Tweets of the Week 9.16.14

There is great value in saying something in a memorable, concise manner. Twitter has caused us to make this a near spiritual discipline. For my own growth (as a generally verbose individual… that’s a long way of saying “wordy”) and for the benefit of others, I highlight tweets each week that deliver a big message in a few words.

“Towards a Christian Perspective on Mental Illness” Plenary & Panel Discussion (Sept. 30)

The next Sam James Institute Forum will be September 30th at 6:30 at the Brier Creek Campus. The evening will be devoted to the subject: “A Christian Perspective on Mental Illness.”

The schedule will be (Brier Creek campus):

  • 6:30 to 7:30 Plenary “Towards a Christian Perspective on Mental Illness” with Brad Hambrick, Pastor of Counseling at The Summit Church
  • 7:30 to 8:30 Panel Discussion (see panelist bio’s below)

During the plenary presentation we’ll grapple with questions like:

  • ​What percent of those who struggle with “normal sorrow” are labeled as clinically depressed? What percentage of those who think their sorrow is normal are actually clinically depressed?
  • In the modern psychological proverb, “The genes load the gun, and the environment pulls the trigger,” where is the person?
  • Can we have a “weak” brain—one given to problematic emotions or difficulty discerning reality—and a “strong” soul—one with a deep and genuine love for God?
  • Are our emotions more than the alarm system of the soul (moral) and the chemicals of our brain (biological)? Do these two categories tell us everything we need to know about emotions?
  • Why are we, culturally, more open about almost everything in our lives than we were a generation ago except mental illness?
  • How much should we expect conversion and normal sanctification (spiritual maturity) to impact mental illness?
  • When and how should a Christian seek relief from painful emotions through the use of psychotropic medications?

Then we will have a panel of counselors who specialize in (1) addiction – Chris Ball, (2) children – Caroline Von Helms, (3) psychiatry – Dr. Mark Cheltenham, (4) social work – Karla Siu, and (5) trauma – Becky Jorgenson offers a perspective from their area of specialty on the plenary presentation and then address a few questions submitted by the audience.

The panelist will be:

Chris-BallChris Ball, M.A.
Executive Director at Bridgehaven’s Downtown Raleigh Office

Chris majored in Psychology and Religious Studies at UNC-Charlotte, before moving to the Raleigh area to attend Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, where he received his Master of Arts in Biblical Counseling.

Chris gained experience counseling in the addiction field for three years before transitioning to Bridgehaven. He specializes in counseling those struggling with addictions (alcohol and other drug usage, family/spousal recovery support, pornography), sexuality (same sex attraction, sexual abuse, adultery), and psychiatric issues (PTSD, Bipolar, depression).

EPSON MFP imageMark Cheltenham, M.D.
Contract Psychiatrist

Mark contracts with the North Carolina Department of Public Safety treating juvenile, and adult offenders. He received his medical training from both the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine and Howard University College of Medicine.

After graduating from Howard University College of Medicine, Mark completed both his general internship and residency in psychiatry at Howard University Hospital in Washington, D.C.

Becky JorgensonBecky Jorgenson, M.A., LPC, NCC, NCTM
Owner and Founder of Mosaic Counseling Center, PLLC

Becky Jorgenson is both a Licensed Professional Counselor and a Nationally Certified Music Teacher. She graduated from Liberty University in 2009 with a MA in Professional Counseling and earned a BA in Music from Campbell University in 2004.

She provides holistic counseling services in a variety of treatment areas including the following: anxiety disorders, mood/depressive disorders, abuse, trauma, self-harm, eating disorders, post-abortion, behavioral issues, adjustment, career, spirituality, human sex trafficking, and grief. She specializes in working with adolescents (11-17) and young adults (18-30); Becky also enjoys working with children (4+).

Karla-Siu-MSW-LCSW1-200x300Karla Siu, MSW, LCSW
Clinical Program Director at El Futuro, Inc. (www.elfuturo-nc.org)

Karla Siu grew up in Honduras, Tokyo and Virginia. She has worked in welfare reform, community mental health, research on biculturalism, and services to Latino domestic violence offenders. Karla has special expertise in serving families and children, conducting play therapy, and assisting in recovery from trauma, depression, addictions, eating disorders, anxiety, and other severe and persistent mental illnesses.

She co-authored a paper on cultural issues in treating Latino-Hispanic families with domestic violence issues, published in 2009. Karla has been an active member of the Summit Church since 2004. Karla has helped with establishing the Summit En Español campus and has also provided support to the Summit’s various counseling ministries throughout the years.

Karla serves the Latino community in North Carolina through her work at El Futuro since 2006. Karla currently serves on the board of directors of JusticeMatters, a non-profit Christian organization that provides empowering legal services by mobilizing legal professionals and law students to invest their resources in our community for the common good.

Caroline-von-HelmsCaroline Von Helms, M.A.
Staff Counselor at Bridgehaven Counseling Associates

Caroline is a native of North Carolina, and a graduate of North Carolina State University. Caroline earned a masters degree in Marriage and Family Counseling and a masters degree in Christian Education.

