Changing Negative Thinking

Thoughts are interesting things. They have no material value. They have no physical weight, no measurable space, and no visible presence. They come from inside us with little to no effort from us. And although they are innumerable[1] they are invisible. Or are they?

In 1952 author Norman Vincent Peale brought the importance of this subject to center stage when he wrote The Power of Positive Thinking. Shining a spotlight on our thoughts, the book went on to be a New York Times best seller. Apparently, our thoughts, tucked away in the privacy of our minds and imperceptible to the external world have a significant impact on us. Thoughts are formative to our very lives. But we don’t need a self-help book form the 50’s to tell us that. The Bible states clearly that “as a man thinks in his heart so he is” (Prov. 23:7). Our thoughts determine what we do, develop how we live, and define our identity.

Our thoughts determine what we do, develop how we live, and define our identity.

Eliza Huie– Changing Negative Thinking

Think about the truth.

We need to fill our minds with what is accurate and factual regarding ourselves. Since our thoughts shape who we are, we must be concerned with thinking about the truth. In light of this, it underscores the importance that our thoughts be true.

Not so good truth.

What if the truth is not good? What if the truth is that we really messed up or we failed in this or that area? What should we do with true thoughts that remind us we say or do things that are unkind, wrong, and sinful? What if the truth is that our lives our filled with bad news and very real troubles? When this is the case, we can find ourselves stuck in patterns of destructive thinking. Similarly to the self-help book title, we also know the power in negative thinking is very significant.

What else is true?

We cannot deny that some true things are not good. In fact, some truth is just awful. Mistakes cannot be undone, and harsh words can’t be unsaid. Painful realities we have endured cannot be wished away and our minds can be flooded with not-so-good thoughts. When this is the case, we have a choice to make. When the negative thoughts come, acknowledge their truth but then ask yourself; What else is true? What other truth do you need to be thinking about right then and there? Let me make this practical with an exercise.

And What Else

I can’t remember where I first learned this exercise, but I find it very helpful. When negative truths dominate your thinking, when you can only call to mind the bad you have done, or when reminders of the wrong done to you feel as though they are on continual recall, use the three letters A-W-E to help guide you toward a change in your thinking. These three simple letters can change the barrage of negative thinking. They simply stand for And What Else. Yes—you have said and done some regretful things but what else is true of you? Yes—You had a terrible experience but what else is true? Yes—it was truly awful what happened but what else is also true? The awful things that happened really did happen and they were terribly bad, but what else is true? And what else: A.W.E. Allow yourself space to think about what else is true. As a Christian there is so much more that is true of you. Here are some examples. Read them slowly, thinking about each one.

  • You are a child of God. (Jn. 1:12)
  • You are a friend of Jesus. (Jn. 15:15)
  • You are loved and not condemned (Jn. 3:16-17)
  • You are forgiven. (Col. 1:13-14)
  • You are justified. (Rom. 5:1)
  • You are a saint. (Eph. 1:1)
  • You are free of condemnation now and forever. (Rom. 8:1-2)
  • You can find grace and mercy when you need it. (Heb. 4:16)
  • You have full access to God. (Eph. 3:12)
  • You are protected from the evil one. (1 Jn. 5:18)

When negative thoughts fill your mind pause and intentionally think or, as the Scripture says, meditate on what else is true. When you do this, the simplicity of the acrostic comes to life as it moves you to stand in awe (A.W.E) of the amazing truth of who you are in Christ and how much God loves you.

Practice makes _________.

This exercise is exactly what Paul was instructing us to do in Philippians chapter four verse eight when he wrote:

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. 

Most Christians know that verse well. Maybe you have even memorized it. But did you know what comes right after that? Verse nine says this:

What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.

Did you catch that? Paul says these things take practice! Negative thinking comes easy. Right thinking takes practice. This takes intentional focus, but it is life changing. We have all heard it said that practice makes _______ (fill in the blank). “Perfect!” I actually think it is more accurate to say that “practice makes permanent.” When our thoughts accurately reflect the truth of Scripture and we practice meditating on what it says regarding who we are, it changes us permanently.

I hope this motivates you to practice the A.W.E exercise the next time you feel yourself spiraling downward in negative thinking. The more you practice, the more permanent the truth of God’s word will become the dominant source of your thoughts.

Since our thoughts shape who we are, we must be concerned with thinking about the truth.

