What it is: May is mental health awareness month, making mental health and suicide prevention bigger topics than ever. #mentalhealthmatters has around 42 billion views on TikTok, and #mentalhealthawareness has racked up 20 billion.
Why the conversation is changing: The CDC’s Youth Risk Behavior survey showed that suicidal ideation, especially for teenage girls, is continuing on a concerning trajectory. In 2021, 30% of girls said that they had seriously considered suicide in the past year, and 24% said they had an actual plan to end their life. According to data published by Mental Health America, 16.4% of youth reported experiencing a major depressive episode within the last 12 months. This news comes at a time when adults are feeling so lonely that the US surgeon general has declared loneliness a public health emergency. Stigma around mental health topics appears to be eroding, but that isn’t necessarily leading to better mental health outcomes for teens and for the population at large.
Conversation Starter:What do you think are the biggest contributors to mental health issues for your generation? (Check out our new video series on Mental Health for more help having this conversation!)
“A pessimist is one who makes difficulties of his opportunities and an optimist is one who makes opportunities of his difficulties.” —Harry Truman
Is pain good or bad? Dr. Matthew Loftus makes the case that avoiding suffering undermines the role of medicine and also stunts our ability to feel and express compassion. Check out this full article and the thoughts John Stonestreet shared about them.
“What a sweetness lies in the little word ‘our’; how much is God’s glory endeared to us when we consider our interest in Him as ‘our Lord’ [Psalm 8:1].” —Charles Spurgeon, in Spurgeon and the Psalms
The Holy Spirit can speak to us through other people. Be sure to check out all of my videos on my YouTube channel.
“A time will come when instead of shepherds feeding the sheep, the church will have clowns entertaining the goats.” —Charles Spurgeon
“It is possible to adopt an outward demeanor of great meekness, while inside our appetite for applause is insatiable. . . . Oh, what a constant companion, what a tyrannical commander, what a sly, subtle and insinuating enemy is this sin of pride!” —John Stott
“Every word from God comes with the power to make that word happen.” —Kevin Berry
“The question is not, ‘Should we pray for the lost people of our community?’ The question is, ‘Will we?’ Will we pray for our neighbors, our community, our nation, and our world? Will we seek the peace of the world and the wellbeing of all our fellow humans before the Lord in prayer? [Jeremiah 29:7]
“If we will not, then we must face up to the fact that we are disobeying a divine mandate, abandoning our neighbors to their folly, and stoking the fires of indifference—if not outright scorn—for the unbelieving world around. But if we will pray, who knows what God might be willing to do?
“Those prayers may be prayers of anguish and anger at times; but they must also be prayers for God to work in the hard hearts of our unsaved neighbors, just as He has worked in ours, to bring new life, forgiveness, and hope to those who now live apart from God in a world full of rebellion and sin.” —T.M. Moore
Axis is a great resource to help parents communicate effectively with their pre-teen and teenage children. In the wake of the school shooting in Nashville, Axis posted this: “We have created resources to help parents and caring adults have conversations about violence and school shootings. Consider our Conversation Kit on Violence, our Parent’s Guide to School Shootings, our Parent’s Guide to Talking About Violence, and our Parent’s Guide to Anxiety, for starters.”
Pastors, on Monday morning, as you debrief how things went on Sunday, if you are feeling a bit discouraged, I want you to consider something Jesus said. Your success in ministry is not exclusively seen in the harvest you reap, but in the seeds you are sowing. Keep sowing good seed faithfully and then let God help it grow.
“We ought above all things to desire a heavenly happiness; to be with God and dwell with Jesus Christ. Though surrounded with outward enjoyments, and settled in families with desirable friends and relations; though we have companions whose society is delightful, and children in whom we see many promising qualifications; though we live by good neighbors, and are generally beloved where known; we ought not to take our rest in these things as our portion. We should be so far from resting in them, that we should desire to leave them all, in God’s due time. We ought to possess, enjoy and use them, with no other view but readily to quit them, whenever we are called to it, and to change them willingly and cheerfully for heaven.” —Jonathan Edwards
“Jesus didn’t preach to tell you to turn over a new leaf, but to turn you to a new life.” —Reinhard Bonnnke
Steven Lee has an excellent post entitled Good leaders are easy to follow. I wholeheartedly concur! “A church’s willingness to obey and submit affects the joy and the care they receive from their leaders. But the reverse is true as well. Leaders can lead in a way that makes obedience and submission easy and happy, or difficult and frustrating. Shepherds shape the habits of the sheep.”
