“What is love?” Jay Adams and the Idea of Love

“What is love?”

How would you answer that?

Love is a feeling.

Love is an emotion.

Love is getting a dozen roses.

Love is….

We complete that sentence with all sorts of ideas and concepts. What it boils down to, however, is two philosophies: biblical love and unbiblical love.

I have been reading through The Christian Counselor’s Manual: The Practice of Nouthetic Counseling by Jay Adams. Though I do not agree with everything in Adams’ book, I found his treatment on love helpful. Regardless of whether you engage in biblical counseling, we need to have a biblical concept of love. This will benefit our lives as well as others. It will also dispel the clouds of confusion that so easily fog our thinking.

Unbiblical LoveBiblical Love
“The philosophy is that love happens. ” (150)“Love is giving–giving of oneself to another.” (151)
“Love is not something to work at; it just happens.” (150)“It is not getting, as the world says today.” (151)
“Love comes full blown from the head of Aphrodite.” (150)“It is not feeling and desire; it is not something over which one has no control.” (151)
“It’s the kind of thing that just is or isn’t.” (150)“It is something that one does for another.” (151)
“It isn’t something you develop, it isn’t something that grows, it isn’t something that you work hard to achieve, it isn’t a thinking thing, and it certainly isn’t something that you can will.” (150)“Non one loves in the abstract.” (151)
“It is something that happens. And when it happens, it happens in such a way that you know that it has happened!” (150)“Love is an attitude that issues forth in something that actually, tangibly happens.” (151)
Adams’ discussion of love

Obviously, this is not exhaustive (or, theologically rigorous). However, it does provide us with a great table to navigate in our discussions with people about love and the Scriptures.

What is love? Adams provides us with an excellent answer.

Can depression be spiritual?


“There is no soundness in my flesh…there is no health in my bones…My wounds stink and fester…I am utterly bowed down and prostrate; all day I go about mourning. For my sides are filled with burning, and there is no soundness in my flesh. I am feeble and crushed; I groan because of the tumult of my heart. O Lord, all my longing is before you; my sighing is not hidden from you. My heart throbs; my strength fails me, and the light of my eyes—it also has gone from me.”—David (Psalm 38:2-10, ESV)

Many people, upon reading David’s words, would assume that he has depression.  In fact, if a doctor heard these words, they would probably start filling out a prescription for antidepressants.[1] In fact, in one study, researchers at the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) found that “the rate of antidepressant use in this country among teens and adults (people ages 12 and older) increased by almost 400% between 1988-1994 and 2005-2008).”[2]

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While I am not against medication, I think it is unfortunate that many people simply assume it is a physical problem without addressing any other potential issues.[3] This is a failure on part of our physicians and pastors (and, believers in general). What do I mean by that?

We have been discussing depression, and our last discussion focused on physical issues related to depression. Science and Scripture, rather than disagreeing with one another, actually demonstrate the affects our bodies can have on our emotions. But this does not address the whole issue, because human beings are more than simply physical bodies.

In this post, we will introduce the spiritual aspect of depression. We covered this briefly in another post, but for now I want to describe the spiritual make up of humanity, because it has enormous ramifications for how we understand and “treat” depression.

Back to the Beginning

We read about the creation of the first man, Adam, in Genesis 2:5-7. God used “the dust of the ground” and “breathed into his nostrils the breath of life,” and as a result, “the man became a living creature” (Gen. 2:7, ESV). We see that human beings are comprised of body (physical) and soul (spiritual).[4]

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There are, then, two sources of depression to the human being: physical and spiritual. In other words, we fail to address depression fully if we neglect the spiritual. Turning our attention back to David, we fill in the dots and find an interesting addition to our understanding.

2 For your arrows have sunk into me,

and your hand has come down on me.

There is no soundness in my flesh

because of your indignation;

there is no health in my bones

because of my sin.

For my iniquities have gone over my head;

like a heavy burden, they are too heavy for me.

My wounds stink and fester

because of my foolishness,

I am utterly bowed down and prostrate;

all the day I go about mourning.

For my sides are filled with burning,

and there is no soundness in my flesh.

I am feeble and crushed;

I groan because of the tumult of my heart.

O Lord, all my longing is before you;

my sighing is not hidden from you.

10  My heart throbs; my strength fails me,

and the light of my eyes—it also has gone from me.

Do you see the difference? While it is not always the source of the depression, in many cases, sin lies at the root of human depression. In David’s case, he committed adultery with Bathsheba, lied to his friend Uriah, and ultimately had Uriah murdered (see 2 Sam. 11-12). His sin brought about this severe depression. I agree with Adams’ sentiments when he writes, “Sin leads to guilt and depression, sinful handling of sin further complicates matters leading to greater guilt and deeper depression, ad infinitum.[5]

Depression can definitively be spiritual. In our next post, we will discuss sin in greater detail. We will examine what sin is and then look at how to address it. Finally, we will look at the way sin brings about and contributes to depression specifically.

[1] On a personal level, my wife, who was taking antidepressants at the time, went to talk with her doctor about weaning herself off the medication. When my wife began telling the doctor about her struggles with depression the doctor interrupted her and said she could prescribe her some antidepressants. She would be wise to review Proverbs 18:13 (the doctor, not my wife!).

[2] Peter Wehrwein, “Astounding increase in antidepressant use by Americans, Harvard Health Blog, 20 October 2011, https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/astounding-increase-in-antidepressant-use-by-americans-201110203624, accessed 17 March 2021.

