Self-Care: Your Emotions and Thoughts (part 2)

self careSELF-CARE: For the best self-care, recognize your emotions and choose godly thoughts so you can act on renewed beliefs. And God will heal your heart in the most important way.

In case you missed it, here’s part one in this series where you learned the role of the heart in true self-care. In part three, you’ll also discover how to change habits that hurt your heart.

This brief article shares my own journey in embracing self-care, beginning with these steps.

  1. Recognize emotions.
  2. Choose thoughts that line up with God’s word.
  3. Act on renewed beliefs.

Recognizing Your Emotions

I’m tired of my own crazy fear of self-care that it is extravagant. This is how I’m changing, a step at a time. You can too.

The first step begins with recognizing your emotions.

The emotion of fear tells me something’s wrong with my heart. In the bible the word heart refers to the inner self. Your heart is the control center of your being; it is the immaterial part of you that includes desires, motivations, beliefs, and thoughts.

As in water face reflects face, so a man’s heart reveals the man. Proverbs 27:19

We do what we do and feel what we feel because we think what we think. More simply, your thoughts determine your emotions and actions.

Personalizing this truth, I recognized that my thoughts led to fear and to the actions of working overtime, and failing to rest, exercise regularly, and just enjoy this wonderful world God created. I knew I had a problem when I became too busy to notice my hardy red geraniums had turned brown and crunchy. Have you let busyness crowd out your self-care?

I love my work as a biblical counselor and counseling hearts to hope. I love love love finding treasures of truth in books by Ed Welch and Paul Tripp and Elyse Fitzpatrick and Bob Kellemen and other biblical counseling leaders.

But when I choose Ed, Paul, Elyse, or Bob over eating dinner, wouldn’t you agree I’ve gone too far?

Identifying Your Thoughts

Recognizing my faulty thinking and choosing new godly thinking is a second step in true self-care. When one’s thinking is out of line with God’s thinking, this means the heart’s desire is off. My focus was pleasing me not God.

My thoughts sounded like,

I need to work harder.
Self-care is a waste of time.
My worth depends of what I do.

food cravingsNote the emphasis on self. Having battled self-sufficiency since childhood, I know that God was giving me another chance to deny the sin of pride. This time it’s pride in thinking I can defy God-ordained limits in my physical needs. Jesus slept, ate, and had fun too. Am I above Jesus?

Where do you tend toward faulty thinking?

Acting on Renewed Beliefs

To choose to change faulty thinking is life transforming. At Biblical Counseling Center where I counsel hurting people in person and by Skype, we often say, “Faith is believing the Word of God, and acting upon it, no matter how you feel, knowing God promises a good result.” So the third step is acting upon biblical truth.

Namely, get enough sleep, exercise, and spend refreshing time with family and friends while trusting God.  I’m learning to view and practice consistent self-care in a new way: an act of worship.

So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. 1 Corinthians 10:31

Do you agree consistent, true self-care an act of worship? Please leave a comment. Thanks.

Sharing Hope with Your Heart,

Trials: Take the Wild Path to Joy


Who likes trials? Only masochists, right?

Yet in Jesus Christ’s flip-the-world-upside-down gospel — where the weak are strong, and the poor are rich, and the messed up are cleaned up — trials are the wild path to joy, to true happiness. And here’s a key:

Christ gave his life for you in order to give his life to you so that he could live his live through you.

Blessing of Trials

Sucky trials get your attention.

Then you feel a need to deal.

And Jesus is the real deal.

Did you know he wants you to think like he thinks? Did you know you canwhat a mind-boggling thought!  because he empowers you to do so? It’s all Jesus.

‘For who has understood the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?’ But we have the mind of Christ. 1 Corinshtians 2:16, ESV

With Jesus, trials help you and me see, really see. They help us gain a new perspective, God’s perspective, as long as we’re open to listen to him. But Satan tries to interfere.

As Timothy Lane and Paul Trip say in How People Change:

Nothing is subtle about the ongoing war that rages throughout the Christian life. Trials and temptations about, but we respond to them from a new vantage point.

 New Perspective of Trials

We can change our perspective of trials. Here are just three ideas.

1. Remember that God continually blesses you. He is for you. You belong to him, and he wants you to experience the abundant life.

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. John 10:10.

2. Decide to want what God wants: a close relationship with Jesus. Let go of lesser pleasures that entice. Seek the greatest pleasure and spend your life enjoying God.

