Let Us Pursue Unity

We live in a divided world. Some days it feels impossible to find common ground. A quick scroll through Facebook or Twitter reveals a handful of topics on which Christians bitterly disagree. Conversations about politics quickly descend into malicious and vilifying words. Judgmental arguments about topics such as government policies, healthcare, and matters of social justice abound. Our commitment to our own views can create unnecessary divides and shut out those who disagree with our way of thinking. Even topics of theology can lead to disunity. Who do we baptize? What versions of the Bible should we use? What is the role of men and women in the church? Unified relationships–even with other believers–can feel impossible to attain. 

In the face of these challenges, Scripture unapologetically calls us to persevere towards unity in Christ. Psalm 133:1 says, “Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell together in unity!” I like that word “behold” at the beginning of verse. It’s basically telling us to stop for a moment and look at our relationships. Psalm 133 tells us that unity is the active ingredient that makes our relationships good and pleasant. We experience unity when we center our relationships around a shared faith and mutual goal of pleasing Christ and making him known.

Psalm 133 goes further to show us that the unity we experience in our relationships is a picture of the unity we experience with God. In verse two of Psalm 133 we are given a picture of Aaron, the priest, being covered with oil. This priestly act foreshadows the atoning work of Jesus. Just as the priest would be covered in oil and go before God on behalf of the people bringing unity again between God and man, Jesus brings that for believers. He allows us to be fully accepted by and united to God.  

“We experience unity when we center our relationships around a shared faith and mutual goal of pleasing Christ and making him known.”

Despite our differences, we help each other through suffering, build up each other’s faith, and work together for the glory of God and the good of his people. When we remember that the bonds of Christ are more important than our differing opinions, we create a context to work, relax, play, worship, and enjoy life in each other’s company. With Christ as our center our relationships become characterized by encouraging and fulfilling interactions. Despite our differences, we can still experience good and pleasant relationships filled with happiness, humor, and enjoyment of one another. 

Are you in unity with other believers, connected by your shared faith in Christ? Or, do you tend to cut people out of your life when you disagree? Take a look at your relationships. Are any of your relationships marked by bitterness, annoyance, or disdain? While, we may need to distance ourselves from relationships that are harmful or abusive, as far as it depends on us, we should live at peace with everyone (Romans 12:18). A mutual love for Jesus forms a foundation towards the goal of unified relationships which serve the wider community, and make Christ known to the watching world.  Where can you pursue unity in your relationships today?

This post is an excerpt taken from The Whole Life: 52 Weeks of Biblical Self Care by Eliza Huie and Esther Smith.

The Trauma Informed-Church: Responding Compassionately to Abuse Survivors

This webinar is designed for pastors, ministry leaders and Christians who want to grow in understanding how trauma affects a person’s involvement in the Church community. Participants will gain knowledge in the signs of traumatization, as well as practical ways to care for survivors of trauma, taking into consideration that churches should be caring for survivors but also have limits in the scope of care they can provide.


Date/Time: July 5, 2022 Noon-3pm (Pacific Time)

Instructors: Jason Kovacs, Eliza Huie, and Beth Broom

Cost: $50 individual ticket; 20% discount for five or more individual tickets.

Where: Live Webinar (Recorded for Replay)

Live attendees will be able to participate in an additional non-recorded Q&A time with the speakers immediately following the webinar at 3pm PST.

Webinar Schedule:

The Trauma-Informed Church: What and How We Can Get There

Jason Kovacs 12:00-1:00 PM PST

How does a church become a safe place for trauma and abuse survivors to heal? In this session we will explore a vision for becoming a trauma-informed church, values that sustain this, and practical suggestions to move forward. 

The Trauma-Informed Church Leader: Recognizing a Trauma Response 

Eliza Huie 1:00-2:00 PM PST

Recognizing trauma is not easy but there are identifiable traits and responses that you as a church leader can learn to spot. Once you have learned these you are in a better place to respond with the wisdom and compassion of our Lord.

A Practical Guide for Responding Compassionately

Beth Broom 2:00-3:00 PM PST

Many church leaders want to care for those who have been abused, but they aren’t sure where to start. In this session we will give you a variety of tools for creating a compassionate environment that honors survivors and also heralds the gospel. 

