By Rev. Deanna Woodward
Maple Leaf Parish
United Methodist Churches of Cherry Grove, Fountain, Preston and Spring Valley
You may have heard of “seasonal affective disorder,” a condition in which the shorter hours of sunlight during the winter months may affect a person’s moods and ability to cope with life effectively. I had an uncle who suffered from this disorder and part of his treatment was to sit under some special lights in his home for a period of time each day to help alleviate his depression. Even those of us who haven’t been diagnosed with it know that we experience a lift in our spirits on a bright, sunny day.
Millions of people in the world unfortunately suffer from some sort of anxiety or depression disorder. The isolation and stress of the covid pandemic increased these numbers. If you do not suffer in this way, chances are you are close to someone who does. The uncertainties of life can keep us from the spiritual and emotional wellbeing that God desires for us to have.
Studies have found that a person’s mental outlook relates to our physical health. One study, for example, found that persons who expected good things to happen and were actively engaged in the world had a 20% to 30% reduced risk of developing heart disease as compared with their less sunny colleagues. We also know that physical ailments like chronic pain and other conditions affect us emotionally and mentally.
To be mentally healthy, some folks need light therapy. Some may need counseling or medication, or both. God heals in many ways. Having something to do, something to hope for and someone to love are all keys to being more mentally healthy. To be emotionally and spiritually healthy it is best to connect with God, the Great Physician, and to let the light of Christ shine into our lives.
Jesus said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness but will have the light of life.” (John 8: 12). God’s love is like light in the darkness. No matter how hard people may try to hide the light of love, it will always find an opening through which to shine hope, courage and strength.
Consider this prayer by Marcia McFee: “God of our arising, we live in varying degrees of sun and shadow. We struggle at times to believe in the dawn of goodness in this world. We find it difficult to understand the complexities of our existence, how to hold both joy and sorrow, love and disappointment. The ailments of our minds and spirits seem at times more daunting than our bodily aches. Help us to know there are solutions — to trust that we can feel better, even in the most difficult of times. May we know with each rising of the sun that you are lifting us, holding us, present with us. In the name of Jesus, light of the world. Amen.”