Eliza Huie– Changing Negative Thinking


[1] A recent research project concluded that the average person has approximately 6200 thoughts a day. It is likely this will change the more research is conducted. https://www.newsweek.com/humans-6000-thoughts-every-day-1517963

How Should I Respond if my Child Sees Porn?

How should I respond if my child sees pornography?

This is a question I get asked often. It is an important question, but I want to actually ask this question in a slightly different way. In the way that I feel is more helpful.

How should I respond when my child sees pornography?”

Instead of if, let’s say when. It’s a slight change but is more than likely the reason why you are reading this article. And reframing it this way allows parents to be prepared for what sadly is more than likely a reality. Whether it is an accidental glimpse of an image, a classmate sharing something on their phone, or a curious search on their own phone, laptop, or tablet, your child will likely see porn. It is so easily available and sadly statistics tell us that the average age of the first exposure to porn is just 11 years old and, in most cases, this happens in the child’s own home.[i] As a parent, your response when this happens is very important.

When your child is sees pornography, it is an opportunity for two things. It is a teaching opportunity, and it is a gospel opportunity.

A Teaching Opportunity

It’s an opportunity for you to teach your child about their own sexuality and God’s good design for sex. It is an opportunity to teach them about the incredible value people have as image bearers and how we should never use other people—even if it is just pictures of them—in ways that do not honor them or the God who made them.[ii] It is an opportunity for you to teach your child about what are appropriate pictures to see of others and what are inappropriate. It is also a good chance to teach them what are appropriate or inappropriate pictures to have taken of themselves.

A Gospel Opportunity

It is also a gospel opportunity. When your child sees porn, you have an amazing occasion to bring the gospel to your child in this moment. The fact that pornography even exists shows just how far our hearts have strayed from the Lord and reminds us of how much we all need Jesus. Whether your child saw pornography willingly or accidentally it is great opportunity for you to remind them of the forgiveness we have in Jesus. People who make or engage in porn can have their sins totally forgiven. And children, who curiously explored pornography also can find abundant grace from God when they confess. Remind them that 1 John 1:9 tells us that, “If we confess our sins He is faithful and just to forgive our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” The kindness of God is available for all who to turn to Him.

So, keep these two things in mind—it is a teaching opportunity, and it is a gospel opportunity.

Resources

As a parent I know resources are a big when raising children. In light of that, here are a couple resources I have written on the topic of both sex and screens to help parents when asking this or other related questions.

The first is called Raising Teens in a Hyper-Sexualized World. And while the title says Raising Teens it is very beneficial for parents of elementary and preteens as well. In it I share 7 tips for navigating the topic sex. One important tip for parents to consider how their reaction to learning about a child’s exposure to porn impacts their relationship with their child. Discovering that your child has seen pornography is very upsetting but parents must bring their sorrows, anger, or disappointments to the Lord first and ask Him to help move into the conversation in a way that shows the child see that what has happened is not too big for God nor is it not beyond his grace.

The second book is called Raising Kids in a Screen-Saturated World. It is designed to help parents who are raising digital natives. The five quick tips discuss ways to model digital discipline in your home and answer questions like “when should I give my child their own device?”

Both of these books are short and practical allowing the busiest of parents to get through them.

In summary keep in mind that exposure to pornography is likely going to happen at some point as you raise your kids. Reframing these the situation by remembering that this it is a teaching opportunity and a gospel opportunity turns these moments into opportunities of growth. And most of all remember the Lord is our helper you so lean into him in everything you face with your children.


[i] https://www.covenanteyes.com/lemonade/wp-content/uploads/2013/02/Protect-family-online-Covenant-Eyes.pdf

[ii] Genesis 1:27, Psalm 139:4, Romans 12:10

Responding to Someone Hurt by Biblical Counseling

Not everyone’s experience with biblical counseling is positive. I am not talking about situations where a person is running from God or holding tightly to sin. Biblical counseling will not land well on a hard heart.  Instead, I am talking about experiences where people have humbly sought out biblical care and have sadly come away more wounded by the experience.

As counselors, we must be willing to admit that sometimes people encounter poor applications of biblical counseling. Sometimes counselors fall very short in incarnating Christ when engaging the fallen, broken, or downcast brother or sister. Sadly as biblical counselors, we do not always express thoughtful love or engaging compassion as faithfully as we confess

I assume I am not alone in hearing stories of people hurt by their engagement with a biblical counselor. You, like me, may have been cautiously questioned about your counseling approach by a believer still carrying wounds and shame received from a hurtful counseling experience in their church. What we do when we encounter brothers and sisters whose engagement with biblical counseling was hurtful is extremely important. Our response can solidify their concerns, wound them further, or give them hope. I pray that this article will lead us all to the later. The following tips on what to do and what not to do should be reviewed as regularly as we encounter those hurt by biblical counseling.