**Bonus Live Q&A with the webinar speakers**

Those attending live are invited to a bonus 30 minute Q&A session with the webinar speakers.

4 Traits of an Emotionally Healthy Ministry Worker

“I need to step away from serving.”

These are words you expect to hear from time to time. People serve for seasons, and some seasons are longer than others. But this was coming from a capable and energetic ministry worker, a spiritually solid servant of Christ. Yet what followed was an explanation of emotional decline, frustrating interactions, and strained interpersonal relationships—an explanation that affirmed the decision, though hard, was wise.

If you’re serving in ministry, you have likely been encouraged to prioritize your spiritual health. You may have been exhorted to pay attention to spiritual disciplines that will shape you into the best possible leader, teacher, or minister. All of this is good. The Bible implores us to pay careful attention to ourselves (1 Tim. 4:12–16).

But spiritual vitality is not the only area of health ministry workers need to pursue. Your emotional health is also essential. Below are four traits of emotionally healthy people for you to pursue. If you’re in ministry, each one is worthy of your careful consideration.

1. Adopt an appropriate view of your capacity.

Emotional health begins with embracing your sovereignly ordained limitations. You must avoid the lies that say having limited physical, mental, or emotional bandwidth means failure. Instead, know the value of asking for help and do so regularly. God created you to need him and others. So, lean on the Lord’s strength and allow others to support and assist you (Isa. 40:28–292 Cor. 12:9–10Gal. 6:2). Rather than pushing through or ignoring personal limits, accept them. Take the necessary time to give your body what it needs: rest, nutrition, hydration, recreation, or stillness. See your limited capacity as part of being human rather than a personal flaw.

Spiritual vitality is not the only area of health ministry workers need to pursue. Your emotional health is also essential.

Are you open to the support and assistance of others when you’ve reached your capacity? Do you decline new or additional requests to serve when you know you haven’t had sufficient time to rest or reset? A wrong understanding of our limitations can lead to service motivated by obligation, resentment, guilt, or even shame. But a healthy view of your capacity can help you see that saying no is at times wiser than saying yes.

2. Avoid obsessing over failures.

Are you able to be disappointed by mistakes but not devastated by them? Do you find yourself rethinking past situations that went wrong? Emotionally healthy ministers understand the importance of forgiveness and fight the temptation to negatively ruminate on what others have done to them. They fight against a defeatist mentality about their own mistakes as well, trusting that God uses all things for his glory and our good.

Dwelling on your mistakes (or the mistakes of others) saps your emotional and spiritual health. When you find yourself replaying mistakes, beating yourselves up, or thinking you’re worthless, instead make the replays your cue to turn to the Lord. Turn the temptation to fixate into a call to prayer. Instead of allowing failures to become all-consuming, seek the Lord’s guidance when things go wrong (Ps. 25:8). He can redeem all your mistakes but sometimes he uses them in constructive ways to lead you to deeper dependence on him. In your failings, the Lord often teaches you more about yourself and his character than in your times of great success.

3. Pursue healthy relationships.

In ministry, much of your work is spent in relational interactions, serving and pouring out your life for others. That’s a good thing. Emotionally healthy people regularly invest in life-giving relationships.

But having healthy relationships is not about the number of friendships you have. Instead, it’s about the depth and quality of your relationships. Do you have relationships where you’re not in the role of caregiver? Is there a balance in your life between pouring into people and being poured into by others? Do you spend regular time with people whose company is refreshing to your soul?

In your failings, the Lord often teaches you more about yourself and his character than in your times of great success.

Your relationships need to be a balance of giving and receiving. In your friendships and ministry relationships,  you need a good understanding of what things you’re responsible for and what you’re not. When a person takes on more responsibility than is appropriate, unhealthy relational interactions can manifest.

This was the case for the ministry worker who shared her need to step away from serving. Her life had become consumed with serving others to the point she’d neglected her own needs and it had caught up with her. Ministry workers can too easily fall prey to this because their positions often require greater levels of responsibility for others. This heightened sense of duty may lead you to feel overly responsible for establishing and maintaining relationships both inside and outside the context of your ministry.

