Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Better Living Through Chemistry?

Dear Readers, I have had numerous requests lately from those searching for information on so called chemical imbalance and its role in how women feel. Since I only wrote on this specifically once before I thought I would revisit this important topic. As always, this blog is not intended to treat or diagnose any medical condition. If you believe you are ill, see a qualified physician. If you have been taking prescribed medication do not stop taking your medication without the advise or consent of your doctor.

The number one reason people take medication of any kind is to feel better.
Whether it is an aspirin for a headache or Celebrex for arthritis, the goal is to eliminate the pain and suffering they are dealing with. Every day on your TV box you are presented with at least a dozen commercials showing you hurting people. Each of these ads contribute to the daily mantra of you must feel good, you must not be unhappy.
“Depression hurts, Cymbalta can help”
Lexapro tells you it will give you “the power to enjoy life”
Another woman’s smiling face infers that now that she takes Wellbutrin “I am ready to experience life”
The medications people are taking are for diagnosis known as mental illnesses or something that ends with the word “disorder.” It is known as better living through chemistry.
What Eli Lilly, Phizer and the other pharma think they are medicating are mental illness and emotional disorders. They say they are treating illness, and disease and disorder.
Illnesses are dis-eases. Some things we know to be illnesses are diabetes, cancer, over or under active thyroid. They are things that cause change to organs or cellular structure. They are not just diagnosed on how a person feels.
When a person who feels “bad,” sad, or anxious goes to the doctor, he should be doing blood work to rule out the obvious disease processes. By blood work and other tests that follow the scientific process, he can make a preliminary diagnosis as to if the patient has one of at least 70 scientifically proven illnesses that have as a side effect emotional problems. From these objective medical tests, the doctor can see that there is a medical problem that needs attention. One such illness would have to do with the thyroid. If the thyroid is not functioning properly a person will feel “bad”, be depressed, or anxious. The emotional problems are a symptom of the true illness. Once the illness hyper or hypo-thyroidism or even thyroid cancer is diagnosed and treatment has begun the feelings of depression or anxiety will dissipate. The doctor has made a correct diagnosis and treatment for the illness is underway. Success!
If there is an infection then antibiotics are prescribed, if there is a procedure needed it is scheduled or performed. However, if those blood tests come back normal, and there is no other sign of a disease process verifiable through subjective medical testing- then what? No doctor will allow you to come in and get medication or have a procedure done based on your word that there is a problem. Anyone who has ever gone to the doctor with a bad cold knows that! If that doctor cannot prove you need an antibiotic not even an act of Congress is going to get it for you.
When all medical testing comes back normal the fall back diagnosis is some sort of mental disorder, or a mental illness is suspected. If you have been in the situation where every test has been done and they all come back normal the doctor will usually suggest or refer you to a psychiatrist because there is no evidence there is a physical problem, therefore they conclude it is a mental one. The result of that visit is a diagnosis and a prescription for a psychotropic medication.
This is where the controversy lies from our perspective as well as the other respected physicians, psychologists and neurophysiologists who share our concern over the explosion of these diagnoses.
To be clear, I am not questioning the desire of medical professionals to help their patients. What I do question is the treatment of feelings and emotions with medications that are not treating true abnormal physiology.
What I do question is how right it is medically and morally to pump people (including children) full of medication that alters the brain chemicals, brain wave patterns, and physical structure when there is no medical basis for it?
In the opinion of many respected medical professionals (and that number is steadily growing) it is not good to be handing these medications out so people can “feel better.”
Such is the diagnosis of The Chemical Imbalance Theory which says:
One of the chemicals in your brain that is abnormally high or low. The ones you have heard about are serotonin and dopamine. Another thing you may have heard about is that lithium levels are too high or low.
The theory states that the sending nerve sends information to the receiving nerve using chemical neurotransmitters like serotonin and dopamine. These chemicals ensure the message moves forward and that the nerve cells continue to communicate. These neurotransmitters are very important to us because they determine what we feel. We would be without emotion if they did not exist. The chemicals send an electrical impulse that “jumps” the gap or synapse and completes the transfer of information.
The theory also states that the problem is in the neurotransmitters in ability to complete the jump, or to over jump the synapse giving false information to the brain in how to respond and how to feel. They say that because these brain chemicals are abnormal they interfere with the transfer of impulses from the nerve endings in the synaptic junction and this leads to feeling bad, and also to having bad or bizarre behavior.
This sounds great, but the problem is that there is no science to back this up. There are no conclusive studies to prove this theory. The only known way a person can be tested with any accurate conclusion is by a brain biopsy. And those are usually only done on dead people.
Chemical imbalance theories are just that- simply guesses that cannot be tested by any means other than subjective data accumulation.
The touted brain scans and PET scans are also not reliable methods for diagnosing these things either.
This stuff has been accepted widely as medical fact- however- there is a complete lack of medical evidence to prove any such thing exists. Research has provided conflicting and unreliable results.
There is a complete lack of medical evidence to prove any such thing exists.
To determine what abnormal is we must first know what normal is. It is impossible to know what normal is for any brain chemical at this time, because we are not able to measure any amount of any of the 150 known brain chemicals. Medical science has not advanced to the point where the synaptic junction can be measured either.
You might be sitting there and thinking “well there must be something wrong with me that these pills are fixing because ever since I began taking them I have felt better.” The doctor told you that you have a chemical imbalance in your brain, and the pills are fixing the levels so you feel better.
The question must then be asked- if we are not medicating genuine physiology, what is being medicated? Are we really medicating emotions? Are people being made to feel better artificially? I would have to say in the clear majority of cases, yes. Based on my research, yes. The majority of people taking medication are not being treated for anything medical- it is for the sake of feeling better.
Now this may upset some of you, I realize that; especially if you are currently taking some form of anti-depressant or other psychotropic medication. What I am going to ask of you, is to withhold your conclusion that I don’t know what I am talking about until you have read this entire segment and until you check out all these references I will provide for you. I am also going to warn you again NOT to stop taking any medication prescribed for you by a doctor. Many of these medications require medical supervision to get off of, and stopping them without medical supervision could be very dangerous!
More next time. Check out these resources: Toxic Psychology, Dr Peter Breggin; Deceptive Diagnosis, Kurt Grady; Why Christians Can’t Trust Psychology, Dr. Ed Bulkley, Seeing Depression Through the Eyes of Grace, Julie Ganschow, or simply do a google search on the chemical imbalance theory.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Your Spouse's Sexual Sin- Part 3- What If He Doesn't Want to Change?

