My Dear Friend,
Today’s devotional begins with some heartbreaking news, but of course the good news in Christ Jesus immediately follows. May God richly bless your week, and please know that you are loved, you are missed, and you are in my prayers for peace.
Love in Christ Jesus,
“You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are stayed on You…” Isaiah 26:3
What’s Increasingly Missing from the Heart, and Why
On September 5, 2020, in an article entitled, “Anxiety and depression rampant amid pandemic,” the Los Angeles Times reported,
“It’s official, California: COVID-19 has left us sick with worry and increasingly depressed…weekly surveys offer a grim view of the toll the pandemic has taken on mental health in the Golden State and across the nation…44% of California adults reported levels of anxiety and gloom typically associated with diagnoses of generalized anxiety disorder or major depressive disorder…By comparison, just 11% of American adults reported those symptoms in a similar survey conducted in early 2019.” (Reese 2020)
The article goes on to say,
“However, even before the pandemic, suicide rates among teens and young adults had been on a years-long climb nationwide…symptoms of depression and anxiety were more pronounced among young adults…Some researchers have cited the ubiquitous reach of social media – and with it an increased sense of inferiority and alienation – as factors in the rise of mental health struggles among younger generations. COVID-19 could be exacerbating those feelings of isolation…” (Ibid.)
In today’s text, the Prophet Isaiah asserts that such anxiety and depression can be mitigated by keeping our minds fixed on God. When he says, “on You,” the secret is to keep our minds stayed on God Himself, NOT on what God may or may not be doing presently. This is a problem with modern Christianity: the tendency is to focus more on God’s actions – or our perceived lack thereof – than on God Himself.
We are told,
“Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body…Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you…teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God.” (Colossians 3:15-16)
The peace of Christ rules in my heart when His Word richly dwells within me. When I let the words of anyone else dwell in my heart, Christ’s peace will not rule there. We also see that while our relationship with the Lord is personal, it is not just “one-on-one.” As many hearts, we are “one body.” Christ’s peace abides in us when as one body, we sing together “with thankfulness in our hearts to God.”
Similarly, we are told,
“Let us hold fast the confession of our hope…for He who promised is faithful. And let us…stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” (Hebrews 10:23-25)
God has provided a way for His people to escape the world’s madness, find peace, and maintain hope. It is by “not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some…” (Hebrews 10:25a). The writer then tells us that we should be gathering together, “all the more as we see the Day [of judgment] drawing near.” (Hebrews 10:25b)
In these times that are more anxiety-producing than ever before, we need more church than ever before, not less.
But sadly, for several months now, many of God’s people have been denied the right to meet together to do these things that fortify our peace and strengthen our hope – denied of the right to “sing together with thankfulness in our hearts to God.” Just as sadly, many others got into the habit of forsaking this divine privilege long ago.
Is it any wonder, then, that, “weekly surveys offer a grim view of the toll the pandemic has taken on mental health”? Should it surprise us that, “even before the pandemic, suicide rates among teens and young adults had been on a years-long climb;” and that, “researchers have cited the ubiquitous reach of social media – and with it an increased sense of inferiority and alienation – as factors in the rise of mental health struggles among younger generations”? (Ibid.)
They were led to believe that because they would be more “connected” than ever before, they would have more peace than ever before. Now, not a day goes by that we do not hear more and more reports of “Zoom fatigue.”
That is why Jesus said, “Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.”(John 14:27a). In other words, He is saying, “My peace is different. It’s not the same peace as the world gives – which is no peace at all.”
The article draws to a close saying, “Some experts said they worry that the tumble toward depression and anxiety could outlast the pandemic itself, particularly if the economy lapses into prolonged recession.”
Well, even if the economy does lapse into a prolonged recession, we can still let the peace of Christ rule in our hearts. Will it be easy? No. Will it be challenging for us? Yes.
But we will be encouraged each day by the words of Christ Jesus: “Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid.” (John 14:27b) And, “People will faint from terror, apprehensive of what is coming on the world…When these things begin to take place, lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.” (Luke 21:26-28)
Reese, Phillip. 2020. “Anxiety and depression rampant amid pandemic.” Los Angeles Times, September 5: B2.