[3] I disagree with Jay Adams at this point. He writes, “The hope for depressed persons, as elsewhere, lies in this: the depression is the result of the counselee’s sin.” See Jay E. Adams, The Christian Counselor’s Manual: The Practice of Nouthetic Counseling (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1973), 378. I believe that Adams fails to consider the fallen aspects of the human body, with the resulting corruption of our emotional states. Though not exhaustive, a pastor friend of mine, Ryan Davidson, has written on this topic. See J. Ryan Davidson, Thinking Through Anxiety: A Brief Christian Look (Warrendale, PA: Ichthus Publications, 2017). I also found Dan Wickert’s comments helpful, “A second question I consider is, ‘How are you handling life on the medication?’ Are they handling the normal problems of life in a biblical, God-honoring way while they are on the medication? If not, then taking them off the medication usually will not help the counselee to please God.” See Dan Wickert, “’Mary’ and Paralyzing Fear,” in Stuart Scott and Heath Lambert, Counseling the Hard Cases: True Stories Illustrating the Sufficiency of God’s Resources in Scripture (Nashville, TN: B&H Publishing, 2015), 121.

[4] For a brief discussion of the division of human beings (i.e., dichotomy or trichotomy), see Adams, The Christian Counselor’s Manual, 9, footnote 2.  

[5] Ibid., 377.

How can we handle depression physically?

The time has come to put our knowledge of what depression is and what contributes to it to good use. While depression is something that can (and often does) afflict all of us, some endure it more than others. What we have discovered is that depression is a feeling of hopelessness, like walking through the lightless room stumbling on in pain and numbness.

The causes that contribute to and increase depression range from physical to mental and to spiritual. The question before us now is, “What can we do about it?” For those experiencing depression, when hope seems to be as much a part of a fairy tale as giants and goblins, there seems to be nothing we can do.

However, this is where God and His Word provide a bounty of encouragement and hope. God is, after all, the God of hope (see Rom. 15:13). Hope begins with knowing the biblical truth that God does not leave us to despair.

Much of what I am going to write in the following section assumes one is a believer. I encourage you to check this video out if you have never considered what it means to follow Jesus Christ.

So, where do we go from here? To begin with the easiest treatable aspect of dealing with depression, check out your body. Now, I am not implying that you need to walk in front of a mirror and notice all that New Year Resolutions that you have failed to keep have resulted in a less-than-desirable physique. What I mean is, do a check-up of yourself.

Ask yourself the following questions:

  • Am I getting 7-8 hours of sleep a night?
  • How is my diet, really?
  • Am I spending time exercising and enjoying the outdoors?
  • Is there an underlining medical issue that may contribute to depression?[1]

It is amazing how quickly we forget that our physical bodies are closely tied to our spiritual souls. We are, after all, physically embodied spirits (see Gen. 2:7). Thus, the physical will often affect the spiritual; the spiritual will often affect the physical.[2] Sometimes the best thing we can do to lift our spirits is to take a nap!

Along the same lines, what we eat affects our bodies, which in turn, affects our souls. Brian Borgman writes, “A change of diet might also prove helpful. Our fast-food culture is turning our bodies into toxic waste dumps, making us unhealthy…We are body-soul creatures, and how we treat the body can affect the soul.”[3] Adjusting our diets to exclude large amounts of carbohydrates and sugars can help balance our bodies out. This is an area in which you may need help, and there are a variety of places online and in communities that can provide assistance.

What about exercising and the outdoors? Paul, writing to the young preacher boy Timothy, warns “While bodily exercise is of some value…” (1 Tim. 4:8, ESV). He is comparing the spiritual development of godliness as being beneficial for this life and the life to come. However, he is in no way demeaning the value or benefits of physical exercise. Our lives are vastly different from the first century Church. They are vastly different than 100 years ago. We live sedentary lives, hardly moving, and it is wreaking havoc on our bodies. Of the many issues that develops as a result is depression.[4] Working with your doctor, develop an exercise routine that fits your schedule and lifestyle. It is amazing how exercise helps the body address depression.[5]

Outdoors can also help alleviate depression. Now, it is January, and it is cold! This affects when we go outdoors. But when we can, we need to get out of the house or the office and enjoy![6] God created nature to reflect His glory (Psalm 19:1-6), but it also a benefit for us (see Gen. 1:28-30).

These are all things that we can do now. These items may not eliminate depression, but they may help alleviate some of the struggles. So, get some sleep, eat better, exercise, and go outside (with appropriate social distancing and masks, of course!).

[1] I am not a doctor, nor is this medical advice. You need to visit your regular doctor and ask for a physical.

[2] For an interesting display of this in a counseling case, see Dan Wickert, “’Mary’ and Paralyzing Fear,” in Stuart Scott and Heath Lambert, eds. Counseling the Hard Cases: True Stories Illustrating the Sufficiency of God’s Resources in Scripture (Nashville, TN: B&H Academic, 2015), 120-123.

[3] Brian Borgman, Feelings and Faith: Cultivating Godly Emotions in the Christian Life (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2009), 139. If you want a scholarly treatment of this, see Felice N. Jacka and Michael Berk, “Depression, diet and exercise,” The Medical Journal of Australia, https://www.mja.com.au/journal/2013/199/6/depression-diet-and-exercise, 29 October 2013, accessed 8 January 2021.

[4] Mayo Clinic Staff, “Depression and anxiety: Exercise eases symptoms,” https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/depression/in-depth/depression-and-exercise/art-20046495, 27 September 2017, accessed 8 January 2021.

[5] See previous footnote. They offer several excellent, practical tips.

[6] Harvard Health Publishing, “Sour mood getting you down? Get back to nature,” https://www.health.harvard.edu/mind-and-mood/sour-mood-getting-you-down-get-back-to-nature, July 2018, accessed 8 January 2021.

Having marriage problems?

Is he doing that thing that always bothers you?

Did she make that purchase you specifically asked her not to buy?

Is your communication lacking?

If you are married, you have at some point experienced difficulties. Unfortunately, we are fallen beings in a fallen world (see Rom. 3:11-17 and Eph. 2:1-3). How do we navigate these disagreements? How can we improve our communication? What steps can we take to have happy marriages?

