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Doing Life Together

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I come from a long line of worriers. Although faith is important, we never talked about how to live worry free. We managed worry. But as I got older and began to study worry in scripture, I came to realize, worry is not to be managed. It needs to be gone. Jesus was very specific about worry. Basically, He tells us to stop doing it, adding that it doesn’t add a single day to our lives. Would Christ tell us to do something that was impossible for us to do?

Worry is enticing because we believe it serves a purpose. We may falsely believe worry stops bad things from happening, prepares us for the worst outcome possible, allows us to control external events, shows caring, or makes us feel like we are doing something. Worry does none of these things. Rather, worry takes a toll on our physical, emotional, relational and spiritual lives. Worry strangles (the literal meaning of the word) the joy out of life.

Our Creator knows the impact of the mental habit of worry on our physical health. He knows stress hormones are released during worry and damage is done to the body. He knows worry can cause cardiac activation regardless of whether or not worry pans out. In addition, high levels of worry can cause coronary heart disease, lead to unhealthy habits like smoking and drinking that bring early death. Worry is bad for the physical body.

Worry also interferes with our spiritual lives because it is based on doubting God. In order to worry, we have to give up trust and wonder if God is who He says He is. When trouble comes and we don’t understand, the temptation is to ascribe to God some negative motive like, He doesn’t care, He isn’t with me, or He caused the bad thing to happen.

So how do we stop worrying when everything around us prompts this behavior? We begin by letting go of the idea that worry is useful. When we truly believe that worry has no place in our lives, this is the beginning of freedom.

Next, engage your will. In Luke 21:14, Jesus urged the disciples to make up their minds not to worry. This indicates that we must make a choice not to worry, that we have to decide not to allow worry in to the moment.

Worried thoughts will come to your mind. When they do, don’t try to suppress them. That doesn’t work. Instead, identify the worried thought. Then decide what a more reasonable thought might be, and replace the worried thought with the more realistic one. This is how you take a thought captive. You refuse to allow it to wander to wherever it wants to go. You direct that thought to truth. Jesus is the truth and He says cast your cares on Him.

Finally, understand the true character of God so that you can trust Him. It is hard to trust someone we don’t know well because we are unsure of his or her character. At the root of worry is a lack of understanding who God is and what He does. Sometimes, we assign attribution to God that is not part of his character. When this happens, we doubt and worry creeps in. Thus, we remind ourselves daily of God’s promises and who He is. Trust is based on knowing God.

Life is uncertain and control often eludes us. But as we partner with God, we can face uncertainty with the confidence that God loves us and has our back. And while disease and sin wreak havoc in this world, God is not unaware of His children and our needs. He promises to never leave us to go it alone. And He works all things for our good according to His purposes. Trust Him.

 

 

 

telephone-586268_1920Social networking sites that connect former flames and allow users to make new friends online are being blamed for an increasing number of marital breakdowns. Talk to any divorce lawyer and he or she will tell you that the popularity of sites like Facebook and other on-line chat rooms and sites are tempting unhappy people to cheat. In fact, more and more of these sites are being used as legal evidence of affairs in divorce cases. For instance, when a sexual chat takes place on-line, it can be traced and retrieved by software designed to serve as an electronic private eye. Photos of spouses with their lovers posted online provide proof of an affair. And, publicly accessed text posts declaring love and affection can be used against a person who denies online involvement.

Mark Keenan, Managing Director of Divorce-Online says this about divorce petitions, “I had heard from my staff that there were a lot of people saying they had found out things about their partners on Facebook and I decided to see how prevalent it was. I was really surprised to see 20 per cent of all the petitions containing references to Facebook.” [1]Divorce Online also reported that in 2011, a third of all divorce filings had the word “Facebook” in them. Overall, the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers confirms that the use of social networking content is on the rise in divorce proceedings.