What to do.

Listen

As counselors this should be our default, but it is worth emphasizing here. Take care that you are intent on hearing their story. Give plenty of time and space to let them unfold it. Allow them to share their experience and actively engage in hearing them. Let your words be primarily questions that encourage them to share more. Listening will elicit the trust that was likely broken in their past experiences. The first step in loving someone hurt by counseling is to let them know their story is important to you and you want to hear all of it. James 1:19 is an unfailing guide for this.

Empathize

As you listen, seek to identify and understand the emotional weight of their experience. Enter their world by seeking to grasp the reality of their pain. Carry their burden with them in the spirit of Galatians 6:2. Empathy will help you respond appropriately. It will assist you to offer encouragement, comfort, and support in a way that validates that sorrow, grief, and pain are normal responses to being hurt.

Self-reflect

Not everything you hear in their hurtful experience will be solely due to the counsel or counselor. They bring their own stuff to the table as well. Lord willing, there will be a time and place to work through that further with them. This is not that time. It is crucial that biblical counselors examine themselves when they hear stories of counseling hurt. How is hearing this story impacting you? What feelings and emotions are coming up in you as you listen? Humbly reflect on the way you bring care. What in this person’s story could be true of your care? Where is needed change in your own approach to caring for people being revealed?

What not to do.

Gossip

It is incredibly easy to slip into gossip when someone shares the hurt they have encountered from biblical counseling. In an effort to sympathize, the desire may arise to confirm what you also may have heard or experienced from a counselor or ministry. Maybe you have even had previous engagement with that specific biblical counselor, church, or ministry and you can add a tasty morsel to confirm their evaluation. This is not helpful. It does not bring healing and only solidifies distrust for those in biblical counseling. Do not do it.

Defend

As you hear a story of hurt, you may feel like defending yourself as a biblical counselor. Avoid the temptation to personalize what you are hearing. Even if the things are about the ministry or organization where you serve or received your training, a defensive response is not a humble response. Biblical counselors are not perfect people. We are in process just like our counselees. Taking up a defensive posture may be an indication of the work needed in our own hearts. Hearing someone’s pain should rouse understanding in us, not defense. To do otherwise is the way of the fool (Proverbs 18:2).

Dismiss

You may not agree with everything the person is sharing. You might see holes in how they have assessed their situation. There could be glaring over-reactions. Avoid being dismissive. Dismissing their pain will only affirm their experience. A wise counselor ascertains the appropriate time to address these things. Wisdom includes being able to hear emotional and sometimes irrational thinking for a time, in order to carefully build the trust needed to engage the person’s heart later. Don’t dismiss or make light of their pain to jump to what you assess as more important matters.

Conclusion

We need to lovingly engage people who have been hurt by biblical counseling. Not doing so will only distance sufferers from communities of care that God has provided. We have a responsibility to compassionately care for those who are hurt, all the more when they have been hurt by us. Let us model the way of the wonderful Counselor who draws near to the crushed and brokenhearted (Psalm 34:18).

What is EMDR therapy? – Speak Truth Podcast

I am delighted to share with you a conversation I had with the Jeremey Lelek and Shauna VanDyke, president and executive director of the Association of Biblical Counselors. In this podcast I answer questions about EMDR therapy.

On the Other Side of Isolation

Preparing the church for the psychological impact of COVID-19 regulations.

By Eliza Huie, MAC, LCPC, Originally published by Outreach Magazine

“Is it almost over?” These were the words I heard every week from my little boy who refused to go into children’s ministry. Why he wanted to stay with mom and dad rather than eat snacks, hear stories, and color robed Bible characters, was beyond me. But each week he joined us in “big church” and about halfway through the service the inevitable question was whispered, “Is it almost over?”

Many can relate to this burning question right now. Though the COVID-19 isolation has brought some unique enjoyments; a freer schedule, working from your couch, or worshipping in your PJ’s. For most it has brought challenge, and we all are beginning to ask if it almost over.

