Take it Easy

Mental Illness is at epidemic proportions in the prosperous west. With all the things modern technology has provided and with all the security of food, clothing and shelter that third world countries struggle without, it is absurd that comfortable westerners should have a care in the world.

Yet they do. Millions of well-off westerners (in global terms) struggle with depression, take medication for stress or anxiety, encounter mental instability and lack the contentment and security their environment should provide them.

The causes and solutions are many and varied and I do not profess to be an expert on these matters. However I have made suggestions to sufferers which they tell me proved very helpful. So I am sharing some of my thoughts here, for the benefit of those who may also find them helpful.

Intensity Disorder

stressed

My gut feeling about much of the mental struggle that westerners contend with is that it is in fact an “Intensity Disorder”. It seems to me that people who are tormented in mind are trapped in a situation where they struggle with uncertainties, doubts, worries and the like, which create a ‘turmoil of intensity’ in their thinking, and possibly their emotions as well.

I have seen people resolve some of their mental disorder by simply reducing the mental intensity that has abducted their thinking patterns. That’s why I’ve titled this post “Take it Easy”. That is my advice to those who are getting all worked up about things, creating storms in the tea-cup of their situation.

Tormented

Now, it is true that the mental state some people get into is somewhat out of their control. People do fall prey to things that torment them and which have a mind of their own in attacking and besieging the minds of their victims.

Biblically we would see such things as demons assigned to attack and harass a person. The whole process of spiritual warfare involves issues of the mind and that must include those who are tormented by evil spirits which mess with their mind.

Capturing Thoughts

The Apostle Paul taught that we have spiritual weapons which pull down strongholds in our mind and which also bring thoughts back into line.

“For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war after the flesh: (For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds) Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ” 2Corinthians 10:3-5

Wrong thinking patterns can be enemy “strongholds” in our mind which create fearful or distressing imaginations and thoughts. Our spiritual weapons pull down those strongholds and destroy wrong imaginations, bringing our thinking back into line with Christ, who is the truth.

Turning Off the Intensity

People who are anxious and distressed in mind usually have something gnawing at their thoughts.

stressed

“I’m not sure I did the right thing.” “I don’t know if people like me.” “I can’t be sure everything is going to work out.” “I tried to help that person but it didn’t work out, so now I feel like it’s my responsibility.” “I want my circumstances to improve and so I’m thinking about it all the time.”

Myriad thoughts can cause you to be buried in intensity, unable to let go and “take it easy”. People berate themselves, get tied up in knots, lose all capacity to move forward, and have their mind go into overload when they have this kind of Intensity Disorder.

Imagine how much better life immediately becomes when you can turn off the intensity.

Give Yourself A Break

Stop attacking yourself. Stop putting your mind into overload. Just relax. Give yourself a break. Stop taking yourself so seriously. Take it easy.

As a Christian you have all the capacity you ever need to be able to turn off the intensity. You can cast all your cares on the Lord, knowing that He cares for you. You can give your burdens to Him. You can take His load on your shoulders, because His load is always light.

“Casting all your care upon him; for he cares for you.” 1Peter 5:7

“Come to me, all you who labour and are heavy laden and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and you will find rest to your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30

Just Relax

I remember various times in my youth when I struggled with anxieties. I wondered whether I was reaching manliness as well as I hoped. Did I look like a man? Did I stand like a man? Did I fit the part properly or not? What should I do differently to convince those around me that I was every bit a man?

I was probably influenced by the insecurity generating media that wanted me to buy a product or dress the way they prescribed. I thought that looking the part was an important part of being the part.

But I noticed that people accepted my manliness even when I didn’t go out of my way to convey it. I was as tall as a man, with a deep voice like a man and I shaved and had grown up responsibilities. When I walked through a shop women would tell their child to “get out of the way of the man”, and they were referring to Me!

All my anxiety had nothing to do with reality. I was a young man, whether I felt the part or not, or whether I dressed trendy, in a uniform, or in my gardening clothes. So I learned to relax and accept that I had arrived, even on those days when I doubted the fact.

Tense Shoulders

Another process of relaxing and taking it easy came from my early months of driving. I noticed one day as a teenage driver that my arms and shoulders were totally tense. Everything from my fingers to my neck was tight with tension.

I knew that most drivers seem so much more relaxed than I felt. I also realised that a three hour drive would just about cripple me at that level of muscle tension. So I deliberately relaxed my fingers, hands, arms, shoulders and neck.

The experience was liberating. I could drive and watch the road and rear-view mirrors much better when my body was not stiff. I relaxed my legs, wriggled in my seat, settled back into the chair, put my elbow onto the arm rest and even let go with one hand.

Every time I caught myself tense again I would physically relax my body until being relaxed in the driver’s seat became normal.

Loosen Up

If you are tense about something stop and address it. If it’s a responsibility then trust it to God. If it’s something you need, ask God for it and then trust Him enough to rest while you wait. If it’s uncertainty about the future commit the future to God and concentrate only on today.

Pray about those things that concern you. Let God know what your requests are. Then Relax. Loosen Up. If you catch yourself tense and anxious then change posture, pass the problems to God again, and settle into a relaxed posture once again. Practice the posture you would have and the thoughts you would think if you knew that God heard your prayer and everything was under control.

Give it a try and see what it does for helping you work through those mental storms that tie you up and bring you down.

Pop Culture in the Bible

Here’s an interesting test for you.

We have Biblical truth, which should describe for us all that is important in our lives. We should be able to live within the bounds of Biblical revelation and be fully equipped for the moral, spiritual and personal challenges of life.

At the same time we are bombarded with Worldly ideas which are pressed upon us as if they have all the authority of holy writ.