Perhaps the most basic (and yet important) aspect of a successful marriage is to follow Paul’s encouragements in Ephesians 5:22-33. When the wife and husband function in their God-ordained roles, not only do they enjoy sweet union, they also advertise the Gospel (my seminary professor, Dr. Newcomer, said that Christ-honoring marriages are Gospel tracts).

I would encourage you to study, I mean really study, that passage. Husbands, be like Christ. Die to yourself daily. Wives, follow your husband’s leadership. Be like the Church is to her Savior, Jesus Christ.

I would venture to say that we need additional help. We know Tylenol is helpful in fighting pain, but knowing when to administer the medicine provides the fullest benefit. Here are a few such helps.

Association of Biblical Counselors

First up is Greg Wilson’s article, “3 Important Environments for Marriage Preparation,” through the Association of Biblical Counselors. Written primarily to engaged couples, Wilson’s article is helpful to marriages of any length.

He opens with this profound (and sad) paragraph, “One of the most consistent themes that emerges in counseling young couples, especially in the critical first five years, is the dramatic difference between the time and money that was invested in their wedding compared to the time and money that was invested in preparing for the rest of their lives together as husband and wife.” The three environments are: Multi-Generational Group Environment, a Mentoring Environment, and a Biblical Counseling Environment. Though applied specifically to engaged couples, these environments are helpful to all.

Leslie Vernick writes, “Can This Marriage Be Saved?” Vernick discusses some difficult issues. She describes “destructive and abusive marriages” and the goal to help restore them. Her focus in this post is on safety. If you are in an abusive relationship, please seek help. Vernick writes, Safety in an intimate relationship such as marriage must never be underestimated. You cannot put a marriage together in a healthy way if one person in the marriage feels afraid of the other.” However, the introductory materials provide insight into restoration.

Returning to Wilson, his article “Redeeming Marriage In Community,” is especially helpful for focusing in the right direction: Christlikeness. Wilson writes, “Therefore, a working definition of a healthy Christian marriage is one in which both partners are actively pursuing deeper, gospel-fueled relationship with the Lord, both together and individually, while actively pursuing deeper, gospel-displaying relationship with each other for His glory.” If your marriage needs help (barring abusive danger), this is where you start.

Association of Certified Biblical Counselors

Bev Moore’s article “Trusting God’s Character,” though not tied to specifically to marriage, provides many helpful contributions to aiding marital problems. She writes, “During these storms of life, we need an anchor for our souls. That anchor has to be the truth of what God has revealed to us about Himself, about His character.” In marital problems, we can often lose sight of God. We fixate on the other’s sins/problems. The key to growing through those difficult seasons involves the knowledge of God (see 2 Peter 1:3).

Sean Perron, Spencer Harmon, and Taron Defevers in the Truth in Love podcast episode, “Cultivating a Spiritually Grounded Marriage,” discusses the book Romantic: The First Years of Marriage and how marriages must cultivate spiritual growth. They say, “Jesus places the priority in marriage, and in every stage of life for that matter, as Himself.” Your marriage will be helped immensely with this resource.

Scott Mehl discusses the uncomfortable, but nonetheless significant problems in marital conflict, of sexual difficulties. In “Sexual Difficulties in Marriage,” is more than just a discussion of techniques or personal passions, Mehl provides practical and theological helps for sexual intimacy.

A helpful book that I recommend is When Sinners Say I Do by Dave Harvey. If you are curious what the book, check out this helpful review.

Christian Counseling & Educational Foundation

Darby Strickland discusses Spiritual Abuse in Marriages Part 1 and Part 2. He begins the first post with these words, “I often sit with wives whose husbands have used Scripture as a weapon to control them.” Many problems in marriages develop as a result of spiritual abuse. These two articles offer some wise encouragement.

Robyn and Alasdair discuss the topic of “Headship in Marriage.” The passage from Ephesians 5:22-24 presents many difficulties for more than one reason. However, this podcast fleshes out what it means and how it enhances marriages rather than harms them.

If you are experiencing marriage problems and need help, please visit the above websites and search for a counselor. You will want to find a Biblical Counselor, as these will provide you with the best help. Also, if you are involved in an abusive relationship, please seek help immediately.

Why am I depressed?


Many individuals find themselves asking that question. Depression is, unfortunately, a growing problem. In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, there has been an enormous spike in depression and associated mental issues. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “The prevalence of symptoms of anxiety disorder was approximately three times those reported in the second quarter of 2019 (25.5% versus 8.1%), and prevalence of depressive disorder was approximately four times that reported in the second quarter of 2019 (24.3% versus 6.5%) (2).”[1] In Japan, for example, deaths from suicide outweigh deaths related to COVID-19.[2]

Outside of COVID-19 and the accompanying difficulties of social distancing, closed businesses and houses of worship, and limited interactions, depression is still an enormous problem for many individuals, ranging from children to elderly adults.[3] We will peruse a few of these contributing factors briefly.

Physical Causes of and Contributions to Depression

So, why are we depressed? There are many factors that can contribute to depression. At times, an individual’s physical problems can lead to depression. In a paper written by Guy M. Goodwin, he presents several physical factors that can lead to depression.[4] These include chronic pain, the effects of a stroke, and heart disease. A lack of sleep can increase depression as well.[5]

Poor diets can also factor in depression. Though there may be a cyclical effect of depression and poor eating habits, research has shown that an unhealthy diet can contribute to depression.[6]

Mental Contributions to Depression

Other contributing factors include stressful life situations. A rocky marriage, problems with children, a failing career, financial issues, and similar circumstances may also contribute to depression.[7]

Medicative Contributions to Depression

There are also medicative causes of depression.[8] Interestingly, many of the prescribed medications for depression can have the opposite effect of increasing depression.[9] The struggles with opioid addiction also have the potential to affect one’s struggles with depression.[10]

Spiritual Contributions to Depression

Though not always addressed as much, the spiritual aspects of human beings can contribute to depression. Sin, the concept of offending the requirements of a deity, can lead to guilt and increased depression. The fear of the afterlife also can interact and increase depression.

