Dear Christian Counselor:
I’m always trying to reconcile what the Bible says about giving our cares to God and trusting in Him versus seeking professional help from secular counselors. My concern is, if we’re turning to fallible man for answers on anxiety and depression, we’re not trusting completely in God. If He wanted that “thorn in the flesh” (2 Cor. 12:7) removed from our side, He’d remove it. But if prayers go unanswered for so long, when is it time to say “enough” and seek professional help?
Would you say the same thing about medical care? If God wanted to instantly heal a person’s diabetes, He could certainly do that. But we observe that He often heals it through medicine. Perhaps that is so we don’t grow proud or complacent; perhaps it connects us better to others in community; perhaps we need the ongoing process to stay dependent on the Lord. Talking to a counselor represents less intervention than your average doctor visit. However, you used the word “secular,” so I want to make sure you know that there are plenty of educated, licensed Christian counselors around, combining the best of both worlds. In my view, Christian counseling is just discipleship on steroids. Listen to advice and accept instruction, and in the end you will be wise. (Prov. 19:20)
One of the things a counselor might suggest is that you visit a psychiatrist for an evaluation and possibly for medication. You get to decide whether that’s something you want to do or not. I have seen many cases where anxiety and depression can be alleviated without medication, but I have also known others where medication has been an amazing blessing. Once our brains have been stewed in the chemicals of sadness and fear for a while, it can be like a cart which is stuck in the sand. Just turning the wheels isn’t enough to get it out. Sometimes medication gives you the jump-start you need to change direction.
Anxiety and depression tend to be self-focused conditions. Jewels are made to shine outward. I would encourage you to seek help and comfort in your struggle so that you can *sparkle* for God’s Kingdom.
Please see our Resources page for some suggested reading material on anxiety and depression. Here’s another article you might find helpful: Fear Not: Command or Comfort?
“You have cancer.” Are there any words you dread hearing more than those? Let me tell you that we who have already heard those words shudder at the memory. Nevertheless, it is possible for the worst thing that ever happens to you to also be the best thing that ever happens to you.
I just received my copy of Safe In The Storm: The Grace of God, In the Midst of Cancer by my good friend, Steve Hatcher. I have watched him walk faithfully through a year-long journey with multiple myeloma. His honesty and wisdom have encouraged me and many others. I hope that, after you read the excerpt below, you will use the link above to purchase your own copy and embark on an adventure you won’t soon forget:
All: I am still in waiting mode. The initial shock of having to delay my transplant for a week wore off after a day. Thanks to many of you who gently reminded me that God controls all things in the life of the believer (Romans 8:28), including the timing of my transplant! I had to remember that waiting patiently is part of the Christian pilgrimage. Here I was, failing to trust God with my admission date when at the same time I said that I trusted Him with the much more amazing mystery of designing stem cells to engraft into bone marrow. Another example of how I often trust Him with the big things, but not the small ones, specially when I am impatient.
So, if God wishes it so in His timing, I will enter the transplant unit Wednesday. That will only occur after I have a chest x-ray and a doctor visit to see if I am “all clear” to go forward. Please pray for that success with me. Most importantly, however, pray that God moves me into the unit in His perfect timing, regardless of any schedule I have set in my heart. Then pray that I will hear Him during that period of relative solitude. Pray that you can hear Him, too, even without going into the desert.
Follow Steve’s continuing journey on his blog: stephenbhatcher.com.
Dear Christian Counselor,
My dad is the pastor of a small Baptist church. My brother and sisters and I are the only young people there over the age of 10 and under the age of 25. I absolutely am sick and tired of going there. First of all there is no zeal for God; everybody just sits there like a bump on a log. The church has no joy. They won’t sing. We don’t have a piano player. There is no youth group whatsoever, the men there aren’t spiritually mature or disciplined, so I have no older males to look up to and no one to confide in other than my dad. But he is always working, so he doesn’t take the time to help me or my siblings. The church doesn’t seem to want to grow, move forward, reach out to the community or anything. I feel isolated, ignored, and unloved. I don’t know how to go forward, and I don’t want to become stagnant. I don’t know what to do.
– Pastor’s Son
Dear Pastor’s Son,
At this point you have two good choices: stay or go. If you believe in Romans 8:28, then you are not stuck in a bad situation but at an exciting fork along God’s good path for your life. If you decide to make another try at your church, I would suggest you have a heart-to-heart talk with the one man you say you can talk to, your dad. Take him out to breakfast and let him know you are feeling restless and stagnant in your faith. Ask for his suggestions to stir up some enthusiasm and find some purpose. Could you put together a worship team? Could you organize a community youth group or a charity project? What passions and gifts could you contribute for the good of everyone? For example, I know a college student who organized a 5K with hundreds of participants for the benefit of an organization dedicated to ending slavery in the world.
Your other option is to explore different churches in the area. You could begin by attending a singles’ or men’s group at another church while remaining in Sunday worship at your own. Once again, I would suggest having a good talk with your pastor/dad and explaining that you are prayerfully seeking God’s direction for your adulthood, that you want a close relationship with your father but that you are feeling the need to explore your own faith. Be careful not to put him on the defensive by criticizing his work. You will find that there is no perfect church or pastor but that most of them are trying to be the best grace-filled sinners that they can. Just like you.