Promoting PErsonal Change, Centered on the PErson of Christ through the PErsonal Ministry of the Word
Biblical Counseling Coalition: Grace & Truth

If I’m a Christian, Why Am I Depressed?

If I’m a Christian, Why Am I Depressed

BCC Staff Note: At the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors blog site, Dr. Heath Lambert interviews Dr. Bob Somerville about his new book, “If I’m a Christian, Why Am I Depressed?” Dr. Lambert calls this new book “the best book on depression that I’ve read.”

In the video interview, Dr. Lambert and Dr. Somerville discuss the following questions:

  • Why did you write this book on depression?
  • What is depression?
  • What are some wrong ways that Christians have understood depression?
  • What is a unique perspective that Christians can add to depression that no one else can?
  • You say in our book that you “saturated your numb mind with the truths of the gospel.” How did you do that?
  • For the person struggling with depression, what are the things that you would tell them that they need to do right now?

To view this extremely helpful video interview, visit the ACBC’s blog site at:

If I’m a Christian, Why Am I Depressed?

Topics: Depression, People in Need of Care, People Who Offer Care, People Who Train Caregivers | Tags:

BCC Weekend Resource: Theo-Drama and Gospel-Centered Counseling

The BCC Weekend Resource

BCC Staff Note: On weekends we like to highlight for you one of our growing list of free resources. This weekend we highlight a resource PDF by Bob Kellemen on Theo-Drama and Gospel-Centered Counseling: God’s Redemptive Drama and Our Life Questions. You can download the entire resource here: Theo-Drama and Gospel-Centered Counseling.

Here’s the introduction by Dr. Kellemen.

Theo-Drama and Gospel-Centered Counseling: God’s Redemptive Drama and Our Ultimate Life Questions

I recently had the privilege of presenting at the annual meeting of the Evangelical Theological Society (ETS). My paper is entitled: Theo-Drama and Gospel-Centered Counseling: God’s Redemptive Drama and Our Life Questions. I’ve developed my presentation from my latest book, Gospel-Centered Counseling: How Christ Changes Lives. Here’s the introduction to the paper.

Presentation Focus

A theo-dramatic approach to Scripture shows great promise for gospel-centered counseling. This paper explores six acts in the drama of redemption that are bookended by two elements central to all counseling: God’s Word (our source of truth/wisdom) and progressive sanctification (our understanding of the change process). These six acts and two bookends suggest eight ultimate life questions that every person asks and every counselor must address. The paper proposes that theologians and counselors can bridge the artificial gap between them by understanding how a theo-dramatic approach provides a Christ-centered, comprehensive, and compassionate foundation for relating truth to life in counseling. It further proposes ways in which counselors can value the grand redemptive narrative of the Bible and the counselee’s life narrative—relating Christ’s gospel story to our life story.[1]

Ashley, Nate, and How We View and Use the Bible

Ashley and her husband, Nate, met with me at church the day after their twin sons’ eleventh birthday. With tears streaming down her face, Ashley shared that twenty-five years earlier, not long after her eleventh birthday, a relative had begun sexually abusing her.

Those who knew Ashley would have been shocked. She grew up in a Christian home, was active at church as an adult, served as a leader in the women’s ministry, and was always “pleasant.”

As Ashley described herself, “I’m the good girl from the good home. The good mom; the good wife. But nobody knows the ugliness I feel inside. Nobody knows how I’ve pretended and denied all these years. I just can’t keep faking it any longer. Depressed to the point that at times I’ve thought about suicide. Fearful and anxious—terrified I’ll displease someone. Terrified someone will find out what an empty but evil thing I am…”

As Ashley’s voice trailed off, Nate asked, “Pastor Bob, can you help? Does the Bible offer any hope for my wife?”[2]

How we respond to Ashley’s soul struggles and to Nate’s life questions depends on how we answer a foundational question:

“What would a model of counseling look like that was built solely upon Christ’s gospel of grace?”[3]

It’s similar to the question Kevin Vanhoozer asks:

“What difference would it make to offer counsel out of a Redemptive Trinitarian Theistic framework?”[4]

3 Shallow Methods of Using the Bible in Counseling

When we fail to address these foundational questions about what makes counseling truly biblical, we end up with shallow answers to people’s complex questions. When people like Ashley and Nate courageously share their real and raw concerns with people in the church, without a gospel-centered theological foundation we tend to respond in one of three ways.

First, some refer. The stereotype goes like this: “I’m a committed Christian. I want to help you with your struggles. However, we have to understand that while the Bible provides insight for our ‘spiritual lives,’ God never intended that we use His Word to address ‘emotional and mental’ struggles. For relevant help for those issues, we need ‘outside experts.’” There’s confidence in God, but with a corresponding conviction that for “non-spiritual issues” God’s Word is not the most appropriate resource.