Biblical Counseling and the Causes of Depression

As a biblical counselor, I seek to examine the Scriptures and apply them to the various challenges of life that afflict us all. Depression is one of those challenges, and upon which the Scriptures have much to say. We will deal with the above contributing factors in reverse order.

Biblical Counseling and Spiritual Contributions to Depression

One example of an individual who experienced depression is David. During his time of kingship of Israel, he engaged in adultery with the wife of one of his soldiers (see 2 Samuel 11:1-5). Through the course of events, David had Uriah murdered as well as engaging in deceptive actions (2 Sam. 11:6-21). Though we do not know the period of time that elapsed between David’s sins and his repentance, we do have a record of what was going on in David’s heart. Psalm 32:3-5 records David’s struggles,

“For when I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long. For day and night your hand was heavy upon me; my strength was dried up as by the heat of summer. Selah.” (ESV)

David’s spiritual battle with lust, adultery, and murder and his failure to repent brought about depression. One of the common marks of an individual who is depressed is their inability and unwillingness to engage in daily activities.

Another example we could examine is Cain (see Genesis 4:1-6). Though God’s discussion of sacrifices is not covered in Genesis, we can conclude that both Cain and Abel knew what God expected. Cain offered the work of his farming to God, but God rejected Cain’s offering, though God accepted Abel’s (Gen. 4:3-5). In God’s description of Cain, He states “your face [has] fallen.” (Gen. 3:6, ESV)

Though not always, often people who struggle with depression manifest it in their eyes and facial expressions. In Cain’s instance, he was depressed because of God’s rejection of his offering.

Biblical Counseling and Medicative Contributions to Depression

Does the Bible address medicine and depression? It does. Proverbs 23:29-30 offers a glimpse into such a situation.

“Who has woe? Who has sorrow? Who has strife? Who has complaints? Who has needless bruises? Who has bloodshot eyes? Those who linger over wine, who go to sample bowls of mixed wine.” (NIV)

Now, there are many issues presented here: threats, sorrow (uneasiness, depressiveness), division, ingratitude/difficult situations, unknown injuries, and affected physical appearances. That is, there is a host of issues related to alcohol abuse. Interestingly, however, is the appearance of “sorrow.” There is another proverb that encourages the use of alcohol in a medicinal manner. In Proverbs 31:6-7 we find these interesting statements, “Let beer be for those who are perishing, wine for those who are in anguish! Let them drink and forget their poverty and remember their misery no more.” (NIV)

In these two proverbs, we see both the use and misuse of alcohol. The use is to aid someone in intense pain and/or suffering (31:6-7). The misuse is the abuse of alcohol to the detriment of the individual (23:29-30).

It is not surprising, then, to see the many cautions and warnings against alcohol. I encourage you to read through the Scriptures (75 references, to be exact) on CrossTheology.[11]

Biblical Counseling and Mental Contributions to Depression

In Genesis chapter 21, we observe the account of the jealousy and subsequent harshness with which Sarah treats their servant, Hagar, and her son, Ishmael. Sarah, after watching Ishmael mock her son, Isaac, encourages Abraham to banish Hagar.

The Scriptures depict her mental stress in verse 16, “So she sat across from him [her son, Ishmael] and wept controllably.” (NET) There are several issues that would have increased Hagar’s mental stress. Having been banished by Abraham, she is now separated from her only source of food, shelter, and any protection. In addition, she has a son for whom she is unable to provide. Furthermore, she is sent out “wandering through the wilderness of Beer Sheba.” (Gen. 21:14, NET)

In her anguish and depression, she was unable to see a well water (cf. Gen. 21:19). Her depression prevented her from seeing something near. It took God (the NET renders it “God enabled Hagar to see a well of water,” 21:19) to anchor back to reality.

Biblical Counseling and Physical Causes of and Contributions to Depression

Elijah, the great prophet of the Old Testament, experienced physically related depression. After an incredible day of spiritual victory and exhaustion, followed by a lengthy run in which the prophet outruns a chariot (see 1 Kings 18), Elijah receives a threat from Queen Jezebel (1 Kings 19:1-2). In fear, he “went a day’s journey into the wilderness.” (1 Kings 19:4, NET)

It was only after those physically exhaustive events that Elijah undergoes depression. He seeks to be separated from people. He also desires death. These are both common manifestations of depression. After bemoaning his life, he falls asleep (1 Kings 19:5). An angel wakes him up and provides food, after which Elijah goes back to sleep (19:5-6).

It is interesting to note that God does not condemn Elijah for his depression (God’s response is found in 19:9-18).


In this post, we have examined the various contributing factors in relation to depression. This list is not exhaustive, but it does cover the wide gamut of issues related. In the first post, we acknowledge the complexities of depression.[12] In the next post, we will discuss how knowing these contributing factors can help us overcome depression.

[1] Mark E. Czeisler, et. al, “Mental Health, Substance Use, and Suicidal Ideation During the COVID-19 Pandemic—United States, June 24-30, 2020,” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 14 August 2020, https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/69/wr/mm6932a1.htm, accessed 2 December 2020.

[2] Selina Wang, Rebecca Wright, and Yoko Wakatsuki, “In Japan, more people died from suicide last month than from Covid in all of 2020. And women have been impacted most,” 29 November 2020, https://www.cnn.com/2020/11/28/asia/japan-suicide-women-covid-dst-intl-hnk/index.html, accessed 2 December 2020.

[3] “Teen Depression,” National Institute of Mental Health, https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/teen-depression/index.shtml, accessed 2 December 2020; and “Older Adults and Depression,” National Institute of Mental Health, https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/older-adults-and-depression/index.shtml,accessed 2 December 2020.

