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In the shadow of Thanksgiving, I've been thinking about what comes next. After a large turkey dinner there is often a slow descent from the high of the meal to a state of tiredness and lethargy. As we move through the gift of a holiday weekend and the accompanying beautiful weather, I'm concerned that we will as a society descend into a state of tiredness and lethargy. Many of us were already there as we deal with COVID isolation, seemingly constant negative news, and shorter and shorter days. And for many, it is not merely tiredness and lethargy. This is not an area of personal strength, but I am aware that for many this deep tiredness and lethargy can quickly descend into mental health struggles that we need help with - especially if we have additional personal trauma or issues we are facing.

I'm reminded of something Glenn Robitaille shared with us back in 2017 as a part of a Sunday where we focused on mental health. He showed us the "Mental Health Continuum" below and reminded us that mental health is something that is a concern for all of us.

He pointed out that we are all on the same page somewhere and we are all just circumstances away from having poor mental health.

There were two consecutive days this past weekend that had me thinking even more about mental health issues. October 10 was "World Mental Health Day" and was designated to help bring awareness to mental health issues and mobilize people in support of mental health concerns. October 11 was "International Coming Out Day." This began in the United States as a means of supporting LGBT (now LGBTQ2S+) in sharing some of the things they had been living in secret with their friends and family. Regardless of your view on LGBTQ2S+ issues it is imperative that we be aware that mental health struggles are far more rampant with those who identify as such - and that is especially true for those who a) feel they need to continue to hide it, or b) face familial rejection when they share this part of themselves with their family.

As we move past Thanksgiving and deeper into the fall; as leaves change and light decreases and cold descends on us; as we continue through this COVID reality and the increased isolation it brings, we are going to need each other. We need to watch out for each other and our health. It is good to keep wearing masks to protect us from COVID, but I hope and pray that we can be a community where other masks get set aside - masks that say, "I'm fine" when I really need to get help; masks with smiles on them when I'm in tears inside; masks that say, "let me help you with that," when I feel like I'm already about to drop everything that I'm already carrying.

God created the church as a community, in part, in which we "Bear one another's burdens." We need to be looking for people we can journey with to support each other. It's okay to not be okay and it's okay to need help. If you are struggling today or if you find yourself struggling over the coming months, I encourage you to do two things:

  1. Pray - 1 Peter 5:7 implores us to "Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you." I think he means to actually give our worries/cares/anxieties to God. Not to tell them about them and take them back. Not to hold them out to show him and pick them up again as we walk away. The KJV uses the word "cast" to describe how we give them . . . and it isn't talking about fishing. I like the imagery of that because if we cast something it is truly out of our hands. As things well up in us, take time with God to turn the things over to him.
  2. Ask for help - You aren't meant to live this life alone and it isn't weakness to ask for help. Some of us may be aided by just having a friend or a small group we can share our struggles with. Others of us may need to reach out to a therapist for professional help in learning tools to process our struggles. Most medical benefit programs cover some form of therapy sessions. If you don't know where to go, you could start by calling your doctor or participate in free single session counseling services at Chigamik (https://www.chigamik.ca/your-health/virtual-counselling/). If you would like to receive some therapy and finances are a concern, let us know and we may be able to assist through our Congregational Care Fund. If you aren't at the place where you need to ask for help, yet but would like some resources, there are some at https://mentalhealthweek.ca/yourmentalhealth/.

I hope and pray that as we go through the fall, no matter what you are going through from week to week and day to day, that you will remember that you are God's beloved. You don't earn that identity by "being okay" or "having it all together." You don't lose it by needing help and asking for help. You are loved by God. Period.

As I said in the opening paragraph, this area is not my strength. If you have thoughts, advice, or resources that you have found helpful in working through mental health struggles, please feel free to send them to me at [email protected] I would like to gather these resources and have them available for sharing when appropriate. Thank you!

Lord God,

Thank you that you are concerned with every detail of my life. Thank you for all that you provide and the many ways in which you provide it. For those that are in desperate need of provision right now, I ask that you would give them what they need for the next step until they eventually get through the darkness they currently face. For those that just need help, give them the courage to ask and give those they ask a measure of divine wisdom and grace to know how to respond.

I pray for those in these shortening COVID days who already had mental health concerns or are particularly vulnerable. May they find safe spaces to struggle and in those safe spaces may they find encouragement and even hope. I pray for those who want to reject any sense of mental health struggle and are suffering silently inside today. May your love break through the walls they have put up and may you draw them out into the light so that you and your people can participate in their healing.

I pray for those of us who are spiritual leaders or care professionals as we are, perhaps, extra vulnerable to pressures to "put on a brave face" or not appear to struggle. May we get the help we need so that we can continue to walk alongside others well.

I pray for those - young and old - who are going through so much change in their bodies that it makes it hard for them to identify what is going on or what they are feeling. Grant parents and friends an extra measure of grace and patience and may those struggling be assured that their identity is secure in you no matter what else seems like shifting sand under their feet.

I pray for those who are struggling so much with isolation during this COVID time. May they reach out and ask for a visit from a friend or a conversation with a loved one and, where they aren't able to bring themselves to do so, may you bring them to someone's mind, and may that someone have the courage to follow the leading of your spirit.

Jesus, we need you and need each other. Help us to seek, find, and act on ways to be your people together and to show your love well to those around us through these days and the days to come.

Amen