Second, some follow a sprinkling approach. The stereotype sounds like this: “I’m a committed Christian. I want to help you with your struggles. To the insights I’ve gleaned from the world’s wisdom about your issue, I’ll add Christian concern, prayer, and some occasional biblical principles where they seem pertinent.” There’s confidence in God’s Word as important in helping hurting people, but its application lacks an understanding of the vital, comprehensive, and robust nature of God’s Word for life in a broken world.

Third, some follow the concordance approach. The stereotype goes like this: “I’m a committed Christian. I want to help you with your struggle. You have a problem. I’ll use my Bible concordance to find God’s answer.” Some call this the “one-problem, one-verse, one-solution” approach. There’s confidence in the Bible, but its application lacks an understanding of the complexity of life and the rich nature of God’s Word.

The Relationship between the Bible’s Redemptive Theo-Drama and Gospel-Centered Counseling

Clearly we need a “fourth way” of viewing and using the Bible. If we are to view the Bible accurately and use the Bible competently in counseling, then we must understand the Bible’s story the way God tells it. And God tells His story and ours as the theo-drama of redemption. It is a gospel narrative of relationship.

The Bible presents a grand narrative in which God is both the Author and the Hero, with the story climaxing in Christ. God begins by telling the story of relationship initiated in Genesis 1-2 and relationship rejected in Genesis 3. After those first three chapters, the rest of the Bible tells the story of God wooing us back to His holy and loving arms, all the while fighting the Evil One who wants to seduce us away from our first love.

Ever since Genesis 3, life is a battle for our love—the ageless question of who captures our heart—Christ or Satan. In Gospel-Centered Counseling, I encapsulate all of life as a war and a wedding.[5] Many others have described it as slay the dragon; marry the damsel. The Bible calls it “the gospel.”

Our counseling is sterile and dead if we see the Bible as an academic textbook. But if we view and use the Bible as the story—the gospel-centered drama—of the battle to win our hearts, then our counseling comes alive.

But how do we take the Bible’s theo-dramatic redemptive narrative and relate it comprehensively and compassionately to the lives of hurting people? How do we take the traditional Creation-Fall-Redemption narrative and use it as a helpful and hopeful foundation for gospel-centered counseling?

Here’s how not to do it. When people come to us, we don’t shout, “Gospel!” as if it’s some magic wand.

Instead, we first understand the gospel story, then we seek to understand our friends’ stories, then we journey together to intersect God’s eternal story and their temporal story.    Picture it as pivoting back and forth with our friends between the larger story of the gospel and the smaller (but real and meaningful) story of their life. We earn the right to bring God’s perspective to bear on our friends’ lives by first listening well and wisely to their life story.

Gospel-centered counseling means that together with our counselees we derive our understanding of earthly life from heaven’s viewpoint. We look at life not with eyeballs only, but with spiritual eyes; we live under the Son, not under the sun.

Counseling is biblical when the central message, the sweeping redemptive narrative of the Bible, becomes the controlling lens through which we look at life and through which we listen to a person’s life story. We understand people, diagnose problems, and prescribe solutions through the Bible’s redemptive theo-drama. In this way, the whole Bible story impacts the whole person’s whole story.

The Rest of the Story

You can read the rest of my EST presentation here: Theo-Drama and Gospel-Centered Counseling.


[1]This paper is developed from materials in, Robert W. Kellemen, Gospel-Centered Counseling: How Christ Changes Lives, Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2014; and Robert W. Kellemen, Gospel Conversations: How Christ Changes Lives, Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, forthcoming in 2015.

[2]I further develop Ashley’s story and a biblical counseling response in Robert Kellemen, Sexual Abuse: Beauty for Ashes, Philipsburg, NJ: P&R, 2013.

[3]Gospel-Centered Counseling, 15.

[4]Kevin Vanhoozer, “Forming the Performers: How Christians Can Use Canon Sense to Bring Us to Our (Theodramatic) Senses.” Edification: The Transdisciplinary Journal of Christian Psychology, 4, no. 1, 2010, 7.

[5]Gospel-Centered Counseling, 24.

Topics: Megaphone Post, People in Need of Care, People Who Offer Care, People Who Train Caregivers, Theology | Tags: , , ,

Friday’s 5 to Live By

Friday's 5 To Live By

Each Friday our BCC staff links you to the top five biblical counseling and Christian living blog posts of the week—posts that provide robust, rich, and relevant insights for living.

5 Ugly Qualities of the “Anti-Elder”

Here’s a very convicting post from Tim Challies for any pastor/elder in leadership. 5 Ugly Qualities of the “Anti-Elder.” 

10 Plumblines for Local Outreach

How does a church impact its community? In the first of a multi-part blog series, Pastor J. D. Greear begins to answer that question in: 10 Plumblines for Local Outreach.

9 Issues Regarding Pastors’ Office Hours

Thom Rainer reflects on 9 Issues Regarding Pastors’ Office Hours.

