science to this. There is also no short cut to it.
The Word reveals who God is – his works, his ways and his will – to us. The more we know the person, the closer we will grow to him. It is also during times of prayer when we tell God what’s upon our hearts and at the same time listen to what his Spirit wants to speak to us so that this kind of intimate and exciting relationship with him can be further developed.
I just met a couple who is a year into their marriage and I have been encouraged to hear that, by and large, they have been able to do devotion every night and pray with each other before they sleep.
It is not that they do not have any conflict but when conflicts arise, they have the grace and wisdom to resolve them so that they do not end up in fights which can lead to a lot of stress. I attribute their healthy marriage to a healthy relationship they have with the Lord. When they grow in intimacy with the Lord, they will inevitably grow in intimacy with each other. Surely, their emotional and mental health is in a good place too!
Second, having a surrendered will means to be able to flow along with what God has allowed in our lives – the good and the bad, the joys and the sorrows, the mountains and the valleys. We rest in him like a baby resting in the bosom of his mother rather than complaining and resenting what is happening in our lives. It will require us to exercise faith and our faith is again based on what God has already revealed to us in his Word – his precious promises and his amazing attributes!
Let the Word remind us that God is God and God is love; his will is good, perfect and pleasing; his plans are to prosper us and not to harm us. If he didn’t spare his Son, but gave him up for us all, how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things that are necessary for our sanctification so that we can be conformed to the likeness of Christ? Indeed, in all things, he works for the good of those who love him. He will not test us beyond what we can bear but when we are tested, he will also provide a way out so that we can stand up under our trial.
God is sovereign and powerful; he is good and wise; he is just and merciful. He will vindicate; he will deliver; he will heal. Even if our eyes do not see and our minds do not comprehend, we can still give thanks and not be anxious about anything so that the peace of God that surpasses all understanding will guard our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.
In our dire situations, as we meditate on all these biblical truths and release control back to God, we will experience emotional and mental wellness.
Third, obedience to walk the path with him means we continue to do good and do God’s work regardless the circumstances we are in. For some, when they are in the throes of affliction, everything comes to a standstill. Life becomes very self-focused or even self-absorbed. They are so preoccupied with getting themselves out of their predicament that they become oblivious to the needs around them.
Obedience means that even when we are in the deepest valleys, we faithfully serve the Lord. I have heard of testimonies of those who have fallen ill and in spite of their illness, they reach out to the people around them and take the opportunities to testify of God’s faithfulness. They are such an inspiration because through their lives, we can really see the power of God made perfect in their weakness.
We not only have the Word of God, we also have the Spirit of God who empowers and enables us to be grounded when our earth shakes, to be still when we are in the whirlwind and to be rested in the midst of uncertainties. That is the resurrection power at work in us!
We also have the people of God, the community of saints, fellow pilgrims in the faith, comrades in fighting the challenges of life, co-workers who share the burden of carrying the Gospel to the world. Let us be there for each other. No one should be left behind. We cry with those who cry. We empathise; we do not judge.
Let us tap on all these spiritual resources at our disposal and stay healthy both emotionally and mentally.
By the way, if you didn’t manage to join us for the talk last Saturday, you can find the video recording on one of the rotating banners in our website. Check it out!