[4] Guy M. Goodwin, “Depression and Associated Physical Diseases and Symptoms,” Dialogues In Clinical Neuroscience, June 2006, 259-265.

[5] Harvard Mental Health, “Sleep and Mental Health,” updated 18 March 2019, published July 2009, https://www.health.harvard.edu/newsletter_article/sleep-and-mental-health, accessed 2 December 2020.

[6] Monique Tello, “Diet and Depression,” Harvard Health Blog, updated 29 January 2020, published 22 February 2018, https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/diet-and-depression-2018022213309, accessed 3 December 2020.

[7] Longfei Yang, et. al., “The Effects of Psychological Stress On Depression,” Current Neuropharmacology, July 2015, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4790405/, accessed 2 December 2020.

[8] “What causes depression?” National Institute of Mental Health, https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/depression/index.shtml#pub3, accessed 2 December 2020.

[9] Donald Rogers and Ronald Pies, “General Medical Drugs Associated with Depression,” Psychiatry MMC, December 2008, 28-41, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2729620/, accessed 2 December 2020; Harvard Health Letter, “Is your medication making you depressed?” Harvard Medical School, October 2015, https://www.health.harvard.edu/drugs-and-medications/is-your-medication-making-you-depressed, accessed 2 December 2020.

[10] Alicia Grattan, et. al., “Depression and Prescription Opioid Misuse Among Chronic Opioid Therapy Recipients With No History of Substance Abuse,” Analysis of Family Medicine, vol. 10, no. 4, July 2012, 304-311, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3392289/, accessed 3 December 2020.

[11] https://crosstheology.wordpress.com/75-scripture-warnings-against-drinking-of-alcohol/

[12] Here is that post: https://theophileobobby.wordpress.com/2020/11/21/depression-what-is-it/.

Depression: What is It?

“I am depressed.”

Photo by Kat Jayne on Pexels.com

Maybe you have heard someone make this claim. Perhaps you have made it yourself. Or, you may be wondering if you have depression.

What is depression? Some have described it as a deep hole in which no light shines. Others style it as a heavy blanket draped over them. Whatever it is, it is certainly not simple. As Brian Borgman writes, “Depression is complex. The medical and physiological issues are complex. The emotional and spiritual issues are complex.”[1]

Considering the complexities of depression, there is no way to cover what it entails in a single blog post. With that in mind, we can, at the very least, begin a discussion of depression as we seek to bring all our thoughts (including depression) into the captivity and rule of Christ.[2]

Depression, as complex as it is, can be brought about by almost anything. As Jay Adams writes, “Almost anything can be at the root of the counselee’s depression: a recent illness in which he gets behind in his work, hormonal changes, a reversal of his fortunes, the consequences of simple negligence, guilt over a particular sin, self-pity arising from jealousy or a disadvantageous turn of events, bad feeling resulting from resentment, worry, etc.”[3] Additionally, a lack of sleep, poor diet, and other physical causes can contribute to depression.[4]

Thus, the causes for depression are many, and often are not tied to one single issue. The question that comes to the biblical counselor is, “Does the Bible speak about depression? Do the Scriptures offer hope for a depressed individual?” To which the biblical counselor would offer this confident answer, “Yes, the Scriptures contain all that is necessary for life and godliness, including how to address depression.”[5]

In future posts, we will examine the contributing factors toward depression. We will also see how our responses to the various challenges of life in a fallen world also contribute to and intensify our depression. Then, we will examine how the Scriptures equip us to take those depressive thoughts captive to experience hope and the God of hope (see Rom. 15:4, 13).

*If you are experiencing depression, I would encourage you to reach out to a biblical counselor in your area. Here are a few options for you:

[1] Brian S. Borgman, Feelings and Faith: Cultivating Godly Emotions in the Christian Life (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2009), 133.

[2] Paul writes about this in 2 Corinthians 10:1-6, specifically verse 5.

[3] Jay E. Adams, The Christian Counselor’s Manual: The Practice of Nouthetic Counseling (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1973), 375. While I appreciate Adams’ work, I think he makes a mistake in always tying depression with sin. We, as complex beings of both spiritual and physical compositions, living in a fallen world, are subject to the unfortunate results of sin in our physical and mental capacities. While he does not deny this, ultimately, he points back to the counselee’s sin (see page 378).

[4] Harvard Mental Health Letter, “Sleep and Mental Health: Sleep Deprivation Can Affect Your Mental Health,” Harvard Health Publishing, July 2009, https://www.health.harvard.edu/newsletter_article/sleep-and-mental-health, accessed 11 November 2020; Monique Tello, “Diet and Depression,” Harvard Health Publishing, 22 February 2018, https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/diet-and-depression-2018022213309, accessed 11 November 2020.

[5] See 2 Peter 1:3, “His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us to his own glory and excellence.” (ESV)

Biblical Counseling and Political Disagreements

“In your anger do not sin,” the apostle Paul commanded the Ephesian believers, and by extension all Christians. (Eph. 4:26, NIV) The events that have transpired in the United States over the past few weeks have offered many opportunities for anger. There are some who are angry that the current President of the United States is calling this election fraud. There are others who are angry that apparently fraud has occurred and has affected the presidential election. In between these polar extremes lie many others. What binds these polls and all in between could be represented in anger.

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I have posted some helpful resources for counseling individuals from the Scriptures who are experiencing anger. This post is aimed at helping individuals overcome anger as a result of political disagreements. I will be the first to admit that this has been a trying season. Many of my brothers and sisters in Christ have taken a completely different approach and view of the political landscape. That is not as challenging as some people’s responses. Here are a few representatives from Twitter.

“I love seeing Trump supporters CRY, it’s my daily medicine, my weekly energy, my monthly inspiration and my yearly motivation. Their loss is the only reason i’m still alive, i was born to love and enjoy the failure that they have achieved.”