3 Ways to Grow Leaders

At the Gospel-Centered Discipleship site, Jeremy Writebol discusses 3 Ways to Grow Leaders.

A Resource for Seasonal or Holiday Depression

Brad Hambrick provides free access to A Resource for Seasonal or Holiday Depression.

Join the Conversation

Which post impacted you the most? Why? What blog posts have you enjoyed this week that you want to share with others?

Topics: Five To Live By, People in Need of Care, People Who Offer Care, People Who Train Caregivers | Tags: , , , , ,

BCC Megaphone Post: What’s Wrong with Reparative Therapy?

hat’s Wrong with Reparative Therapy

BCC Staff Note: The mission of the BCC is to advance the ministry of the biblical counseling movement. One of the many ways we do this is by using our BCC “megaphone” to make more people aware of excellent biblical counseling resources. We use our megaphone today to alert you to an important recent post by Heath Lambert, Executive Director of the Association Certified of Biblical Counselors (ACBC).

Dr. Lambert writes:

Because of the controversial nature of the therapy it is crucial for Christians to think through it with care. I want to try and begin that thoughtfulness in this blog by evaluating Reparative Therapy as articulated by Joseph Nicolosi in Shame and Attachment Loss: The Practical Work of Reparative Therapy.

To read Dr. Lambert’s response, visit the ACBC’s blog site at What’s Wrong with Reparative Therapy

Topics: Homosexuality, Megaphone Post, People in Need of Care, People Who Offer Care, People Who Train Caregivers | Tags: , ,

Confessions of an Attention Seeker

 

Confessions of an Attention Seeker

BCC Staff Note: Today’s post was original posted at Julie Ganschow blog site and is used by the BCC with permission. You can also read the original post here.

A Drama-Filled Lifestyle

Recently I had the pleasure of ministering to a woman I will call Ruth. Ruth has given me permission to share her story with you, in hope it will help some of you. Ruth is a bubbly, friendly woman with a loud, booming voice. She has infectious laughter and appears to be ready for fun and fellowship at any time. She is very likeable.

Ruth came for biblical help because she had recently been told by her sister that she was tired of being a part of Ruth’s drama-filled life and effectively cut off all ties. This was not the first time she heard this, in fact, Ruth had experienced a steady loss of friends and acquaintances over the years for the same stated reason. Her sister was the last close relationship Ruth had. Her parents were deceased, her brother had gone away long ago because he “couldn’t handle my life either.” She was lonely, sad, and couldn’t understand why she was unable to maintain long-term relationships with anyone!

Ruth said her life was always in some kind of upheaval. Things were always happening to her and she seemed to always be in need of emotional and physical support. Her life was always in turmoil.

She has several problems that add to her difficulties and her needs. She suffered an injury from a piece of farming equipment that has left her unable to work or provide for herself in a meaningful way, and her poor mobility has in part contributed to a significant weight problem.

She tells me she has other problems too that no medical doctor or reliable testing will confirm. Collections of symptoms and feelings that line up with numerous possible diagnosis but for which she repeatedly tests negative. At this point, after hundreds of thousands of dollars in testing, her team of medical professionals have recommended she seek psychiatric care. Ruth has been down that road before, and has been on several psychotropic medications over the years. She doesn’t like the way she feels while on them, so she has discontinued them on her own (not recommended!) in the past. She tells me they really don’t help her anyway, the medications make it difficult to feel any emotions at all.

A Biblical Diagnosis

After listening to her over several sessions I conclude (and Ruth agrees) that where there is no drama, she creates drama. When there is no crisis, she manufactures one. Whether for good reasons or bad reasons, Ruth has to be the center of attention.

As a result of our biblical discipleship times, Ruth learned she was highly manipulative in her relationships. Suffering and hardship (either physical or emotional) were the tools she used to manipulate people. She admitted to thriving on the attention she gained when her life was in turmoil. There was always a compassionate listening ear, someone to comfort her, care for her, and support her.

Ruth’s friends, church members, and sister became her rescuers and her “fixers.” At the beginning of each new crisis, her friends would rally around her and give her as much time as she needed when they came to her aid. When the crises were seemingly never ending, the help and support dwindled. This caused Ruth to escalate the level and intensity of the crisis to churn up the attention she craved. Over a period of years Ruth effectively burned out every friendship, acquaintance, and avenue of support. She was now alone.

A Biblical Treatment Plan

To help Ruth in overcoming this sinful pattern of living, we looked at the thoughts, beliefs, and desires of her heart that were feeding her behaviors. In addition to reading through the book of Philippians as homework, Ruth made a list of the 5 most recently ended relationships and what they had in common. Over a period of weeks, she added what she recalled were her thoughts, desires, motives, feelings, and beliefs during those relationships and then the results were listed. It was clear to Ruth that she was focused exclusively on herself and her self-worship crowded out any room for worship of God and service to others.

We focused on Chapter 2 of Philippians and how her actions were polar opposite of Christ’s.

Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus (Philippians 2:3-5).

Ruth carried a Thought Journal with her and logged her thoughts throughout the day. She brought it with her to our weekly appointments and we combed through it identifying her sinful thoughts, beliefs, and desires for attention.

She learned to put off her selfish desires and asked the Lord to help her to develop the desire to outdo others in showing honor and preference to others in her church (Romans 12:10). Every time she was tempted to create drama or seek attention she checked her heart motives against Scripture. She learned to ask herself some tough questions such as, “Will sharing this honor God?” “Is this a legitimate need, or am I seeking attention right now?” “What/Who am I thinking about right now?”

I encouraged Ruth to go to those people who she sinned against by her attention seeking behaviors and confess her sin to them and ask for their forgiveness as a part of repentance. I warned her they would be wary of her professions of change and that it would take time for trust to be earned. She also understood some relationships may never be restored.

Ruth is still working on her program of repentance and change. She still struggles with temptation toward attention seeking, but has made huge strides toward serving others and honoring God by how she lives her life. I asked her if there was one thing she wanted to say to those who have the same kinds of attention seeking behaviors:

“I was so selfish I was ruining my life and damaging my friendships. Eventually, people stopped paying attention to me because nobody wants to put up with a drama queen. People grow tired of being used and manipulated after a while. If this is you, what you’re doing is very dishonoring to God and you need to change and repent.”

Topics: Biblical Counseling, People in Need of Care, People Who Offer Care, People Who Train Caregivers, Women/Wives | Tags: ,

14 Daggers That Help to Kill Worry

14 Daggers That Help to Kill Worry

BCC Staff Note: This blog was first posted at Dr. Paul Tautges’ website and is used with his permission. You can also read the original post here.

The Battle for the Mind

Faith battles are fought in the mind. In other words, what we say to ourselves controls much of what we do, whether right or wrong, true or false, which is the fruit of what we believe.

Therefore, counseling ourselves with pithy statements rooted in biblical truth is an exceedingly important, but oft-neglected discipline of the Christian life. If you and I are going to walk by faith, not by sight, then we must consistently put to death the lies that our depraved hearts both produce and believe. One key area in which this discipline is so consistently needed—at least for me—is in the battle against worry.

Knowing this about myself, I chose to again mediate on the comforting, faith-building words of the Lord Jesus concerning God’s faithful care for His children, those whom He has redeemed by the blood of His Son. But, this time, I took a different tactic. I looked for key truths that I need to constantly speak back to myself.

“Self counsel” is what we sometimes call it (Think Note to Self by Joe Thorn). It basically means that we learn the discipline of speaking biblical truths to ourselves in order to kill the lies that we so naturally believe about God and about ourselves. So, here are 14 truths that jumped off the pages of Scripture this morning, from Matthew 6:25-34. These truths, in turn, become reasons not to worry. Read Jesus’ words and then think about these simple truths.

  1. God commands me not to worry; worry is sin (vv. 25; 34).
  1. The essence of life is something more significant than material provision (v. 25).
  1. The birds don’t worry, fret, or hoard; yet their needs are met (v. 26).
  1. God feeds the birds that are not made in His image (v. 26).
  1. I am more valuable to God than all the birds combined, because I am made in His image (v. 26).
  1. Worry does not lengthen life (v. 27).
  1. The flowers are clothed by God (vv. 28-29).
  1. God will clothe us (v. 30).
  1. Worry is rooted in unbelief (v. 30).
  1. Worldly people worry; it’s characteristic of unbelieving pagans (vv. 31-32).
  1. Our heavenly Father knows our needs (v. 32).
  1. All our material cares will be taken care of by God when we pursue Christ and His agenda, first, above all (v. 33).
  1. Tomorrow will take care of itself (v. 34).
  1. Today has enough trouble; I don’t need to create more by borrowing from tomorrow (v. 34).

Join the Conversation

What truths do you find in this passage?

Topics: Anxiety, Faith, People in Need of Care, People Who Offer Care, People Who Train Caregivers | Tags: ,

2 Reconciliation Primers

2 Reconciliation Primers

Reconciliation is one of the major themes of the New Testament and one of the most common counseling issues. Here are two reflections on reconciliation from two New Testament passages and some questions that could be used in a counseling session or as a homework assignment.

The Gospel Is the Root of All Reconciliation

In 2 Corinthians 5:14-21, Paul shares his manifesto on vertical and horizontal reconciliation. He begins by highlighting the new and powerful motivation we have for seeking reconciliation, “For the love of Christ controls us….” No longer controlled by self-preoccupation, we have been freed to love God and others. God’s love for us in the gospel is a powerful motivation to love others, even those we may have difficult relationships with.

Paul reinforces this new freedom by proclaiming that Christ “died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised.” We all experience the pull to live for self in relation to God (i.e. self-protection, self-exaltation, self-righteousness, self-atonement) and in relation to others (attacking, retaliating, withdrawing, people-pleasing, manipulating).