4. Find your worth in Christ.

Emotionally healthy people do not depend on others’ approval. Rather, they rest in the knowledge of who they are in Christ. The world sends us endless messages, tempting us to create status for ourselves. But as believers, we can rest in the unshakable identity we have received from God (John 1:12) and weigh others’ opinions with discernment, filtering them through the truth of Scripture.

Are you able to rest in who you are in Christ, or do the opinions of others affect your feelings of worth and contentment? Is your belief in who God says you are evident in your perception of your worth? Christians don’t need to be caught up in a hot pursuit of identity formation. We have no need to accomplish what has already been given us. We can be confident that we are who God says we are (2 Cor. 5:171 Pet. 2:9). Prioritizing regular times of communion with God through prayer and meditation in the Word stabilizes our emotional health and protects us against the temptation to believe the world’s false messages about identity.

Serving or working for a ministry, church, or Christian organization doesn’t guarantee emotional health. A person may be devoted to all the right spiritual disciplines and still be deteriorating emotionally. In your effort to sacrifice for the kingdom, you may miss the important need to attend to your emotional life.

One final note: emotional health is not an individual effort. As in all areas of life, we are created for community. Consider talking about these four traits with people who know you well or those with whom you serve. Prayerfully encourage one another or to reflect on any changes or adjustments you may need to make (1 Thess. 5:11Heb. 10:24).

This post written by Eliza Huie was also published by The Gospel Coalition.

A Needed Disappointment for the New Year

We are addicted to self-sufficiency. Without even realizing it we are all junkies for independence. The beginning of the new year is often a time when this becomes even more evident. It’s the time when we are bombarded with encouragement to reflect and resolve. The hope is that in the New Year we will reach a greater level of self-improvement or attain a lasting commitment to live better. The turning of a year seems to put us on a quest to become all that we wish we could be.

I am not at all opposed to the New Year being a time of reflection and goal setting. I do this every year and find it helpful. In fact, I have already spent time considering what I things I hope to try to start or at least do differently this year. It was in my New Year planning that I stumbled on a much-needed disappointment from a passage of Scripture. The message I read loud and clear was: I cannot do it! I am insufficient!

Before you stop reading and before you think the Bible throws a wet blanket on all the New Year’s resolutions, let me explain.

In our effort pursue a change, develop a skill, or embark on a new self-improvement routine, God holds out this necessary disappointment. He gives a needed reminder that provides warning and perspective. It is possible that all our resolve and effort could be in vain. Here is what I read.

Unless the Lord builds the house,
    those who build it labor in vain.

Unless the Lord watches over the city,
    the watchman stays awake in vain.

It is in vain that you rise up early
    and go late to rest, eating the bread of anxious toil;
    for he gives to his beloved sleep. Psalm 127:1-2

Three times he says these efforts are in vain. He doesn’t say our efforts are bad, just that there is a way to do them that will prove pointless. When we seek to do anything in our own strength independent of God, no matter how good that thing is, it is in vain. We cannot do it. Why? Because we are insufficient.

We are not able to become our best selves on our own. Our best life comes in complete dependence on the God who made us. Yet we still try. Self-reflection is helpful and plans for personal improvement can be beneficial, but this can also lead to more striving, specifically when we resolve in our own strength.

So, in this dawn of a new year, embrace not being enough. Feast at the table of dependence where our heavenly Father provides all that is needed. With this mindset move toward your plans with open hands. Lay your resolves and aspirations before the Lord and remember that unless the Lord builds the house, we labor in vain.

Motivation, self-reflection, planning and goal setting can be fruitful. But in our own strength these all miss the mark and we end up only feeding our natural disposition to make much of ourselves rather than making much of Christ. Instead plan with a dependent disposition. Embrace the needed disappointment that your efforts are insufficient on your own and instead look to the Lord to establish the work of your hands.

Why I Wrote Raising Emotionally Healthy Kids

In February 2020 I was hired as the director of counseling for a large church just outside of Washington D.C. I was given a lovely office where I figured I’d spend plenty of time focusing on the care and counseling needs of individuals and families connected to the church.

