The United States is reporting increasing numbers of “deaths from despair” (suicide, drug overdose, or alcohol poisoning). Antidepressants and psychotherapy are often used to help people who are having a hard time coping with extremely difficult times and who are at risk for dying because of it. A recent Harvard study found that another strategy may also play a part in countering despair: attending religious services.
The study, published online May 6, 2020, by JAMA Psychiatry, evaluated self-reported religious service attendance among 110,000 white, middle-aged men and women who were followed for about 30 years. Compared with never attending religious services, going at least once per week was associated with a much lower risk of death from despair: 68% lower for women and 37% lower for men. Researchers say that religious participation — regardless of affiliation — may serve as an antidote to despair and provide a sustained sense of hope, meaning, peace, and positive outlook.
Also, faith-based organizations promote social engagement and connectedness and preach against self-injury and substance use. The study was observational and does not prove that regularly going to a religious service prevents death from despair. However, we know from other Harvard research that using religion to cope is associated with improved outcomes for people with severe psychiatric illness. Due to the pandemic, it may be difficult to attend your usual place of worship. Consider attending services via teleconference. If you attend in-person services, wear a mask and try to stay six feet away from others.
Bible verses for today’s meditation and inspiration: Matthew E. McLaren
He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Isaiah 40:29 NIV
That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong. 2 Corinthians 12:10 NIV
For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline. 2 Timothy 1:7 NIV
But the Lord is faithful, and he will strengthen you and protect you from the evil one. 2 Thessalonians 3:3 NIV
Look to the Lord and his strength; seek his face always. 1 Chronicles 16:11 NIV
I love you, Lord, my strength. The Lord is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold. Psalm 18:1-2 NIV
But I will sing of your strength, in the morning I will sing of your love; for you are my fortress, my refuge in times of trouble. Psalm 59:16 NIV
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