Even though those of us living in developed nations live longer and healthier, we are more depressed than those living in poor countries. Why is this? World Health Organization (WHO) research shows that mental illness (depression, etc.) is the leading factor in disease burden for high income nations. Depression leads to more loss of quality of life upon society as a whole than does heart disease or cancer. So as science advances in maintaining our biological health a more profound illness rises to the surface. Sadness remains our basic ailment when other sicknesses and needs are resolved. Quite simply we are rich, healthy… and sad (by healthy I mean that we do not face illness due to respiratory infections and diarrheal disease like they do in Bhutan, Haiti or Ghana).
The WHO also projects that when poor countries overcome sanitary problems and infectious disease, they too will find mental illness as their number one problem. And it’s not just that the incidence of other problems is decreasing. Mental illness rates are a growing problem for mankind. How can it be that when we are healthier that we are not content?
What are the conventional weapons in this war against despair? Some try alcohol or drugs but these only make things worse. So we try the easy solution: pills. But, according to Harvard research, antidepressants, apart from their placebo effect, might not be that effective (see 60 Minutes segment and my post). We also have counseling which is helpful and teaches us valuable coping mechanisms, but what about true healing?
Meanwhile statistics show that modern civilization is becoming less religious. Could there be a connection? Many studies show that participation in religious activity bestows a protective factor against illness both mental and physical. Certainly the decline of the practice of faith has something to do with emerging mental health problems.
So If I pray to “Nature” that my body and mind move towards health is that enough? A lot of scientific information is being gathered about this. For example, in spiritual persons, brain scans show changes in the thalamus part of the brain. The scientist has been quite busy describing the bodily changes that go with faith. No doubt there are those scurrying to discover some expensive medication to duplicate the process that a spiritual life brings us. We want the cream filling but none of the effort that goes along with it. If we fall in love because we drink a love potion is it really love?
When God intervenes in our lives He leaves an observable trail. In the Bible we read of sight restored and lepers healed. Some of us are witnesses to healings. Many of us were down, depressed or addicted when Jesus restored us. But is it our belief itself that heals? Or is it God?
“Your faith has healed you.”
“Your faith has saved you.”
We are weakened or strengthened by what life presents to us. Jesus came into my life, healed me and saved me. He continues to do so. The science behind it intrigues me, but I know it all just chases the wind. It blows where and when it chooses and understanding this is where God’s wisdom begins.