Thursday, August 14, 2014

Depression, Suicide....How's a Christian to Respond?

Since the death of Robin Williams, "experts" on depression and suicide have come out of the woodwork.  I am concerned for those who struggle with depression, as many of these self-proclaimed "experts" tout their opinions as facts.  I don't pretend to be an expert, but I have learned some things from years of living with a husband who had bipolar and died by suicide as well as from my education in counseling.

People often mean well, but their well-intentions can often leave someone who is depressed feeling even more burdened.  I discussed this in a previous post (click here to read the post). People who are depressed don't need trite promises of a bright tomorrow.  They don't need to hear that their depression is due to a lack of faith --- if it didn't help when Job's friends tried it, why do we keep pretending to be God and acting like we have all the answers.

The truth is, there are times when some go through a dark night of the soul.  Many stay in this pit, for weeks or longer.  When they are in the pit, they need to see Light so that they have hope of escape.  So the question becomes, how can Christians share this Light without further burdening someone who is down?

There are times when there are no words.  When someone loses a loved one to suicide, there are no words that can erase the pain. The greatest gift you can offer during this time is your presence. Be with them in the pain.  Walk beside them.  Let them know that you are not a fair weather friend, but that you will stick by them.  Your presence may offer them the strength that they need to face another day.

(On a side note, it infuriates me that many people can be so insensitive to family members after suicidal loss.  We'd never go up to parent at a funeral home who just lost a son to cancer and say, "Why do you think he died?  Was it that he didn't get enough chemo?  Did the doctor not do enough to help -- or maybe he just didn't trust God to heal him?"  Trust me, family members are asking WHY and they don't need you to ask them.)

There is a lot of debate among Christians about whether depression should be medicated.  I have met countless people who tell me that without medication, they would be dead.  Antidepressants can save lives.  Are there cases of abuse?  Sure, but we could say the same thing about the overuse of antibiotics.  Do we deem all antibiotics evil and cease to use them since they are over-prescribed? I encourage anyone who is taking antidepressants long-term to consider seeing a psychiatrist; they know much more about psychopharmacology and are better able to monitor your medication use.

I hesitated to join the debate about medication because people are very passionate about their beliefs.  Regardless of your opinion, I challenge you to join me in praying for the family of Robin Williams.  I also encourage you to pray for others who have lost a loved one to suicide.  All the media hype may reopen old wounds, and they may need someone to talk to about their own experiences with suicide.  Be that someone.  Listen. Be present. Pray.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Criticizing Your Mate

“I should have listened to your father when he said you couldn’t cook.  You are terrible,” the husband exclaimed as he stormed toward the front door. 

“All you ever do is sit in your chair and watch TV. You are so lazy,” she said with exasperation.

I could go on and on with criticisms that I’ve heard both men and women make about their spouses.  What happened to that promise to love and to cherish til death do us part?  With our lips we exchange I love you’s, but in the same breath we curse our spouses.  Why do we do this?
John Gottman identified criticism as one of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse that trample marriages.  We all know that whoever said, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words they never hurt me,” was a liar.  Words hurt.  Once said, we can’t take them back. The damage is done.  Why then do we think it’s acceptable to slander the one person we should love the most?

Whenever our spouse criticizes us, we our defenses rise.  We lash back or we retreat – fight or flight.  When this pattern continues repeatedly over time, marriages begin to crumble.  Each partner is reticent to be vulnerable for fear that their partner will later use weaknesses as ammunition. In the Bible, James put it this way, “Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole body, sets the whole course of one’s life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell.  Criticism starts with a word (the match) and grows until it ignites into fires that destroy the marital relationship.

