Do I Need Counseling?

“Our country faces an unprecedented mental health crisis among people of all ages.”  

This statement from the White House last year not only describes the condition of our country but also reflects the suffering many Christians face. The stigma that once haunted believers who struggle with mental health is fading as pastors and church leaders more readily address such topics with their congregations. In addition, faith-based counseling offered by Christian counselors is becoming easier to find.  

But believers can still wonder if their situation warrants the need for formal counseling. Isn’t the care and support of friends, family, pastors, and our faith community enough? These God-given resources are vital, but they aren’t exhaustive. There are times when talking with someone who has more focused expertise may be helpful.

The God-given resources of friends, family, pastors, and your faith community are vital, but they aren’t exhaustive. There are times when talking with someone who has more focused expertise may be helpful.

If you’ve ever wondered if you might benefit from counseling, here are six questions to determine the answer. 

1. DO YOU FEEL STUCK? Are your best efforts to change ineffective? Do you feel trapped in a never-ending negative cycle of poor communication and hurtful interaction in your relationships? Is suffering unrelenting or does discouragement over unchanging circumstances feel overwhelming?

If you’ve sought help but still feel stuck, counseling may offer a much-needed fresh perspective. 

2. HAVE YOU SUFFERED A DISTRESSING OR TRAUMATIZING EVENT? Tragedies come in a variety of forms: miscarriage, accidents, injuries, the loss of a job, or the death of a friend or family member. The trauma of victimizations and violations can lead you to places that are emotionally unfamiliar and challenging. A counselor can help you work through both unexpected and expected hardships.  

3. IS EMOTIONAL STRESS MANIFESTING IN PHYSICAL SYMPTOMS? Headaches, fatigue, digestive issues, or a racing heart are just a few symptoms that result from emotional stress. When you notice symptoms, a visit to your doctor is a good idea. If your doctor thinks stress is the cause of your physical issues, counseling is an excellent way to address what’s contributing to your body’s response.

4. ARE YOU STRUGGLING TO COPE WITH THE PRESSURES OF LIFE? To deal with the tensions of life, people find ways to cope. Some are helpful and healthy, like engaging in exercise, being with friends, meditating on Scripture, praying, spending time outdoors, or creating a quiet space for yourself. Other forms of coping are less healthy and are distractions that compound problems. If you’re coping with stress by turning to addictive habits such as drugs or alcohol, indulging in comfort food, watching shows excessively, scrolling social media, or other escapes, talking to someone is a wise and needed step.  

5. ARE YOUR RELATIONSHIPS STRAINED? Relationships are challenging. Whether it’s with your coworkers, church family, spouse, children, or parents, no relationship is immune to hard times. Even the best of friendships can take a difficult turn and cause unexpected challenges. Marriage and family relationships can fall into cycles of conflict, leaving you feeling hopeless. If you can’t make progress toward relational resolution, seek counsel.

Finding a counselor who can connect the love of Christ and the wisdom of the Scriptures to the interpersonal struggles you face can be a great encouragement.  

6. HAVE YOUR FAMILY AND FRIENDS EXPRESSED CONCERNED? Others often see us more clearly than we see ourselves. When friends and family voice concerns, don’t ignore them. It can be hard to see how things are affecting you when the situation has become part of your everyday life. If people who care about you say they’ve noticed concerning things, humbly listen and reach out for help.  

If you answered yes to any of the questions above, know that the Lord doesn’t intend for you to struggle alone. Take advantage of the circle of care God has provided through friends, family, and your local church. But also consider counseling as another avenue of care the Lord may be providing to you.  

This post written by Eliza Huie was originally shared on The Gospel Coalition website.

“I didn’t plan on dying today.” Unexpected lessons from Psalm 46:10

When I was lying awake one night, I asked the Lord what He would have me to share as a devotion with the staff of the non-profit where I work, and immediately, these eight simple words came to mind:  BE STILL AND KNOW THAT I AM GOD. The probability of this verse being in the top ten most well-known Bible passages makes it very familiar to all of us, but I wasn’t about to tell the Lord He made a mistake!   

After reflecting on Psalm 46:10, it became apparent to me that this simple imperative is far from easy to pull off.  In fact, I think that understanding it and putting it into practice might be one of the more difficult tasks of the Christian life. I have spent the last several years of my life being challenged by it. One particular event in my life stands out as a potent illustration of what the words of this psalm mean. Allow me to break it down into short phrases, starting with the first two words as I share my story.

Be Still

About 15 years ago now, when I was living in Wilmington, NC, my kids and I would go to Wrightsville Beach with several families from our homeschool group every Thursday during the summer. On one unforgettable trip, another mom and I decided to swim across the channel with our kids from Shell Island to Figure Eight Island. It was an easy swim, and we made it across in a few minutes.  After walking down the beach a ways, we then decided to head back to Shell Island where the rest of our group was waiting.  We swam out to the middle of the channel, and then to our horror realized that we were no longer covering any distance.  At this point my friend looks at me with fear in her eyes and says, “We are not going to make it.” Immediately, my life flashed before my eyes, and I had the most terrifying thought: “I didn’t plan on dying today.” Add to this great horror and even greater one—I suddenly realized that I was going to watch my children drown one by one right in front of my eyes. I immediately started to panic, and my body began to sink beneath the waves. There was absolutely nothing I could do to get myself or my children out of this predicament. However, my friend calmly called out to us, “Everybody lie on your backs!”  We did, and the current which we had been fighting, pushed us back to Figure Eight Island. If I had continued to strive to get across the channel, I surely would have drowned.  But by simply trustin in the reality that the current was able to get me to safety and that all I needed to do was to rest, my life and the lives of my children were spared.

