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Leonard: Mental health, Jesus and hope

Mental health is the topic right now. Do you feel like you’re mentally unhealthy? I can’t go a few days without hearing it mentioned on the radio, seeing it in the paper, or having it come up in conversation due to someone having a friend who is really struggling with it. 

This coming week all of the Vail Health chaplains are having lunch with the team at Vail Health who are about to start tackling the issues and I look forward to learning more and helping in any way I can.

Before I moved here I was mentored by a great man who is the senior pastor at a large church in Denton, Texas, which is about 30 minutes north of Dallas. He is an amazing Bible teacher, preacher and author and used to travel quite extensively due to his ability to communicate so well.

Then one day he went numb. He sunk into a clinical depression and said that, almost immediately, all of his joy was gone and all of the things he used to love to do: work out, run, read, teach, etc. no longer made him happy. For months he couldn’t sleep for hours at a time, felt like he was in a black hole, and said he was totally emotionless. “I got hijacked!” he said.  

All of this sounds terrible and I can’t imagine going through it. About one-half of Fortune 500 Company CEOs have gone through this and it’s estimated that $80 billion a year is lost on wages because of mental health issues. 

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Once he got healthy again, his platform allowed him the opportunity to speak out on the topic in front of the church of about 4,000 people and then it got aired on an international radio broadcast (Focus on the Family) that reaches over 1.5 million people daily. He said that one of the biggest shockers was the vast amount of people who he found out had been through it in his church and then the letters that poured in from around the country and even the world.

The stress of his schedule was the primary culprit. Though he loved what he was doing, he was doing too much and rarely got the chance to sit still. His mind was always running and when the body rarely gets to stop, it will force itself to stop. Seratonin, rest, and some new medical terms and prescription drug names began to be a part of his daily life until finally his body recovered and got back to normal, at which point his new normal was a schedule that was dialed back to 50% less than what he was doing previously. 

Life is full of stressors in this day and age, but Jesus spoke to this two thousand years ago. As I’ve pondered this dilemma, a few things Jesus said specifically come to mind that can both help keep us mentally healthy and pull us back from depression.

The first is the biblical concept of Sabbath, or rest. From the very beginning, God prescribed a complete pulling away from anything tied to work. To this day you can find orthodox Jews who will not push a button on an elevator at a hotel because that is considered work. The Sabbath day was a day to shut down, to focus on God, to worship Him, and to be with family and friends. Do you ever turn your phone off and allow your brain some freedom?  If not…

Jesus told people to, “Come to Me, all of you who are tired or burdened, and I will give you rest.” Praying and asking him to help in times of need is something I do quite often. A sometimes stressful job, raising three kids, and a hefty mortgage can definitely be burdensome, but I take Jesus up on those words from time to time. We all have a degree of stress that we need to give over to him. 

One of the hardest things to do, yet it’s my life verse, is from Jesus’ famous “Sermon on the Mount” which is considered to be one of the best and most-read speeches of all time. In it, He said, “Do not worry about your life; what you will eat, drink, or wear … Don’t you know that your heavenly Father knows that you need all of these things. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness … So do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”

Don’t worry. Really? How hard is that? Yet, if Jesus said it, he said it for a reason. How often do we get caught up in things that we have very little control over that are days, months, or even years away. Now, he didn’t say don’t work hard or don’t save for retirement, things we should obviously do. He said, “Don’t worry about…”

In closing, I only have so many words to write these columns and I wanted to take my stab at a few things that I have found to be helpful in my life and have heard from others with relation to maintaining mental health to help prevent anyone from becoming mentally unhealthy.  If this resonated with you, if you want to tell me your story or talk about this in more detail, I’d love to hear from you. Take care y’all!

Scott Leonard is the area director for Search Vail Valley. You can reach him at scott.leonard@searchmail.org.


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