That plan changed when I was sent home to work remotely for what was expected to be two weeks. That two weeks was known as 15 Days to Slow the Spread. No one had any idea what was in store for us as a church, a country, or a world as the COVID-19 pandemic changed all that was normal.

When 15 days came and went we were all still at home riding out the pandemic. Families were forced to make major adjustments and I began getting calls from concerned parents. Working from home that year, I spoke to many parents who were seeking help regarding the emotional challenges their kids were facing. If your child hadn’t struggled emotionally before 2020, chances are they struggled during or after 2020. Fear, anxiety, confusion, grief, and sadness began to be common experiences for children and parents needed help understanding the emotional impact the ongoing pandemic was having on their kids.

One might think this was the driving event that motivated me to write a resource for parents addressing kid’s emotional health, but it wasn’t. Before the word “coronavirus” was a household name, a significant trend was already happening. More and more parents were reaching out to me and my colleagues seeking help for the emotional struggles their kids faced. Struggles related to friends or lack thereof, identity issues, bullying, pressures from social media, questions about their faith, and so much more plagued kids and teens.

Parents wanted biblical guidance that addressed the rising emotional challenges of the younger generation. Certainly the pandemic heightened parent’s concern about their children’s emotional health, but the need for help was already there. Seeing this early trend, I wanted to provide parents with a relevant and practical resource and the idea for this book began.

My goal was to help Christian parents know when and how to find help when their child was struggling while at the same time calm fears by educating moms and dads on what to expect from the emotional development of their children. I also wanted to give parents a resource that would help them know what emotional health looks like for themselves. Wise parents assess their own emotional wellbeing and seek to honor the Lord in whatever changes may be needed.

I am thrilled to be able to share this new book, right now, when it seems needed more than ever before.

Raising Emotionally Healthy Kids is readable and useful– not too long but packed with practical help. It is a balance of biblical wisdom coupled with a clinical understanding of the emotional development of children. I have drawn on what I have learned from years of being a counselor and I also share what I have learned in my own experience as a parent. Though I am a continual learner in both of these areas, I pray what I share will be helpful to parents as they seek to raise emotionally healthy kids.

Whether the past couple years have proved challenging for your kids emotionally or if they struggled even before the pandemic, this resource will provide helpful guidance. It is also very helpful for parents whose kids are doing well. The preventative direction will keep you headed in the right direction. Pre-order is now available at www.10ofThose.com.


Join the book launch team!

Want to read an early-release sample of Raising Emotionally Healthy Kids? You are invited to join the launch team. Click the button to learn more.

Virtual Trauma Training

We will once again be offering Fundamentals of Trauma Healing virtually in January 2022. This is an eight-hour training designed for the Christian professional and lay counselors who desire to learn the basics for counseling clients who have experienced past trauma. The instructors will teach the course content using biblical principles from a distinctly Christian worldview. 

The course is offered in an online live venue through Zoom. All participants will receive a packet of materials prior to the course which will include session outlines and resources. Participants will interact with the instructors through Q&A and chat messages during the scope of the course and may be given the opportunity to process with others through smaller breakout groups.

This course is an overview of counseling practices for providing counsel and care after a traumatic event or series of events. It does not cover advanced methods, but will lay a foundation to help you care well for the traumatized. Due to the interactive nature and sensitive topic of this training, recorded sessions will not be offered.

Elements included in the training inclue:

  • A Biblical view of trauma healing
  • Attachment and trauma
  • The effects of trauma on the brain and body
  • Grounding techniques
  • Guided prayer in trauma healing
  • Assessment measures
  • Treatment tools and techniques
  • Current research on trauma healing

Raising Emotionally Healthy Kids Workshop

Parents today have the difficult task of raising kids in a time when mental health statistics are far from encouraging. Kids face emotional challenges like no other generation and parents often have more questions than answers when it comes to helping their children navigate these turbulent waters.

If you feel lost or overwhelmed when it comes to your child’s emotional health you are not alone. I want to invite you to a workshop this October in Baltimore, Maryland to learn practical ways you can better care for your child’s mental health and set a course for healthier emotional wellbeing.