Taking the posture of lying on our backs was essential that day. Being still saved our lives. Rather than commanding us to do nothing, Psalm 46 is describing a posture of the heart—one that recognizes that the most pressing issues of my life have already been lovingly planned and will be accomplished—not by my striving—but by my resting in His perfect plan. 

Thankfully, moments after we made it back to Figure Eight Island, some teenagers on jet skis saw our predicament and jetted us safely back across the channel.  They said to us, “Don’t you know how dangerous it is to swim across the channel?”

That brings me to the second phrase.

And Know

Before we ventured out into the channel, one of the moms in our group had warned us, “I don’t think that is a very good idea.  The channel is not a safe place to swim.”  But we sized it up and concluded that she was being a worrywart. Only, she knew! She was convinced not only in the reality about currents, but also in her own experience. We were foolish to have not listened. We had put our confidence in our own assessment and ability to get across the channel—and that got us into a lot of trouble.  Here, God is telling us, commanding us to know.  He wants us to have absolute assurance – not a false hope. He provides us not only with truth in His word through principles and stories of His faithfulness, but also with the experiences of others around us so that we can have rock solid assurance.  

Assurance about what?  That leads me to the third phrase.

That I

God has reduced our confidence to be placed in one singular being—Himself.  Our assurance cannot be centered in ourselves, in our circumstances, or shaped by our emotions.   It can’t be dependent on another person. I can’t find my assurance in what I do, where I live or work, or what or who I know. My confidence can’t come from what others think of me. Only God can be the source of our confidence.  Everything else will disappoint, fall apart, or come to an end. I can be certain that He has a good purpose for me.

This reminds me of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego.  When faced with sure death, they answered King Nebuchadnezzar, “Your threat means nothing to us. If you throw us in the fire, the God we serve can rescue us from your roaring furnace and anything else you might cook up, O king. But even if he doesn’t, it wouldn’t make a bit of difference, O king. We still wouldn’t serve your gods or worship the gold statue you set up.”  (Daniel 3:16-28, The Message).  How could they say this with such confidence?  Because they knew without a doubt that placing their lives in God’s hands was the safest place to land.  

The last phrase is the anchor that holds the whole thought together.

Am God 

I can’t learn to be still, I can’t accurately understand truth, I can’t be assured of any good outcome unless I am looking to God—the only true source of all joy, fulfillment, power, satisfaction, and purpose.

So, because God is God and I am not, I can practice self-forgetfulness and focus on Him.  I can live my life solely to glorify Him, freeing me from the enslaving preoccupation of my own agenda. I can be confident that no matter what He sends my way, I can rest in His good plans for me and have peace.  

You would think that at the ripe old age of 56 I would have this down by now, but I have found that learning to be still is a lifelong journey. I need to be reminded daily where my true confidence lies and to constantly be challenged to practice self-forgetfulness, looking to God for ultimate purpose and joy.  And even when I fail, I cannot out fail His grace.  Many of us wrongly view the Christian life as a steady climb to a higher plane, but reality points to something more like undulations of growth and failures, always moving us closer and closer to a clearer understanding of who I am in light of who God is.  He will accomplish the work He started in me.  

I have been trying to remember to start my day repeating these eight simple words.  I invite you to join me, and perhaps together we can be sanctified by their message and encourage one another to find peace by practicing it.  

For further reflection and encouragement, listen to this song by Hope Dearest:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lsIpGiz3SfQ

(This guest post is shared by my dear friend who faithfully shares the love of Jesus with muslim refugees through a local non-profit. She is passionate about the goodness of God and the importance of knowing His Word. She wishes to write anonymously in order to give all the attention to the Lord.)

Nothing is Impossible…

“For nothing will be impossible with God.”  

(Luke 1:37) 

Try this. Lift your right foot off the ground and begin circling it in a clockwise direction. While you continue to move your foot in circles, draw a six with your finger in the air two times. Did your foot change direction? For most people it is impossible for your foot to be moving clockwise while your finger is moving counterclockwise, which happens when you draw the number six. Was that true for you? Here is a simpler experiment. Stick out your tongue and try and touch it to your nose. Can you do it? Ask a friend or family member to try. Can they do it?  

These are silly things that are impossible for most of us to do. They make us laugh as we try to do them. However, there are other things in our lives that are not silly but are equally impossible for us. There are some things we just cannot do. For us they are impossible.  

When you face things that are impossible it can bring up many questions. What will happen if we cannot make ends meet? Will my wayward child ever come back to the Lord? Will I always be alone? Will I get better? What if my friend or family member never comes to know Jesus? These questions can turn to hopelessness. But that hopelessness is a result of looking at the impossible situation rather than at the God of impossibilities. Our God is not limited by the realities of a situation. 

The passage of Scripture above is quoted from the book of Luke, but they are the words of Mary the mother of Jesus. Mary was an unwed teenaged virgin when an angel came to her with a message. If a visit from an angel was not shocking enough, the message the angel brought certainly was. In fact, the angel’s message seemed completely impossible. Mary was to have a son! And not just a son but this child would become the savior of the world. When the angel told her what would happen he reminded her of a crucial truth. “Nothing will be impossible with God.” This is a reminder we all need at various times of our lives; not in the times when we are trying to touch our nose with our tongue, but on those days when God’s promises seem impossible. When your situation feels beyond repair, when a heart seems as cold as ice, when you cannot imagine things turning around, remember this truth: “Nothing will be impossible with God.”

Whatever God has promised will happen. Even if his plans are not what we expect, he promises to work all things for our good (Romans 8:28-29). What feels impossible in your life right now? Trust God with your impossibilities.  Nothing is too difficult for him. He will either make it happen or give you all that is needed to endure.