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A Divine Prescription

A Divine Prescription

How Our Faith Shapes Our Mental Health 

By Mitchell Powers 

The rates of suicide are climbing, and the contributing factors—depression, anxiety, and poor self-esteem—are on the rise. [1] Many are rightfully concerned with COVID-19, but fewer are recognizing the silent killer that is suicidal depression. People of faith have a piece of the restorative-healing puzzle and an approach to offer to the mental health decline. 

Dr. Timothy R. Jennings wrote in his book, “The God Shaped Brain,” that from the creationist perspective since Adam and Eve believed the lies of the serpent in the Genesis narrative, the world has been dysfunctional. He said, “the circle of love and trust was broken in their hearts and minds… From a neuroscience perspective, their prefrontal cortexes, rather than flowing with perfect love, activated the fear center (amygdala), inciting anxiety, insecurity, and the desire to protect the self.” [2] 

One who does not identify as Christian, or as believing in a God figure, might struggle to accept this idea of sin. However, no person can omit the fact that there is something distinctly ‘off’ about the world we live in. Certainly, the global rise in poor mental health can be an indicator of that. Jennings argues then that in the aftermath of not joining God in His design of love and trust, humanity chose that of fear and death. Thus, marking the birth of humanity’s journey in depression, anxiety, and low self-esteem. 

Jennings wrote, “The prefrontal cortex lost its governance and the fear center became inflamed. Love was suppressed and fear became the primary driving force in fallen humanity.” [3] From that point Adam plays the blame game, Cain kills Abel, Jacob becomes a known mythomaniac, and the stability of humanity falls. Prophets like Elijah and Jonah were seriously depressed in their biblical accounts, and in the case of Elijah, wished he would have just been dead. [4] 

It is a personal choice but reaching out to God can relieve the heaviest of burdens. Photo by ASWWU. 2019.

However, the biblical narrative does not end with a depressed and fear-filled prophet, people, or nation, but displays a God who comes to the aid of those in a plethora of mental health distresses. In fact, God came to Elijah in his time of deep suicidal depression and counseled him, speaking to what he needed: love, freedom, and trust. [5] 

God, as depicted in the Bible, and as understood through various faiths and spiritual practices, has been with and amongst humanity to help aid in delivering His creation out of poor mental health. Through building and crafting prayer, Sabbath-keeping, and community, God gave humanity practices of connection with Him that would heal them from within. 

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Students worship in a coffee shop

Prayer is a conversation with the divine and in studies has proven to boost “wellbeing, increased calmness, decreased anxiety, and positive healing experiences.” [6] Sabbath-keeping was given by God and ordained by him for humanity to rest and enjoy in communion with him. In that restfulness, John Mark Comer argued that one can find trust, love, joy, and peace, that which counters worry, anger, sadness, and anxiety. [7] God created all things and designed all things in togetherness. For humans, we were made to have each other, as God said, “it is not good for man to be alone.” [8] Studies show that our togetherness with others, even from our youth, can predict and form our mental health. [9] 

A deeper look at our own faith, how we practice it, and the part we allow God to play into our mental health, from He who created humanity, might prove to be a power piece to the puzzle that is healing poor mental health.  

References 

  1. O’Connor, R. C., Wetherall, K., Cleare, S., McClelland, H., Melson, A. J., Niedzwiedz, C. L., O’Carroll, R. E., O’Connor, D. B., Platt, S., Scowcroft, E., Watson, B., Zortea, T., Ferguson, E., & Robb, K. A. (2021). Mental health and well-being during the COVID-19 pandemic: longitudinal analyses of adults in the UK COVID-19 Mental Health & Wellbeing study. The British Journal of Psychiatry: The Journal of Mental Science, 218(6), 326–333. https://doi.org/10.1192/bjp.2020.212  
  1. Jennings, T. R. (2017). The God-shaped brain: How changing your view of God transforms your life. InterVarsity Press.  
  1. Jennings, T. R. (2017). The God-shaped brain: How changing your view of God transforms your life. InterVarsity Press.  
  1. 1 Kings 19 NIV. 
  1. 1 Kings 19:16-17 NIV. 
  1. South, R., & McDowell, L. (2018). Use of prayer as complementary therapy by Christian adults in the Bible Belt of the United States. Religions, 9(11), 350. MDPI AG. http://dx.doi.org/10.3390/rel9110350 
  1. Comer, J. M. (2020). The ruthless elimination of hurry. WaterBrook.  
  1. Genesis 2:18 NIV. 
  1. Narr, R. K., Allen, J. P., Tan, J. S., & Loeb, E. L. (2017). Close friendship strength and broader peer group desirability as differential predictors of adult mental health. Child Development, 90(1), 298–313. https://doi.org/10.1111/cdev.12905
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