The Difference Between Medical Anxiety and/or Depression & Anxiousness and/or Self-Pity

The physiological disorders, which the medical field diagnoses as “anxiety” or “depressive anxiety” or “manic depression” or even “bi-polar disorder” are different from what the Bible means when it says, “be anxious for nothing” (Philippians 4:6). The biblical term “anxious” refers to someone’s needlessly worrying about life matters or social situations, instead of practicing and growing in trust toward God as the One Who provides, protects & guides us… and from Whom comes our true identity and self-worth as believers. 

Well-meaning pastors such as Steve Furtick and Tony Evans make blanket statements about anxiety and depression like,

Depression is well described as anger turned inward. –Tony Evans

And 

Anxiety is the result of a pride (“I”) issue. –[Paraphrased], Steve Furtick

Now, I realize that even these statements were made within certain contexts. But, I think they are general enough to consider the topic of “broad-brush or blanket statements” that express a common , error-filled notion within Christendom. I will explain this misconception farther down. 

Without contest, the Apostle Paul does use “I” as a selfish and sinful identity concept, often called “the flesh” in his many New Testament letters. Anger and bitterness toward God and others is also a human tendency. But, to say anxiety or depression is ONLY a matter of pride or inwardly turned anger is plainly wrong and detrimental to any audience. Here’s why:

The medical term for depression and/or anxiety means someone who—due to physiological (chemical) imbalances and/or emotional/psychological traumas—cannot function normally, due to the paralyzing fears or feelings of overwhelm or depressive thoughts directly associated with their condition. There is a big difference between that and what the Apostle Paul describes.

The Scope of the Bible

The scope (intended purpose) of the Bible is to deal with things spiritual. In other words, it provides the worldview for human origins, a corrupted creation, brokenness, disaster, disease and death. It also gives maxims and warnings about how our spiritual existence directly affects our physical existence, and vice versa. Yet, the Bible does not attempt to diagnose and prescribe medical treatment for individual medical conditions, which mankind can diagnose, treat and prognosticate on his own. [This is not to say there are no dangers with medical treatments] It DOES describe a miraculous Healer (Jesus) of all sickness, with a priority given to the spiritual healing and restoration of souls to God and His intended design for life.

Do Tony Evans’ and Steve Furtick’s assertions account for those who have been (against their will) repeatedly abused, physically, mentally, emotionally, sexually… or even drugged? There are so many trauma-based mental disorders diagnosed in the criminally abused or cult abused (ex. trauma-based schizophrenia / split personality, dissociative disorder, hostile attribution bias, Stockholm syndrome, PTSD). 

Do assumptions like Furtick’s and Evans’ account for those who have chemical imbalances due to postpartum or other physiological conditions (e.g. Autism, Menopause, biologically induced forms of Schizophrenia, Thyroid dysfunction, Sleep Apnea, or depression in chronic illness patients… like Diabetics) that stem from our living in a fallen world & in mortal bodies? What about soldiers who have been exposed to/taken part in such atrocities and chemical warfare that they may never fully recover from PTSD or other mental/emotional or physiological disorders?

All the above situations are not far fetched. They are more common than one from a privileged life can know. Sometimes the depression is really just a physical condition, other times it is spiritual oppression (warfare) which requires deliverance; yet other times, counseling and joy & relational trust building are required. Still, there may be a combination of two or all of these needs. 

