How COVID has impacted mental health
Most of us would agree that we have not seen a year like 2020 in our lifetimes. It has been a year of stress, worry, depression, and anxiety. And we need an antidote!
The headline of an article published by WKYT in Kentucky reported that a study revealed increased suicide rates across the U.S, and mental health issues arose among adults during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Reports from the CDC (as reported in June of 2020)
- 40% of U.S. adults reported struggling with mental health or substance abuse
- 31% reported anxiety or depression symptoms.
- 13% started or increased substance abuse.
- 26% reported trauma or stress-related disorder symptoms
- 11% say they seriously considered suicide.
The New York Times reported in May of 2021 that in San Francisco more people died last year from drug overdose than COVID.
The world-wide pandemic has had a world-wide impact that needs a world-wide antidote
While the statistics above are from the US, it isn’t just the US that has seen an increase in mental health problems. It’s happening all over the world. Government statistics in Japan reported that more people died from suicide in the month of October, than from COVID-19, in all of 2020. A majority of these were women. But there is an antidote.
Stress, Depression, Anxiety and Worry has been present since the beginning – and so has the antidote
Stress, depression, anxiety and worry is nothing new to the human experience. You can read through the Bible and find that many people, even those who God used mightily, had emotional challenges. In 1 Kings 19, we find Elijah running for his life from Queen Jezebel and he lies down under a broom tree and asked God to die. When we read the Psalms we can find many of them where David pours out his heart to God with a variety of emotions. Jeremiah was known as the weeping prophet. The book of Lamentations is the laments of the prophet. The disciples of Jesus locked themselves in a chamber after Jesus’ death out of fear of what the Jews would do to them.
We need an Antidote
From Genesis to Revelation, you can see stress, depression, anxiety and worry as people lived their lives. However, you can also read the Bible to discover the antidote.
Peace is the antithesis, not the antidote
For example, in the last verse of Psalm 29 we find the words, “May the LORD give strength to his people! May the LORD bless his people with peace!” The opposite of stress, anxiety, worry and depression is peace. We get our strength to get through these times from God and it is He who blesses us with peace. But peace isn’t the antidote, its the antithesis. So what, then, is the antidote?
David is the author of Psalm 29 and in the ten verses that precede his prayer, he shares the antidote to worry and stress, anxiety and weakness of faith.
Psalm 29:1-10 Ascribe to the LORD, O sons of the mighty, Ascribe to the LORD glory and strength. Ascribe to the LORD the glory due to His name; Worship the LORD in holy array. The voice of the LORD is upon the waters; The God of glory thunders, The LORD is over many waters. The voice of the LORD is powerful, The voice of the LORD is majestic. The voice of the LORD breaks the cedars; Yes, the LORD breaks in pieces the cedars of Lebanon. He makes Lebanon skip like a calf, And Sirion like a young wild ox. The voice of the LORD hews out flames of fire. The voice of the LORD shakes the wilderness; The LORD shakes the wilderness of Kadesh. The voice of the LORD makes the deer to calve And strips the forests bare; And in His temple everything says, “Glory!” The LORD sat as King at the flood; Yes, the LORD sits as King forever.
The Psalmist is telling us that even in the midst of the tremendous storms of life, God is Sovereign above everything in creation, and He is Lord of all!
The antidote is proper worship
The antidote of stress, worry, depression, and anxiety is worship. This is what we see David doing in Psalm 29 – He is worshipping the Sovereignty of God. When we understand the Sovereignty of God and worship Him, we can let go of stress, worry, depression and anxiety and trust that God is in control.
If worship is the antidote, then we need to know exactly what is worship. We also need to know how to use this antidote. So let’s start with defining worship and then we will learn how to use this antidote as we discover the proper attitude of worship and the proper act of worship.
If worship is the antidote, then what is worship?
Worship is much more than just going to church, singing some songs, shaking hands with other believers, lifting hands, praying, partaking of communion, or anything else we do in church. True worship is not about our acts – it’s about our heart.
So, how would you define worship? Wikipedia defines it as, “an act of religious devotion usually directed towards a deity. An act of worship may be performed individually, in an informal or formal group, or by a designated leader. Such acts may involve honoring.” – Wikipedia
The modern Webster dictionary defines it, “the act of showing respect and love for a god especially by praying with other people who believe in the same god.”
The 1828 Noah Webster dictionary defines worship like this, “Chiefly and eminently, the act of paying divine honors to the Supreme Being; or the reverence and homage paid to him in religious exercises, consisting in adoration, confession, prayer, thanksgiving and the like. The worship of God is an eminent part of religion. Prayer is a chief part of religious worship.”