It is sad but true that your husband may not want to admit he has a pornography problem, or that he is having an affair, or that he is frequenting strip clubs. He may accuse you of being crazy or any number of things. He may be very competent at causing you to doubt your sanity in this whole thing and for a little while you may decide your imagination is overactive. But if he is truly involved in some sort of sexual immorality you will be confronted with it again.

If he refuses to admit or stop the behaviors you still have to know how to deal with it as a godly woman and wife. Please understand there is nothing you can do to stop him or to change his behavior, that is between him and the Lord.

If your husband refuses to stop his sinful behaviors there are some specific things to be done: If he is a member of the church, you must tell him that you will have to get the leadership of your church involved to help him stop. This is not out of anger, or punitive; it is out of your love for him and your desire to help a brother who has fallen into sin (Gal.6:1, Matt 18). He may forbid you or threaten you with leaving or divorce if you dare tell his secret. This would be a risk I would take out of love and concern for him. If he ever threatens you with bodily harm get out of there!

You cannot sanction or participate in his sin no matter what he says to you. Your submission to his authority is not required if he asks you to sin. You may respectfully tell him that you can't do what he wants because it is sinful. That means if he wants you to watch pornography with him, you decline. If he wants you to participate in a sexual act that the Bible specifically forbids, you say you cannot.

Be very careful though, that you do not make taboo something God has not made taboo. A read through Song of Solomon reveals that God has given a married couple tremendous sexual freedom to enjoy each others bodies and the acts of sex. Do not make sin what God has not said is sin, even if it is something you are not comfortable with doing.