It is actually a question we must take seriously. When the lifting of stay-at-home regulations will happen is not yet know and it will likely vary from state to state. However, there are many things that the church must to consider. Logistics on how to reopen are going to be almost as tricky as it was to move everything online. There will need to be a plan, maybe multiple plans. And while plans for transitioning back to church will require new strategies for gathering, part of your church’s plan needs to a mindful awareness of the psychological impact this season has had on your people.

Learning from history SARS and other illness related quarantines, it is clear areas of mental, emotional, and relational health will suffer under the period of social distancing.[1] Many churches have begun addressing emotional health already. Conversations about faith and the realities of anxiety, fears, stress are happening online. Even less commonly addressed topics like depression, loneliness, and suicide are getting some airtime in churches. But there are some issues people are struggling with that will likely not be considered but are deeply impacting congregants.

Below are three areas of struggle that may be unexpected but are sure to show up in your congregation as you re-engage. I share them to prepare churches, and to offer suggestions on how the church can take an understanding approach to those who may be struggling with these and other phycological issues as when we join back together.

The purpose of this article is to be informative and practical. The hope is that it will help the church to take sensitive measures in light of the potential aftershocks of COVID-19 isolation. Some of the terms will be clinical but I hope to provide street-level understanding of these issues coupled with biblical direction for care.

Agoraphobia and OCD tendencies.

What does the church need to know?

Agoraphobia is the fear of leaving your house and OCD is a hyper-focus anxiety or fear about something that drives a needed action (i.e., repetitive checking or ritualistic cleaning). Both of these are psychiatric diagnoses, but you don’t have to have a diagnosis for symptomatic inclinations to interrupt your life.

While we may complain about being stuck at home, surveys are revealing that people in the US don’t feel ready to return to normal activities even if regulations lift.[2] People will be fearful of leaving their home. One poll suggests that just over 70% of Americans would prefer to “wait and see” once regulations begin to lift. [3] Churches need to factor this apprehension into what they can expect from their congregants. Not everyone will be excited to leave their house. In fact, it seems many are going to be very cautious about restarting activities they once regularly participated in.

People are getting comfortable with new habits that ensure personal safety. What was once viewed as an exaggerated response, wearing masks and rubber gloves when out, are now part of the normal routine. Not only are people comfortable with them they are starting to feel like they need them to be safe. Masks give them a little more peace of mind when they wear them and when other people wear them. [4]

Social distancing is also a practice people have embraced and will likely not be in any hurry to let go. It only takes a stroll along the walking path by my house to see people are concerned when out and about. I notice this almost every time I take a walk. When I approach a masked walker, I receive a gracious nod as they move to the furthest edge of the path so we can pass one another at the furthest distance the path will allow. Perhaps you have seen it in the supermarket when someone pauses or takes a step back to allow you a much larger gap as you pass them in the isle.

We cannot expect these new practices to go away just because regulations have been lifted. The concerns that drive them will still be there when the church reopens its doors.

What can the church do?

  • Keep online services, activities, and connection going even after you can meet in person. You will likely need to operate both live and online platforms in order to connect with congregants who may be fearful to leave their homes.
  • Communicate your cleaning strategies. Let your congregation know how you have sanitized and how you plan to continue to sanitize your building. Encourage and model safety measures. Let your congregation know what they can expect. Will you be encouraging masks? Gloves? What will you implement for space between people in the sanctuary or classrooms? What will greeting look like? Prepare your staff to lead the way in these measures.
  • Encourage gradual ways people can re-engage. Offer smaller gatherings or encourage people to begin to meet with others for prayer, bible study, or to watch the service together at one another’s homes. When weather permits some gatherings can happen outside the church building with comfortable spacing.
  • Speak into the fear of getting sick or being vulnerable. Acknowledging the fears people have will give them a level of confidence that you are taking things seriously.

Burnout and Trauma.

What does the church need to know?

Expect to see burnout and trauma from the many healthcare workers in your congregation who have served tirelessly during this crisis. They will bring their personal trauma as they begin to process all they endured. They watched firsthand as the young mother of three died only days after entering into the hospital with severe symptoms. They were there when parents were told their child had died. They held the phones of frightened patients as they sobbed and sought comfort from their loved ones on the screen. They were the only one in the room when the elderly passed away as the family was prohibited to enter the hospital rooms due to the virus. They carried the daily weight of concern for their own health and those they love because of their regular exposure. There will be trauma. [5]

Those in ministry are also at risk for burnout. Including your pastor. Gunner Gunderson, pastor at Bridgeway Bible Church shared a pertinent caution about times of crisis. He warns “It (crisis) will eat you up and wear you out, while your adrenaline and your noble desire to serve keep you blind to the burnout that is chasing you down.” [6]