Thankfully, there are levels of healing for all of these cases, but we must be careful of blanket statements. They tend to smother the most needy and innocent, not to mention shame/blame the victim for their valid struggles. Some inward hurts are just as serious as outward broken bones or damaged organs. They take serious attention, treatment and recovery time to heal. Instead of generalizing and inadvertently scolding the wounded, we must temper the statement by context… saying, “For someone without any medical condition or heritable disease/disorder…”

Human Reason & Divine Revelation

Too often, Christians hold a hyper & cultish view regarding the Bible’s scope. “If the Bible doesn’t say it, I don’t believe it,” is their (unspoken) mantra. They add to it an insistence on disregard for context and genre and employ a rigid literal interpretation, for which even the most conservative scholars (ex. B.B. Warfield) of the early 20th century derided them. Their insistence is spuriously bolstered by their blindly lifting out of context and misquoting, “Let God be true and every man a liar” (Romans 3:4). This cultish peculiarity reveals itself in a staunch disregard for and fear of human reasoning and philosophy and the sciences. God uses many methods and many people (even disbelievers) to bring healing into the lives of the needy.  These sort of believers forget that “all truth is God’s truth,” and such a set of positions fails to see that the Bible is a collection of Holy Writ that carries out a specified agenda, and therefore, does not speak to every matter known to mankind. Some things, mankind is to arrive at on his own.

They take too far the warnings against “science so called” and “empty philosophy” (1 Timothy 6:20; Colossians 2:8), which—in context—were warnings against the Gnosticism and Judaizers of the Apostles’ era… the same 2 antithetical systems that were directly attacking the Christian Faith, and for which Faith, the Apostles were giving reasonable defenses. Modern-day equivalents of Gnosticism and Judaism would be anything that undermines the Christian worldview about human origins, the reason for human mortality, (i.e. the spiritual condition of humanity) and/or the Divine Trinity, reconciliation to God only by Jesus, etc. Medical disciplines—in so far as they do not alter humanity at the DNA (germline) level or otherwise chemically or technologically augment human brain functionality—do not match the context of Paul’s warnings against empty philosophy or “so-called” science.

Again, some things, mankind is to arrive at on his own. As Cheryl Lowe writes, 

“most things mankind can discover for himself – geometry, logic, the principles of history, government, literature, the sciences, etc. These things were first discovered by the Greeks. God did not reveal to man what he could discover for himself through reason and experience. To do so would have confused human reason with divine revelation.” (http://excellence-in-literature.com/why-study-the-pagans-by-cheryl-lowe/)

The Balance:

Now, all the above is not to say a person cannot induce medical anxiety upon himself or herself by using drugs, doing illegal and risky stuff and/or continually worrying, being petty or cross or caustic. A person can induce a physiological condition by cognitive habit or by substance abuse. Any number of lifestyles, including something as simple as a poor diet / no exercise, can bring on medical disorders just as easily as a physiological predisposition makes one susceptible. This is a chief reason the Bible provides spiritual maxims and warnings about our beliefs and personal conduct. God just wants us to experience the best that life can be, such as it is in a fallen world.

Also, it is my opinion that someone with medical anxiety should not rely on meds alone to defeat anxiety/depression. If they train their thoughts and emotions to grow in trusting God more than being co-dependent upon people (i.e. insecure), then stepping down medication is always possible. But those who simply trust in the meds will only need more and more meds. Moreover, forgiveness at the decree of God is a powerful thing for eliminating paralysing guilt and for getting one’s conscience & identity rooted and grounded solidly in unconditional, loving grace. Even if someone brings a condition upon himself or herself, then God is abundant in mercy and will rescue & redeem us from our own self-inflicted peril… if we call upon Him for that in humility. [It may take a while or no time at all. Healing is His business, and we just keep on trusting & expecting Him to do His thing in His way and time].

The Encouragement for Spiritual Anxiety / Depression:

Feeling down, depressed, and discouraged? You are not alone. Moses, Elijah, Job, and even the Apostle Paul at different points of their lives were overcome with these emotions. They all got to the point that they wanted to end their lives. In the darkness they failed to see that God was working. We often are looking through a microscope at our problems, instead of looking through a telescope at our God. Depression never tells us the whole story or let’s us see the entire picture. Even when we are at our worst, God is at His best. In 2 Corinthians 1:9, the Apostle Paul tells us that it was in the darkest moments of his life that he learned to trust God the most. When you come to the end of your rope, God is there. Have faith and don’t lose heart!