So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him,  rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness. Colossians 2:6-7

3. Embrace the truth that God uses sucky trials to increase your desire for the highest dream.

In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. 1 Peter 1:6-7.

Isn’t it wonderful to know that you belong to God? That you can spend the rest of your life enjoying him? That trials have a goal?

And what is this goal? To become more and more Christlike as you love God and love your neighbor.

Invitation for YOU

Friends, we gave one hope: Christ. But sometimes life beat us down. This is where biblical counseling can help. If you’re facing trials and want God’s best for you, I invite you to consider biblical counseling.

I’m a trained biblical counselor persuing a doctorate in biblical counseling. I also am certified by the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors and by the Association of Biblical Counselors.

I meet with counselees (women, teen girls, and couples) in person and by Skype. (Skype-to-Skype calls are free.)

May our great God bless you, as I know he will. Ephesians 1:3

Sharing Hope for Your Heart,

3 Myths About Depression (part 3)


DEPRESSION: Many of us feel depressed around Christmas. Did you know scientists and biblical counselors recognize at least three myths about depression?

In part 3 of this three-part series, learn the truth about medication for depression. Part 1 looked at . . .  Part 2 covered diagnosis and the Bible. This post first appeared here on, June 29, 2016, and is used with permisison.

Would you like caring biblical counseling for depression? I offer counseling by Skype and in person. Contact me. Let’s set up a short complimentary consultation. Don’t go it alone.

Myth #3: Medication Doesn’t Help Treat Depression

Some people are under the impression that depression is purely a spiritual issue and that medication isn’t effective or needed in treating depression. Some who cite the ineffectiveness of antidepressants claim that they are slightly more effective than a placebo.

A fact sheet produced by MIT explains the origin of that idea:

Clinicians began hearing this question from patients after news articles reported on a 2002 analysis of published and unpublished studies submitted to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as part of the approval process for several new types of antidepressant medication. This analysis concluded that the newer types of antidepressants are only marginally more effective than placebo.

However, these analyses do not reflect how antidepressants are used in actual practice. Drug trials measure only how a person responds to a single medication taken at a specific dose for a limited time. In clinical practice, however, the patient and clinician work together to find the dose and the medication or combination of medications most effective for you. Most clinicians believe that this process results in much better results than these analyses imply.

Medication: A Wisdom Issue

Dr. Michael Emlet, in an interview for our DivorceCare and Single & Parenting projects, pointed out that the Bible doesn’t prohibit taking medications for psychiatric disorders. He said,

When Jesus came, He not only forgave sin but He also healed disease. He also relieved suffering. Medications may be one way that suffering is relieved…. I would say medication is a wisdom issue. It’s going to vary from individual to individual whether or not medications may be wise.

I think some people want to rush too quickly to medications. Other people refuse to even consider the possibility of medications. Both of those positions could be problematic because they reflect motives of the heart that may be off base.

Dr. Emlet reminds us of the importance of remembering the limitations of medicine:

Medication can help treat depression and shouldn’t be written off as one of the ways that God can bring healing and relief to a person’s life. For example, with stabilized emotions and higher energy, people can be enabled to make needed changes in their lives.

But people need more than drugs. Drugs, as helpful as they can be, do have limitations. They don’t treat any of the underlying spiritual or environmental issues that contribute to a depression.

Some people may not require medication to treat their depression at all. Less severe cases can be treated with nonmedicinal approaches and basic behavior changes. For example, one study reported by Reuters found that simply getting active three times a week reduces the risk of depression in adults by 16 percent, and additional exercise reduces the risk even more. You can also suggest that a person try a change in diet, since a lack of essential vitamins and minerals can result in depressive symptoms.


A strategy for effective care begins with an accurate understanding of the person’s problem. For more on how to understand depression from a biblical perspective, see Jeff Forrey’s article How pastors can help the depressed. It will help you understand the unique role pastors play in helping people deal with depression.

Also check out Kathy Leonard’s article 3 reasons depression is complicated, which features interviews with counselor Leslie Vernick and Dr. Robert Kellemen. It’s a great post to share with your church leaders to help them understand why we shouldn’t use simplistic reasons to explain depression.

Now What?

