Read: 1 Samuel 16:14-23
I’ve thought and prayed about this post a bit more than some of the others. I’m writing about mental health, today. Mental health is now always a comfortable topic, but it is a needful topic of conversation, especially in our present circumstances. Let me put this upfront: If you are struggling with your emotional well-being, you are not alone. There are others ready to help you here, locally. You can find them online at: http://namidupage.org. You may call them at 630.752.0066. They have many resources including an opportunity to have lunch with someone via an online video conversation. This is an important resource for everyone in DuPage County.
Let me begin by being clear, there is a difference between “mental health” and “mental illness.” Just as there is a difference between physical health and physical illness, so also with our emotional health. Our mental health, when not cared for, can become ill just as our physical health, when not cared for, can become ill. It is vital to stimulate our minds, to claim our emotions, and to express our anxieties. These simple activities will help anyone become or continue to be emotionally resilient and engaged.
The reading from 1 Samuel tells us about an “evil spirit” which would fall upon King Saul and how David would play his lyre to help sooth Saul. Many have speculated as to what Saul’s medical concern was. The character I notice in this story isn’t Saul; his suffering does not go unnoticed, though. Rather, it is David who I notice. He is not reported to be fearful and anxious but rather he plays his lyre. He has learned and is practicing a skill which engages his mind. This type engagement helps him remain calm. Saul may be having a seizure, a period of psychosis, or some other malady. David’s response is to remain calm and focused on his task, playing the lyre to sooth the king. In doing his job and remaining focused on this task and the skills he was developing, David helped ease this situation for Saul.
In the story, the “evil spirit” is seen as sent from God. The world in which this story is written didn’t not understand science or medicine as we do today. Maladies the likes of which King Saul suffered were seen as demonic and evil; Some people, even people of faith, still take such a view. It is, as we would say at home, a “wrong-headed” view of the situation. Maladies the likes of which Saul suffered require our compassion. Compassion is a far easier response when we are nurturing our own emotional and spiritual well-being.
These days of “sheltering-in-place” have been extend to the end of May for us in Illinois. We all will face challenges during the coming weeks; it is for the greater good. Now is a time to develop emotional and spiritual resilience. We have all fallen into new patterns of work and family life during these days. Why not also fall into new patters of emotional and spiritual self-care now, too? This is a good time to start praying or meditating (or both) each day. What about reading the Bible, or some other book you’ve being putting off? Perhaps you need to express yourself more. Could this be a time to take up journaling, painting, photography, or some type craft? What about that bike in the garage? Is it time to clean it up, air up the tires, and remember the phrase “just like riding a bike” to see if you still can? What about the seeming lost art of handwritten letters? Is there someone with whom sharing a letter or two would be a joyful and rewarding experience? Why not write a letter to a friend? (Not an email, either!)
These days of sheltering-in-place are days full of opportunity and promise if we will look for it and make it. If the days are becoming rough, remember our friends at NAMI DuPage. They are ready to help. Also remember, you can take pro-active steps to help yourself, too. All these things are gifts to us from God … our abilities, and others willing to listen … so that we might be the physically, emotionally, and spiritually healthy followers of Christ.