T.M. Moore has a series of posts on apologetics, which I encourage you to check out. In one post he writes, “God is not a capricious Deity. He does not act in ways that make it difficult to know Him or His will. His purposes are carefully considered and prudentially engaged, and in such a way that human beings can understand what He is about. … God shows us that He Himself is reasonable in that He makes known Himself and His will in a wide range of rational ways—through types and symbols and teachings and verbal exchanges of many different sorts. Anyone who takes the time to read the Bible can understand it. Its stories are stories about people like us. The teachings of Scripture are not shrouded in arcane or mystical language. What God has done and what God requires can be clearly discerned by any reasonable person, because God reveals Himself and His will in terms amenable and accessible to reason.”
Listen to the podcast of this post by clicking on the player below, and you can also subscribe on Apple, Spotify, or Audible.
I don’t think there’s any arguing that Jesus must have been the healthiest Person to ever live. Dr. Luke records His growth in just one succinct verse: “And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man” (Luke 2:52). Every word of Scripture is inspired, right down to the order the words are penned. So when Luke says first that “Jesus grew in wisdom,” that is our indication that a healthy mind is the foundation for every other aspect of health.
I recently received an email from a Christian brother asking for prayer and counseling in overcoming lust and pornography. I naturally agreed to pray with him, but I also said, “Before I offer you any strategies to try, let me ask you a quick question: What have you already tried to get victory over this?”
He replied, “I’ve tried praying, watching videos on it, and basically saying no to the devil. But the temptation comes when I am weak and I think, ‘I can just try again tomorrow!’ And then I fall into it. I am just tempted at times throughout the day, and sometimes I fight it with prayer, but other times I just fall right into it basically without even trying.”
What my friend is dealing with here is a natural, unconscious response. Our brains like well-worn paths because it’s very easy and comfortable for our minds to automatically respond as they have responded before. As in the case of my friend, it may be heading down a path of lust that leads to pornography. For others, it may be unhealthy choices made in response to certain triggers, or it may be the anger that flares up into biting words when a certain someone pushes your buttons.
We head down that well-worn path unconsciously and automatically. Our immediate response might bring some temporary relief, but usually, we’re not very happy with where we’ve ended up once again.
If we are going to make a new path—or a new, healthier response—we first need to become aware of the well-worn path we automatically go to. So my counsel to my friend who emailed me for help was to start keeping a journal. I wrote back:
Your willpower alone isn’t going to cut it (as you’ve probably realized). Here’s the first step I would suggest: keep a journal of every time you are tempted to lust or porn. Write down what you were feeling, was it day or evening, what was happening just before that, did you have time in prayer and Bible reading that day or not, how did you fight the temptation, were you successful or not? I think as you keep track of these things you will begin to see some triggers and some patterns. Maybe you were physically tired, or lonely, or hungry. Maybe it was a certain person you talked with or a show you watched. Maybe it was after checking your social medias or after a super-hard day at work. When you start to see patterns of what is causing you to go to porn for relief, you can recognize them earlier and head them off before they grip your mind so strongly.
We don’t think about our thinking very frequently. We keep thinking along those well-worn paths out of habit, not because we want to go down those paths. This is where the Holy Spirit is invaluable: He helps us see those well-worn paths, identify which paths are unhealthy or unproductive, and then help us begin to carve out a new path.
It’s not just thinking about right things, but thinking rightly about all things—even the painful things or the triggering things.
In Ephesians 4:22-25, Paul counsels us to take off the “old self” and “put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness. Therefore” (and this is an important conclusion) “each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to his neighbor.”
Do you remember that Jesus taught us to love our neighbor as ourselves (Mark 12:28-31)? Paul says we are to speak truthfully to our neighbor, so doesn’t that mean that we have to first speak truthfully to ourselves? Yes, we do! If we are going to make new paths for our mind, we are going to have to talk to ourselves differently.
My cousin Dick Brogden wrote, “A primary theater of spiritual warfare is in our heads and thoughts. The primary weapon of the enemy is deceit. He starts with attractive little lies and half-truths, and works his way up to blatant, ridiculous, perverted nonsense. Winning the battle for truth in the mind is critical to winning the war. If we lose enough of the little skirmishes, we can believe and do any wicked thing. If we daily combat lies with light and truth, we will stand firm.”
The “little lies and half-truths” will keep us trapped on our old, well-worn paths. But identifying those lies, and speaking the truth to them, will help us travel down new paths that lead to health and freedom.
Let the Holy Spirit be your Counselor. Let the Holy Spirit help you think about what you’re thinking about when you’re triggered to unconsciously head down the unhealthy well-worn path. Let the Holy Spirit help you see a new path. And then let the Holy Spirit empower you to stick with it—to keep doing the hard work of blazing a new path.
I am going to build on this series of messages about a Christian’s mental health, but let’s start with this simple prayer:
Holy Spirit, help me make new paths.