Paul reveals that Jesus died so that we can now live for him both vertically (gratitude for his grace, heartfelt worship, desire to serve him by serving others) and horizontally (forgiving, self-sacrificing, lovingly confronting, deferring). Paul also reminds us that “From now on, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh” and that we now relate to every believer as “a new creation.”

And all this is possible because of a costly exchange: “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” In Christ, God exchanged condemnation for acquittal, hostility for peace, curse for blessing, punishment for forgiveness, and alienation for friendship. What hope this gives us for reconciled relationships!

Living as Reconciled People

Romans 12:14-21 shows us what it looks like to live as reconciled and reconciling saints. We must bend our costly vertical reconciliation outward into costly horizontal reconciliation in two ways:

  1. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.” We are to do whatever we can to live in peace and harmony with others: share their joys and sorrows; associate with humble people; be willing to do humble tasks.
  1. “Bless those who persecute you…repay no one evil for evil…if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink…overcome evil with good.” Our costly reconciliation with God through Christ frees us to use our words to bless rather than to curse (i.e. gossiping and slandering, caricaturing, exaggerating, shaming) and to respond to hostility with kindness (moving toward them in love, meeting their needs). Living this way will glorify the Father, adorn the gospel, and point people to the Savior.

Questions to Lead to Repentance

These questions can be used to help reveal heart issues and lead to relational change.

  1. How have you sinned against God in thought, word, and deed? Be specific. What do you deserve? How has God showed “costly exchange” grace to you?
  1. How do you typically live for yourself in relationships? What would it look like to live for Jesus in your relationships?
  1. What are your thoughts on bending God’s costly grace to you outward to extend costly grace to others?
  1. Who are you currently having relational trouble with? How have you contributed to this trouble? How has he/she contributed?
  1. How have you sought to live in peace and harmony with him/her? What have been the results?
  1. What hinders you from sacrificially loving and blessing this person? What do you need to ask God for so that you might do this?
  1. What is God calling you to change and do in this relationship? What will it look like today? This week?
  1. Write a prayer expressing your rejoicing in what God has given you in the gospel, repenting of sinful thoughts, words, and deeds, and requesting the graces you need to love this person as Christ has loved you.

Reconciliation is the removal of indifferent or hostile distance between two estranged parties. Our reconciliation to God through the gospel is the source of our joy and the foundation for all relational healing. Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!

Join the Conversation

What is your own response to, “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God”?

What Scriptures and strategies might be used to help others bend their reconciliation with God through Christ outward toward reconciliation with others?

Topics: BCC Exclusive, Christian Living, Conflict, People in Need of Care, People Who Offer Care, People Who Train Caregivers | Tags:

A Testimonial: How Biblical Counseling Helped Me with a Diagnosis of Bipolar Disorder

The BCC Weekend Resource

BCC Staff Note: This blog post and resource is part of a Biblical Counseling Coalition series of testimonies by people who have received biblical counseling. Though anonymous, each testimony is from a real person who is excited to share how biblical counseling has benefited them. For additional testimonies in this BCC series, click here. Today’s testimony highlights the power of God’s Word to minister to a woman diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder.

Darkness

When the Lord calls us to Himself, He rescues us all out of darkness, but I think my darkness was probably darker than many. I was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder just before I turned 17. Shortly after that, I was put on medicine and told that I would need to use them for the rest of my life. Throughout the following years, I took more pills than I care to count and bounced between numerous hospitals, psychiatrists, and mental health programs.

By the time I turned 22, my life seemed to have improved. I was living on my own, going to school full-time, and working. I even graduated college with honors. But the depression continued to pull me under like quicksand. In the summer of 2007, after repeatedly missing work due to anxiety and depression, I lost my job. My sister and her boyfriend, the only people I spent time with, moved out of state a month later. My life was suddenly turned upside down, and my depression deepened. The marijuana I once used for recreation had become my only source of happiness. Soon, chemicals I had never tried before became part of my regular rotation: prescription pills, cocaine, psychedelic mushrooms, and ecstasy. There wasn’t much I wasn’t willing to try if I thought it would give me even the briefest escape from my misery.

As you may imagine, the time leading up to my salvation was characterized by deep depression. I spent most of the day (sometimes up to 20 hours) in bed. In the evening, I only got up for a few hours to eat and smoke enough marijuana to help me go back to sleep. I had no friends and rarely left my apartment. It had been four years since my last job and had no hope of ever being reemployed. The apartment that had once been a haven became my tomb. Confident my life was over, I hoped death would find me before I took matters into my own hands. The hopelessness I felt was beyond anything I could ever describe.

The Glorious Light of Christ

I thought I knew how dark my darkness was but, it wasn’t until I saw the glorious light of Christ in July 2011 that I truly understood the extent of my darkness. It was like reading in the evening as the sun goes down without realizing how dark it’s gotten until someone turns on a light. When that light comes on, you think, “Wow! I guess it was darker than I thought.” That is just how I felt when I saw the bright light of Jesus.