On Meddling & Professional Ministry

After some years away from the IFB movement, I began to see that a common sin in nearly every sect of clergy is “Lording” (1 Peter 5), whereby they act as divine mediators between God and mankind. No one starts out by saying, “Today, I am going to play God with people’s lives.” So, I tried to understand why a leader would get sucked into Lording. The most obvious answer is their subtle desire for position, power & empty glory. Another reason is their practical distrust of God’s ability to direct or correct someone Himself. 

Then, it occurred to me. There is something more elementally wrong and more widespread than the above reasons. It has to do with making a career out of “professional ministry.” These people are paid to sit around all day and basically try to think up ways of both adding attendees and turning them into their brand of “Churchianity.” They must do this, because they view ministry as only what happens inside the church building or church-sanctioned activity. It is true that believers edify one another as they gather together. Yet, leaders often do not see that their only role is to equip the believers for the true, everyday ministry which happens out in the world… and to which God has called every believer in his/her place (1 Corinthians 7:17ff).

Instead of knowing / holding down “real world” jobs themselves, they hole up in the 4 walls of a church building or other Christian institution, where their analytical minds inevitably turn critical and obsessed over minutia… which only leads to meddling in others’ affairs. They think they are serving God, but what they are really doing is meddling.

Meddle: to interfere in or busy oneself unduly with something that is not one’s concern.

Jesus and all of His Apostles had either trades or professions that they did not see as “in conflict” with accomplishing the Great Comission. The difference between the Apostles and modern-day clergy is the Apostles could have expected pay but they did not for the Gospel’s sake (1 Corinthians 9; Philippians 4). Even the Bible itself warns against meddling and states that suffering comes from it. What is more damning, the Bible states that idle people are often the ones who meddle most… and that, meddling is a sin listed right alongside murder.

Once I learned these truths, I decided I would never make a career out of “ministry.” Even though I studied the Bible and ministry for 8+ years, it would be something I would do voluntarily—willingly but “not for filthy lucre.” And I vowed that I would hold a “real world” job. To this day, I do not receive any pay for pastoring; and I—as a result—have more compassion and empathy for others. [I do receive random gifts or “buy outs” for my time] 

I see no need to make others into a sectarian poster child or just like me or like anyone else for that matter. I trust God is able to direct and correct their lives. They are His disciples, not mine. If I do anything, it is to serve others in their struggles… to point them to a direct relationship with God Himself, teach them how to correctly interpret the Word for themselves, to supply what is needful for faith, hope and love; to ease their burdens, lift up the downhearted, to see the “stuck” and overwhelmed get freed up and try to be a healing ointment for their wounds.

On Spanking

Repeatedly, I read that almost all IFB survivors have real trouble making decisions as a result of the abuses and warped sub-culture in which we were raised / “trained.” Cases of spanking up into 18… and even 24 have been noted. That is physical abuse and domestic assault, not child-rearing. 250 swats and bruising/bleeding welts or blisters is sheer cruelty. Spanking—when the “go-to” method of “discipline”—is medically KNOWN to inhibit the recipient’s ability to develop grey matter in the brain, let alone make decisions for himself/herself in adult years, because it is essentially a form of torture that bends the human will and conditions it co-dependently to that of another human. Susceptibility to addiction / depression as well as increased “hostile attribution bias” are documented in connection to modes of spanking.
First, recognize and know that this is a real psychological if not physiological complex / syndrome of issues, which even Christian psychologists have long studied and affirmed. Also know that the Bible does NOT advocate modern-day spanking, contrary to the misinterpretation and misinformed beliefs of many. So, do NOT feel alone or incapable. Instead, acknowledge this as a result of your abuse… and then begin to cope.