Pray that he would begin to hate his sin. Pray that the allure of whatever sexual sin he is involved in would fade and that he would desire to repent. I would also suggest you get your hands on a copy of a little booklet written by Dr. Ed Wheat called, How To Save Your Marriage Alone. Inside you will find many helpful things for you to do to win your husband back to you.

One word of caution I have for you; if your husband has been involved with literal adultery it is so very important that you be tested for STDs. As upsetting as this may be you must be checked because many of these diseases if left untreated or undiagnosed can lead to a painful condition called Pelvic Inflammatory Disease. This disease can ruin a woman's fertility if it develops.

Get some help for yourself. Listen to the wise counsel of your pastor regarding the discipline of your husband, and get consistent input from a godly woman who will counsel you from the Scriptures about this issue. You will want to stick close to her during this time and follow her leading. Please, please do not counsel with a man or with your pastor! You do not need to develop an emotional attachment to him so stick to getting your counsel from a woman.

You can get rid of whatever pornographic material you find in the house or on the computer but that won't change his heart. You can confront the woman he is having the affair with, but that won't change his heart either. You have to understand that unless and until he is willing to deal with his sexual immorality on the heart level- on God's level - nothing lasting will change.

I know this sounds hopeless, and I am truly sorry that I have no Step 1-3 for you to follow to fix this mess, but I want you to understand that the only One who can is Christ. If your husband is involved in immorality it will take the power of the living God to change him. Your job is to take the practical steps I have cited here, and be attentive to your own heart so that you do not become angry and bitter in the process. You have no way of knowing what God will do in this situation, and how God will choose to glorify Himself through it and through you.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Your Spouse's Sexual Sin- Part 2

However you learned of his sexual sin, the news is devastating. Questions abound as you try and figure out where you have gone wrong, and how you could have prevented it or missed it.
The question is, now what do you do? How do you deal with this? I want to help you, Christian Wife and Woman, to see this sin through the eyes of the Lord and the Gospel.

Your "dealing with it" begins with the Gospel. How does God see his sin? First, it is a sin against a holy God. Because he has first sinned against God, the Gospel must be applied. There is nothing within him spiritually that would prevent him from doing these things (Eph. 2:1). What you can do in this case is live the Gospel, and help him to see there is help and hope in Christ. You must forgive, but we will talk about that a little later on...

If he is a Christian, he must be reminded that because of the cross and because of Christ he can be and is forgiven by God. He may be so bogged down by his sin that he believes he is truly beyond help and hope. This is where you, loving wife, must set aside your own pain, betrayal, outrage and desires and minister to your brother in Christ. You must be able to see his sin for the worship disorder it really is. Your husband is worshiping his desire for pleasure rather than worshiping God.

Please resist the urge to rant and rail at him. Please resist the urge to threaten and strike back because you are so deeply hurt and angry. I asked you last time to take a deep, deep breath and pray that God would by His grace help you to settle down and look at this through His eyes. I am hoping you have done that and have come back today for some good counsel from the Word of God about this.

Brethren, even if anyone is caught in any trespass, you who are spiritual, restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness; each one looking to yourself, so that you too will not be tempted. Galatians 6:1 (NASB)

Your husband is in trouble. He needs your prayer, your godly strength, your wisdom and Biblical intervention. If he does not know you know about his sin, you must tell him that you do. I understand the urge will be to clobber him with this news, but I beg of you not to do that. Sin hates exposure- especially sexual sin, especially in a married man. The usual method of confrontation is to blast away and accuse him, angrily tell him what you found and rant and rage.

I would suggest that you begin by telling him of your concern for him, that you suspect that because of some things you found on the internet, or movies, or receipts or whatever you "evidence" is, that he is in trouble with some kind of sexual sin (name it) and that you want to help.

