Rebecca Ryder, MA, NCC, LPCC-S, Encompass Assistant Regional Program Director, shares her thoughts on mental health and persevering during this challenging time.
As I reflect on how life has been drastically altered across our globe in the past two months, my inner heartbeat has been a prayer that thrums, “May I rise to the level of my training, Lord. Help me to respond with my eyes on You, trusting that You are in control, and that I will glorify You as I walk out new territory.”
May has been labeled Mental Health Awareness Month. It’s no secret that those of us who work in this field believe that the mental health of our fellow citizens deserves to be considered. We work hard to help those who struggle access the best treatment to overcome obstacles these issues often present. However, mental health is important even if it does not rise to a clinical level. That is true for the general public as well as those of us providing treatment. We are not exempt from recognizing and addressing our own personal mental health. Big issues can be easier to recognize, but we often dismiss “little” things. They can stack up and cause damage to our mental health. No one I know is exempt from effects caused by the COVID-19 crisis, and this includes our mental health. We all have stressors related to this massive shift that we’ve had to quickly and progressively find ways to navigate.
Back in the late fall, I began memorizing a passage of Scripture that resonated with my heart and helped remind me how to live out my part of God’s promises. After the holidays, I was ready to move on to a different passage but the Lord nudged me to stay with this one; He wanted to say something more. Little did I know how much I would need to apply the truths in the months to come. This passage is from Jeremiah. God is speaking to the prophet by contrasting what will happen to those who turn away from Him and those who turn toward Him.
“A blessing on the man who puts his trust in the Lord, with the Lord for his hope. He is like a tree by the waterside that thrusts its roots to the stream; when the heat comes it feels no alarm, its foliage stays green; it has no worries in a year of drought, and never ceases to bear fruit.” (Jeremiah 17:5-8)
It’s not my job to stay green or bear fruit; that’s God’s work. I am to point the root and surrender the fruit. Did you know that when a tree is subjected to wind and storms above ground, the root system grows bigger and stronger, strengthening the tree and prolonging its life? Sounds like God is using nature to teach us a truth about our own storms as well as His transforming work in the midst of it.
As we collectively persevere, it’s important to pay attention and recall what has helped us manage burdens and uncertainties in the past. If we can’t implement our coping skills in exactly the same way because of restrictions, then we need to look for modifications so we can still reap the benefits. We must grieve the losses and not ignore the effects of what we have lost. We must recognize the opportunities and blessings that also come with change and lean into a mindset of gratitude. We must recognize that the landscape of our world has changed and a revised map is necessary.
As you chart a new path, I pray that you too will point your roots to the sustainer of life and trust Him with the results.