The Gospel, Mental Health, & Our City

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Austin, TXOne of the great things about living in Austin is the common passion to care for our city. Faith communities, non-profits, and numerous other organizations work day in and day out with a heart to see the restoration of Austin. Much of what we do and take part of involves the physical realm; we address issues of poverty, slavery, injustice, abuse, hunger, and much more. Yet we often neglect the deeper issues that are behind the more obvious ones; what are people believing about themselves? What are their desires, or lack thereof? Our community is not one of need, but of people with needs, and as we pursue the good of our city, our focus has to be on restoring the whole person.

Restoration in the Community

In my role overseeing the care ministry in our church and directing our church-based professional counseling center, I have become increasingly convinced that as we address our community’s physical needs we must also devote our resources to the mental heath needs in our city. The gospel addresses the whole person, speaking into ones theology, identity, relationships, and to physical issues.

Here are three reasons why I believe it is critical for us to advocate for mental health restoration in our city.

  • We are God’s Ambassadors Throughout the entire story of the Bible we see clearly that God cares about the brokenhearted and struggling. He models for us a special care for the poor and broken and he explicitly calls his people to represent him by declaring and demonstrating his love to our neighbors. What we do for the least of these we do for Jesus.
  • The Gospel is Holistic A Biblical understanding of sin sees it as that which affect our hearts, bodies, and relationships. The gospel doesn’t just address one part of our lives but our whole lives – physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual. The gospel is the good news of what God has done and is doing in the person of Jesus for all our brokenness, sin, and suffering. It offers the glorious hope of salvation and hope for the physically broken, anxious, fearful, depressed, bipolar, schizophrenic, angry, and addicted people in our city.
  • Deeper Issues Must be Addressed By looking at the mental, emotional, and psychological brokenness of our neighbors we will begin to get to the root of much of the cycles that lead to the multitude of physical needs and problems. If we fight to keep drugs off the street, we must also address the root of addiction. When we provide loving homes for foster children, our efforts should also reach out to support single moms in the community. As we deal with the many issues that are common within our community, it’s necessary to be diligent in examining the deeper root issues and beliefs that lead to the outward issues we see in people.

Restoration through Community

Many of the people in our city that are in need of help simply need true community – people that will faithfully love and care for them holistically. As we take time to examine the deeper issues within people’s hearts, living in biblical community will be the context in which the whole person can be cared for and developed over time. There is no greater community available than that which is found among the people of God through the local church. God has designed his church – his people – to be ministers of reconciliation to both believers and to the world. That reconciliation is found within gospel communities of people who will challenge each other and encourage each other as we all journey through the life-long sanctification process.

Realistically, there are often struggles, trauma, and painful experiences that go deep below the surface and keep people out of the church. Being involved in biblical community may not be a feasible option at a certain time in their life. Due to any number of reasons, it can be a real struggle to even conceive of living an authentic, transparent life with other believers. This is where we have a great opportunity to minister to people who experience that struggle through professional counseling, Recovery, and other ministries that reach into the city to meet their deepest needs. These ministries can serve as a bridge to help lower the barriers to getting involved in biblical community.

We have an opportunity to bring the whole gospel to the whole person in our whole city.

Managing Anxiety, Stress, & Worry Seminar, August 26

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Anxiety, worry, stress —  just reading these words can create…anxiety and stress! In this seminar we will explore how the gospel addresses these issues as well as the common causes and roots. We will also learn:

  • How to manage anxiety, stress, and worry Biblically
  • Recognize your tendencies
  • Spiritual and emotional preparation
  • Practical preparation/managing circumstances

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The Gospel and Depression

By | Depression & Anxiety | No Comments

Depression is more common than most of us realize. It seems like almost weekly we hear of another person who has ended their battle with depression through suicide. Our neighborhoods, workplaces, and our churches are filled with more people than we realize struggling – often in silence. It can be subtle and it can be debilitating. No one should struggle alone and without hope. Sadly there is a lot of misinformation out there and a lot of stigma when it comes to depression. Here are 10 resources to help towards getting the help you need and how to walk with others struggling.