The Holy Spirit immediately began convicting me of my sin every time I chose to get high. He also convicted me of living a double life. My discipler warned me that if I ignored the Holy Spirit long enough, I would no longer hear His voice. I feared this more than the work it would take to stop living in habitual sin, so I decided to give up my fleshly desires and look to Jesus to fill the hole that I had been trying so desperately to fill with drug induced happiness.

At first, it was challenging, and I didn’t know how I could possibly live without something that had been such an important part of my daily life for over a decade. I am so thankful to be able to tell you that, as of the writing of this testimony, I have been sober over a year-and-a-half and been off psychotropic medicine for nearly as long. I never would have given up drugs on my own, and if it wasn’t for the hope I have in Jesus, I would never have reached either of these milestones. Because of the Lord’s work in my life, I no longer rely on mind altering chemicals, and my daily life has completely transformed. And if that wasn’t enough, the Lord has provided an amazing fulltime job despite being unemployed for six-and-a-half years! I am no longer the person I once was. I am a new creation.

It is never easy to deny your flesh. It wants its own way every minute of every day, but it is so much more satisfying to know you have pleased the Lord when you choose Him over something else. Looking back, there was so much of my life that was in direct opposition to God’s commands. I had spent 32 years living for myself, and I had no idea how to live for Christ. There were many days when I wondered how I could possibly make the changes necessary to follow Him. I saw the weight of my cross, and it looked impossible to carry. Thankfully, the Lord gives us exactly what we need to do His will and be transformed. In addition to the blessing of the church, we have God’s Word to guide us, Christ’s strength to sustain us, and the Holy Spirit to convict us when we’ve gone astray.

4 Principles for Maturing in Christ

Here are four important principles that the Lord used in my life to help me put off my sinful habits and get me where I am today:

  1. Get a discipler. This is crucial. You need someone to regularly lead you back to Christ when you mistakenly believe your way is better.
  1. Join a Small Group. In my church, our small groups are called Care Groups. Small Groups are an important part of church because they allow you to really get to know other members of your church. You learn what the other members of your group are struggling with, how to pray for each other, and practical ways to help one another. Never underestimate your need for people to come alongside you and encourage you.
  1. Be humble & be honest. Both of these are related to the first two principles. Your church family can’t help you if they don’t know you need help. You need to be transparent. My discipler has always thanked me for my willingness to be transparent, and until recently, I had no idea why this was such a big deal. It finally dawned on me that I wouldn’t have grown as rapidly in such a short period of time if I hadn’t been completely open with my discipler and Care Group leaders.
  1. Be willing to be held accountable. I know this doesn’t sound appealing at all, and there may be times when you regret asking for accountability. Let’s face it; nobody likes to admit they messed up again. But that’s just your pride talking. Don’t listen to it. It will only get in the way of your growth. The Lord didn’t create His church just so we could get together on Sundays to sing songs and have potlucks. He created the church so that we can help each other grow by encouraging one another and holding each other accountable. Take advantage of this gracious gift!

5 Principles for Transformation in Christ

Here are five biblical principles and verses which also helped transform me in Christ.