Caroline worked as a licensed professional counselor supervisor and licensed marriage and family therapist supervisor while in Dallas, and spent a large portion of her time helping children and families during difficult transitions. She also worked with foster care and adoption agencies, as well as the local Juvenile Probation Department providing family counseling.

She also partnered with local churches to provide counseling training on issues such as depression, anxiety, eating disorders, parenting, grief, marital issues, and transitional issues with individuals and families.

For the various counseling options available from this material visit www.summitrdu.com/counseling.

The following related presentations may also be of interest to you.

OVERCOMING DEPRESSION-ANXIETY: A SUFFERING PARADIGM
Date: Saturday September 27
Time: 4:00 to 7:30 pm
Location: The Summit Church, Brier Creek South Venue
Address: 2415-107 Presidential Drive; Durham, NC 27703
Cost: Free
RSVP Here

TOWARDS A CHRISTIAN PERSPECTIVE ON MENTAL ILLNESS
Date: Tuesday September 30
Time:  7:30 to 8:30 pm
Location: The Summit Church, Brier Creek South Venue
Address: 2415-107 Presidential Drive; Durham, NC 27703
Cost: Free
RSVP: Link will be posted at www.bradhambrick.com/events

OVERCOMING DEPRESSION-ANXIETY: A PERSONAL RESPONSIBILITY PARADIGM
Date: Saturday October 18
Time: 4:00 to 7:30 pm
Location: The Summit Church, Brier Creek South Venue
Address: 2415-107 Presidential Drive; Durham, NC 27703
Cost: Free
RSVP: Link will be posted at www.bradhambrick.com/events

What Is My Depression-Anxiety Saying? (Part 1 of 2)

This post is an excerpt from the study guide which accompanies the “Overcoming Depression-Anxiety: A Suffering Paradigm” seminar. This portion is one element from “Step 4: LEARN MY SUFFERING STORY which I use to make sense of my experience.” To RSVP for this and other Summit counseling seminars visit bradhambrick.com/events.

This awkward question forces us to examine the message we are embracing in the midst of our emotional experience. As you read through the list below, you are trying to identify which messages best capture your experience. Do not feel compelled to think that your emotions are saying all of these things.

At the end of each theme a passage of Scripture will be provided with a devotional guide. These are not meant to be “the answer” which erases your experience of depression-anxiety or dominates the suffering story into remission. They are meant to offer hope and prevent this chapter from seeming as dark as it would otherwise.

Nine of the ten themes / statements are taken from Ed Welch’s article “Words of Hope for Those Who Struggle with Depression” (The Journal of Biblical Counseling; Winter 2000, p. 43-44; bold text only). As you read this section, simply be asking yourself the question, “Which of these sounds like me?”

1. “I am guilty or ashamed.” The theme of guilt would view depression-anxiety as sin and say, “This is my fault.”While the theme of shame would view depression-anxiety as suffering and say, “Something is wrong with me.” Either way, the emotions of depression-anxiety would become the defining quality in your sense of identity.

The tempting part of guilt for these emotions is that it provides a façade of immediate emotional control. If this were true, then repentance would provide relief. It would be a great trade to “own” our emotions and be delivered. But even when depression-anxiety does reveal sin, the emotions themselves are not what is sinful; only the values and lifestyle that produce them. So this “deal with God” mentality is not the answer.

The tempting part of shame for these emotions is that it means we can quit looking for an explanation. Often shame is the result of exhaustion. We can’t think of anything else to do and no longer have the energy to do it if we did, so we give up and embrace shame as a form of painful-rest. But the result is passivity and isolation; both of which only stoke the fire of anxiety-depression.

  • How or when has your depression-anxiety said, “I am guilty or ashamed”?

Read Ezekiel 36:25-31. Notice that when God promises to wash his people clean he says he will wash them of their idolatry and uncleanness. This removes both guilt and shame. Idolatry creates guilt because it relies on something other than God for the things only God can do. Uncleanness is different. Under Old Testament law you could become unclean by having a skin disease, touching or eating the wrong animal, or violating some other ceremonial law. These were not “wrong” (many were unhealthy and needed to be discouraged) but they became sources of shame. God offers a full cleansing from both guilt and shame. Notice the extent to which God goes to ensure his people that he will restore them to full, right relationship with him.

 2. “I am afraid.” Fear is initially invigorating and then draining; it spikes, then crashes. This helps explain why depression-anxiety are almost inevitably correlated. Whichever comes first, it is physically and emotionally probable the other will follow. If we are anxious first, we cannot sustain this emotionally heightened state and will physically crash into depression. If we are depressed first, things will be neglected and occasionally be jolted into fear-action by the crisis of things that must be done.

Understanding this dynamic still misses the question, “Of what are you afraid?” Is it a physical threat of safety, an emotional threat of security, a hypothetical threat of the unknown, or a perceived threat of the imagined? Each of these calls for a different response to counter or remove the story line. Articulating the thing(s) that you fear allows you to identify the aspects of God’s character you need to trust more or the areas of God’s guidance you need to follow.