Pastors, ministry leaders, youth workers, care teams, tech teams, etc. are working overtime to keep ministry going and the congregation connected. The effort to create and initiate ways to continue ministry in the midst of isolation has increased the workload for most in ministry. Endless hours online in video calls or in front of a screen recording sermons, lessons, workshops, and conferences will take a toll. Add to that all the care and counsel that continued via zoom or phone calls. Coronavirus didn’t stop personal and relational crises from happening. Care and counseling had to be juggled right alongside preparation for Sunday. Be prepared for your leaders to experience compassion fatigue. [7]

What can the church do?

  • Pray for healthcare workers, your pastors, and your ministry leaders.
  • Encourage or start online support groups or prayer groups for those in healthcare to join right now. Having a place where they can be encouraged and prayed for is a fantastic way to help carry their burdens.
  • Identify those in your congregation who work in healthcare and personally reach out to them with a card, email, or phone call. Let them know you are praying for them. Remind them the church is there for them.
  • Encourage or require your pastors, ministry leaders, etc. to take a sabbath. Talk about rest in your staff meetings or from your pulpit. Beyond the one day a week sabbath rest, encourage all staff to set aside one weekend a month and one week a year as a sabbath rest.
  • Promote a mindset of selfcare. If you are the pastor or ministry lead, you’ll need to model it. Ask staff to share ways they are practicing selfcare on a regular basis, share it with your team.
  • Check in on leaders and determine what help and support they need to fulfill their ministry tasks. Prioritize the hiring of assistance and administrative help whenever possible. Operating an online platform along with the already existing ministry has likely doubled work in some areas, now is a good time to add assistants to your team.

Addiction

What does the church need to know?

Addiction flourishes in secret. The self-justifying lies deteriorate resolve and old habits gain great ground. There is no better environment for the revitalization of addictive habits or the beginning of new ones than in a time of isolation paired with increased stress. Those in your congregation who had fought long and hard for the ground of sobriety have faced incredible setbacks.

People who have faced addiction know how valuable support systems are. They are keenly aware of their need to have someone look them in the eye and hold them accountable. COVID-19 made that nearly impossible. Support groups went online or stopped all together. This reality along with the isolation created a perfect storm of relapse.

Porn addiction has significantly increased during COVID-19. It would be safe to call it a “porndemic” as some pornography distributers offered free streaming during quarantine.[8] As I write this my heart breaks for the many who have gotten caught up in this evil during this time. Believers will deal with significant shame and ongoing battles due to the secret patterns of sin that sparked a destructive fire of porn use during isolation.

What can the church do?

Start groups now for those struggling with sexual sin and continue them when the church reopens. Below are some resources for both men and women that can be used as curriculum for these groups.

  • Sexual Sanity for Men or Women– These books work great for groups. Each chapter has opportunity to engage the content at a personal level.
    • Samson Society– How to start a group. They also provide daily devotionals on the subject of sexual purity.
  • If your church had recovery programs in place, prioritize them as you reopen or begin one. For more severe addictions intensive recovery may be needed. Below are some considerations for faith-based resources.

This article is far from exhaustive. There are certainly other areas that need to be on the church’s radar. Relationship struggles for example. China saw a spike in divorce filings as they emerged from isolation.[9] Domestic abuse is also an area that has increased due to isolation and churches will need to be equipped to recognize it.[10] Grief is sure to be something everyone will be bringing in various degrees of experience. There is not one of us who has not known or felt loss in some capacity during this season. And don’t forget the marginalized. Those who suffer with chronic pain and illness and those who were previously shut in, can easily drift out of our sight as we focus on in-person gatherings. During this crisis, we entered into their world for a brief time. We learned what it was like to be unable to leave home. We experienced the loneliness that comes from isolation. Let’s not forget about them as we begin to phase back into meeting onsite.

To mention all of the issues and give words of direction on each would strain the length of this already lengthy article. My hope is that looking at just a few key issues stirs the church to think about how to prepare even now for how to walk with people as we look forward to days of reunion. Churches across the country have stepped up to the call to love their neighbor during this crisis.[11] As we being to explore what it will look like on the other side of isolation; we carry the same call.

While many are asking “is it almost over,” in many ways, things have yet to begin. So, as you prepare for your first post-isolation gathering and you strategize parking, seating, classrooms, restrooms, etc., keep in mind the weight of emotional and mental strain this time has had on your congregants. May the words of Philippians 2:4 and Romans 15:1-3a guide the church as we continue to consider the needs and struggles of others and bring hope in relevant ways in the days ahead.

