Tools To Help Think It Through

It is no secret depression, anxiety, and fear are rampant in our culture and those in the church are just as likely to deal with these same things. There are three categories of tools to work through these issues, spiritual, practical, and clinical.

We encourage those in tough places to doctors and therapists for the clinical relief that may be need. We preach the condemnation-free grace of Jesus and empowerment of the Holy Spirit for the spiritual. And we seek healthy patterns of life when it comes to the practical.

So we find strategies to process our feelings and emotions, the thoughts we find consuming us.

To that end I just finished “The Coddling of the American Mind” by Jonathan Haidt and Greg Lukianoff. It is a stirring reflection on the current state of our culture full of anecdotal and statistical data.

Presented in the book as one practical (and clinical) approach to healthier thinking is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). This is what they say: “Cognitive behavioral therapists treat trauma patients by exposing them to the things they find upsetting (at first in small ways, such as imagining them or looking at pictures), activating their fear, and helping them habituate (grow accustomed) to the stimuli. In fact, the reactivation of anxiety is so important to recovery that some therapists advise their patients to avoid using antianxiety medication while undertaking exposure therapy.”

In the appendix of the book they give some steps to CBT that I thought were worth sharing.

“1. When you are feeling anxious, depressed, or otherwise distressed, take a moment to write down what you are feeling.

2. Write down your level of distress. (For example, you could score it on a scale of 1 to 100.)

3. Write down what happened and what your automatic thoughts were when you felt the pang of anxiety or despair. (For example, “Someone I was interested in canceled our date. I said to myself, ‘This always happens. No one will ever want to go out with me. I’m a total loser.’”)

4. Look at the categories of distorted automatic thoughts below, and ask yourself: Is this thought a cognitive distortion? Write down the cognitive distortions you notice. (For example, looking at the automatic thoughts in number 3 above, you might write, “personalizing, overgeneralizing, labeling, and catastrophizing.”)

5. Look at the evidence for and against your thought.

6. Ask yourself what someone might say who disagreed with you. Is there any merit in that opinion?

7. Consider again what happened, and reevaluate the situation without the cognitive distortions.

8. Write down your new thoughts and feelings. (For example, “I am sad and disappointed that a date I was excited about got canceled.”)

9. Write down again, using the same scale as before, how anxious, depressed, or otherwise distressed you feel.”

Chances are once we do this the scale will be lower and we will be finding relief.

The key is to keep pressing on. Find the places you need someone to stand with you, where you need help, and keep going.

Contending Over Commenting

I have been reading the latest book from Mark Sayers on renewal in the church through a remnant of discontents seeking Jesus. Reappearing Church: The Hope of Renewal in the Rise of Our Post-Christian Age. It is stirring some good thoughts and hopefully refining me as I attempt to lead such a ragtag remnant.

This weekend though one line really put a pin in something I have experienced in leadership. In a chapter calling the church to move away from consumerism Sayers says this: “Consumer Christianity is a form of cultural Christianity that compromises the cross with self rather than flag, mixing the worship of God with the worship of options, personal autonomy, low commitment, and opinion over responsibility.

First, we have to recognize our penchant to be consumers. Even those of us in the Christian subculture that prefer hymns over fog machines, we are likely to pursue church, and dare I say, community as a consumer. I do it, you do it, we all do. From that point we recognize a major problem.

We prefer to maintain our own kingdom rather than surrender to Christ’s in a community of believers (meaning my time, my hobbies, my Netflix binges that interfere with mission and the life of the church.) And we prefer to add comments rather than sweat or contend for mission and discipleship in the church.

Too many wanna-be leaders are well equipped to opine on the health of a church or lack of forward motion while neglecting to take any action themselves. Maybe we think the people paid to do ministry should handle everything or maybe we are just stuck in our consumer mindsets. We convince ourselves that our schedules are too full or life is too busy to take up the work. So we keep our options open, commit just a little more than the next guy so we can feel like we are the most righteous, and then miss out on mission because we refused to contend for the church.

We refuse to contend for renewal in Christ.

There is hope. Repentance and realigning our priorities and lives around the mission Jesus has given us, move us beyond consuming. Giving our lives away for the glory of Christ breaks the hold of autonomy of self.

Will you pray with me toward this end? That the Lord would refine us, renew us as we contend together? There is a place for you to contend. Step up and pursue Jesus with abandon and find a family of believers to do it with.

Sunday Thinking

As we head to church this morning, or go on vacation, maybe frustrated that the line at starbucks is too long, or that you might run into that weird dude in the church lobby, let’s set our mind to prayer for the church across the globe.

And maybe think about our western sensibilities and what it would look like to have a kingdom strategy and commitment to Jesus. Having Jesus as our all because we have nothing else…

Daily Surrender

Last week at our Men’s Theology group I shared my story and how I came to faith in Jesus. Part of that story was me arriving at my lowest after many failed attempts at success and fulfillment. Exhausted and drained I had a conversation with God about my desire to try him, to give over myself to his way and purpose.

This morning I was reflecting back on that story and the ride it has been since. But I was stirred to think about that act of surrender some 15+ years ago and how following Jesus has been a consistent invitation back to that posture, surrendering myself to Christ. Surrendering the idols I still wrestle with. Surrendering aspirations to greatness and popularity. Surrendering the ways I have have elevated self over others and God.

Each and every day discipleship with Jesus is saying “I am relying on you again, I give myself over to your way and purpose.”

As I was reflecting I found myself surrendering again not to gain grace but because Jesus has already poured out his grace upon me. For all of life. May we endeavor to live daily surrender for the glory of Christ!