Worship includes honor, reverence and adoration. There needs to be a sense of awe and perhaps even fear – or a deep, deep respect for our Supreme Being and Creator. A popular song sung in churches is “Heart of Worship” and certainly the ‘heart’ of worship is respect, love, and self-sacrifice. One line of that song says, “Though I’m weak and poor, all I have is Yours, every single breath!” The song discovers that God does not require a song – but our hearts.
Worship is much deeper than a song
In the analysis of worship we need to understand that the acts and attitude needs to be much deeper than a mere song. The biblical definition of worship can be found in Romans 12:1. It says, “Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship.”
If we are going to truly worship, then before anything else – we need to surrender all to God. Including the things that cause us stress, worry depression, and anxiety. We need to be entirely sanctified for our acts of worship to have any meaning. Jesus said we need to worship in spirit and in truth. Without it we are just going through the motions. True worship involves the heart. It involves the will. And true worship involves the spirit. Anything less will not do.
The Attitude of Worship is necessary for an effective antidote
God says in Isaiah 1:11-16: “The multitude of your sacrifices— what are they to me?” says the Lord. “I have more than enough of burnt offerings, of rams and the fat of fattened animals; I have no pleasure in the blood of bulls and lambs and goats. When you come to appear before me, who has asked this of you, this trampling of my courts? Stop bringing meaningless offerings! Your incense is detestable to me. New Moons, Sabbaths and convocations— I cannot bear your worthless assemblies. Your New Moon feasts and your appointed festivals I hate with all my being. They have become a burden to me; I am weary of bearing them. When you spread out your hands in prayer, I hide my eyes from you; even when you offer many prayers, I am not listening. Your hands are full of blood! Wash and make yourselves clean. Take your evil deeds out of my sight; stop doing wrong.”
The antidote starts in the heart – not our acts
The people were doing all the right things; they were doing the acts of worship – but the attitude was wrong. They were rebelling in their heart while their actions were ones of worship. Because the attitude was wrong the acts were more than meaningless. And as a result, they were detestable to God. God looks at the heart. God looks on the thoughts and the intents of a person. If you are in rebellion with God; if you are living in disobedience to God – your worship is more than meaningless – it is detestable.
So before we can truly worship God, we must first get the heart right. Jesus said, “Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift.” Matthew 5:23-24
When we come to God we need to come with pure hearts. When we take Communion – we need to come with pure hearts or it is more than meaningless – it is detestable to God.
Attitude is everything.
“The Lord says: “These people come near to me with their mouth and honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. Their worship of me is based on merely human rules they have been taught.” Isaiah 9:13
Attitude is everything. Talk is cheap. These people talked the talk but didn’t walk the walk. With their mouth and lips they honored God but their hearts were far from God. They had a list of ‘do’s and don’ts’ they followed, but their hearts were still devoted to themselves and not God. They were on the throne.
Here is the right attitude for worship. “Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe” Hebrews 12:28
The right attitude is gratitude, reverence and awe. When we come to worship we need to come with thanksgiving and praise. We need to come reverently – with a sense of awe. I think the Church has lost that sense of awe for God when we come to worship. The way we come into the sanctuary, the way we dress, and the way we speak should show respect for our God. It should reveal a sense of awe for Him.
The Acts of Worship that provides the antidote
What does the act of worship look like? There are many acts of worship that are meaningful with the right attitude and heart. Noah Webster mentioned prayer. Paul, mentoring the young pastor, Timothy, says, “Therefore I want the men everywhere to pray, lifting up holy hands without anger or disputing.” 1 Timothy 2:8
Prayer with the right attitude of holiness and purity
Notice the call to prayer is included with the right attitude – holiness. Worship must begin with purity. We find in 2 Chronicles 29:15-16, “When they had assembled their fellow Levites and consecrated themselves, they went in to purify the temple of the Lord, as the king had ordered, following the word of the Lord. The priests went into the sanctuary of the Lord to purify it.”
The place of worship
Notice that they consecrated themselves and purified the temple of the Lord. Worship is also in a particular place – the House of the Lord or a place dedicated to the Lord. I think this is a reason we have Churches or Houses of worship. Notice the acts of worship in Deuteronomy 12:5-7. “But you are to seek the place the Lord your God will choose from among all your tribes to put his Name there for his dwelling. To that place you must go; there bring your burnt offerings and sacrifices, your tithes and special gifts, what you have vowed to give and your freewill offerings, and the firstborn of your herds and flocks. There, in the presence of the Lord your God, you and your families shall eat and shall rejoice in everything you have put your hand to, because the Lord your God has blessed you.”
Offerings and sacrifices
“Offerings and sacrifices; tithes and special gifts; freewill offerings; the best of your increase or income”, it says. Then you shall rejoice and be thankful because of how the Lord blessed you. As we focus on His many blessings, our stresses, worries anxieties, and depressions are exchanged for the goodness of God that He has poured out in our lives.
