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Editor's Viewpoint

Thought for the Weekend

Editor's Viewpoint


Allen Sleith, Hillsborough Presbyterian Church

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Teenagers Lamees Shaath and Euan Gepp from Newtownabbey at a demonstration in Cornmarket in Belfast city centre earlier this year to raise awareness of the mental health crisis in Northern Ireland

Teenagers Lamees Shaath and Euan Gepp from Newtownabbey at a demonstration in Cornmarket in Belfast city centre earlier this year to raise awareness of the mental health crisis in Northern Ireland

Liam McBurney/RAZORPIX

Teenagers Lamees Shaath and Euan Gepp from Newtownabbey at a demonstration in Cornmarket in Belfast city centre earlier this year to raise awareness of the mental health crisis in Northern Ireland

The current pandemic is a crisis in manifold ways, most obviously as a physiological threat. Other affected areas, such as employment, economics and social interaction will doubtless see many changes, but it's another aspect that I want to briefly ponder, given that next week is Mental Health Awareness Week.

This is a subject with a rising profile in recent years, yet sadly, more attention has not resulted in greater resources for what has long been the Cinderella sister of health care.

Mental health is a profoundly sensitive matter. Those of us who are not qualified professionals can unwittingly cause great damage here, even if our hearts are in the right place.

Nonetheless, the good news of Jesus Christ, when shared with intelligence and empathy, does have something crucial to contribute here, given that the apostle Paul encourages us to have a similar mindset as Christ, transformed by the renewing of our minds.

This is not a slick formula, a 12-step programme or the latest church training course, but a process of learning how Christ himself thought, with the prospect that we might find some benefit for our own mental health.

First, Christ's mind dealt in specifics rather than speculations because once you start down the route of 'Just suppose' or 'What if?', you find yourself all but overwhelmed.

The specificity of the fitting response to the next encounter is nearly always better, just as Jesus met need when different people sought his help.

Second, Christ's mind tempered his will without paralysing it. He had a capacious, gracious outlook and the big picture of the kingdom of God was always uppermost in his mind, but not to the extent that he froze with indecision at an agonising crossroads. In the discernment of contemplative prayer, once he had made up his mind, he saw things through to completion, even if no one else could fathom his thoughts or chart his course on the way to crucifixion and resurrection.

Third, Christ had, as the Japanese writer Kosuke Koyama put it, a crucified mind, not a crusading mind. He was open, inquisitive and respectful to others with a love that finally won hearts and minds in a way that coercive control could never achieve.

The peace of Christ that passes understanding is authoritative, not authoritarian.

Belfast Telegraph