  1. Using Scripture as my guide. My discipler showed the importance of spending time in the Word, so I could learn what God had to say about living a life that pleases Him. Then she taught me to practice replacing my instincts with Truth. I had 30 years of faulty thinking to overcome and had to learn to replace the lies in my head with the Truth of His Word. Psalm 19:7-8 taught me the power of God’s Word: “The law of the Lord is perfect, restoring the soul; the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple. The precepts of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes.” Also, Matthew 11:28-30 was a passage I came across when I was in the psych ward in June 2012. I was so tired of living in such a depressed state. I wanted to die so I wouldn’t hurt anymore. To read “come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. . . .” was a major source of comfort during that time and will no doubt continue to comfort me for the rest of my life. Finally, Philippians 4:8 was a verse I repeated like a mantra on days when my mood was low and I was tempted to dwell on negative thoughts. In the past, my low mood would quickly spiral into a debilitating depression because I would allow myself to listen to any negative thought that popped into my head. Dwelling on that which is true, honorable, right, pure, lovely, of good repute, excellent and worthy of praise has helped me put off sinful thinking.
  1. I was used to dealing with problems on my own because I had no one I could talk to. It was a big adjustment (and honestly something I still struggle with at times) to share my struggles with the Lord and ask for His guidance. One of the first verses I came across as a new believer was James 1:5: “But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him.” I immediately wrote this on an index card and put it on my fridge. It has been there for over three years.
  1. Confessing my sins to the Lord and others. This was very hard. It still brings tears to my eyes when I remember the shame I felt when I would get high. I knew getting high was wrong because of what God’s Word says and because I felt the Holy Spirit convicting me. It broke my heart every time I chose a temporary pleasure over my Lord. I still vividly remember the last time I smoked weed. I ended up on my hands and knees sobbing to the Lord; confessing my sin and pleading for His forgiveness and help. Confessing to my discipler and my Care Group leader wasn’t easy either. I hated admitting I had messed up yet again. However, the thought of having to confess to them that I had gotten high again made doing it again a lot less appealing.
  1. Removing provisions that made it easier to sin. This is the one my discipler was adamant about doing, and I’m so glad she was. She taught me what the Lord says about removing provisions by sharing Romans 13:14 with me. “But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh in regard to its” I knew not to keep drugs in the house, but I didn’t realize how many other provisions I surrounded myself with. I got rid of all my paraphernalia plus movies and music that glorified getting high or that I associated with partying. I also had to stop spending time with my brother. This is the one rule my Care Group leader strictly enforced. He saw that I could overcome the temptation to get high until my brother came over. I hated that my Care Group Leader laid down the law when it came to spending time with him, but it was necessary. For so long he was the only one I socialized with. I loved him to death and it broke my heart not be able to see him, but I knew I had to do it because I loved my Savior more. My brother was the toughest and final provision I removed, but it wasn’t long after that I stopped spending time with him that I was able to stop getting high for good.
  1. Spending time in fellowship especially when I wanted to be isolated. My tendency is to isolate myself even though I know it isn’t always good for me. I only sink deeper in the darkness when I am alone with my thoughts. Fellowshipping kept me from spiraling into depression because I was surrounded by godly men and women. The first year I was saved I continued to hang out with my brother and his friends—unbelievers who love what the Lord hates. It is very hard to say no to drugs and alcohol when you are spending time with people who get wasted on a regular basis. My advice is to seek the company of those who love the Lord.

I pray that you are encouraged by my testimony, especially if you are struggling with habitual sin. Christ wants and deserves your devotion. If you give everything over to Him, He will do mighty works in your life as he has in mine. If you don’t know Jesus as your Lord and Savior and you hear Him calling, I pray today is the day you answer and give your life to Him. You will not regret it.

Topics: Biblical Counseling, People in Need of Care, People Who Offer Care, People Who Train Caregivers, Psychology and Christianity | Tags: , , , ,

Friday’s 5 to Live By

Friday's 5 To Live By

Each Friday our BCC staff links you to the top five biblical counseling and Christian living blog posts of the week—posts that provide robust, rich, and relevant insights for living.

I Will Choose to Trust God Today

Randy Alcorn quotes from Nancy Leigh DeMoss’ book, Choosing Gratitude with a succinct reminder that helps us to rise each day to say, “I Will Choose to Trust God Today.” 

Can We “Enjoy” Our Money?

Tim Challies asks and answers the provocative question: When Was the Last Time You Just Enjoyed Your Money? 

Marriage and Porn Addiction: Is Your Husband on Your Team?

At Covenant Eyes, Kay Bruner writes about Marriage and Porn Addiction: Is Your Husband on Your Team? 

Heaven and Hell

Ligonier Ministries continues its periodic blog posts about The State of Theology and what Americans really belief. The latest is on Heaven? Yes. Hell? No! 

Bearing False Witness

In the final post in a series (with links to each post in the series), Matt Mitchell examines the Old Testament to define “gossip” in Bearing False Witness.

Join the Conversation

Which post impacted you the most? Why? What blog posts have you enjoyed this week that you want to share with others?

Topics: Five To Live By, People in Need of Care, People Who Offer Care, People Who Train Caregivers | Tags: , , , , ,

Taste This!

Taste This!

Thanksgiving is a wonderful time for family gatherings, fellowship, faith, fun and, food! With steam rising off the tender turkey and creamy butter slithering a path through the mashed potatoes, we enjoy, we savor, we sing the praises of the goodness of the delicious meal. “Mmmmmmm!!” “This is so good!” “Taste this!” We can hardly contain our praise!

In Psalm 34:8, David speaks as though he were sitting at a Thanksgiving meal when he abounds with praise and proclaims, “Oh, taste and see that the LORD is good! “ David is not nonchalantly asking us to know a few things about God; he is begging us to taste the feast of God’s goodness. Tasting requires a genuine experience so that we can authentically assess from the experience, “The Lord is indeed good!”

But do we always deem good that which is tasted or experienced?

“Yuck!”

There are few things more disheartening at a meal than to hear those discouraging words, “Yuck! I don’t like this!” It is frustrating, to say the least! Yet, when our good and sovereign Father prepares “meals” for us that we would have never chosen for ourselves, how often do we want to cry out, “I don’t like this at all!”?

When David penned this psalm, we have hints that he could have said those very words regarding his circumstances. He needed deliverance from fears (Psalm 34:4). He needed to be saved from his troubles (Psalm 34:6). He needed a refuge (Psalm 34:8). This psalm seems all too relevant to our day, does is not? Fears and suffering have always been part and parcel to life in a sin-laden, fallen world.

