Change: The Road to Healing with Hope

Today I chose to take another route home after taking my son to school. Typically, I race straight home or to the office, directly to my desk and dive in to work.

Change
(Image by Samuel Foster on Unsplash)

Today was different. I needed space—which is getting harder to come by in our town. I realized this as I navigated my way home, deciding to visit a few places that carry significant meaning for me.

I stopped by the place I first met my now-husband after vowing to never remarry. (Never say never!)

I drove under a canopy of trees shading the lake and fountain I used to sit by to clear my head, and I glanced up at the windows of Insight for Living Ministries’ former office building.

I finally turned the corner and saw where my daughter and son went to high school. She’s now married; he’s about to finish college.

Then, I drove by the neighborhood elementary school my son went to when he was 9; he’s now 20.

Ch- Ch- Ch- Ch- Changes

We moved to Frisco, Texas, ten years ago. In my neighborhood, there was . . .

Fresh Hope for YOU and the Church

When you hear the word church, what comes to mind? Do words like comfort, connection, authenticity, excitement, joy, acceptance, or support surface?

Brad Hoefs

Or do words like . . .

  • Condemnation
  • Judgment
  • Rejection
  • Fear
  • Chastisement
  • Anger

Bubble up? Our world today is desperate for hope. The church is the community God ordained to offer the hope found only in Jesus. Sadly, oftentimes, those looking for hope have found rejection, judgment, and hurt—not from Jesus but from those who profess to be Christians.

Brad Hoefs knows this all too well. While pastoring one of the nation’s fastest-growing churches, Brad’s life fell apart due to a mental-health challenge.

Seeing in the Dark: Mental Health in the Church Today

You may be shocked by what you are about to read: After cancer and heart disease, suicide accounts for more years of life lost than any other cause of death.

Kay Warren
Kay Warren
  • 41,149 suicides were reported in 2013—that’s two suicides for every reported murder, one suicide death every 12.8 minutes1“Facts and Figures,” American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, http://www.afsp.org/understanding-suicide/facts-and-figures, accessed Sept. 11, 2015..
  • Even more shocking is the church’s inaccurate beliefs about mental health issues, as identified in the most recent mental health study conducted by LifeWay Research.2“Study of Acute Mental Illness and Christian Faith: Research Report,” LifeWay Research, http://www.lifewayresearch.com/files/2014/09/Acute-Mental-Illness-and-Christian-Faith-Research-Report-1.pdf, accessed Sept. 11, 2015.

We cannot continue to neglect this enormous area of need.

After personal tragedy and with professional insight, Kay Warren offers practical tools and hands-on direction for supporting individuals and families struggling with mental health challenges.

Notes:   [ + ]

1. “Facts and Figures,” American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, http://www.afsp.org/understanding-suicide/facts-and-figures, accessed Sept. 11, 2015.
2. “Study of Acute Mental Illness and Christian Faith: Research Report,” LifeWay Research, http://www.lifewayresearch.com/files/2014/09/Acute-Mental-Illness-and-Christian-Faith-Research-Report-1.pdf, accessed Sept. 11, 2015.

Reframing Ministries: Discover Purpose, Passion, and Perspective!

Sometimes, we get stuck in life’s ruts. Ever feel stuck? If so, you don’t have to remain there!

Colleen Swindoll Thompson
Colleen Swindoll Thompson introduces Reframing Ministries.

Insight for Living Ministries can help you climb out . . . with Reframing Ministries.

If the name Reframing Ministries is unfamiliar to you, that’s okay, because it’s the brand new name for the Special Needs Department of Insight for Living Ministries.

Here’s how it will help you even more than it has.

Hope, Healing, and Mental Health

In any given year, 1 in 5 people will struggle with a mental health issue. If we said 1 in 5 people will have a compromise in physical health, we would start a prayer chain. But mention that the compromise is a mental health issue, and most people scatter, label, judge, and disappear.

Dr. Matthew Stanford
Special Needs Interviewee, Dr. Matthew Stanford

We tend to hide or deny what we cannot control or fix because most of the Western world clings to a dissected view of humanity; we partition our existence into labeled segments. We define one human life as sections of the whole . . . physical, emotional, relational, spiritual, and so on, which dismisses a whole person. Labels are terribly confining and damaging; candidly, it is a self-righteous choice to judge or label any part or the whole person altogether.