Not only are social media public, but easy to access and laced with opportunity. Infidelity is often opportunity driven. Thus, the temptation to boost your ego, feel appreciated and satisfy temptation takes little convincing from those hurting in relationship. A 2008 Pew Internet and American Life Project survey found about one in five adults uses Facebook to flirt[2]. Those posts that become too intimate or tantalizing can quickly transform a trusted partner to a tempted one. Fast and easy emotional availability and regular communication with former friends and lovers can lead to affairs, both emotional and physical.

Marital breakdowns can begin when a spouse is sexually dissatisfied, has low self-esteem or unresolved personal issues and doesn’t seek help or turn to his or her spouse for help. Distressed marriages create vulnerable people who can choose to seek happiness outside the marriage. As marital researcher, John Gottman, reminds us, turning away from your spouse in times of trouble, brings trouble. It creates a crack in the sound relationship house. Relying on a person of the opposite sex, who is not a spouse, for daily support, can lead to intimacy. The rush associated with the attention feels good and can be addictive. Once you give in to the temptation, you steps can be traced! So the next time you think about cheating, maybe the idea that can easily be caught will cause you to pause and reconsider working on your marriage.

[1] Quote: http://thetechjournal.com/internet/facebook-is-the-new-cause-of-divorce.xhtml.

[2] Home Broadband Adoption 2008, Pew Internet & American Life Project, Washington, DC, 2008, J.B. Horrigan.

tape-403586_1920In today’s world one of the guiding lights of modern life is that “you can’t be too thin or too rich…” Whether or not you agree with the cultural values expressed in this phrase, it is undeniable that a vulnerable sub-population of America lives literally by these words. We pass on the greedy and money-obsessed herein to concentrate on the other group of focus: those whose lives are controlled by how and what and when and why they eat.

Millions of Americans live on a permanent cycle of dieting—now a multi-billion dollar industry.[1] America is increasingly obsessed with physical culture, with looking good, good health, being thin, being fit, being and functioning at all times at peak levels. This growing obsessiveness drives millions to shape their daily lives around time-consuming regimens of dieting, exercise, muscle toning, cosmetics, plastic surgery, sports competition, and sweat-producing activity of every kind imaginable.

At the same time, tens of millions of Americans are so fat that obesity is tagged a national health problem, affecting one-third of the children, youth, adults, and elderly of the nation—nearly 100 million people![2] We are a nation that has embraced self-indulgence over self-discipline, and now eat for taste and pleasure rather than for sustenance and health. A multi-billion culture of fast food, fried food, and junk food has created millions of ‘couch potatoes’ who neither exercise nor control their eating habits in any meaningful way.

While a case may be made that these many millions are beset with eating disorders of myriad types and styles, embedded within this large mass of humanity is our target group of concern—those with truly life-threatening eating disorders. The anorexic, the bulimic, and the severely obese person suffer uniquely, with psychological, spiritual, familial, and medical problems all converging in a potentially deadly mix of issues that requires a concerted wisdom to help untangle and resolve.

Central to the work of healing from an eating disorder is developing a strong identity based in Christ. While family, peers and culture influence whom we become, it is through an understanding and experience of the one true Christ that a person is empowered to be who God intended her to be.

A Christ-based identity is not easily shaken and is a point of reference when facing turmoil from the stresses of life. A person must understand that God cares more about her character and conformity to Him than her outward appearance and accomplishments. Perfection is unachievable and works do not warrant God’s grace.

As respected apologist Os Guinness notes, “A life-lived listening to the decisive call of God is a life lived before one audience that trumps all others—the Audience of One.” 20 Scripture references such as Ephesians 1:4, Psalm 139:2 & 14, Hebrews 13:5 lay the foundation for discovery of true identity and pleasing only the “Audience of One.”[3]

Thinking is often distorted leading to a negative view of the self and others. A renewing of the mind is also essential to healing. Distorted thoughts should be challenged in therapy and the person asked to generate more rational thoughts based on biblical knowledge and an enlightened view of self.