Imagine the “unsafe music” that plays behind a scary movie scene; the music that plays when a shark is approaching in the movie Jaws or an axe murderer is stalking someone in a horror film. Allowing the theme of danger to dominate your life, is like constantly playing emotional music in your day-to-day life. Even a comedy or romance movie would be disturbing with that music. You wouldn’t be able to enjoy it, even if the content were funny or heart-warming. The same is true of pleasant events in our life set against a background theme of danger.

  • How or when has your depression-anxiety said, “I am in danger”?

Read Psalm 91. Notice that the psalmist does not dismiss the dangers around him. It is not as if these elements of the story disappear. There are still snares (v. 3), deadly pestilence (v. 3), the terror of night (v. 5), pressures of the day (v. 6), perishing of people (v. 7), wicked people in the world (v. 8) and natural dangers (v. 13). Faith does not require the psalmist to be blind to these realities. Instead, as you read the psalm, you will simply notice that God’s presence and care have become larger themes in his story than these dangers.

3. “I need something.” Often depression is not about what is pending (i.e., fear or dread) but what is missing (i.e., loneliness or emptiness). The blessing of living in a first-world country is that we have the opportunity (i.e., freedom, time, and resources) to pursue fulfillment. The danger is that when we do, be, or have anything, nothing ever feels like “enough.” Endless possibilities make reality seem sub-optimal.

In a “land of opportunity,” contentment begins to feel like “settling;” being dominated by longing becomes a virtue. Whether the sub-theme is romance or achievement, a sense of need blinds us to the goodness of God in this moment because of the ways God has been good to others in different ways. We are often like children who cannot enjoy our Happy Meal toy because our sibling got a different one, and (as we tell the story to ourselves) “different” means “more awesome than mine.”

What is it that you believe you need to be at peace or to have hope? The wording of this question is not meant to provoke guilt but to slow down our emotional logic which tends to validate itself very quickly. As you compile this list, look for examples of people who live fulfilled lives in comparable circumstances to your own. Allow this to reframe your pursuit of the blessings you desire.

  • How or when has your depression-anxiety said, “I am lacking something essential or unwanted”?

Read I Corinthians 12:4-26. Do not apply what is about to be said about this text to dangerous situations. But notice that God intentionally blesses his people differently. One implication of this passage is that God gives many things we need to other people to force us to live in community and overcome the sense that we must “own” everything that makes us feel safe, wanted, and fulfilled. Part of living at peace in God’s story is realizing the relationship this facilitates is better than the isolation self-autonomy would produce.

 4. “I must avoid something.” On the other side of need is avoidance; this is the opposite of the previous theme. We can crave acceptance or live to avoid rejection; crave success or live to avoid failure. Often these dualities exist within the same person. But either theme, craving or avoiding, are equally effective at producing a life marked by depression-anxiety.

When you live to avoid something, you can only know failure or suspense but never success or rest. A better recipe for anxiety-depression could not be written. When your goal is to avoid something, you only have a measure for failure; success is vague-undefined-idealistic. Your best moments are tainted as you brace against the possibility of your worst moments.

The result of this theme is that all of life becomes dangerous. We live guessing where our feared-danger is going to pop up next; like a not-fun version of the Whack-a-Mole arcade game. Hyper-vigilance is the name for this style of thinking. “Vigilant” means to be watchful or alert. “Hyper” means this tendency has become heightened. This pattern of thinking is one way we reinforce narrative that our life is unsafe

  • How or when has your depression-anxiety said, “I am must avoid something”?

Read Psalm 23. This psalm can be so familiar that we miss the story it contains. God, as the Good Shepherd, is walking with the author through many things he would prefer to avoid. Green pastures and still waters may sound nice, but they are exposed places where predators would be stalking (v. 2). The valley of the shadow of death is an obvious place we would want to avoid (v. 4). Being in the presence of enemies is also something we tend to avoid (v. 6). Notice how God re-stories these experiences with his presence in this psalm.

 5. “I lost something.” This is a third facet of painful longing. We’ve discussed craving and avoiding; now we’ll look at how both grief and regret create a hospitable storyline for anxiety-depression. In this situation, we’ve had what we are desiring, but now it is gone. Whether we believe we are responsible for the loss (regret) or not (grief), the end result is that we believe our past is better than our future.

In this story, “the good life” is what we had. “Good” has become frozen in time. Nostalgia has become the counterfeit for dreaming of a satisfying future. The result is that every blessing in the moment is emotionally measured as being “less than” what was lost.

Often this can occur after a very satisfying season of life; parents who enjoy when the “kids were little,” the athlete who misses his “playing days,” or missing a circle of friends when the next season of life changes one’s relationships. Life is filled with these transitions even without the contributions of death or sin.

  • How or when has your depression-anxiety said, “I am grieving the absence of someone or something”?

Read Philippians 1:7-8. Notice that Paul deeply yearned for his friends (v. 8). While he was happy for them (v. 3-4), this had to create a sense of stress and sadness (II Corinthians 11:28). Notice what Paul says about these emotions, “It is right for me to feel this way (v. 7).” Paul was able to miss his friends and the season of life they shared together without giving way to persistent depression-anxiety because this experience of longing was within the larger redemptive narrative of the gospel (Philippians 4:10-13).