Here are some studies that reveal the causes and nature of the condition. Hopefully they will help you cope, because you’ll be able to name it and work against it.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2896871/

http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/125/5/e1057.short?sso=1&sso_redirect_count=1&nfstatus=401&nftoken=00000000-0000-0000-0000-000000000000&nfstatusdescription=ERROR%3a+No+local+token

http://www.cnn.com/2014/07/23/health/effects-spanking-brain/

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/parenting/wp/2014/04/22/parents-still-spank-their-kids-for-trivial-reasons-even-when-researchers-are-listening-in/?utm_term=.3693c9f69dd8

http://jonathanmerritt.com/tag/spanking/

https://lambsharbinger.wordpress.com/2014/09/25/spanking-and-solidarity/

On Shunning

What do you think? If a man has a hundred sheep, and one of them has gone astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine on the mountains and go in search of the one that went astray?” –Jesus (Matthew 18:12)

The IFB churches, in which I grew up and then left, commonly teach that believers should shun another person who calls himself/herself a believer, but who has been involved in sin and is not repentant. The operative and key words should be “not repentant.” If someone has expressed sorrow and change of mind/heart about the sin, taking steps to be rid of it… [not man-made prescriptions] then they are to be received! (2 Corinthians 2:5-11; 8:7-16). And they are to be received as God sees them, fully righteous, fully restored, walking in their new creature identity (2 Corinthians 5:16-17).

For sure, “church discipline” is taught in the Bible, but shunning is not.

IFBers often quote the following:

To deliver such an one unto Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus” (1 Corinthians 5:5).

And,

I meant that you are not to associate with anyone who claims to be a believer yet indulges in sexual sin, or is greedy, or worships idols, or is abusive, or is a drunkard, or cheats people. Don’t even eat with such people” (1 Corinthians 5:11).

But them that are without God judgeth. Therefore put away from among yourselves that wicked person” (1 Corinthians 5:13).

Again, it is clear that church discipline is taught by the Apostle Paul; and Jesus Himself gave prescriptions on how to deal with offenses within the body (Matthew 18). But, in their zealousness to rid the body of “leaven,” they miss Jesus’ statement to “treat them as a pagan and a tax collector,” and IFBers appear never to consider how Jesus Himself treated pagans and tax collectors. They also either skip over or ignore 2 Thessalonians 3:15, which commands believers should NOT treat a disobedient brother as an enemy! James 5:20 further states we should invest enough love and time and wisdom into a brother’s / sister’s life, so as to be able to turn him or persuade him back to Jesus, and so, “cover a multitude of sins.” We are to reprove, rebuke, exhort, BUT “with great patience and instruction” (2 Timothy 4:2). These things can hardly be done in one “church discipline” visit by a pastor and 2 deacons, where fear and intimidation are the motivations. Jude (v. 22) commands we should differentiate the hardened from the doubting by showing them mercy & compassion; but even the hardened should have mercy mixed with fear (vv. 22-24).

2 Timothy 2:24-25 (ESV)

And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth,

What is more, IFB’ers insist on man-made restrictions to “make sure the offender has really repented ‘after a godly sorrow.'” These restrictions and life demands are not mankind’s place to determine; and IFB’ers are so behavior focused, they often neglect true restoration… which requires meekly identifying with & bearing the burden of the one who stumbled (Galatians 6).

True restoration is done in order to rebuild the breakdowns of one’s holy identity, faith, hope and love which precipitated the sin; and true restoration realizes a sin problem in a believer is always directly proportionate to their godly identity having been attacked, their godly trusts having been broken, their godly hopes having been dashed or their godly love having been betrayed. It requires sympathetically looking at the trials and hardships that led to said breakdown. Instead, IFB’ers tend to kick those who are down, or treat them shamefully, as if they carry something rabid and catchy. This shaming and shunning can never restore, and it reveals restoration is really not the aim of IFB’ers.