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Struggling? Make an appointment (in person or by Skype). The Lord has effective and caring solutions to depression.–LAM

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Sharing Hope with Your Heart,


3 Myths About Depression (part 2)


DEPRESSION: Many of us feel depressed around Christmas. Did you know scientists and biblical counselors recognize at least three myths about depression?

In part 2 of this three-part series, learn the truth about a depression diagnosis. Part 3 covers medication. Part 1 looked at causes of depression. This post first appeared here on, June 29, 2016, and is used with permisison.

Would you like caring biblical counseling for depression? I offer counseling by Skype and in person. Contact me. Let’s set up a short complimentary consultation. Don’t go it alone.

Myth #2: A Diagnosis Explains a Person’s Symptoms

According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (used by medical professionals — Ed.), Major Depressive Disorder is characterized by nine symptoms:

a depressed mood, diminished interest or pleasure in anything at all, significant weight loss or weight gain, insomnia, psychomotor agitation, fatigue, inappropriate feelings of guilt, inability to concentrate, and recurrent thoughts of death.

For a person to be diagnosed with Major Depressive Disorder, he (or she) must experience at least five of these symptoms, at the same time, for a minimum of two weeks.

It lists numerous symptoms—but gives no explanations for why those symptoms occur. Unfortunately, many people view their diagnosis as an explanation for their behavior. Perhaps you’ve heard people say things like:

“I don’t have any energy because I’m depressed.”
“I don’t want to go out because I’m depressed.”
“I don’t feel like studying the Bible because I’m depressed.”

Dr. Michael Emlet, M.D., explains why people tend to think of the diagnosis as an explanation for their behavior.

Giving a summary label to a set of symptoms gives the appearance of explanation, particularly in our medicalized culture. It suggests that each diagnosis is a discrete and largely brain-determined entity, and there is simply little evidence for that except in the major psychiatric categories of schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and severe depression.

A Better Way to Think About a Diagnosis

In the article DSM-5: The New Normal? Dr. Emlet suggests a more helpful way to think about a diagnosis like major depression:

It’s important to remember that psychiatric diagnoses are descriptions of a struggling person’s thoughts, emotions, and behaviors; they are not explanations for them. They tell you what but not why. The [Diagnostic and Statistical Manual] admits that.

And even if the scientists were able to link symptoms of depression to particular biological markers, they still couldn’t say with certainty whether those biological abnormalities were caused by spiritual-relational-behavioral-cognitive dynamics or vice versa.

Help from the Bible

To be fair, pastors can’t say exactly why a person gets depressed either. But they can point to some of the reasons God says people can be depressed. Those reasons may not apply to everyone, but they should be considered.

Here are a few examples:

  • The Bible says that hope deferred makes the heart sick (Prov. 13:12). Experiencing the postponement or the loss of a dream or personal goal can result in sadness, discouragement, and lack of motivation. A person may tire of waiting for a desired result, or he may wonder why he should continue to try when his efforts seem fruitless. The sadness and discouragement are more potent when an individual’s dream was his primary driving force in life. Without that, he may feel empty and purposeless.
  • In Psalm 43:5, the psalmist asks himself, “Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me?” He proceeds to counsel himself to put his hope in God. Exploring what a person is hoping in, counting on to provide success, meaning, or happiness, can reveal areas in which he is not trusting God.
  • Guilt is a common emotion associated with depression. The psalmist says that sin made him feel as if his bones were wasting away (Ps. 32:3). Dr. Linda Mintle has observed, “Unforgiveness is a cause of depression. Harboring anger, harboring resentment, allowing it to take root in one’s spirit and soul in a bitter way creates depression.”
  • There are also biblical references to certain behaviors, thoughts, and values that can result in joy and zeal (Ps. 94:19; Ps. 122:1; Phil. 4:1, etc.). It is possible that the absence of such actions and thoughts would limit one’s experience of those emotions. Keep in mind, however, that it is possible for a person to obediently pursue God and still battle depression.

Now What?

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Struggling? Make an appointment (in person or by Skype) with one of the many biblcal counselors at BCC. –LAM

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Sharing Hope with Your Heart,


3 Myths About Depression (part 1)

depressionDEPRESSION: Many of us feel depressed around Christmas. Did you know scientists and biblical counselors recognize at least three myths about depression?

In part 1 of this three-part series, find out the truth about causes of depression. Part 2 covers the a depression diagnosis. Part 3 looks at medication–when it’s useful, when it’s not. This post first appeared here on, June 29, 2016, and is used with permisison.