OVERCOMING DEPRESSION-ANXIETY: A SUFFERING PARADIGM
Date: Saturday September 27
Time: 4:00 to 7:30 pm
Location: The Summit Church, Brier Creek South Venue
Address: 2415-107 Presidential Drive; Durham, NC 27703
Cost: Free
RSVP Here

For the various counseling options available from this material visit www.summitrdu.com/counseling.

Depression-Anxiety_Poster

12 Ways Depression-Anxiety Impacts Family and Relationships

This post is an excerpt from the study guide which accompanies the “Overcoming Depression-Anxiety: A Suffering Paradigm” seminar. This portion is one element from “STEP 3: UNDERSTAND the Impact of My Suffering.” To RSVP for this and other Summit counseling seminars visit bradhambrick.com/events.

The first two areas of impact we examined were how the experience of depression-anxiety impacts you. Now we are going to examine how your experience of depression-anxiety impacts those around you. You happen to those around you as much as they happen to you. Overcoming depression-anxiety will have social implications and it is good for us to begin considering those now.

This is a point where it is easy for many people to lapse into self-pity and shame. But considering how your emotions impact others is vital to godly change. The best response is effort towards progress rather than an emotional apology. If confession is needed, that will be covered in step five of the sin-based counterpart to this study. For now your objective remains to understand the impact of your depression-anxiety so that you can be equipped to battle it most effectively.

In her book Troubled Minds: Mental Illness and the Church’s Mission, Amy Simpson lists twelve ways that family and friend are affected when their loved one experiences significant mental illness (p. 60-80; bold text only). As you read these, ask yourself two questions: (1) when may these be present in my relationships, and (2) how can I minimize their effect? But do not allow these to distract you from your pursuit of hope and peace; which is the best thing you can do for those who care about you.

1. Special Rules: When one person does less others must do more or suffer the consequences. When one person becomes emotionally fragile those around him/her learn the “rules” to keep things “normal.” Whenever certain subjects or activities become “off limits” they become life rules people must follow to stay in good relationship. When some things are “not public knowledge” this creates an artificial social system. All of these are ways that depression-anxiety can create special rules for those around you.

2. Resource Monopoly: Therapy, medication, hospitalization, and missed work all cost money, time, and attention. They may be a very good investment, but they still consume resources. Other family members will do without certain things because of this investment. If you are a parent, the most costly of these resources is attention. Make sure you set aside time to invest your attention in your children. It will bless you and is vital to their healthy development.

3. Confusion: With depression-anxiety there are no bruises, scars, or broken bones; there is not a rash, skin discoloration, or bumps. There is nothing that makes it obvious that something is wrong. This is as confusing to others as it is frustrating to you. Children are especially prone to self-incriminating interpretations of your down mood as being their fault; they need something that “makes sense” of what is occurring in their world. You can love others well by listening for and patiently correcting their confused guilt-interpretations of your emotions.

4. Anxiety: Confusion (previous point) breeds anxiety. This is true for you. If you do not understand what causes your emotional fluctuations that feels unpredictable and stressful. Alleviating this stress is the reason for the amount of assessment work you’re asked to do in this study. The same is true for your family and friends. When you can tell they are confused by your mood changes, acknowledge that you are confused as well. This can let them know they are not “missing something” that is obvious to you and should be to them.

5. Guilt: The quickest way to control and make sense of something emotional is to take responsibility for it (whether it is accurate or healthy or not). The answer to the question, “What can I do to help?” can easily be misconstrued as an answer for the question, “What should I be doing so you would not feel this way?” The former seeks to provide support and gives grace; the latter assumes responsibility and assumes guilt. When this mistake is made it makes your unpleasant mood a tarnish on their clean conscience. Your sadness is perceived as their deficiency. Saying, “You haven’t done anything to make me feel this way,” can be important.

6. Maladjustment: This is particularly true for children. When mom or dad is more internally focused on themselves than externally focused on their children, the children have to adjust to this culture change. It will be the “normal” that they know and from which they form their relational instincts. Spouses also adjust as they accommodate their social and home expectations to the possibilities allowed and environment created by their spouse’s emotions. The best way to account for this factor is to fully engage with pursuit of healthy emotions and demonstrate awareness of when your mood is affecting others in an unhealthy way.

7. Role Reversal: Children can become caregivers or emotional supporters, spouses can become parents, and friendships can become one-way relationships when depression-anxiety dominates our life. These reverse what is healthy for each of these relationships. Resist this most intensely with your children. Kids should be allowed to be kids and not asked to carry the emotional load of their parents. With spouse or friends, overtly acknowledge if there is a role change, which can be helpful, but also keep them informed of the steps you are taking to make this arrangement short-term. Allowing these role reversals to become long-term is what accounts for the “special rules” described in the first item on this list.

8. Instability: When your emotions change the plans of others you introduce instability into their lives. They become less able to prepare for future events and implement reliable patterns for managing basic life tasks and interests. Beyond sensitivity to others, you begin to teach them that your emotions are the top priority and final arbiter of schedules and decisions. Following through on commitments is not just about preventing the passivity that is hospitable for depression-anxiety, but also about loving others well by limiting the instability in their lives.