1. The Gospel

Through the lens of Scripture, we see the good news for depression – namely, in the fact that on this side of glory we are living in a broken world in which we experience physical, emotional, relational pain that leads us to groan and cry out. There are countless passages that invite us to be honest with ourselves, with God, and with others emotionally. The Bible doesn’t sugar coat the depth of brokenness we experience this side of heaven. It gives us permission to experience the fullness of the pain and to cry out in hope for the day when all things will be made right and we will not experience pain anymore. Depression does not mean that someone simply has a sin problem that is solved through repentance and prayer. The Gospel addresses us a whole people - spiritual, emotional, physical, social - and we need to see depression in light of those aspects. At the heart the Gospel says that our relationship with God is not dependent on how well we are doing emotionally, physically, or socially – it depends on the perfect emotion, obedience, and relationship of Jesus with the Father on our behalf. We all need to be reminded and encouraged to believe these things and let them infiltrate our heart, soul and mind. Here are some of the truths from Psalm 5 that speak to depression:

- God pays attention to our crying.
- God hears our prayers.
- God does not delight in wickedness.
- We can be in relationship with God because of HIS steadfast love.
- God is worthy of our worship and reverent fear.
- God will lead us in HIS righteousness, not our own.
- God is a safe refuge for us.
- God protects us so we will glorify Him.
- God covers us with blessings.

2. Community

Depression is not something to hide or to be ashamed – you don’t have to walk through its pain on your own. God designed community knowing the depths of pain that can come with depression so that we would not be alone. If you are in a small group or Missional Community let them know about your struggle. Let them pray for you and encourage you. There might just be someone in your group that has experienced depression before or is currently struggling.

3. Counseling

In many cases it can be helpful to supplement the care you get from community with the care of a professional that is specially trained to deal with the complexity of depression. The Austin Stone Counseling Center is a resource of the church that can help. You can learn more about how we approach counseling and even schedule an appointment by going to www.austinstonecounseling.org

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CCEF National Conference 2014

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Each year our entire counseling staff attends the CCEF National Conference together. This year we are excited to head to San Diego, CA to learn about grief and loss from a biblical perspective. Speakers include David Powlison, Ed Welch, Elyse Fitzpatrick, and Heath Lambert.

This is a highlight of our year and if you can make we highly encourage you to find a way to go. Find out more info here.

The Cross and Criticism

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Processed with VSCOcam with f2 presetMany people walk through life crippled by criticism. It can sting hard and have a lasting affect, whether for a few hours, the day, or even years. In this poignant article, Alfred Poirier provides biblical wisdom on dealing with criticism by looking at it in light of the cross. I have personally benefited from reading and re-reading this article over the years and have recommended it more than any other to those I have counseled. Here is an excerpt:

In light of God’s judgment and justification of the sinner in the cross of Christ, we can begin to discover how to deal with any and all criticism. By agreeing with God’s criticism of me in Christ’s cross, I can face any criticism man may lay against me. In other words, no one can criticize me more than the cross has. And the most devastating criticism turns out to be the finest mercy. If you thus know yourself as having been crucified with Christ, then you can respond to any criticism, even mistaken or hostile criticism, without bitterness, defensiveness, or blameshifting. Such responses typically exacerbate and intensify conflict, and lead to the rupture of relationships. You can learn to hear criticism as constructive and not condemnatory because God has justified you.

Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. Who is he that condemns? (Rom. 8:33-34a).

Let a righteous man strike me—it is a kindness; let him rebuke me—it is oil on my head. My head will not refuse it (Ps. 141:5).

If I know myself as crucified with Christ, I can now receive another’s criticism with this attitude: “You have not discovered a fraction of my guilt. Christ has said more about my sin, my failings, my rebellion and my foolishness than any man can lay against me. I thank you for your corrections. They are a blessing and a kindness to me. For even when they are wrong or misplaced, they remind me of my true faults and sins for which my Lord and Savior paid dearly when He went to the cross for me. I want to hear where your criticisms are valid.”

The correction and advice that we hear are sent by our heavenly Father. They are His corrections, rebukes, warnings, and scoldings. His reminders are meant to humble me, to weed out the root of pride and replace it with a heart and lifestyle of growing wisdom, understanding, goodness, and truth. For example, if you can take criticism—however just or unjust—you’ll learn to give it with gracious intent and constructive results.

 
Click here to read the full article.

The Marriage Mirage

By | Marriage & Family | No Comments

Screen Shot 2014-06-05 at 3.33.47 PMKristi Hanusch sits on her kitchen floor. Lately, she’s been suffering from intense migraines, the latest physical manifestation of a half-decade of strife and sickness. In her hand is relief: a tiny, white, round piece of relief. She takes the pill and closes her eyes. Ten minutes later, she takes another one.

And then another one.

The relief she so badly wants is too slow to come, so she tips yet another pain reliever into her hand. “This is it. This is how people kill themselves. They take these medications to feel something other than life, to balance between wanting to feel something and wanting to feel nothing. Then they die.”

Read the full story here.

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