With mental health issues on the rise, Dr. Stanford offers wisdom, knowledge, guidance, and practical tools the church desperately needs in caring for one another.

What You Must Know about Fish Tanks and Church Fights

Jesus fed the five thousand with some loaves and a couple of small fish. Obviously I’m not Jesus, and I was ready to flush some small fish. Here’s how things went down: For Christmas, we purchased a simple, soothing 10-gallon fish tank for my son Jon. Nothing fancy, but from the packed tank they were in at the pet store, ours seemed palatial. Jon picked his five favorites, added cool rocks, shells, and aquarium décor—Sponge Bob included.

fish
(Photo Courtesy of Pixabay.com)

When done, it looked like Disneyland for fish . . . the happiest place . . . in a tank.

Six Ways to Support Mental Health: A Revolutionary Model

Mental illness is a hot topic these days. For some it raises red flags of concern; for others it raises eyebrows in judgment. In spite of the fact that the Bible presumes and addresses the brokenness of the human heart and mind (take a look at Psalm 31:12; Proverbs 17:10; Ephesians 2:3; and James 4:8 for a small sampling), mental health—mental wellness or illness—is a subject most Christians know very little about.

Kay Warren
Kay Warren

Kay Warren lost her son to suicide. Not only did she and her family suffer from the stigma of mental illness, they also found very little support in their church. But that has to change, and it can change.

Revolutionary Steps toward Mental Health and the Church

This is a guest post written by my friend Joe Padilla. I pray it sheds light into a struggle you might be facing today.

When it comes to mental health difficulties and support from the church, the Mental Health Grace Alliance has heard it all! Let’s look at the three major frustrations we face and three positive solutions as we work toward sincerely supporting those struggling with mental wellness.

Photo by David Knox of FreeImages

1) Spiritual Stigma

Unfortunately, pastoral staff members grow frustrated when they don’t understand why their ministry methods are not working. In response to their lack of success, they unknowingly go into “religious default” mode, which places the blame on the person being counseled rather than the pastor or ministry. As did Job’s friends, pastors assume that the counselee’s hardship or problem is due to the individual’s sin, weak faith, or demonic oppression. When this becomes the mind-set of the pastoral staff member, the church often backs away from offering help to the individual in need.

When one pastor didn’t see his counselee’s mood disorder go away, he said, “It’s because the sin issues of his youth are finally catching up with him . . . he just needs to will himself to make better choices.”

2) Spiritual Fixes or Miracles

Often pastoral support staff will prescribe to people biblical counseling and intense discipleship to overcome a mental health issue. Some pastors will even insist on “deliverance” ministry or an intensive inner-healing ministry designed to produce immediate breakthroughs. The idea is to have the individual participate in intensive Bible study, prayer, and ministry so he or she might receive an immediate resolution to a problem. It forces the individual being counseled to pray harder or believe more in order to get results.

While we believe God can do the impossible, for many this method doesn’t work and, in fact, can make things worse. I helped one person with a debilitating anxiety disorder move away from a popular devotional that implied that working hard to “overcome” will fix problems and produce positive results. The devotional warned, “If you fret, you deserve what you get.”

3) Spiritual Steps

It’s common to think that mental health can be accomplished by a series of ministry “steps.” This step-by-step counseling approach to health can address many emotional issues, but it can also cause someone dealing with intense symptoms of mental illness to experience more confusion, coupled with self-doubt. Many people being counseled are left feeling they have failed the church and God. I’ve heard this from numerous counselees: “I’m so frustrated with my church and God. I’m thinking of completely giving up on both.”

Photo by GeoC of FreeImages

Photo by GeoC of FreeImages

Why These Methods Don’t Work

Although these pastoral approaches may be well intentioned and offered in love, they demonstrate a lack of understanding of mental health. Mental health difficulties are physiological dysfunctions of the brain, affecting thoughts, moods, and behavior. These types of disorders are more difficult to recognize than physical health issues such as diabetes, cancer, or the common cold.

Difficult symptoms intensify negative thoughts and moods. The brain is not stable enough to accurately process thoughts and emotions. Often, many people receiving counseling experience symptoms such as anhedonia—an inability to feel or express pleasure or emotions, leading to depressive moods and thoughts. Other symptoms include racing thoughts and impulsive behaviors (even destructive behaviors). All of these are uncontrollable and not easily “fixed” by most pastoral methods. By pressing these ministry methods listed above, the individual receiving counseling experiences more disruptive emotions and confusion.