Most Christians are so compromised on their Biblical worldview that they simply drink in the world’s concepts as if they were of equal, or even more value and relevance than Biblical truth. Many western Christians are better equipped to discuss worldly concepts than they are to expound Biblical truths.

To compound this problem many Christians keep the Biblical truths and Worldly ideas in separate baskets, never using one to critique the other. Or maybe more truthfully, holding the Worldly ideas above the Bible and assuming that the Bible either has nothing to say, or has missed this important truth.

All Truth is Not God’s Truth

One foolish idea that has been popularised to add to the confusion is that “all truth is God’s truth”. This is a ridiculous idea used to justify the ready embracing of Worldly ideas as if they have the same imprimatur as God’s truth.

The Bible clearly points out that just because something appears to be wisdom (truth is what we might call it) it can be nothing short of devilish deception.

“This wisdom descends not from above, but is earthly, sensual, devilish.” James 3:15

God’s Biblical truth is truth. The Worldly ideas we have pressed upon us are very likely to be devilish wisdom. Many worldly ideas are deceptions, created by the devil to “steal, kill and destroy” the good things God has given us.

Try This Quiz

Here is a short list of worldly ideas which most of us have become very familiar with. Some of us have attended courses where these concepts have been central to the material. The terms crop up in many contexts.

You task is to take each of these and filter them through a few questions.

1. What does the Bible call it?

2. How does the Bible say it is to be dealt with?

3. How does the life and sacrifice of Jesus deal with it?

4. How do faith and the Christian life address it?

Here’s the List

Now that you have the questions, apply each one to the following items on this short list of worldly ideas.

Stress

Depression

Self-Esteem

Starter Thoughts

Stress is a term that picked up great impetus from about the 1980’s. Since then it has become a ready explanation for all manner of situations. Stress is seen as a medical indicator. It explains poor work performance. It justifies a person’s inappropriate behaviour. Just about everyone has their own personal load of the stuff and can refer to it to excuse their headaches, titchy attitude, lack of productivity and so on. I recently heard a radio report say “there were no injuries but one person was treated for stress”. Now, what was that supposed to mean?

People have been programmed to accept the nebulous diagnosis of ‘stress’ as if it really has meaning. This ill-defined, rubbery term is a huge basket into which all manner of things can be swept.

The technical definition focuses on the idea of people being in a situation where they do not have control over the outcome. No matter what they do they cannot change their vulnerability of take charge of their own destiny. A soldier on a battlefield cannot know when a bullet his heading toward him. An office worker cannot be sure that a whole bunch of new work won’t be dumped in their in-tray.

Biblical Stress

The Bible does not mention stress. Neither does it talk much about the concept of people not having control of their lives. Instead the Bible talks about such things as fear and faith.

David said that he dealt with fear by putting his trust in the Lord.

“When I am afraid, I will trust in You.” Psalm 56:3

Jesus instructed a father who had just been told that his daughter had died to “keep on believing”, to “have faith”.

“But when Jesus heard it, he answered him, saying, Fear not: only believe, and she will be made whole.” Luke 8:50

Life is full of uncertainty. Those who have faith can put that uncertainty aside. They can get on with life, confident that God has everything under control and will watch over their affairs.

The Apostle Paul, in prison with a possible death sentence ahead of him, was able to be completely free from stress. He resolved the stress by knowing that either way, death or life, he was happy with the outcome. His faith sustained him.

The same was true for three young men threatened with death by King Nebuchadnezzar. They told the king that they were sure that God would save them, but even if God did not save them they would not worship the king’s idol.

“If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of your hand, O king. But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods, nor worship the golden image which you have set up.” Daniel 3:17,18

Stress is a place of fear, where a person cannot find faith in God to hold them together.

Depression

Depression is another one of those rubbery terms we all know and think we have a good handle on. But finding a good working definition to “depression” is an interesting challenge.

A friend asked me recently if I could specify the difference between ‘depression’ and ‘grief’. His contention was that our understanding of depression is sufficiently shallow as to not be able to be sure that depression and grief are not the same thing.

Is a depressed person actually suffering grief? Or is it linked to “hope deferred” which we know makes the heart sick?

“Hope deferred makes the heart sick: but when the desire comes, it is a tree of life.” Proverbs 13:12

Self-Esteem

Now here we get into some really tricky business. It is said that low self-esteem is a major problem. Yet the Bible suggests otherwise. The Bible points to pride, too high an opinion of ourselves, as a major problem area for humans.

We are instructed not to think too highly of ourselves. We are warned against pride. We are told that God blesses the lowly. Jesus spoke highly of the “poor in spirit”.

Whose Truth?

So these notions of Stress, Depression and Self-Esteem, which have gained great currency in popular Western culture may not embody the “truth” which they are ascribed with.

So we need to question the various truths and expert opinions which are presented to us. We are told that God’s blessing rests on those who do not walk in the “counsel of the ungodly”.

“Blessed is the man that walks not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of the scornful.” Psalm 1:1

We are also warned that things which appear to be “wisdom” are in fact devilish ideas which will only steal, kill and destroy, rather than bring blessing and grace into people’s lives.

“This wisdom descends not from above, but is earthly, sensual, devilish.” James 3:15

Out With Pop Culture

Christians know to be wary of pop culture, pop psychology, popular science, the latest breakthrough insights, the latest craze and concepts which simply do not stand on the authority of scripture.

Ahem….

Read that last sentence again and see if you agree with me. Do most Christians know how to be wary of those things? Is it not true that most Christians swallow the popular culture and popularly promoted ideas as if they are “God’s Truth”, when they may well be devilish ideas to harm them?

Next time you hear some concept being spouted as authoritative take the time to see if you can find it in the Bible. If you can’t, then be very wary of its deceptive and false messages.

Make sure you are Biblical, not a foolish product of popular culture.