“Everyone should look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others. Adopt the same attitude as that of Christ Jesus.” Philippians 2:4 (CSB)

“Now we who are strong have an obligation to bear the weakness of those without strength and not to please ourselves. Each one of us is to please his neighbor for his good, to build him up. For even Christ did not please himself.” Romans 15:1-3a (CSB)

A person posing for a picture

Description automatically generatedEliza Huie is the Director of Counseling at McLean Bible Church in the DC Metro area. She is a licensed mental health professional and biblical counselor. Visit www.elizahuie.com for more articles by Eliza.


[1] https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-intelligent-divorce/202003/how-manage-the-psychological-effects-quarantine

[2] https://news.gallup.com/poll/308264/americans-remain-risk-averse-getting-back-normal.aspx

[3] https://news.gallup.com/poll/308264/americans-remain-risk-averse-getting-back-normal.aspx

[4] http://www.news12.com/story/41967875/masks-offer-people-peace-of-mind-despite-what-health-experts-say

[5] http://bradhambrick.com/13-types-of-impact-frequently-experienced-after-a-trauma/

https://www.cnbc.com/2020/04/17/long-term-mental-health-ptsd-effects-of-covid-19-pandemic-explained.html

[6] https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/church-leader-pace-yourself-quarantine/

[7] https://biblicalcounselingcenter.org/help-compassion-fatigue/

[8] https://news.trust.org/item/20200326185000-28xei

[9] https://thehill.com/homenews/news/490564-divorces-skyrocket-in-china-amid-lockdown

[10] https://elizahuie.com/2020/04/11/when-stay-at-home-orders-increase-threat/

[11] https://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2020/apr/4/how-churches-can-serve-during-covid-19-crisis-by-w/

https://www.christianitytoday.com/edstetzer/2020/march/lots-of-ways-churches-are-stepping-up-for-their-communities.html

What is a Biblical Counselor?

What is biblical counseling? That question has been asked, defined, debated, and reconsidered many times. The mere fact that the question continues to be asked speaks to the reality that words are not easily contained within the constructs we give them. They are often more fluid that we prefer, with adjectives being the most frequent to shape-shift. Biblical counseling has not been something that easily fits into one definition as evidenced in the alphabet soup of acronyms that identify the various equipping ministries and models.

In seeking to answering the question, “What is biblical counseling?”, looking at modality or method of care is not sufficient. Why? Because the application of the model or method allows for a significant amount of subjectivity. For example, if we say biblical counseling must be rooted in Scripture, promoting sanctification, or grounded in love, fleshing out what that looks like will be unique to the circumstance and people in the room. I do believe these descriptions are useful and helpful. However, there is a far better way to answer “What is biblical counseling?”

Seeking to sketch out what biblical counseling is must start with the counselors themselves rather than the modality. Biblical counseling will not happen unless there is a biblical counselor. Am I saying that if the person doing the counseling is a Christian they are automatically a biblical counselor? No. If that were the case, then I would have to call my lawyer friend a biblical lawyer because she is a Christian who practices law. We don’t call the nurse who is a Christian a biblical nurse, a professor who is a Christian a biblical professor, or a waiter who is a Christian a biblical waiter.

Defining biblical counseling should be directly tied to the counselor. Biblical counseling will mean the counselor is a Christian, but it will mean more than that. The letters after their name or the acronym of modality they follow do tell us something. They give hints of the emphasis that will flavor the counseling process. They point to who has influenced or mentored the counselor. They give credibility to equipping that has taken place. However the litmus test to defining biblical counseling ought to go beyond these things. Defining biblical counseling must describe the counselor.

Is the counselor anchored to the Word? Are they attune to the Holy Spirit and yielded to the Father? Do they live with biblical perspective? Has their own life been one of humble alignment to the Scripture? Is their commitment in counseling an avenue to love God and others? Have they been open to correction or receptive to their views being challenged? Can they discerningly engage resources, tools, methods of care in a way that aligns with Scripture?

These questions are key if we are seeking to answer what is biblical counseling. Biblical counseling is something done by a biblical counsleor.

So in essence the question we should be asking is “What is a biblical counselor?” When we start there we are in a better place to confirm whether something is biblical counseling or not. The methods may vary but confirmations must be found in the the life of the one bringing care. Asking the question, “What is a biblical counselor?” leads us to explore what essential qualities a counselor must possess in order to determine whether or not what is happening is “biblical counseling”.