We need to re:THINK church support. The pastoral and community focus ought to emphasize relieving suffering and revealing Christ.

1) Steps vs. Process

Mental health recovery is not linear; it is a process. The process starts with stability, which means transitioning from crawling through life to standing up. The second part of the process is function—visualizing taking life from a slow walk and moving toward a light jog. Lastly, the process involves purpose, when the individual has learned all about his or her condition, what works and what doesn’t, and how to manage life, so that he or she may avoid pitfalls. We’ve seen many come from destruction and develop a purposeful, successful life.

2) Recovery vs. Treatment

Treatment focuses solely on medication and therapy. These are two important elements to achieving mental health, and it’s vital to find the right professionals to oversee these elements. Recovery, however, is distinct because it involves not only finding the right professionals but also looking holistically at the individual’s life needs—physical, mental, spiritual, and relational. (Here is a link to our three, free resources that have proven to provide a strong outline for leading others towards mental wellness: http://mentalhealthgracealliance.org/resources-1)

3) Rest vs. Work

Rather than finding fault and prescribing lots of work, we ought to lead struggling individuals to rest. It is through rest that we find comfort and strength. A pastor should focus on validating an individual’s condition and take the approach that affirms his or her identity and recognizes a couple of key characteristics of God’s comfort and compassion: When we suffer, God doesn’t say, “Work harder and try to find Me, and if you do enough I will come to you.” Jesus came to us and said, “Come to me; I will give you rest for your soul” all the while reaffirming us with His gentleness (Matthew 11:28–30).

* * *

Let Me Hear from You

I interviewed Joe about how the Mental Health Grace Alliance came together. Joe shared openly about his family struggles and their need for hope and help. They tried it all, heard it all, and nothing worked. I urge you to hear his story because it’s where you may be today. Perhaps you are weary because nothing has worked. Perhaps you have endured the negative stigma of mental illness and don’t know where to turn.

I desire to offer you words of hope, because mental wellness is possible. My family members have mental struggles; we have been hurt, but we’ve also found hope. I would love to hear from you and share in this journey with you!

Finally, I strongly encourage you to watch or listen to my interview with Joe.

You can leave a comment by clicking here.

You Can Make a Difference

Overwhelming odds can make cowards of us all.

You Can Make a Difference
(Photo: By TheMargue (http://www.fotopedia.com/items/flickr-2884079538) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons)

Because there is so much to be done, we can easily lose heart and do nothing. Because there are so many to reach, it is easy to forget that God wants to use us to touch those few within our sphere of responsibility.

I remember the first time I felt overwhelmed regarding ministry in a vast arena. My life had been quiet and manageable. From my birthplace in a south Texas country town I moved with my family to Houston, where we lived through my high school years. Our home was small and secure. After my marriage, a hitch in the Marine Corps, and seminary, Cynthia and I became involved in ministries that were like our past . . . small, pleasant, and fulfilling. Our children were small, our lives were relaxed and rather simple, and our scope of God’s work was quite comfortable.

The call to Fullerton, California, in 1971 changed all that. In fact, it was as the plane descended over Los Angeles when we were coming to candidate that I got this overwhelming feeling.

Transforming the Soul—What We Didn’t Learn in Seminary

Life has a way of teaching us unforgettable lessons. For example, we’re told a thousand times, “Don’t touch that!” or “Put on your coat!” but once we experience a burned finger or a touch of frostbite, we don’t have to be told again . . . lesson learned. In many ways, life is like a classroom. Parents are our first professors, and in spite of their best efforts, life experience often leaves its deepest marks.

Chuck Swindoll and Steve Fischer
Chuck Swindoll and Steve Fischer

Chuck Swindoll and Steve Fischer hold excellent, respectable graduate degrees, and their ministries reach around the world. But both men will say it has been life experiences—not seminary training—that has best prepared and qualified them for their work. Both men agree: strong theological training is vital for ministry, but to be qualified for soul work requires first-hand, personal experience with pain. Regrettably, many people in ministry today have adequate knowledge but cannot connect with those in their care. Reason being: these ministers haven’t been crushed; therefore, they often cannot fully relate to those who have been crushed.

Here’s how we can learn to care for the soul—lessons learned in the crucible of life.