A report from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration says that one in five Americans experienced some sort of mental illness in 2010. Interestingly, however, the more you attend church, the less likely you are to experience these kinds of problems. According to researcher Marilyn Baetz MD of the University of Saskatchewan in Canada, “The higher the worship frequency, the lower the odds of depression, mania, and panic disorders.” What accounts for this amazing difference?
“But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.” (Ephesians 2:13)
Mankind began with a knowledge of the true God, the Creator of all. After the flood, the descendants of the sons of Noah dispersed into the far corners of the earth, bringing with them the story of the flood, as well as an understanding of Who it was that preserved their ancestors from destruction during it.
Yet, as the years progressed, sin crept in obscuring their understanding, and they turned away from Him. Romans 1:18-23 puts it like this:
“For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because what may be known of God is manifest [obvious] in them, for God has shown it to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes [who He is] are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse, because although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened, professing to be wise, they became fools, and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man—and birds and four-footed animals and creeping things.”
Anyone who has studied ancient mythology can recognize the Biblical distortions. The Greek myth of Pandora’s box is the story of Eve and the entry of sin into the world, the Epic of Gilgamesh’s Utnapishtim is Noah, albeit greatly contorted. Over time, the nations lost the knowledge of the true God.
By several hundred years after the Flood, most no longer knew God. God in His wisdom chose one man, Abraham, and his descendants, to whom He would reveal Himself through the Law and the Prophets. They became the nation of Israel.
Yet when Christ came—when Jesus of Nazareth was born, died for our sins on the cross, and rose again—something fundamentally changed. The nations who were far off, who had no knowledge of God, were brought near to God through Christ. Forgiveness of sins, salvation from them and from the wrath of God that is to come on those who refuse to turn away from their sins and trust in the forgiveness that is through Christ, is for everyone. 1 Timothy 2:3-6 tells us that “…God our Savior…desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God and one Mediator between God and men…Jesus Christ, who gave Himself a ransom for all…” But why do people who go to church suffer less from mental illness?
The reason church-goers suffer less from mental health issues is because they are typically the people who hear the Bible’s message that “God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8) They hear that “Much more then, having now been justified [forgiven, made right before God] by His blood, we shall be saved from [God’s] wrath through Him.” (Romans 5:9) They also hear, “For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life. And not only that, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received the reconciliation.” (Romans 10-11) They also know that “…God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.” (2 Timothy 1:7) Forgiveness, purpose, and fellowship brings incredible healing.
So, while you might not have realized this, going to a church where you regularly hear and are encouraged to read God’s Word, and get a chance to hang out and pray with other like-minded people is truly good for your mental health. And if being forgiven and knowing the true God doesn’t lure you there, maybe the prospect of saving money on mental health professionals might!
Thank You for everything You give us in Christ. Thank You that You have not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind. Most of all, thank You that we, who were once far off, have been brought near by the blood of Christ! Amen.