By Stephen W. Hiemstra
When I worked with psychiatric patients as a chaplain intern at Providence Hospital, I became convinced that faith in God minimizes the prospect of suffering from mental illness.
For afflictions, like schizophrenia, that are triggered by trauma, faith helps to cushion the trauma reducing the likelihood of tripping the trigger. In my experience, two people may experience the same trauma (a Gethsemane moment) where one is scarred for life and the other not, having simply strengthened their faith.
For afflictions, like bipolar disorder, that have genetic component, having a firm grasp on reality helps the patient cope with the disorder directly, minimizing the effect of mood swings on behavior. Thomas Jefferson is believed to have been bipolar, yet he managed to cope without medication by keeping lists of his activities.
For addicts, faith in God serves to displace an attachment to destructive things with an attachment to the only true lover of our souls (May 1988, 146). It is common among those able to kick their habit to report that a spiritual awakening accompanied their recovery—I have an aunt who fits this description.
I believe that my conviction about faith has served to shield me from the corona craziness over the past few weeks. How about you?
With the Memorial Day holiday, re-opening of the economy, and recent demonstrations, the potential for re-emergence of the corona virus has grown dramatically in the last several weeks. While the evening news announced last night (6/7/2020) that twenty states have reported increase in the number of cases, the evidence in Virginia statistics is unclear. In both Fairfax and Prince William Counties, corona virus mortality rates peaked in early May and have have fallen since then.
Elderly at Risk
The local statistics provide interesting insights into the virus. In Fairfax County, 91 percent of the deaths have been for people ages 60 and above with 59.7 percent of all deaths of people over 80 years old. For Prince William County the same figures are 87.4 percent and 42.2 percent as of June 8. The mortality rate for people over 80 years old is 33 percent in Fairfax County and 29 percent in Prince William County. In other words, about one in three elderly people inflected with corona virus will die.
Hispanics at Risk
About half (42.2 percent) of the corona virus cases in Fairfax County are among Hispanics, but they represent only 11.2 percent of the deaths. In Prince William County about 38.5 percent of the cases are Hispanic, but they represent 26.7 percent of the deaths. We might infer from these statistics that Hispanics in Fairfax County are younger than those in Prince Williams on average, since so many of the deaths arise among the elderly.
Holy Father, Great Physician, Spirit of Truth,
We praise you, Lord,
for you are good—
your mercy extends to us
even as we are ungrateful and undeserving.
that your mercy is infinitely greater than ours
that we seldom practice forgiveness and
are frequently in need of it.
Do not hold our sin against us
nor let our iniquity bind us, for Jesus’ sake.
We give thanks
for the gifts of family, friends in Christ, and
the many blessings in this life.
Break the chains
that bind our hearts and minds—
the curses passed through the generations, and
the bad blood that has accumulated
in a life marred by selfishness, envy, greed, and malice.
In our hour of need,
may we turn to you,
not only for our own sake,
but for the sake of those around us.
Cleanse our hearts
that our bodies might also be healed.
May the doctors be perplexed by our healing and
the nurses shocked by our change of heart—
that your goodness and mercy
would be obvious to all.
In Jesus’ precious name, Amen.
Prayer taken from (Hiemstra 2019, 59-60).
Gerald G. May. 1988. Addiction & Grace: Love and Spirituality in the Healing of Addictions. New York: HarperOne. (review).
Hiemstra, Stephen W. 2019. Everyday Prayers for Everyday People. Centreville: T2Pneuma Publishers LLC.