9. Medications: How to make wise decisions about the use of medication is covered in Appendix A. But, as you likely know, finding the “right” medication is hard. How to identify which medication will be most effective for a given individual’s depression-anxiety can be difficult. In this effort, family and friends’ view of medication and doctors can be affected. Some may grow cynical when results are not as immediate. Others may grow overly-reliant on the role of doctors-medicine for healthy emotions. The resource www.bradhambrick.com/mentalillness is intended to balance these expectations.

10. Grief and Loss: People who love you will experience sorrow as you struggle. This is right and good (Romans 12:15). It can feel awkward or guilt-provoking when your emotions have this kind of influence on others. But when you see this influence simply say, “Thank you… Thank you for caring about me enough that what happens in my life impacts you. I want you to know that my emotions are not your responsibility, but it is comforting to know that I am not alone in this experience.” Affirm their character while releasing their sense of responsibility.

11. Shame: Unfortunately, there is still a social stigma associated with depression-anxiety. It can make other’s knowledge of what you’re experiencing feel like a secret. Secrets create a sense of separation and, with that separation, shame. We face a cultural battle to corporately understand depression-anxiety better so that this stigma can be removed. The removal of every stigma happens when courageous individuals will talk openly about their experience and use it to educate others. This seminar is intended to help you, and thereby strengthen the entire church, in this process.

12. Spiritual Crisis: Depression-anxiety generates many God-questions; for you and those who love you. We will explore these in great detail in chapters four through six. Share what you learn with those who love you. This will help reinforce what you are learning and help them process the corresponding questions they are also asking.

Read I Samuel 1:3-8. It might be easy to conclude from this section that family and friends are innocent by-standers affected by your emotions. That is not always true. Often our “support network” can be less than helpful. Look at the example of Elkannah (v. 8). His “support” revealed that he clearly did not understand. Hannah’s sorrow made him uncomfortable and he wanted her to feel better. But God would have to comfort Hannah in spite of his words instead of through them. Part of the comfort we take from Scripture is the examples of how God was faithful even when his people were clumsy with one another.

Read Galatians 6:1-5. Notice the different ways that God describes how relationships should work when one person needs other to bear their burdens. First, notice that you should go to those who are more mature in their faith (v. 1a). Second, notice that these individuals are instructed to know their own limits (v. 1b). Third, notice how you are providing them an opportunity to fulfill the law of Christ (v. 2). Fourth, notice that even those who are spiritually mature are prone to the same struggles (v. 3). Finally, notice that, while this person comes alongside you for encouragement, each of you maintain responsibility for your own lives and struggles (v. 5).

OVERCOMING DEPRESSION-ANXIETY: A SUFFERING PARADIGM
Date: Saturday September 27
Time: 4:00 to 7:30 pm
Location: The Summit Church, Brier Creek South Venue
Address: 2415-107 Presidential Drive; Durham, NC 27703
Cost: Free
RSVP Here

For the various counseling options available from this material visit www.summitrdu.com/counseling.

Depression-Anxiety_Poster

Tweets of the Week 9.9.14

There is great value in saying something in a memorable, concise manner. Twitter has caused us to make this a near spiritual discipline. For my own growth (as a generally verbose individual… that’s a long way of saying “wordy”) and for the benefit of others, I highlight tweets each week that deliver a big message in a few words.

 

9 Questions to Help You Steward All of Your Life for God’s Glory

pursue_avoidIf the law of God can be summarized in a positive command, then we consider how to “run to” God rather than merely how to “run from” sin. Life is not primarily about what we avoid, but what we pursue.

As you read through and answer these nine questions, remember God’s patience and timing. There will be some aspects of God’s design that you can engage in immediately. But there will also be ways you want to serve God that will require you to mature more or be equipped before you are prepared to fulfill them. The main thing is to begin to have a vision for life that involves being God’s servant and actively engaging that vision where you are currently equipped.

1. Am I willing to commit my life to whatever God asks of me? This is a “do not pass go” question. If your answer is “no,” it will bias the answers you give to each subsequent question. Do not get lost in guilt or pretend that your answer is “yes” (both responses would lead you back into sin). Rather, identify the obstacle. What is the cost you are unwilling to pay?

Are there specific things you believe God is asking of you? Be sure to record your thoughts on this question before reflecting on the subsequent questions.

2. What roles have I neglected that God has placed me in? The first part of being a good steward of one’s life is to fulfill one’s primary roles with excellence. When Paul says in Ephesians 5:17 that we are to “understand what the will of the Lord is,” he goes on to describe God’s design for major life roles (spouse, parent, child, and worker in 5:22-6:9).

3. What are my spiritual gifts? Stewarding your life for the glory of God involves utilizing the spiritual gifts God has given you. God gives spiritual gifts that coincide with the calling He places on each individual’s life. Read Romans 12:1-8 and I Corinthians 12:1-30. If you need further assistance discerning this, talk to a pastor about taking a spiritual gifts inventory.

4. For what group of people (age, struggle, career, nation, language, etc…) am I burdened? From God’s earliest covenant with people His intention was to bless us that we might be a blessing to others (Gen 12:2). By investing your life in those you have a burden for allows you to be other-minded and find joy in it.