Here is another example.
“Hezekiah gave the order to sacrifice the burnt offering on the altar. As the offering began, singing to the Lord began also, accompanied by trumpets and the instruments of David king of Israel. The whole assembly bowed in worship, while the musicians played and the trumpets sounded. All this continued until the sacrifice of the burnt offering was completed. 2 Chronicles 29:27-30
When the offerings were finished, the king and everyone present with him knelt down and worshiped. King Hezekiah and his officials ordered the Levites to praise the Lord with the words of David and of Asaph the seer. So they sang praises with gladness and bowed down and worshiped.”
Bowing was also a part of worship as was kneeling and sometimes standing.
I will bow down toward Your holy temple and give thanks to Your Name for Your loving kindness and Your truth; for You have magnified Your word according to all Your name. Psalm 138:2
Bowing is the act of making ourselves humble by kneeling or bowing down before the Lord as a way of demonstrating our humility and devotion to Him. It helps us remember that worship is an act that brings glory to God, and our act of kneeling or bowing is a sign of our submission to His authority. By showing our submission we are signifying our understanding of the power and authority that we serve, this allows us to align ourselves with Him fully as our focus is only on Him during the act of worship
Bowing or kneeling is also a great way to show our unconditional love and surrender for when mere words are not enough! Bowing and worshipping go hand in hand because when we bow our heads in worship we are comforted and fulfilled.
A great example of this is when Job hears the horrific news of the total loss of everything he loved, instead of reacting in negative way, he “arose and tore his robe and shaved his head, and he fell to the ground and worshipped” (Job 1:20). An amazing way to show his faith and trust in the Lord!
The antidote of Worship has a progression
Are you seeing those acts of worship? Prayer, singing, bowing, praise. There is a progression here. When we are stressed, worried, feeling anxious or depressed, we start with prayer, castings our cares on the Lord. When we give them to Him, we can sing with joy as we acknowledge all the blessings He has given us. That should then lead us to bowing before our Sovereign God with thanksgiving and praise Him for his goodness.
The Bible says,
“Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth. Worship the Lord with gladness; come before him with joyful songs.” Psalm 100:1-2
“With my mouth I will greatly extol the Lord; in the great throng of worshipers I will praise him.” Psalm 109:30
“God inhabits the praise of His people” (Psalm 22:3).
If the antithesis of stress, anxiety, worry, and depression is peace, then so is joy which comes as we give God praise. Peace and joy cannot occupy the same space and stress, anxiety, worry, and depression. It is just impossible.
God is a God of Peace
1 Corinthians 14:33 tells us: “For God is not a God of disorder but of peace—as in all the congregations of the Lord’s people.”
Do you remember when Elijah had a duel with the prophets of Baal? You can read the whole story in 1 Kings, Chapter 18. Listen to what the Bible says the prophets of Baal did.
“they shouted louder and slashed themselves with swords and spears, as was their custom, until their blood flowed. Midday passed, and they continued their frantic prophesying until the time for the evening sacrifice. But there was no response, no one answered, no one paid attention.” 1 Kings 18:28-29
Can you imagine such a sight? Shouting, frantic prophesying, even slashing themselves with swords until the blood flowed. The prophets of Baal were serious! They were emotional! They were sacrificial! The results? No one answered. No one paid attention.
God does not delight in meaningless acts, even when those acts are full of passion and zeal. God is a God of order – not confusion or frenzied and empty acts. Philippians 4:6-7 says, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
Psalm 4:8 says, “In peace I will lie down and sleep, for you alone, LORD, make me dwell in safety.”
2 Thessalonians 3:16 says, “Now may the Lord of peace himself give you peace at all times and in every way. The Lord be with all of you.”
Trading Stress, Anxiety, Worry, & Depression for Peace
Taking time to dwell and meditate on the Sovereignty of our God and spending moments in true worship will help us trade our stress, anxiety, worry, and Depression for peace. Then our hearts beat with joy. We’ll have a song of praise on our lips. We will be able to find peace in the storms of anxiety and worry, calm in the face of stress, joy in the depression when we enter into worship with the right attitude and a pure heart so that our worship is filled with reverence, awe, thankfulness, and praise.
I want you to know that you can worship the Lord individually and have sweet communion with Him – and you ought to. Sometimes just you and Jesus engaged in worship can be so sweet and wonderful as we let go of the cares of this world 1 Peter 5:7 tells us to cast all our anxieties on Him because He cares for us. So surrender them to Jesus and come to him with a heart of worship, which is the antidote to stress, anxiety, worry, and depression.
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