“That’s it! An absolutely disgraceful performance! In all my years as a citizen of this country I’ve never seen a country so lazy and pathetic! I’m becoming a Canadian citizen where they have a real government! Goodbye!”

One need only peruse social media to see much, much worse. I am sure that you, like me, have family members posting similar or worse things. But what about our brothers and sisters in Christ? How do we respond and work through these trying times?

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One thing we must understand at the beginning is anger itself. Anger is “at its core…very simple. It expresses ‘I’m against that.’ It is an active stance you take to oppose something that you assess as both important and wrong.”[1] One can easily see how the present political disagreements can create such hostile feelings. Abortion, equal rights, various views on taxes, and government mandates are just a few examples of those issues that we can oppose. So, how do we maintain anger without sin, while also not compromising our love for one another in Christ?[2]

Attack the Problem, Not the Person

One way that we can avoid sinning in anger is to follow Jay Adams words. He writes, “Here the tensions of anger are released primarily toward the problem rather than toward others or towards oneself. That is to say that the energies of the emotion of anger are used constructively in solving the problem—attacking it rather than people.”[3] The problem may be in election fraud, a failure to conceit, or a policy issue (such as marriage rights or abortion). People disagree on these, strongly, and rightly so. They are important issues. But, as followers of Jesus Christ, we must never sin in our stances of opposition. The first way we can avoid sinning is to attack the problem, not the person. Adams goes on to write, “Turning anger toward the problem, however, almost always involves confronting another in anger. Yet, the way in which they are confronted makes the difference. They must be confronted to the extent that they are involved responsibly in the solution to the problem. They are confronted not in order to embarrass or hurt them, but to help them to move in the proper directions.”[4] We must identify the problem and attack it, not our fellow believer. When it is needful to confront, we must also remember to that “They are confronted not in order to embarrass or hurt them…”[5] This is pure sin. It demeans the name of our God and destroys our witness to the lost and dying world around us.[6]

Always Practice Biblical Love

A second way that we can avoid sinning while angry, even in the midst of political disagreements, is to practice biblical love. While discussing spiritual gifts and their abuses (1 Corinthians 12 and 14), Paul encourages believers to engage in biblical (i.e., Christlike) love. He writes,

Love is patient, love is kind. 
It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.
It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 
Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 
It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

There are several practical points that can help us navigate political disagreement. I will only provide a bullet-point listing:

  • Be patient in your discussions. Seek to understand what they mean, not what you infer.
  • Be kind in your speech, postings, and interactions.
  • Do not be envious of their victories, their abilities to articulate their positions, nor of their support.
  • Do not boast about your candidate’s victory, the acceptance of your political views, or of the inherent worthiness of your view.
  • Do not be prideful in your political views but walk humbly before your God.[7]
  • Never dishonor an individual over a political view.
  • Search your heart for the motivation for your political view.
  • Do not allow yourself to be “easily angered.”
  • Work to forgive and forget any offences against you.
  • While not compromising your own political views, seek to celebrate the virtue in those opposing views.[8]
  • Never, ever rejoice over evil, regardless of your political views.
  • Always rejoice in truth, regardless of your political views.
  • In every interaction and exchange, seek to protect, trust, hope, and endure all for your brother or sister in Christ.

Remember that God reigns

This seems odd in a post about anger, particularly in relation to the political situation in the United States. But the truth of Scripture is that God reigns. Though there are presidents, dictators, queens, governors, etc., they are all God’s pawns. He sits, as it were, above the chess board, moving the pieces as He sits fit to accomplish His plan. This is why Paul, under Roman oppression, could write, “Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment upon themselves.” (Rom. 13:1-2, NIV)

Did your candidate win? God still reigns. Did your candidate lose? God still reigns. He sits, as the psalmist reminds us, “in heaven, he does whatever pleases him.” (Psa. 115:3, NIV) How does this help us deal with sinful anger? Because God reigns, we do not have to become sinfully angry that an individual is not in the office. Because God reigns, we do not have to become sinfully angry that a brother or sister in Christ is joyous over their candidate’s victory. Surely, we can maintain biblical anger in the face of clear violations of Scripture.[9]

“In your anger do not sin,” is not addressed to the present political discussion per se. It is, however, pertinent. Brothers and sisters, in our anger, let us not sin. Let us love one another, even in our political disagreements. May these disagreements serve to spread the name of Jesus Christ to all who observe our loving disagreements.

[1] David Powlison, Good & Angry: Redeeming Anger, Irritation, Complaining, and Bitterness (Greensboro, NC: New Growth Press, 2016), 39.

[2] This post focuses exclusively on Christian relationships. By that I mean men and women who have confessed their sins, repented from them, and turned to Christ as their only hope for redemption. For more about the Gospel, please visit https://www.crossway.org/articles/what-is-the-gospel-2/.

[3] Jay E. Adams, The Christian Counselor’s Manual: The Practice of Nouthetic Counseling (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1973), 353.

[4] Adams, The Christian Counselor’s Manual, 354.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Jesus says, “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13:35, NIV)

[7] “Your” is meant to be plural, as in yours and their God.

[8] I understand that this discussion is highly complex. One example of a view that a Christian cannot accept is abortion. However, different policies outside of abortion can be celebrated (i.e., care for young mothers in need of assistance).

[9] Again, abortion provides a clear example of something every believer should be angry about. Every human being that values life should actively oppose abortion. However, though a candidate is elected who supports abortion is something to be angry about, we must, as believers, remember that God still reigns.

Here are some additional resources that will prove helpful, not only during this time of political upheaval, but also for the remainder of our time on earth.

Biblical Counseling Helps: Anger

Be angry and do not sin.”

The Apostle Paul, citing Psalm 4:4 in Ephesians 4:26

We all struggle with anger at one point in our lives. David Powlison, in his book Good & Angry, discusses the various expressions of anger. While we all express sinful anger, we do not always express it in the same ways.