This focus emphasizes the counselor rather than the method or approach. With specific qualities affirmed in their life, the biblical counselor will be able to look at every practice, method, resource, training, skill, tool, description, and prescription discerningly, and determine how to engage, adapt, or, if needed, refute it. They will love and care for people as they have been loved and cared for by Jesus. They will walk with others, beggar to beggar, yet with confidence in where to find bread. What is a biblical counselor? This is the questions to be asked. Answering happens by looking at the person’s life.

I rub shoulders with many amazing biblical counselors and there are times when I walk away from a conversation with them and say to myself, “That is someone who I would go see when I need counseling.” What makes me say that is not their degree, certificate, or license, but their life. They model, often without even knowing it, a life captivated by Jesus, a heart compassionate toward others, and a wisdom drawn from a dependence on the Scripture. “What is a biblical counselor?”, may we strive for living a life that answers this question well.

How to prepare to counsel someone.

Walking with someone in their struggle is not easy. If you are in the role of counselor, mentor, or friend and are asked to speak into someone’s life what can you do to prepare for those conversations?

Recently I was invited to speak at the Christian Counseling and Educational Foundation’s national conference on this very topic.  I spent time looking at what the most important things you can focus on as a biblical counselor.  In this talk I covered the following:

  • Why Prepare?
    • We are ministering the word and it deserves appropriate handling.
    • We are ministering to people and they deserve appropriate handling.
  • Why we don’t prepare?
    • We don’t fully realize our need.
    • We don’t fully realize our call.
    • We are busy, distracted people.
    • We have been successful without it.
  • What does preparation look like?
    • Focused time in the Word.
    • Looking at who God is.
    • Looking at who you are.
    • Prayer.

So much of our time in preparation might look very different than we think. In my talk I bring to light vital things that keep us ready to care for people. These are things that bring hope to us as caregivers as well as to those we care for. The teaching audio is available along with many other helpful messages at CCEF.org

Are Screens the Problem?

RaisingKids_BookCover_Small
Click to pre-order at 10ofThose.com.

Have unwanted graphic texts, violent video games, pornography, cyber bullying, sexting, or screen addition been a concern for you as a parent raising children in this cyber age?

These name only a few of the concerning vices that our screen-saturated world has brought about. Parents can feel lost in the digital landscape where their children are the technological experts and mom and dad struggle just to keep up. But keeping your child screen-free is about as realistic as keeping them from outgrowing their clothes.

If it isn’t already your reality, eventually your child will one day have that tell-tail rectangular pattern lining their jean’s pocket. Most parents are dependent on their child having a phone of some type in order to keep up with one another in a full and fast pace life. Despite the discouraging engagement that a world of devices can bring, the question to ask is this; Are screens really the problem?

Is the solution to avoid giving your child technology? Most parents have already found that is an unrealistic option. Screens enter children’s lives at the earliest ages. Pediatrician’s offices have screens in their waiting room to help the children pass the time. Libraries rent colorful tablets that are preloaded with books and games for preschoolers. Schools begin using iPads at the elementary level and many students will be assigned a device at the start of a school year.

Parents fighting for screen-free space in their family can wrongly vilify the device as the problem. But if the screen is not the problem what is? In Raising Kids in a Screen-Saturated World, parents will find practical answers to this tension. Consider the following:

“We are not fighting against technology. Phones, tablets, laptops, etc., are amoral. They are tools that can be used for good or evil. Don’t over- spiritualize activities because they either include or exclude a screen. Certainly there are times where living a life pleasing to the Lord will mean the intentional absence of screens but keep in mind that the screen is not the enemy. The frailty of weak and wandering hearts turns a potentially helpful tool into an instrument of destruction. In a world so profoundly dependent on technology, the answer is not to label devices as the problem and avoid them. Rather, reflect on what technology is revealing about what is in your heart and your children’s heart.”[1]

This approach deals with the deeper issue. Conversations must be about what is driving screen activity is more important. What is motivating what they consume, produce, and promote online is ultimately where the problem lies. The screen simply gives a platform for the heart.

Recognizing that technology or screens are not the root problem will create a avenue to see the potential positive use that screens can bring into your child’s world. Rather than focusing on the screen consider how to better understand what is drawing your child and begin to have conversations there.