As you pray this, listen to how the Holy Spirit will guide you away from the unhealthy, unconscious, well-worn paths, and will then lead you into the new, healthy path that brings you freedom.
God will give you everything you need to minister to others. But there’s one thing you have to do first…
“He who thinks half-heartedly will not believe in God; but he who really thinks has to believe in God.” —Isaac Newton
Back in 1929, Donald Gee shared three temptations that Pentecostals needed to be cautious of avoiding: (1) selfish satisfaction, (2) fanaticism, and (3) the temptation to forsake the pure worship of God in exchange for popularity. Check out the full article here.
Immature people only want to do the bare minimum, but mature people want to do more than is expected of them. Jesus called these people those that went the second mile. That was a topic in my most recent Monday Motivation series.
“This is one of the rewards of reading the Old Testament regularly. You keep on discovering more and more what a tissue of quotations from it the New Testament is; how constantly Our Lord repeated, reinforced, continued, refined, and sublimated the Judaic ethics, how very seldom He introduced a novelty.” —C.S. Lewis, Reflections On The Psalms
The folks at Fight The New Drug provide excellent research on the dangers of pornography as well as many helpful resources for folks to break free from a porn addiction. Pornography often attracts people when they are emotionally drained, but viewing porn actually increases feelings of loneliness and isolation.
If we ever start to think the Church is one or two ministers and a whole bunch of parishioners, it really won’t be a Church. According to Ephesians 4, all Christians should be ministers.
“Probably most Christians treat the calling of God as a kind of punctuated equilibrium. He breaks into their lives to ‘call’ them to some activity or task, but only from time to time, and only for that activity or task. He ‘calls’ us to believe the Gospel, and we do. He ‘calls’ us to this or that church, and we go. He ‘calls’ us to some ministry or other Christian activity, and so we participate. He ‘calls’ us to make a special gift, go on a mission trip, send a note of encouragement to a friend, and so forth. Our lives run on their own schedules, so whenever God ‘calls’ us to do something, we’ll try to get it done.
“But most of the time, other things have prior claims on our lives. We have jobs, families, friends, responsibilities, things we like to do or must do. We can’t respond to every calling from God because, well, there just isn’t enough time. We say, when friends press us to consider this or that Christian opportunity, ‘If God calls me to it, I will.’ But aren’t we just using the language of piety to relieve the discomfort of pressure to do something we’d rather not do?
“We are called of God. Of this there is no doubt. But for most Christians, the way they understand God’s calling is not the same as the way God issues it. And they have not yet learned to value His calling as He intends, as the defining and guiding value of our lives.”
John Stonestreet wrote, “The moment Roe v. Wade was overturned last month, desperate activists began to dust off the oldest and oddest arguments for abortion. These “gotcha” scenarios are supposed to prove that pro-lifers don’t really value human life or consider preborn babies from the earliest stages of development to be human. Instead, these pretend scenarios demonstrate that pro-lifers are simply hypocrites.” Check out the rest of his post.
“When the facts are not clear [in a relationship issue] it is better to consider someone innocent until proven guilty. That is the law of mercy, which we all want applied to us as well.” —Dr. John Townsend, Who’s Pushing Your Buttons
Pornography is contributing to the over-sexualization of young people, which is reaping some painful consequences…
Listen to the podcast of this post by clicking on the player below, and you can also subscribe on Apple, Spotify, or Audible.
“Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one another” (Romans 12:10).
What does it mean to give preference to a friend or loved one? Here are a few suggestions to get the ball rolling.
Giving preference means I am…
…speaking their “language.”I am a classic Doer, which means my style is, “Ready, Fire! aim.” I need to give grace to those who move a bit slower than me.
…moving at their “speed.” My temperament is highly choleric, so I get fired up quickly and attack situations head-on. I need to give grace to those temperaments that are less emotional and want to handle things more strategically.
…sensitive to their “fears.” It’s insensitive for me to say, “It’s no big deal” about something that troubles them. Empathy is important so I can see and feel things like they see and feel them.
…helping them battle their “demons.” Perhaps viewing pornography isn’t a temptation for me, but it may be for someone else. So I need to seek out resources and accountability to help them fight this battle like I was fighting my own battle.
…avoiding their “stumbling blocks.” Perhaps I can watch certain genres of movies without compromising my Christian testimony, but it may cause my brother or sister a lot of grief. If I am going to prefer them in love, I will avoid talking about those movies in their presence, and I certainly won’t try to get them to “lighten up” to see things my way.
Agape love is never selfish—it doesn’t want “my way” but it wants others to be edified. So, ultimately, what it means to give preference to another is to only promote those things that will build them up. Remember: saints is always plural in the New Testament, so we must build each other up to bring out the saintliness in all of us.