Would you or someone you love like caring biblical counseling for depression? I offer counseling by Skype and in person. Contact me. Let’s set up a short complimentary consultation. Don’t go it alone.

“Pastor, I’m depressed…doctor says it’s some sort of major depressive disorder.”

We don’t take for granted the amount of trust displayed when someone discloses the diagnosis of a psychiatric disorder. And that’s why we respond gently and compassionately. But we also need to respond accurately.

Here is the first of three common myths about depression to keep you from misleading those you care so deeply for.

Myth #1: Scientists Know Exactly What Causes Depression

Even though pharmaceutical ads say that major depression may be caused by chemical imbalances, many people assume that it is caused by chemical imbalances. But it’s not that simple. As Dr. Joseph Coyle of Harvard Medical School was quoted by National Public Radio,

Chemical imbalance is sort of last-century thinking. It’s much more complicated than that.

And Dr. Coyle isn’t alone in his sentiment. PLOS Medicine collected an eye-opening list of quotes from medical researchers who don’t share the confidence that the general public, some doctors, and even pharmaceutical companies have about the cause of depression.

To get a better idea of what causes depression, scientists are exploring whether the depression is due to problems with brain structure, diminished activity levels in certain parts of the brain, and psychosocial factors like stress. But to date, scientists have not been able to make a clear link between physiological factors and depression. A Scientific American article puts it this way:

    [N]o studies have established a cause-and-effect relation between any brain or psychosocial dysfunction and the disorder. In addition, depression almost certainly does not result from just one change in the brain or environmental factor. A focus on one piece of the depression puzzle—be it brain chemistry, neural networks or stress—is shortsighted.

The Brain Is Complicated

Even though we hear a lot of promising news about the latest in brain and genetic code research, it’s important to realize that scientists aren’t even close to being able to explain what causes depression or any other mental disorder. Dr. Allen Frances, former chair of the DSM-IV Task Force and of the department of psychiatry at Duke University School of Medicine, writes:

Although we have learned a great deal about brain functioning, we have not yet figured out ways of translating basic science into clinical psychiatry. The powerful new tools of molecular biology, genetics, and imaging have not yet led to laboratory tests for dementia or depression or schizophrenia or bipolar or obsessive-compulsive disorder or for any other mental disorders. The expectation that there would be a simple gene or neurotransmitter or circuitry explanation for any mental disorder has turned out to be naive and illusory.

Frances goes on to quote Roger Sperry, who won the Nobel Prize in medicine:

The more we learn, the more we recognize the unique complexity of any one individual intellect, the stronger the conclusion becomes that the individuality inherent in our brain networks makes that of fingerprints or facial features gross and simple by comparison.

Teasing out the heterogeneous underlying mechanisms of mental disorder will be the work of lifetimes.

Spritual Aspects of Depression Matter Too

Even if scientists are able to identify which parts of the body produce a state of depression, that would be incomplete as an explanation of the cause of depression. Why? It would not take into account man’s makeup as a spiritual and physical creature created in the image of God.

Dr. Sam Williams, a former psychologist who is now a counseling professor at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, explains:

That which makes us distinctively human, our spiritual and moral facets, is neglected by secular definitions of mental order, disorder, and reordering. Thus, the secular concept of mental disorder is not a thorough description of nor does it provide an explanation for people’s problems.

A more thorough biblical psychology must factor God (and subsequently the moral and spiritual valence of each symptom) back into the equation if we are interested in a diagnosis that is consistent with our worldview.

This is important for the people you care for to understand, because many of them become less receptive to nonmedicinal treatments when they accept a biomedical explanation for their depression. Dr. Todd B. Kashdan, psychologist and professor of psychology at George Mason University, explains in a post on myths about what causes depression:

They become pessimistic that recovery is possible. They become less confident that they can manage and regulate negative moods that arise (and they always do)…. Essentially, they become less flexible in their options for treating depression and less confident that they will escape its clutches.

Just because depression scientists don’t know exactly what causes it does not mean that biological factors don’t play a significant role in why people experience depression. But, again, as Dr. Williams observes,

Superficial, deterministic explanations dehumanize people, rendering them as automatons rather than persons with the dignity and honor ascribed to us in Psalm 8.

Now What?

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Struggling? Make an appointment (in person or by Skype) with me. –LAM

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