Last December, Gallup reported that our country’s mental health was as low as it has ever been since they started gathering data in 2001. That’s not surprising. We all know the multifaceted stressors that we were facing a year ago. Yet there was a surprise in the report. The only subgroup in society to not see a decline in mental health were those people who attended church on a weekly basis.
Based on those statistics, you might assume that mental health providers would be encouraging their patients to connect with their faith and attend religious services. But according to a recent article by David H. Rosmarin in Scientific American, psychiatrists rarely provide an opportunity for their patients to discuss their faith while receiving counseling.
He says, “Health care professionals falsely disconnect common spiritual behaviors and experiences from science and clinical practice. As a result, we ignore potential spiritual solutions to our mental health crisis, even when our well-being is worse than ever before.”
Rosmarin explains why mental health providers would avoid talking about spiritual matters. He says that Sigmund Freud, known as the father of modern-day psychiatry, was a committed atheist who believed that religion was a “mass delusion.” So it is no wonder that most psychiatrists are not trained to offer spiritual solutions to mental trials. Unfortunately, many people today only turn to secular therapists to respond to mental challenges, which means that they are cutting themselves off from those who might provide spiritual support.
That’s why as we enter this Christmas season with all its normal stressors as well as the particular challenges of a pandemic and political polarization, I want to say something that you might not hear anywhere else: Prioritize worship.
Gather with other Christians in person or online in order that you might hear, sing, and believe God’s story of salvation. On Christmas, you will most likely listen to the reading of Luke chapter 2, where the Bible says Jesus was born in an unstable situation. You will hear that in those days all the world was in political turmoil, and yet the angels were still singing the praises of God for his power and plan. And you will be reminded that the God who is in control of all things loves you and has come into this world to rescue you and make all things new.
I believe there are many reasons to engage your Christian faith during the Christmas season. The most obvious being that Jesus is the reason for the season. In addition, the data shows that attending worship services is one of the best things you can do for your mental health. I’m not saying that going to church is the cure for all our mental challenges. But I do believe that our brains were designed to be captivated by the story of Jesus.
But don’t take my word for it. Try it. Not only will Jesus captivate your brain, but he will enter your heart and offer the love, forgiveness, and hope that you and I need.