They gain this misdirection & misunderstanding about shunning from misinterpreting passages (out of context and meaning). Here are some Bible studies, which show the biblically accurate alternative to unbiblical shunning. Not associating with an unrepentant person means not to worship with them. Not to eat with an unrepentant person means not to take communion with them. One gains this from the context of 1 Corinthians 5, where Paul describes the difference between what goes on within the body vs. what goes on outside it (1 Corinthians 5:11-13). But, not to share an actual family or friendly meal and/or not to socialize with said persons is a gross misinterpretation of the Bible, and it only feeds unbiblical shunning.

_________________

OTHER RESOURCES:

Unclean: Meditations on Purity, Hospitality & Mortality

Treat Them as a Pagan and a Tax Collector

The Kingdom of Heaven and it’s Keys

Binding and Loosing 

Abuse & Authority

Forgiveness & Justice

To hope for justice is neither anger, nor bitterness. It is rather the opposite of bitterness, because to hope for justice is to expect a thing only God can hand down… to trust in God to send deliverance. And God always does send a deliverer: “I have surely seen the affliction of my people who are in Egypt, and have heard their groaning, and I have come down to deliver them. And now come, I will send you…” (Acts 7:34)

  • Job expected it. (Job 19:23-24)
  • Hagar cried out for it, and God assured her that he sees her. (Gen. 16:7-16)
  • Abraham sought it. (Gen 18)
  • Joseph dreamt of it. (Gen 37:9)
  • David complained to God for it. (1 Sam 24:15; search Complaint in Psalms)
  • Proverbs 31:8 commands us to ensure it for those being crushed.
  • Esther knew her purpose in it and would not be silent (4:14)
  • Jeremiah wept for it and defended God as the giver of it. (Lamentation 3)
  • Habakkuk questioned God for it and God answered. (Habakkuk 1)
  • Micah preached it. (Entire book)
  • Jesus committed himself to the one who judges righteously, and God raised Him from the dead. (1 Peter 2:23)
  • The Apostles proclaimed it. (Acts 7:34)
  • The Revelation saints petition for it, saying “How long…?” (Revelation 6:10)

Spiritual forgiveness does not mean temporal consequences / lawful sentencing is or should be removed. And no, not “all sins are the same in God’s eyes.” While it is true that even the smallest sin reveals we are corrupt and in need of pardon & spiritual new birth, it is also true that different sins have different consequences (even eternal ones) and various degrees of ramifications toward both the victim and the perpetrator (Romans 2:6; Revelation 20:12-13). Jesus taught this directly, as recorded in Matthew 10:15; 11:24 and 23:23. Again, spiritual / eternal forgiveness does not eliminate natural, temporal or governmental consequences for crimes done. It also does not immediately restore trust or relationship. Those things must be earned over time, and in some cases future contact or relationship should never be expected of the victim.

It is important to note that when we have been wronged or a crime was committed against us, it is healthy and right to acknowledge that ‘I have indeed been wronged’… only then can we become truly ready to forgive by letting the nature of the wrong register in our mind and emotions, instead of just glossing over it and mouthing the words “I forgive.” Then, we can commit the judgment to God because of Jesus, and so, be ready to forgive the spiritual / eternal wrong when the offender repents. 

Confronting someone who has legitimately wronged us is doing the right thing; because sometimes people don’t recognize or realize they have wronged us, which means they do not know a reconciliation must take place. It should be obvious, though, when a crime or clear case of biblical sin has occurred. 

We can be sure we are “ready to forgive” when—because we have committed the wrong to God who judges rightly—we feel trust for His goodness & justice overcome the hurt.

When someone does finally say “I’m sorry, or forgive me,” we can be sure we have forgiven when we desire no ruin / damnation to come to them… and when we remember we made the choice to release them from the spiritual consequences (committing the matter to God’s judgment), because of Jesus’ sacrifice for sins. HOWEVER, this does not eliminate the need for restitution, and a truly repentant person will seek to restore and make restitution however possible. (Ex. Zacchaeus)