Your child’s emotional health is deeply connected to their physical and spiritual health and the Bible speaks to all of these. In the workshop you will be equipped to learn how to wholly nurture them and raise emotionally healthy kids. You will learn what can be expected in various stages of development of the emotional health of kids. You will also receive helpful tips on how to help your child regulate their emotions and moods. But you will also learn how to instill lasting hope in children growing up in a world that faces numerous struggles and challenges with mental health.

Registration is only $10 and that includes a free book! Register today.

Speakers:

  • Eliza Huie is a counselor and author of various books including Raising Kids in a Screen-Saturated WorldRaising Kids in a Hyper-Sexual World, and more recently The Whole Life: 52 Weeks of BIblical Self-Care. She is also co-host of the podcast Counsel For Life. Learn more about Eliza at www.ElizaHuie.com.
  • Lindsey Carlson is the wife of a pastor and the mother of five children, ranging from high school to kindergarten. She is the author of Growing in Godliness: A Teen Girl’s Guide to Maturing in Christ, and teaches and writes on numerous topics related to Christian faith and living. Learn more about Lindsey at www.LindseyCarlson.net.

Five Things to Say to Help a Depressed Christian

Five Things to Say to Help a Depressed Christian

Depression afflicts many people. In fact, some of the latest numbers show that over 300 million people worldwide suffer from a regular sense of feeling depressed. For some it might be more severe, for others it can just be a lingering sense of melancholy or a general sense of feeling down. The severity can vary as much as the experience of it.

What depression is like?

A person who is depressed does not always feel sad. They can feel exhausted or lose interest and motivation toward things they normally enjoy. Some people with depression can push through and engage in regular activities, while others shut down. Some people with depression cry often, while others not at all. Sometimes it can bring the experience a lot of feelings, making life emotionally exhausting, and other times it is the experience of being emotionally numb or flat. Sometimes suicidal thoughts can accompany depression and other times a person who is depressed will never have suicidal thoughts.

Depression is suffering. It is deep pain that somebody lives with day-to-day. And sometimes, it’s even debilitating. It is complex and doesn’t go away overnight, and some people will live with it their entire life.

What is clinical depression?

You might’ve heard the term clinical depression  and wondered what that meant. If somebody is clinically depressed, they’ve been diagnosed by a doctor, probably a psychiatrist or maybe a general practitioner. What this means is that they’ve met enough of the markers for this diagnosis which will include things like:

  • Having a depressed mood most of the day or nearly every day.
  • Having a diminished interest in almost all activities most of the day or nearly every day.
  • It also can include physical symptoms like significant weight loss or weight gain which can corresponds to a loss of appetite or disinterest in eating, or maybe increased eating for emotional relief.
  • It can also include things like a noticeable loss of energy or sense of feeling easily fatigued.
  • Other markers are a diminished ability to think and concentrate, feelings of worthlessness or excessive or inappropriate guilt.
  • Sometimes recurrent thoughts of death without a specific plan or intent to commit suicide can also be present.
  • Having to spend at least an hour everyday trying to cope is also a sign of clinical depression.

How you can help?

While these descriptions can help you understand depression a little more, you don’t have to know if someone has been clinically diagnosed to help them. You don’t have to be a counselor to be a loving and compassionate friend. I will offer some direction on what can help a Christian who finds themselves dealing with depression. Below are five things you can say that can help. You can use these exact words or make them your own but keep in mind that your tone is often as important as your words.

Five things you can say to help a friend who is struggling.

  1. God cares about your suffering. Your pain matters. God isn’t looking down hoping you get it together soon. He loves you. He grieves with you. And he cares that you are hurting.
  2. Your thoughts are never too dark for God. No matter what you are thinking, you can pour out your heart to God. Thoughts of death. Feelings of hopeless. Questions and doubts. God wants to hear them all. He wants to hear your whole heart. The Psalms are great examples of people who poured out their hearts to God during unrelenting suffering.
  3. Depression does not mean you are a bad Christian. Depression happens for all sorts of reasons. While we all still struggle with sin and temptation, many people who are depressed are spiritually right with God, yet still depressed. Don’t assume your suffering means you are lacking faith or not a good Christian.
  4. You are not a burden. In fact, you are needed. You are needed in your relationships and you are needed in the body of Christ. We need you. Your perspective on life helps others better understand how to love others who struggle and can help us all become more compassionate friends.
  5. You are not alone. You may feel like no one understands your experience of pain. You might think you struggle alone, but God is always with you. The Bible says that God is an ever-present help in troubled times. He is present with you. You belong to Christ, and he is with you. You are his and God has placed you in the lives of others. They may not always understand what you are going through, but they are given to you to be with you in this.