Then ask him questions. Questions will prick his conscience. If you begin to accuse and make statements he will quickly switch to a position of defense and shut you down. Your attitude and demeanor mean everything right now. I assure you, he will respond much better to a gentle wife's probing questions than he will to a ranting irate one. As you ask questions about who, and how long get enough details that you are satisfied and then ask him to please go to the Pastor with you. Remind him that you are his ally in this, not his enemy and that you want to save your marriage. It is important to ask him if he does too. As him if he actually wants to stop this behavior and get free of whatever he is involved in.

If it is pornography, ask him to get it all out, whatever he has and help him to bag it up and throw it away, or burn it, or something. Getting rid of what he brings out does not mean there is no more, or that he won't get more. Before these desires for illicit sex will stop being acted on his heart must be changed. (I have written extensively about this on this blog and in a book that we carry at our counseling center.)

If he is involved with another woman in an emotional affair, or if he is having sexual encounters from frequenting strip clubs or prostitutes or women he meets in bars or on the internet you must ask him if he intends to continue these activities and divorce you, or if he wants to restore your marriage.

Truthfully, he may not know what he wants to do. Sin confuses people, especially sexual sin because it brings such powerful physical sensations and emotions along with it. Pleasure is addicting and a man involved in immoral sex has been spending much of his time feeding that pleasure sensor in his flesh and his heart.

If he indicates he wants to repent and restore your marriage, you must urge him to get the help of a good Biblical Counselor who can help him to see God's plan for change. You may also benefit from some intensive discipleship from a woman who can help you to work through this biblically.

There are many issues to be dealt with here. Trust has been shattered, anger, fear, anxiety, all these issues and more are often present in a wife when she learns of her husbands infidelity. Please understand these reactions are normal; however God does not want you to live in this place emotionally or spiritually. If you attempt to ignore these issues, thinking it is somehow spiritual to do so you will regret it. These do not just disappear on their own, they have to be worked through biblically. Otherwise all you would do is to stuff it deep inside and over time, I promise it will come back to hurt you and him and frustrate any plans of reconciliation.

More next time..

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Dealing With Your Spouse's Sexual Sin Part 1

I have gotten many requests for this topic, (48 since January 1!) so I am going to address this issue in detail and specifically.

How did you become aware of his sin? Did you find it on the home computer, or his work laptop? Were you suspicious about new behaviors he has developed? Did you find a note or a receipt that clued you in to the fact he was not actually where he said he would be?

However you learned of it, the news is devastating. If you thought your marriage was a good one and you learn that he has been unfaithful in any way the news shatters your life. Questions abound as you try and figure out where you have gone wrong, and how you could have prevented it or missed it. Your heart first breaks, and then steels itself for the confrontation that is sure to come. On the heels of the heartbreak is rage and anger and humiliation- and fear.

The scenarios are too numerous to address one by one, and your situations are so vastly different from one another that I could spend a lifetime addressing each issue if I chose to take that on. Instead, I will tell you that I completely understand what you are dealing with and facing. My first marriage broke up due to infidelity of all kinds, so your pain and rage and confusion are not new to me.

The question is, now what do you do? How do you deal with this? I want to help you, Christian Wife and Woman, to see this sin through the eyes of the Lord and the Gospel. Please hang in there with me through this process.

Your "dealing with it" begins with the Gospel. As angry and upset as you are this minute, please take the time to look at this sin as "sin." How does God see his sin? First, it is a sin against a holy God.

For this is the will of God, your sanctification; that is, that you abstain from sexual immorality; 1 Thess 4:3

Because he has first sinned against God, the Gospel must be applied. If he is not a Christian, then he obviously needs the Gospel for his salvation first, and growth to follow. If he is not a Christian, he has acted out of the only nature he has! He has acted out of his sinful nature. There is nothing within him spiritually that would prevent him from doing these things (Eph. 2:1)

If he is a Christian, he must be reminded that because of the cross and because of Christ he can be and is forgiven by God. In this case, your husband does have available help in the Person of the Holy Spirit. He does have a new nature out which he can operate. He may be so bogged down by his sin that he believes he is truly beyond help and hope. This is where you, loving wife, must set aside your own pain, betrayal, outrage and desires and minister to your brother in Christ. You must, in these hours and coming days choose to see his sin, as "sin" and by the power available to you from the Holy Spirit minister to your husband.