For example, the thought, “I am no good because I am not thin enough” can be challenged by asking someone to defend that position biblically and uncover her fears of inadequacy. “Thin enough” is an attempt to achieve “goodness.” It is a failed solution. We can never be “good enough” for God’s grace. His Holy Spirit can help us accept our “good enough” status as God’s creation and beloved.

The power of the Holy Spirit can heal and transform in ways unknown to our limited understanding. While we use all the training and knowledge extracted from research and clinical practice, we recognize the supernatural realm as greater than our comprehension. Both therapists and clients should depend on the work of the Holy Spirit to give wisdom and intervene to change lives.

There is hope for even the most desperate case because of Christ. Because of the abiding presence of God, the hope and future promised in Him, promised freedom from bondage and enslavement, and the radical message that, in Christ, past is not prologue to future, we can be transformed and set free.

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have past away; behold all things have become new.” 2Cor. 5:17. 21

 

 

[1] Statistics: How Many People have Eating and Exercise Disorders? Available from http://www.anred.com

[2] Statistics, http://www.anred.com

[3] Os Guinness, The Call, (Nashville: Word Publishing, 1998).

pill-1884775_1920People who struggle with depression often go to their primary care doctor and are placed on antidepressants. In some cases, a formal evaluation of depression is not even conducted. But even when a patient is determined to be depressed, the cost and benefits of being on a medication should always be discussed.  The U.S. Centers for Disease Control estimates that 1 in 11 or 1 in 14 people meet criteria for clinical depression. That is a lot of people! And a lot of people want to know if antidepressants are safe.

If you Google safety of antidepressants, you will get general information saying they are relatively safe with certain exceptions. But it is important to also know that there are newer studies being done to assess the safety and effectiveness of antidepressants. And 2 of those studies do question our current thinking.

We know most medications have side effects and have the potential to create medical complications. But the common  thinking is that antidepressant drugs are safe and effective, yet recent research questions both of those claims. One large antidepressant effectiveness trial concluded that antidepressants failed to sustain positive effects in the majority of people who took them. This is important because while antidepressants can improve the quality of some peoples’ lives and help with severe depression, we need to better understand if taking a medication is having the desired effect.

According to Medscape, an estimated one in 10 people use antidepressants.  We know how these drugs affect the brain, but less is know about how they impact the body. A new study published  in Psychotherapy and Psychosomatics concludes that antidepressants are not safe for the general population, but less harmful for cardiovascular patients. The reason for less harm in cardiovascular patients has to do with the anticlotting properties antidepressants have that help treat cardiovascular disease. When looking at the general population, the reviewers of several studies found that antidepressants increased risk of mortality and cardiovascular events in those patients who used antidepressants. Now, they do note that people who take antidepressants tell to be ill and ill patients do have higher risks for mortality. This could be a confounding variable in the study.

Both of these studies are important and need to be replicated by other researchers given all the people currently taking antidepressants. Please note: I am not suggesting you stop taking your antidepressants, but rather evaluate with your physician as to whether or not you are improving on your medications and ask about long term side effects so you can make an informed decision about your treatment. Also ask if there are other ways apart from medication to treat depression that have been determined to be effective. Clinical depression can be debilitating and people need help to improve their functioning and engage in everyday life. So the message here is have a thoughtful conversation with your doctor and tell him or her about this on-going research.

 

Sources:

Pigotta, E.,  Leventhalb, Altera. A.G. &  J Borenb, J. Efficacy and Effectiveness of Antidepressants: Current Status of Research. Psych other Psychosom 2010;79:267–279

Maslej M, M, Bolker B, M, Russell M, J, Eaton K, Durisko Z, Hollon S, D, Swanson G, M, Thomson Jr. J, A, Mulsant B, H, Andrews P, W, The Mortality and Myocardial Effects of Antidepressants Are Moderated by Preexisting Cardiovascular Disease: A Meta-Analysis. Psychother Psychosom 2017;86:268-282