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Survey: Attend Worship, Have Better Mental Health

Survey: Attend Worship, Have Better Mental Health

Going to church—is it outdated, boring, only for the weak and spineless? Not so much. In a November 2020 report, polling firm Gallup found that the only people group to have improved mental health during the current COVID-19 pandemic were those who regularly attended worship services.

According to The Christian Post website, “Among Americans who attend religious services weekly, 46% classified their mental health as excellent. That figure is an increase from the 42% who saw their mental health as excellent in 2019. Those who attended church services weekly were also the group of Americans with the highest share of people who rated their mental health as excellent in 2020.”

That’s a 4 percent improvement during the most unprecedented and grueling year the world has known this century. The pandemic has upended lives, overturned businesses, crushed hopes. Many are feeling extreme stress from the lockdowns, lack of work and income, and the loss of friends and loved ones.

Among contributing factors is the isolation caused by the mandated cancellation of in-person gatherings, most notably of worship and school. We are not just dealing with death by virus but a cascading effect of the virus. Take, for example, the 16 percent increase from the previous year of deaths by drug overdose in what online medical publication The BMJ is calling “a shadow pandemic.”

A Gallup news release states: “Americans’ latest assessment of their mental health is worse than it has been at any point in the last two decades. Seventy-six percent of U.S. adults rate their mental health positively, representing a nine-point decline from 2019.”

So, while this 4 percent uptick is small, it is significant in comparison to the survey’s other plummeting numbers. Republicans’ mental health rate dropped 15 points; in the category of those who made between $40,000 and $99,999 and those who made $100,000 or more in household income, rates dropped 12 points. Other demographics were not far behind: Whether in gender, race, marital status, or age, Americans’ mental health ratings worsened in the year 2020.

Humans Rest by Design

What is it about the weekly church service? It has withstood this singular test that has seemingly shaken every other foundation. In fact, even more so than in last year’s prosperity and tranquility, its light is shining even brighter in the midst of trial. Why?

Perhaps it is interesting to note that at the very beginning, God instituted a regular day of worship. According to Genesis 2:2, 3, “On the seventh day God ended His work which He had done, and He rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had done. Then God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it, because in it He rested from all His work which God had created and made.”

Yes, from Creation itself, the seventh day of the week, now known as the Sabbath, was a gift to humanity from God. As Jesus said, “The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath” (Mark 2:27).

But what exactly did that rest entail? God never grows weary; “He who keeps Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep” (Psalm 121:4). And our parents, Adam and Eve, who were created the day before, weren’t worn out from a week’s worth of work either. So, initially, the Sabbath rest was not a break from physical exertion.

It was a time of restoration to God, of coming together with Him; it was a time to remember who God is and what He has done. “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy” (Exodus 20:8), the fourth commandment says; “six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the LORD your God. In it you shall do no work: you, nor your son, nor your daughter, nor your male servant, nor your female servant, nor your cattle, nor your stranger who is within your gates” (vv. 9, 10). This is not an arbitrary command. The reason we do not work is to remember God as our Creator, “for in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and hallowed it” (v. 11).

The Sabbath was a time set aside for congregation with one another in worship of God. “Six days shall work be done, but the seventh day is a Sabbath of solemn rest, a holy convocation [assembly]. You shall do no work on it; it is the Sabbath of the LORD in all your dwellings,” Leviticus 23:3 states.

Even after the fall of the human race, when we began to live a life of hardship “in the sweat of [our] face” (Genesis 3:19), Sabbath rest was never just about physical restoration. It was a time that had a beneficial effect on every aspect of our health.

And the Sabbath still has the same purpose today.

Call to Rest

We can infer from these verses, among others, that there are elements to Sabbath worship that transcend time and space and trial and circumstance, which bring about that abundant life that Jesus so desires to give us (John 10:10).

Do you want to learn more about this gift that stands fast against all odds, that has everything to do with your life on this Earth and the chance of eternal life with Christ? Find out in Pastor Doug Batchelor’s article, “Seize the Day: Keeping the Sabbath Holy, Part I,” and its follow-up installment.

Jesus bids you, “Come aside … and rest a while” (Mark 6:31). Won’t you heed His call?

This article contributed by Mark A. Kellner
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