You must be able to see his sin for the worship disorder it really is. Please allow me to explain;
Many husbands are caught in the downward cycle of viewing pornography. However innocent it began, it quickly becomes a major idol of the heart pushing everything else out of the way to be satisfied. Pornography, like all other sins we commit is the result of a worship disorder of the heart. Your husband is worshiping his desire for pleasure rather than worshiping God.

For from the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, all sexual immorality, theft, lying, and slander. Matt. 15:19

Christ died for this. Your husband is sinful yet accepted by God because of Christ. It is all of grace. If you can begin by planting your feet solidly on that Rock, than you will survive this and you could in fact come out on the other side even stronger and with a better marriage than what you have now!

Please resist the urge to rant and rail at him. Please resist the urge to threaten and strike back because you are so deeply hurt and angry. Please take a deep, deep breath and pray that God would by His grace help you to settle down and look at this through His eyes.

This is where we start. Come back next time and we will go on through this process.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

The Gospel Centered Counselor

You may wonder about this line of conversation I am having with you, and why I am making such a big deal out of all this gospel stuff. I have learned over the past several years that even as a Biblical Counselor I was for years misguided in my thinking about the centrality of the gospel and the preeminence of the cross in discipleship.

When I first began counseling and discipling women, it was stressed to us to be sure our counselee was a Born Again Christian because if they were not indwelt by the Holy Spirit they could not change. But from that point on, the gospel was never mentioned! It appeared to be one item on the check list of things to do and from that point on it was a matter of process. Once we got the whole issue of salvation "out of the way" we could progress to meeting the challenges and issues the counselee brought to the table.

Now, if any of you were counseled, discipled, or taught by me in that manner I sincerely ask your forgiveness. Please understand I acted in ignorance and have since learned and grown in wisdom and discernment.

The Bible is the Gospel! All things in the Bible point us to Christ our Sacrifice, Christ our Redeemer, Christ our Justification, Propitiation, and Lord. It is the story of our salvation and the cross of Christ plays THE central role in it.

The Discipleship Counselor must remember to preach and teach this Gospel to believers in the counseling room. Too often I think we tend to use the Gospel in one dimension, as a set of biblical principles for living rather than our means to growth. The Gospel must be in every session and every piece of homework we have. It is time for us to realize that there is nothing deeper than this. The Gospel is it. All we believe and teach rises and falls on it as our foundation and everything we say and do in our private lives as well as our ministries must, must, must be based upon it, and immersed in it.

The problems people bring to us have to be viewed in the context of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Often our counselee's struggle with guilt and shame and are locked into Performance Based Christianity; the kind that says: "As long as I am obeying, I am accepted." Thus setting up a foundation of "Religion" for themselves, and omitting the need for the cross and the gospel. They view their struggles with the flesh as something God is not in the midst of and cannot understand that their struggles exist at all is because of that relationship with Christ, because they already are accepted!

When the proper Gospel-centered thinking is in place, those we disciple will begin to understand that, "I am accepted because of Christ and that is why I desire to obey, and why I do obey."

I am going to try to present this to you over a series of posts, but since I am truly reformatting my own thinking as I go, and I post daily so these thoughts may not be connected every day.

You are welcome to join in this process with me Sisters, I always welcome your comments.

Monday, March 23, 2009

The Christian You Would Never Want to Meet

I used to be the Christian You Would Never Want to Meet. In the 1990's I stood on corners, holding signs and tracts and boldly approached women heading into abortion clinics and begged with them not to kill their babies. I hollered across the parking lots at the clinic doors when the patrons would come out for their cigarette breaks while waiting for their turn to see the abortionist. I also used to go "soul winning" and tract passing, and tried friendship evangelism, and lifestyle evangelism. I took EE, and was a part of the group that would present the gospel at various evangelistic meetings. I knew the Romans Road and traveled it often. I can honestly say I thought a lot of what I did for God. I was proud to be a part of those activities, and I wore my concern for the lost on my sleeve like a badge of honor. Not any more.