Make a commitment today to guard your tongue.  When you fall into the trap of criticism, apologize immediately – if you don’t your spouse may ruminate on your words and as they fester, the damage multiplies.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Men Crave Respect

I have decided to participate in a 30 Day Fast from Sugar.  Today is only the first day, and I have realized just how much sugar is in my normal diet. It’s everywhere!  In preparation for this fast, I’ve been reading about cravings and how to deal with them.  While I crave pasta and bread, other friends who are fasting miss soft drinks and chocolate.  We each have to deal with our own unique cravings.

In a similar way, men and women crave love in different ways.  Psychologists report that while women long to feel loved, men desire respect.  Studies show a man’s highest felt needs are respect and honor. On the other hand, a woman’s greatest need is to be cherished, adored, and delighted in.  God knew this when he inspired Paul to write Ephesians 5 which commands husbands to love their wives as Christ loves the church and wives to respect their husbands. 

Wives are commanded to respect their husbands (Ephesians 5:33) out of love and reverence for Christ.  What does this type of respect look like?  A wife should respect and cooperate with her husband.  This help and cooperation should be done wholeheartedly and without grumbling, just as it would be given to Christ himself.  This means avoiding a critical spirit.  As a matter of fact, John Gottman describes four horsemen that are actively striving to destroy your marriage.  They are criticism, contempt, defensiveness, and stonewalling.  Each of these “horsemen” gradually turn spouses against each other. I will spend the next few posts examining each of these.

This is a timely reminder for me as well, because I’ve been told to expect irritability as I experience sugar withdrawals.  Pray that I will guard my tongue in the days ahead, and that I will treat my own husband with respect even when I’m not feeling my best.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Wives, Respect your Husbands...

Several years ago, a friend started a ministry to girls who were engaged to help prepare them for marriage.  The engaged girl is encouraged to select three to five married women they trust and respect to join her for an evening of fun, food, and marital advice.  Over the years, I’ve contemplated what I wish I had known before I got married and what I can say to young brides-to-be.  This is what I have decided.

We hear a lot about unconditional love.  The Bible commands husbands to love their wives as their own body and as Christ loves the church.  This love is not dependent on the person’s actions.  It is sacrificial and enduring.

However, when it comes to wives roles, there seems to be some confusion.  The Bible commands wives to respect their husbands.  Interestingly, research suggests that a man’s number one need from his wife is to be respected.  Somewhere along the way, we started believing the lie that respect has to be earned.  Says who?

The Bible does not say wives, respect your husbands when they deserve it.  It is an unconditional statement.  We are to respect our husbands, period.  This does not mean that we agree with every decision they make, nor that they always act with integrity.  It does mean that we respect them even when it is difficult.

Think about it.  We are commanded to respect authority.  We may not always agree with the president’s policies, but we respect him because of his office.  Respect is due him because of who he is, not for what he does.  In the same way, we are to respect our husbands.

So ladies, the next time you are disgusted with something your husband does, respect him anyway.  You don’t have to condone bad behavior, but you can still treat him with dignity and respect. 

What does it look like for wives to respect their husbands?  I’d love to hear your feedback for a future post, illustrating how this is practically accomplished.

Friday, July 4, 2014

The cost of freedom...

I apologize for the brief hiatus; it wasn't intentional.  I'm working on my doctorate, and I have had so many papers to write and books to read that I haven't had time to write.  I did want to take a minute today to encourage you to pray for people in the military around the world.

The National Alliance for the Mentally Ill (NAMI) released a disturbing statistic.  More soldiers have died from suicide than in battle in Afghanistan.  This tells me that the horrors our servicemen and women are experiencing overseas come home with them.  Many suffer from PTSD or have a difficult time reintegrating into society.  Family problems, economic problems, and access to healthcare are all added stressors for many who have served for our freedom.

While we grill out and enjoy fireworks, a soldier is contemplating whether or not to live.  This is not OK.  I have asked a friend who works with veterans to write a guest post in the coming weeks, but for now I am calling you to pray for our nation. Pray for our leaders who determine where our troops will go.  Pray for our troops at home and abroad.  Freedom is costly -- may we be willing to do our part in prayer.