5. What am I passionate about? At this point in the stewardship evaluation, you can begin to see Psalm 37:3-8 fulfilled in your life. What are the God-exalting “delights” in your life (v. 4)? What wholesome things can you give yourself to and you are more energized afterwards than before you started?

6. With what talents or abilities has God blessed me? These don’t have to be spiritual gifts. Read the amazing description of abilities God gave Bezalel and how he used those abilities to serve God (Exodus 31:1-11). Think through the skills and expertise you have accumulated in your life.

7. What are my unique life experiences? Both pleasant and unpleasant experiences should be listed. We are sometimes tempted to think that God can only use the good or spiritual experiences of our lives. God is glad to use our successes (Matt. 5:16), but God also delights in displaying His grace by transforming our low points for His glory (2 Cor. 1:3-5).

8. Where do my talents and passions match up with the needs in my church and community? We should seek to steward our lives in cooperation with our local church. God’s way of blessing and maturing those we serve is through the Body of Christ, the church. By identifying where your gifts, burdens, passions, and abilities fit within or expand your church’s ministries, you are maximizing the impact service can have on those you are seeking to bless.

9. How would God have me bring these things together to glorify Him? This is not a new question, but a summary question. Look back over what you have written in response to the first eight questions. Talk about it with your Christian friends, family, mentor, or pastors. Dedicate a time to prayerfully ask God to give you a sense of direction. Then begin serving as a way to steward your life for God’s glory.

Thank you Tim Challies and team for developing the images included on this post.

This post is meant to offer guidance to common “What now?” questions that could emerge from Pastor J.D.’s sermon on Psalm 57 entitled “Does God Have a Purpose for My Life?” preached at The Summit Church Saturday/Sunday September 6-7, 2014.

6 Changes in Lifestyle that Add to the Impact of Depression-Anxiety

This post is an excerpt from the study guide which accompanies the “Overcoming Depression-Anxiety: A Suffering Paradigm” seminar. This portion is one element from “STEP 3: UNDERSTAND the Impact of My Suffering.” To RSVP for this and other Summit counseling seminars visit bradhambrick.com/events.

Depression-anxiety is not an awkward house guest who stays for a few hours and then goes home. You quickly begin to realize that depression-anxiety wants to live with you. It begins to arrange the structures of your life as if it “owned the place.” It is moving furniture, hanging pictures, and putting its favorite foods in your refrigerator. Unless you are willing to de-accommodate these changes, depression-anxiety will remain in your home as long as you allow (passivity towards these changes is permission).

We will examine six ways depression-anxiety makes itself at home in your life.

1. Unhealthy Lifestyle Accommodations: Withdrawal from friends, erratic sleeping patterns, eating for comfort rather than nutrition, avoiding things that feel like “too much work,” neglecting interests that usually energize you, and similar changes make your life a hospitable home for depression-anxiety. If you leave your door open and have a big bowl of mixed nuts in your living room, don’t be surprised if you’re living with squirrels. If you allow these changes to persist, don’t be surprised if you’re living with depression-anxiety.

2. Changes in Role or Identity: Being anxious-depressed can change the way we see ourselves, and, thereby, how we relate to other people. We can begin to take on pejorative titles like “sick,” “crazy,” or “broken.” These become sources of shame or entitlement; we begin to hide or expect things from others in a way that creates an imbalance that is unconducive for healthy relationships. The result is that healthy friendships grow distant and we are left with enabling or shaming friendships that feed our depression-anxiety.

3. Living in Response to Emotions: We begin to measure our day on the basis of a single variable – how do I feel? Further we begin to make choices on the basis of a single variable – will this make me feel better… quickly? When this happens our mood begins to dominate our thinking and cloud our decision making. No longer are we considering what a “full life” would be; instead we begin to live for relief. Whether we are abusing a substance or not, we are beginning to think like an addict.

4. Loss of Hope for Change: A primary measure of the severity of depression-anxiety can be revealed by the question, “How much hope do you have that things can be better?” The fading of hope is the measure of severity. Hope is the difference between a challenging season of life and experiencing depression-anxiety. Hope does not make us immune to unpleasant emotions, but it does buffer us against despair. If you want to know the difference between “normal sadness and worry” and significant depression-anxiety, it is when hope begins to fade.

5. Passivity Towards Change: “It doesn’t matter what I do, so I might as well do nothing,” is the cynical response to the loss of hope. Passivity is the behavioral expression of the absence of hope. The result is an atrophy of the will. In the same way that physical passivity results in muscle atrophy, growing passive towards the things that upset you results in an atrophy of the will.

 6. Loss of a Sense of Time: In the absence of goals and short-term memory loss (common features of depression-anxiety), the loss of a sense of time. The longing for what is “next” is key to our sense of time and memory. When we surrender our ambition and hope to depression-anxiety we forfeit what connects tomorrow to today and allows “this task” to take on meaning as it contributes to something “we want and believe is possible.” The result is that every moment begins to float in an abyss of meaninglessness.

