Beloved, I pray that you may prosper in all things and be in health, just as your soul prospers. 3 John 1:2
Post pandemic, there has been an increase in awareness on issues surrounding mental health. Various campaigns and events have been organized to reduce the social stigma associated with mental illnesses. These efforts involve education and advocacy to change public perceptions about mental health.
What we may not realise is that the Church has long been involved in this area. An ancient term is “soul care.” So we have physicians who take care of our bodies. And we have pastors, monks and other religious orders who are involved in soul-care or caring for the unseen part of our being.
In previous times, when little is understood about mental health, much of church and society were vested – directly or indirectly – in caring for the souls of men and women.
In fact, for a period in my clergy ministry, I was called a “curate.” This come from the traditional term “Curer of Souls” or in latin, “cura animarum.” Likewise, the word “psychotherapy” arises from two Greek words “psyche” and “therapia” , which literally means cure of the soul.
Long before we have professional therapists, the church was already engaging in improving mental/spiritual health. Think of why we have regular worship habits, liturgy, singing and serving. The wish of St John for us (3 John 1:2) is that we may prosper in every way: physically, emotionally and spiritually.
Huge advances have been made in the area of psychiatry in modern times. We know today that we can’t really separate ourselves into compartments. What we do physically, mentally or spiritually effect our whole being. If you don’t take care of your body, you will also suffer emotionally or spiritually. If you live carelessly spiritually, it will also affect your physical and emotional health. Our social relationships can also be affected. We can become short-tempered, suspicious, spiral into negative thinking and so on.
Awareness is important: for ourselves and those around us. We will also need to be aware of the myriad of ways which can help improve our health all round. Sometimes positive nodes can be found in small steps i.e. being a little kinder, helping others in need or admitting and seeking for help when you are in a fix.
While we may have pastors in the church – and they can do a lot to contribute to good soul care – regular self-care is paramount. Most of the time, we know what we need to do on a regular basis. That however need a measure of discipline and commitment to your own health. And if you don’t care, who can?
During this sermon series, we hope to highlight some of these issues. And stay well.