Fears…

There are many things that may make us afraid. We may fear:

  • Our future. Does watching the news inspire a heart full of fear?
  • Our health. Do you worry constantly about your health or whether or not your health insurance will be there for you when your health inevitably fails?
  • Our finances. Does your security ebb and flow according to your bank statements?
  • Our standing with others. Does the opinion and approval of others keep you in performance-driven bondage?

Trouble…

David had many fears, but he also needed saving from trouble and suffering. Suffering comes in all shapes and sizes. It can be physical, emotional, relational, financial, and even spiritual. Pain, chronic illness, loss, grief, besetting sins, betrayal, conflict, and chaotic circumstances are just a few examples of circumstances of suffering that we may face.

These troubles and fears force us to seek for a refuge. A refuge is a source of help, relief, or comfort in times of trouble, danger, or hardship. In Psalm 46:1, God promises to be “our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.”

Where do you run for refuge?

David looked to the Lord in his trouble and was able to say through the experience, “Taste and see that the Lord is good!”

Suffering doesn’t often inspire words like these. So how can we, like David, declare the goodness of God right smack in the middle of difficulty? There is often an unexpected sweetness that can only be found in these trying circumstances.

Unexpected Sweetness

Have you ever seen a toddler eat a sour patch kid? They see the bright, sugary, fun-shaped candy and immediately toss it into their little mouths. They expect sweetness and are shocked when they find….sour. Yet if they endure, the sour gives way to sweet.

Sometimes life can seem so sour that it can seem impossible to find the sweet. I speak from fresh experience. What do we do when we want to push away the plate that God lovingly prepared for us and say, “I do not like this at all!”?

There is an unexpected sweetness in these very sour experiences that you may not ever enjoy unless you keep enduring through your sour. God reveals Himself during these times when we most need His care. In our psalm, verse 7 includes this unexpected sweetness when it says, “The angel of the LORD encamps around those who fear him, and delivers them.”

Who is this angel of the LORD? The first place we find this phrase in Scripture is in Genesis 16 with the story of Hagar. Hagar had run from her trouble and was alone and fearful in the wilderness when the “angel of the LORD” met her there. He found her, encouraged her, and promised blessings to her. Verse 13 says, “So she called the name of the LORD who spoke to her, ‘You are a God of seeing,’ for she said, ‘Truly here I have seen him who looks after me.’” This angel of the LORD was none other than God Himself, revealing Himself as El-Roi, the God who looks after us.

When we are suffering, we often feel alone, abandoned, uncared for, and unseen by God. In these moments, take those doubting thoughts captive and replace them with truth about His character as El-Roi. Remember that the angel of the LORD, El-Roi, is setting up camp around you with His watchful eye upon you, ready to look to your needs. His character is our refuge. Look to Him until your sour suffering bursts forth into the sweetness of comfort and restful trust.

The second place we find the angel of the LORD is in Genesis 22. This is the story of Abraham being called to sacrifice his son, Isaac. As Abraham was raising the knife over Isaac, it was the angel of the LORD who intervened and provided a substitute sacrifice for Isaac. Verse 11 says, “So Abraham called the name of that place, ‘The LORD will provide.’” In this vignette, God reveals himself as Jehovah-Jireh, the LORD who provides.

When in the death grip of fear, struggling to believe that God will provide all that is needed, take your fearful thoughts captive and replace them with precious truths about His character as Jehovah-Jireh. Remember that the angel of the LORD, Jehovah-Jireh, is encamped around you, ready to give Himself and His generous provisions. His character is our refuge. Look to Him until your bitter anxiety melts into the sweetness of peace and security!

The Sweetest Provision

As you look to Him, cast your gaze on the one place that His goodness to you is best tasted. Look to the cross! Jehovah-Jireh delivered Isaac by providing a substitute for the sacrifice. The greater deliverance comes to us when God provided our substitute in His own Son. He saved us from the worst kind of trouble, namely His holy wrath against sin, and provided the righteousness we most desperately need.

El-Roi met Hagar in the wilderness to ensure her that he saw her in her suffering and would look to her needs. The greater encouragement comes to us when we realize that when the Father turned His face away from Jesus, it was to ensure that He would never take His eyes off of us in our suffering nor fail to give what is needed to endure.

He sees. He cares. He provides. As we savor the sweetness of this profound goodness, let us, like David in Psalm 34, spill over with praise and thanksgiving to the One who is indeed good!

Join the Conversation

Have you tasted His goodness?

Topics: BCC Exclusive, Faith, Fear/Worry, People in Need of Care, People Who Offer Care, People Who Train Caregivers, Worship | Tags: , ,

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The BCC exists to strengthen churches, para-church organizations, and educational institutions by promoting excellence and unity in biblical counseling as a means to accomplish compassionate outreach and effective discipleship.