Read Lamentations 3:1-48. Often when we think of this passage we start with the “happy part” that begins in verse 21. Take your time and walk with Jeremiah, the author of Lamentations, as he traces the challenges which create a great sense of felt-need to cling to hope (v. 1-20). Note how much detail Scripture gives to “understanding the impact of his suffering.” Now read the way that Jeremiah fought to take every thought captive (2 Corinthians 10:5) in the second half of this chapter. Allow this to both dispel any sense of whining you may feel as you seek to understand the impact of your suffering, and to strengthen the notion that God intends to care for people with hard emotional battles like yours through his Word.

OVERCOMING DEPRESSION-ANXIETY: A SUFFERING PARADIGM
Date: Saturday September 27
Time: 4:00 to 7:30 pm
Location: The Summit Church, Brier Creek South Venue
Address: 2415-107 Presidential Drive; Durham, NC 27703
Cost: Free
RSVP Here

For the various counseling options available from this material visit www.summitrdu.com/counseling.

Depression-Anxiety_Poster

7 Factors that Contribute to the Impact of Depression-Anxiety

This post is an excerpt from the study guide which accompanies the “Overcoming Depression-Anxiety: A Suffering Paradigm” seminar. This portion is one element from “STEP 3: UNDERSTAND the Impact of My Suffering.” To RSVP for this and other Summit counseling seminars visit bradhambrick.com/events.

No two experiences of depression-anxiety are the same. This is partly because every person is unique. But the differences in experience go beyond personality and life history. It is not just that each individual who experiences depression-anxiety is unique, which is true, but also that each anxious-depressive experience is itself unique. In this section, we want to examine many of the factors that account for this.

As you assess these factors in your life, avoid two temptations. First, as we’ve already said, do not allow them to overwhelm you. Nothing you will read is more true because you read it. You are only acknowledging the reality that already existed. Second, do not minimize your experience because someone else’s experience may involve more factors. You are equipping yourself or your journey; not racing anyone else in their journey.

1. Cause of Depression-Anxiety: There is no one-cause for depression-anxiety. Most of the debates about whether depression-anxiety is a caused by a chemical imbalance, bad choices, relational wounds, weak faith, or other factors over simplify the experience. The answer is, “Yes, all of these can cause depression-anxiety.” The question is, “Which of these is the leading contributor to your experience?” To help you make this assessment see www.bradhambrick.com/mentalillness. The point here is that the type of cause-trigger for your depression-anxiety will contribute to the degree and type of impact it has on your life.In the resource link above we help you assess the difference between biological, environmental, and volitional causes for depression-anxiety and develop an approach for the wise utilization of medication based upon the leading contributor to your anxious-depressive experience.

2. Duration of Depression-Anxiety: We can endure anything for “a little while.” But when a little while continues and we are unsure when it will end, we begin to lose hope and this compounds our emotional experience. The longer we struggle with anything, the more we begin to view it as inevitable and embrace it as part of our identity.

“The longer we struggle with a problem, the more likely we are to define ourselves by that problem (divorced, addicted, depressed, co-dependent, ADD). We come to believe that our problem is who we are. But while these labels may describe particular ways we struggle as sinners [or sufferers] in a fallen world, they are not our identity! If we allow them to define us, we will live trapped within their boundaries. This is no way for a child of God to live (p. 260)!” Paul Tripp in Instruments in the Redeemer’s Hand

3. Number of Occurrences of Depression-Anxiety: A struggle can be “long” by virtue of its duration or its repetition. “Not again” can be as painful as “How much longer?” When your experience of depression-anxiety returns after seasons of relative dormancy, you can begin to feel like “times of peace” are merely “seasons of waiting” for pain to return. When the return of depression-anxiety is unpredictable, the recurrence impact factor is even greater. It can be hard to rely on God’s grace as new each morning (Lamentations 3:21-26) when you are relying upon that grace for a struggle you’ve already faced.

4. Number of Attempts to Overcome Depression-Anxiety: More difficult than mere recurrence is having to refight a battle you believed you had already won… or, at least, withstood. It feels like being required to retake a class you thought you passed, but found out a semester later you failed on a technicality. It feels like being required to pay a bill twice because the clerk wasn’t paying attention the first time. When depression-anxiety recurs after we thought we had overcome, it takes away any sense of “final-ultimate victory” over this experience. We begin to fear depression-anxiety’s fiercest forms in its milder expressions; as if every thunderstorm was going to have hurricane level impact.

5. Reaction of Friends and Family: Many people are uncomfortable with the unpleasant emotions of others. If they do not know what to say or do to “make things better,” they avoid the person who makes then uncomfortable. Other people do not understand that depression-anxiety can often be a persistent, recurring struggle, so they get upset with the person they perceive as “attention hungry.” If you have lost friends or have strained relationships because of these dynamics, this adds to the impact of your suffering.

“Friendship is very important for those with poor mental health, but it is very hard to be a true friend to someone in such a condition (p. 33).” Kathryn Greene-McCreight in Darkness Is My Only Companion

“[Testimony] The most profound sentence uttered by my spiritual director, when I was in the midst of my depression, was, ‘I am not afraid of your despair!…’ It is uncomfortable for many caregivers to enter the dark night of the soul with those who traverse the path of despair. [Advice] Walk with the despairing person and listen, rather than attempting through words to coerce the person to walk a different path (p. 26).” Robert Albers, William Meller, and Steven Thurber in Ministry with Persons with Mental Illness and Their Families

6. Losses Associated with Depression-Anxiety: You can lose more than relationships. We can lose confidence, jobs, money, opportunities, and many other things. When this happens the experience of grief – denial, anger, sadness, and identity confusion – can be added to the experience of depression-anxiety.