The biblical counselor’s goal is to use the Scriptures to help the believer overcome sin and change more into the image of Christ (Rom. 8:28-29; Eph. 4:11-16; 4:22-24). One of the many sins which believers must overcome is sinful anger. I add that adjective sinful because some anger, as Powlison points out, is completely justified (you will have to get his book if you want to know how).

Here are some helpful resources for you, biblical counselor, as you help the believer kill sin and grow in holiness. They are also helpful to you, believer, as you mortify the deeds of your flesh during your journey to Christlikeness.

The Association of Biblical Counselors, of which I am a member, by the way, offers several excellent resources.

First is this article from February 2, 2014 titled, “Understanding and Redeeming Anger.” In the article, the safe at ABC offer summarizing thoughts of a series written by Powlison for the Journal of Biblical Counseling. “Understanding and Redeeming Anger” presents the key concepts of sinful anger as well as the godly aspects of righteous anger. This would be an excellent resource prior to counseling an angry individual.

A second article published on May 20, 2013 offers a paradoxical look at anger. The article begins, “It doesn’t take long to figure out that we live in an angry world. Read the headlines on any given day and you see anger on display in politics, movies, TV shows, and sports. Spend any amount of time in any family and you’ll see anger expressed almost daily.” “The Anger Paradox: Overcoming Sinful Anger Through Surrender” discusses the various expressions of anger and the biblical response: surrendering to God. One of the most helpful contributions of this article to the arsenal against anger is the list of what anger is. It is “a life-dominating sin,” “an expression of false worship,” and “often just a fruit,” to present a few examples. As biblical counselors, we want to get to the root of the issue, and these expressions of what anger is helps to discern the root of the matter.

The Association of Certified Biblical Counselors offers a wider array of materials concerning anger.

Tim Keeter, leader of the Music and Counseling ministries at Grace Community Church in Huntsville, AL, presents a lecture on “Addressing Sinful Anger,” on May 6, 2020. He provides a PDF with his lecture notes. In this lecture, Keeter spends considerable time developing the concept that the way to identify sinful anger is to understand righteous anger. He discusses various individuals in Scripture, including Jesus and Paul, who displayed righteous anger. This, in turn, is contrasted with the sinful anger often expressed by fallen human beings. In addition to the wealth of information, Keeter provides several graphics (though not original to him) that give a physical representation of the operations of anger.

The ACBC podcast, Truth in Love, presents a discussion on “Is Anger Always Sinful?” by Heath Lambert. As we counsel individuals with sinful anger, one of the goals is to increase their understanding and application of righteous anger. Lambert discusses this in wonderful detail.

ACBC also offers several lectures (for a price) that would be well-worth your investment. I will simply link them below:

The Christian Counseling and Educational Foundation offers numerous resources for addressing anger as well. First, CCEF’s Podcast gives listeners discussions on anger. Each one can be found in the links below.

There are also a few posts that present some helpful insight. In “Anger Met With Tears” by Ed Welch, he presents an episode of dealing with his grandson and the message correction can communicate.

In another post by Ed Welch, he discusses “Six Things to Know About Anger.” It is a shorter post, but in it Welch provides a few helpful (and convicting) insights to anger.

A final post that I would like to recommend does not directly address anger. In fact, it is on patience. In “Is Patience Dangerous?” Ed Welch presents several ways that patience (typically understood as the opposite of anger) can be dangerous.

I realize this is just a few recommendations, but perhaps they will be just the tools you need to fine-tune your counseling of sinful anger. As we counsel people from the Scriptures to overcome their sinful anger, let these words from Powlison encourage you:

“When God’s larger purposes are in control, the poisonous evil of anger is neutralized. Anger becomes a servant of goodness. The anger becomes just, and the purposes become merciful to all who will turn and trust and become conformed to his image. He changes our motives.

David Powlison, ‘Good & Angry,’ 59

The Sufficiency of Scripture in Biblical Counseling

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“I am having trouble lusting after other women.”

“I cannot seem to control my spending habits.”

“I hate her!”

“I have problems trusting him now.”

“How can I parent that child?”

These and other questions routinely enter the office of the biblical counselor. What does he or she say? How does he or she respond to these, and more frequently, tougher questions?

As we think about biblical counseling, we have already noted a rough outline. In that post, I presented the key concepts of biblical counseling. I also contrasted those concepts with modern (or, secular) psychology.

In this post my aim is to present the basic understanding of the sufficiency of Scripture for Biblical Counseling. What is sufficiency of Scripture? Heath Lambert offers this brief definition, “the sufficiency of Scripture, means that the Bible contains all that we need to know God’s will and live a life pleasing to him.”[1] Narrowing it down further, Joel James presents this definition, “…the Bible is completely sufficient to address people’s deepest spiritual and emotional problems.”[2]

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These two definitions give us two key insights into what biblical counselors mean when they utilize the phrase sufficiency of Scripture. First, its focus is on the Bible. Biblical counselors are biblical because they live and breathe and have their being in the Word of God. Secondly, its scope is everything that involves the spiritual and emotional makeup of man. As beings created in the image of God, human beings have physical and spiritual aspects. Within these are our emotions. This does not mean that it does not address the physical side of a human being. In fact, one of the most practical benefits involving the physical makeup of a human being is the weekly observance of Sabbath.[3] One need not look long before finding that research demonstrates the hazards to a human being’s physical wellbeing with the neglect of proper rest.[4]

Our first insight is that the Scriptures contain all that we need to thrive as image bearers of God, for His glory and for our good. A few passages of Scripture should help demonstrate this point.