The Whole Life book.

Join the journey!

Order THE WHOLE LIFE today at New Growth Press.

There may not be a more needed book than this one. We live in a culture that is always on and constantly going. We are surviving but exhausted, pushing through but wearing out. Join me on a journey of exploring what it looks like to live a whole and balanced life. Watch this short video to learn more about The Whole Life book.

Trauma Training

What I am about to tell you might surprise you. Despite completing a biblical counseling certificate program and a masters degree in counseling, I never received specific training in trauma. Yet, as a biblical and licensed counselor I encounter trauma regularly in caring for people. The lack of trauma training is not a result of a sub-par education or inferior equipping. On the contrary, I received excellent training both biblically and clinically. Instead, it has more to do with the fact that best practices for trauma care are relatively new to the world of counseling and even more novel to the world of biblical counseling. At the same time, it is also true that people today are more significantly impacted by trauma than ever before.

It was once assumed that a person had to have gone through a tragic situation or personally witnessed something horrible to experience trauma. But now, with access to atrocities through the internet, we are exposed to trauma at increasing rates. And it’s is not just exposure but re-exposure as we watch and rewatch tragedies unfold on the screens we carrying around in our pockets. In addition we are far more aware of the compounding impact of “little t” trauma as well as vicarious trauma that we encounter in our efforts to help others. There has never been a time where training in trauma is more needed than there is today. There has never been a time where biblical training in trauma has ever been more crucial and relevant than right now. Despite this, there are few who have the expertise to offer trauma training from a biblical perspective. This led me to pursue specific equipping in trauma and I am thrilled to be one of the instructors for an upcoming trauma training for Christian counselors and biblical lay counselors.

Fundamentals of Trauma Healing is an eight-hour training designed for the Christian professional and lay counselors who desire to learn the basics for counseling clients who have experienced past trauma. The instructors will teach the course content using biblical principles from a distinctly Christian worldview. 

The course is offered in an online live venue through Zoom. All participants will receive a packet of materials prior to the course which will include session outlines and resources. Participants will interact with the instructors through Q&A and chat messages during the scope of the course and may be given the opportunity to process with others through smaller breakout groups.

This course is an overview of counseling practices for providing counsel and care after a traumatic event or series of events. It does not cover advanced methods, but will lay a foundation to help you care well for the traumatized. Due to the interactive nature and sensitive topic of this training, it is best experienced live. Recorded sessions will not be offered.

Elements included in the training inclue:

  • A Biblical view of trauma healing
  • Attachment and trauma
  • The effects of trauma on the brain and body
  • Grounding techniques
  • Guided prayer in trauma healing
  • Assessment measures
  • Treatment tools and techniques
  • Current research on trauma healing

Date:

July 23, 6:00-9:00 pm, Central Standard Time and July 24, 8:30 am – 4:00 pm, Central Standard Time

Cost:

  • Professional Counselors$150.00+$10.76 Professional Fee (CE’s available for TX licensed counselors.)
  • Students/Lay Counselors$100.00+$7.72 Professional Fee

Schedule:

Friday, July 23:

6:00-7:15pm Session 1: Trauma & the Biblical Worldview

7:15-7:30pm Break

7:30-8:45pm Session 2: The Brain/Body/Soul Connection

Saturday, July 24:

8:30-9:15am Session 3: Childhood Attachment and Trauma

9:15-9:30am Break

9:30-10:45am Session 4:  Stage 1 Healing (Safety and Stabilization)

10:45-11:00am Break

11:00am -12:15pm Session 5: Stage 2 Healing (Processing Trauma)

12:15-1:30pm Lunch

1:30-2:15pm Session 6: Stage 3 Healing (Integration of Healing)

2:15-2:30pm Break

2:30-3:30pm Session 7: The Trauma-Informed Church, Family and Society

3:30-4:00pm Session 8: Q&A