7. Interpretation of Depression-Anxiety Experience: The content of these interpretations will be the focus of chapters four and six. But you will be more equipped to resist the content of unhealthy interpretations of your depressive-anxious experience if you are able to identify the common patterns they take. In his book Christians Get Depressed Too David Murray addresses nine unhealthy thinking patterns (pg. 36-43, bold text only).

  1. False Extremes – Various forms of all-or-nothing, black or white thinking.
  2. False Generalizations – Assuming an unpleasant experience will become the new normal for life.
  3. False Filters – Ignoring, “filtering out,” any positive experience that does not fit with our down mood.
  4. False Transformations – Changing our perspective on positive experiences to make them seem bad.
  5. False Mind Reading – Assuming negative opinions about ourselves in the minds and mouths of others.
  6. False Fortune-Telling – Living as if our negative expectations of the future are true.
  7. False Feeling-Based Reasoning – Treating your negative feelings and assessments as if they were facts.
  8. False “Should’s” – Giving moral weight to expectations that are either unrealistic or not moral matters.
  9. False Responsibility – Taking responsibility for events or other people over which you have no control.

Read Philippians 4:8-9. As you look at the kinds of thinking Paul says we must discipline our mind to engage, do not think of this list as “types of content.” Yes, Paul is addressing the content of our thinking. But following his instruction will also correct the “pattern of our thinking.” The nine patterns above are corrected as we follow Paul’s instruction. Also notice that Paul talks about living these things out in community (v. 9). The most effective way to learn these new patterns is to associate with people who think this way and imitate their life (e.g., I Corinthians 11:1).

OVERCOMING DEPRESSION-ANXIETY: A SUFFERING PARADIGM
Date: Saturday September 27
Time: 4:00 to 7:30 pm
Location: The Summit Church, Brier Creek South Venue
Address: 2415-107 Presidential Drive; Durham, NC 27703
Cost: Free
RSVP Here

For the various counseling options available from this material visit www.summitrdu.com/counseling.

Depression-Anxiety_Poster

Tweets of the Week 9.2.14

There is great value in saying something in a memorable, concise manner. Twitter has caused us to make this a near spiritual discipline. For my own growth (as a generally verbose individual… that’s a long way of saying “wordy”) and for the benefit of others, I highlight tweets each week that deliver a big message in a few words.

Psalm 88 Sermon Follow Up: “Will Life Ever Get Better?”

QE-1This post is meant to offer guidance to common “What now?” questions that could emerge from Pastor J.D.’s sermon on Psalms 88 and 89 entitled “Will Life Ever Get Better?” preached at The Summit Church Saturday/Sunday August 30-31, 2014.

“Psalm 88 gives us hope in our grief precisely because it has no hope in it! It means that God understands the darkness we face. He is right there in it with us, “an ever-present help in trouble” (Ps. 46:1). The Lord of light is your friend in darkness. The Lord of life stands beside you in death. The Lord of hope is your companion in your despair. The Prince of Peace supports you when no peace can be found. The God of all comfort waits faithfully near you. The Source of all joy is close by when death has robbed you of joy (p. 5).” Paul Tripp in Grief: Finding Hope Again

Romans 8:28 Blogs

In his message, Pastor J.D. mentioned two blog posts where I’ve reflected on Romans 8:28 in light of the experience of suffering.

Praying Psalms

Pastor JD also mentioned the practice of personalizing Psalms as a way of praying God’s word. Here are several samples to help you with this practice.

Depression-Anxiety Seminars

Another good follow up to this message would be upcoming seminars on depression-anxiety. These seminars will go into more detail about how to rely on the gospel for hope and peace during dark and painful seasons of life.

OVERCOMING DEPRESSION-ANXIETY: A SUFFERING PARADIGM
Date: Saturday September 27
Time: 4:00 to 7:30 pm
Location: The Summit Church, Brier Creek South Venue
Address: 2415-107 Presidential Drive; Durham, NC 27703
Cost: Free
RSVP Here

TOWARDS A CHRISTIAN PERSPECTIVE ON MENTAL ILLNESS
Sam James Institute Forum

Date: Tuesday September 30
Time:  7:30 to 8:30 pm
Location: The Summit Church, Brier Creek South Venue
Address: 2415-107 Presidential Drive; Durham, NC 27703
Cost: Free
RSVP: Link will be posted at www.bradhambrick.com/events

OVERCOMING DEPRESSION-ANXIETY: A PERSONAL RESPONSIBILITY PARADIGM
Date: Saturday October 18
Time: 4:00 to 7:30 pm
Location: The Summit Church, Brier Creek South Venue
Address: 2415-107 Presidential Drive; Durham, NC 27703
Cost: Free
RSVP: Link will be posted at www.bradhambrick.com/events

For the various counseling options available from this material visit www.summitrdu.com/counseling.

 

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