Now, lest you think me a heretic or something, allow me to explain how God has taken and shaken that prideful woman and shown me a better way.

Galatians 1:6 says, "I am amazed that you are so quickly deserting Him who called you by the grace of Christ, for a different gospel; which is really not another; only there are some who are disturbing you and want to distort the gospel of Christ."

I think too often in presenting the gospel, we forget the cross. We forget that the gospel is the cross and the cross is the gospel! We get a fair amount of people in our counseling center who think they are Christians, and call themselves Christians but are unconverted. They have never made that connection between Christ and the cross.

The cross of Jesus Christ is for the purpose of the gospel, and we Christians cannot ever forget we need that cross and that gospel every waking moment of our lives.

Once you have been touched by the gospel you are changed inward and outward. The inward application is you see yourself as God sees you- you are a sinner, unworthy of saving but for Christ who now has a position of honor and righteousness in the Kingdom of God and of Christ. Your perspective on people and on God and creation changes as well. You begin to see the world through the lens of the Lord, through the Word and the Holy Spirit.

The outward application is an increased love and concern for the lost. In this new kind of love, I am a "sent one" in the sense that I am a part of that Great Commission of Matt. 28:19. I am sent to serve others in a missional sense. My life becomes a mission to serve those who do not see the gospel in light of the cross, nor the cross in light of the gospel. This includes all mankind.

I am to spend the rest of my life living the gospel! Preparing others for works of service, helping, healing and binding up the wounds of the afflicted, being a part of the world as Jesus was on a day-by-day basis.

These are huge thoughts and even larger actions. They demand selfless hearts and uncluttered lives. In the midst of daily tasks live the gospel, put it on display in your life for others to see.

Friday, March 20, 2009

In My Time, Beloved

Yesterday I was writing about waiting. Waiting is such a hard thing to do and there seem to be an inordinate number of people I know waiting for something. When the waiting is prolonged we become impatient and angry that God's will is taking so long to be revealed in our lives.
As I pray about the things I and others are waiting for I am reminded of the Hebrews and their captivity in Egypt.
So God heard their groaning; and God remembered His covenant with Abraham, Issac, and Jacob. God saw the sons of Israel and God took notice of them. Exodus 2:24, 25
Last time we talked about how God hears us, and has not forgotten us. Today we look at what God saw.
God saw the suffering of His people, and He sees your suffering this moment too. He is not watching from His heavenly throne with His arms crossed across His mighty chest passively observing you like a bug under a magnifying glass, He is actively building character in you as you struggle. He is building faith, and perseverance, and trust and hope and endurance in your heart and mind. He is preparing you even now for the next trial you will face, strengthening you so that when that day comes you will be able to bear it.
"For the eyes of the LORD move to and fro throughout the earth that He may strongly support those whose heart is completely His. 2 Chron. 16:9a
Finally, God took notice of them. On the surface, this can be misleading because it sounds as though God was unaware of them or their plight. What this verse actually means is that God “knew” them; He brought to bear the covenant He made with their forefathers. It was not because of any action they had done no set of righteous deeds caused God to move, it was simply time.
We can take a lesson from this as well. Sometimes while we are waiting we get a mindset of works righteousness and wrongly think that if we fast more, pray harder, sacrifice something, and beg or plead with tears that God will move on our behalf; that we can make God move. I am sorry, we cannot. God will move in your situation when it brings Him the most glory. It may be the last minute of the last hour you have or in the time you least expect Him to do so. Always, always beloved, He moves when it brings Him the most glory.
This is further testimony to why I say that it is all about Him and not at all about us. From the time God began to actively intervene in the captivity of the Hebrews it was all about bringing glory to Himself. All those miraculous signs were not about Pharaoh, or Moses and Aaron or the Hebrews; they were about a mighty and all powerful God revealing His glory to the world.
When God chooses to move in your circumstances it will be for His glory and your benefit. Be assured that as He was bringing Moses into the world He had the same plan in mind as the one He brought to pass. He already has the answer to your question of “when” and your job in this time of waiting is to pray He would bring Himself glory in revealing it.