Isaiah 29:13-14 provides a glimpse into the horrific results of neglecting God and His Word. Isaiah presents this prophecy, “Therefore, I will again confound these people with wonder after wonder. The wisdom of their wise will vanish, and the perception of their perceptive will be hidden.” (Isa. 29:14, CSB) Because they neglected God, God would turn them over to their inefficient counsel and understanding. It is not unlike, in my opinion, those who forsake the Word of God for the views of modern psychology.[5] Since God meets His people’s needs (primarily through the Scripture), biblical counselors utilize the Word for the counseling of His people.

Another important passage of Scripture is 2 Timothy 3:16-17. In this passage, Paul reveals how God gave humans His Word (via inspiration), its purpose, and its goal.[6] The goal is “that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” (2 Tim. 3:17, CSB) That is, whatever the child of God needs to be “complete” is found in “the Scripture” that “is inspired by God.”

A final passage that one must not miss when discussing the sufficiency of Scripture is 2 Peter 1:3-4. Here is the CSB’s rendering of this,

His divine power has given us everything required for life and godliness through the knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. By these he has given us very great and precious promises, so that through them you may share in the divine nature, escaping the corruption that is in the world because of evil desire.

There are several important implications that demand our attention, particularly in light of biblical counseling and the role of the Scriptures in the process. First, we note that God has exclusively provided “everything required for life and godliness.” There is nothing the child of God will lack for life or godliness that God Himself has not provided. Secondly, note the source of this exclusive provision: “through the knowledge of Him.” That is an interesting phrase, and yet, if you were like me, you may wonder where the reference to God’s Word is. It is there, although it is not as direct. That phrase, “the knowledge of Him,” is fascinating. “What does that mean?” Or, to put the question in a format pertinent to this post, “Where do we receive this knowledge?” The answer, as Peter would reveal, is the Word of God. He refers to it in verse four as “very great and precious promises.” Through God’s glory and goodness, He has provided us with His Word. And, when the Word is utilized in a God-ordained and Spirit-empowered way (as Peter phrases it, “through them”), we will be like Christ and avoid sin (“you may share in the divine nature, escaping the corruption that is in the world because of evil desire”).

These three references provide a brief depiction of the sufficiency of Scripture.[7] Beeke and Smalley, discussing that sufficiency, write,

“The fact that the Bible is the written Word of God, supremely authoritative and self-authenticating, clear in its doctrines, necessary for the church’s salvation and life, unified in is testimony to Christ, efficacious by the Spirit’s work, and unfailingly rue in all that it declares implies that the Bible is uniquely sufficient as God’s special revelation for us today.”[8] I would extend their thoughts to include the concept of biblical counseling. The Bible, and the Bible alone, is sufficient and alone capable of helping humanity in any true and full sense of the word.

While each question at the beginning of this post, and all unasked questions, need a more substantial and developed answer than “the Bible tells me so,” we need not look anywhere else for that answer than to the sufficient, life-giving Word of God.

[1] Heath Lambert, A Theology of Biblical Counseling: The Doctrinal Foundations of Counseling Ministry (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2016), 37, emphasis original.

[2] Joel James, Counsel with Confidence: A Quick Reference Guide for Biblical Counselors and Disciplers (Wapwallopen, WA: Shepherd Press, 2018), 27.

[3] I highly recommend Richard C. Barcellos, Getting the Garden Right: Adam’s Work and God’s Rest In Light of Christ (Cape Coral, FL: Founders Press, 2017). In this book, Barcellos develops and articulates a biblical theological view of the Sabbath.

[4] For one example, see Kathleen Doheny, “Working Yourself to Death: Long Hours Bring Risk,” WebMD, 16 July 2018, https://www.webmd.com/balance/stress-management/news/20180716/working-yourself-to-death-long-hours-bring-risks, accessed 27 October 2020.

[5] For an excellent discussion of the different approaches, see: Eric L. Johnson, ed. Psychology and Christianity: Five Views 2nd Edition (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2010).

[6] For inspiration, see Joel R. Beeke and Paul M. Smalley, Reformed Systematic Theology Volume I: Revelation and God (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2019), 325-332.

[7] For a fuller treatment, see Lambert, A Theology of Biblical Counseling, 37-59; Beeke and Smalley, Reformed Systematic Theology, 395-406.

[8] Beeke and Smalley, Reformed Systematic Theology, 396.

Biblical Counseling Helps

In this post, I want to share some of the recent contributions to biblical counseling. I hope that you find these resources pertinent to your own life and ministry.

Julie Lowe from CCEF wrote two posts that I think are helpful for parents and counselors of parents. As ministers (whether a biblical counselor, pastor, or volunteer), we forget that young people are different than adults. Whereas we may set up a weekly meeting and work through a book with an adult, children and adolescents are different. Their growth and mental capacities change, almost daily, and their ability to think and interact are vastly different. In this post, Julie encourages us to look at things differently.

In another post, Julie discusses four principles to discuss sex with one’s children. As one nearing that time for “the talk,” I appreciated Julie’s approach. She writes, “Whatever the reason, avoiding the topic communicates that you are unable or unwilling (or both) to discuss it, and your children will look elsewhere with their questions.” This startled me, and rightly so. I hope it startles you too, parent, as we have been assigned by our sovereign God for this purpose. We need to discuss sex with our children appropriately, and Julie has provided several principles to guide us.

John Henderson of the Association of Biblical Counselors provided a healthy perspective for the biblical counselor’s worldview. This is an essential aspect of counseling from the Scriptures, and yet it is lacking in many our of textbooks. Henderson writes, There are particular truths and distinctions that make a biblical counseling worldview unique from all the other systems of counseling in the world.” These truths and distinctions are necessary for the work of biblical counseling. Check out his work below.

Gabe Powell of the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors offers a wonderful discussion on death. We all, without the direct intervention of God, will die. Gabe reminds us, “In order to live like Christ, we must die like Christ.” As biblical counselors, we deal with death on a regular basis. This resource will help us develop a more biblical view of death, and will enable us to help people better.