[1] From Raising Kids in a Screen-Saturated World. Pre-order your copy at 10of Those.com.

God’s Grace in Your Suffering by David Powlison- Video Review

This excellent resource brings compassionate wisdom to those facing trials and suffering. Author, David Powlison offers hope on every single page of this very readable book. Check out my review here and then go order it from Crossway today!

How to Fight the Pull of Anxiety

Anxiety is a pulling experience. How much it is pulling often goes unnoticed. Although much of what you feel, when dealing with anxiety, is felt in the present moment it is doesn’t have its strongest hold on the present. Instead anxiety is about the future and the past.

The Pull to the Future

Anxiety pulls you into the future and throws a millions “what ifs” at you. What if this happens or what if that doesn’t happen? What if I make a fool of myself? What if I will be alone? What if my loved ones get hurt? What if get hurt? What if I panic? What if things go wrong? These questions and so many others are what anxiety asks persistently. They are all thoughts about the future. They say to you that you must prepare for the war ahead. Anxiety is the forecast of harm and danger that awaits you. Thoughts of the impending harm begins to feel very present by their continual tormenting.

The Pull to the Past

Anxiety also pulls to the past. Perhaps you have had a troubling experience that replays when situations seem similar. Maybe you have known intimately the feeling of being alone or rejected. The thoughts quickly pull you into the past and another set of “what ifs” invade. What if I fail once more? Maybe the money is going to run out again? What if my illness returns? He/she might leave me a second time? What if my family hurts me again? These thoughts flood your mind and say that life went bad before and it will probably go bad again. Anxiety causes you to look at the present situation through the shadow of past hurts and tells you things are not safe. <–Click to Tweet.

Your Body’s Response

In both of these situations your body begins to respond to future and past struggles in the present. I heard someone once explain the physiological effects of anxiety as your mind telling your body that the war is not over. Despite the fact that often, in the present moment, none of the doom imagined is actually happening the body begins to react as if it is.

Your “fight or flight response” has been triggered by the pull of anxiety. In reaction your brain begins to produce adrenaline to aid you against the perceived harmful attack. You may begin to feel your heart rate increasing. Your breathing may become rapid and shallow. You will likely experience trouble concentrating on anything other than the worry. Normal tasks you used to be able to do are much more difficult. You sense you have a shorter tolerance for frustrating moments. You may find sleep is very difficult and so you often feel tired. You might even notice occasionally trembling, numbness in hands and feet, and sweating.

Your body responds even when you aren’t thinking about the anxious thoughts. The anxious buildup from the many thoughts that have flooded your thinking are having their effect on the body. Much like a teacup that is filled to the brim, you don’t notice it is a problem until one more little drop is placed in and then the spillover comes. These physical symptoms can actually cause even more anxiety.

Stay in the Present

So what can be done with these strong pulls to the future and past? The key is to stay in the present. This can be hard for someone who is feeling the physical effects of anxiety. Staying in the present is the way out of the anxious moment. Respond to the physical symptoms of built up anxiety with physical activity in the present moment. Taking slow deep breaths is one of the best ways to fight the physical symptoms of anxiety. Deep breathing actually triggers the “rest and digest response” in your brain. By taking a couple slow deep breaths your body begins to respond to the rich oxygenated blood that is going throughout your body all the way to your fingers and toes. In contrast to the rapid shallow breathing that tells your brain something is wrong.

In the present you can begin to counter the anxious thoughts with what is true. Calling to mind helpful truths will give less space in your brain for the anxious pulls of replaying the past or the frenetic thoughts of preparing for the future. Tell yourself that you have gotten through anxious moments before and this moment will likewise pass. Think of the people who have been helpful to you and remind yourself in the moment of how they have helped.

Allow God to be your comfort and hold on tightly to his truth. You do not suffer alone. He promises to help you. It is no coincidence that in Psalm 46:1 it says that, “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.” The present is where your help is. He will not leave you or forsake you. Cling to that truth and stay present with it. The Scripture is full of promises from God to be with you in trouble and that he will faithfully help you. The opposite of anxiety is peace. Peace comes from knowing that God is in control when you feel your life is out of control.  (<-lCick to tweet.) Take your struggles to the Lord. Cast your anxiety on him because he cares for you (1 Peter 5:7).

*Mindfulness activities can help calm anxiety and give your brain a rest from the flooding happening in your body. In addition to deep breathing, here is a simple mindfulness activity to try the next time you are struggling with the physical symptoms of anxiety.