We both love how Matthew has taken the concept of sin and given a breath of fresh air to the topic. You must read this book because in its pages you will finally gain a biblical perspective on sin and what it takes to free yourself from the bonds that so easily entangle!

Gary and Michael Smalley
Smalley Relationship Center
When mental illness afflicts a loved one, how can we understand what is happening and respond appropriately? This biblically-literate and scientifically-informed book offers helpful insight, encouragement, and practical advice. For pastors and for those who hurt for those who hurt, Matthew Stanford offers sensitive and welcome guidance.

David G. Myers, Ph.D.
Professor of Psychology, Hope College and author of Psychology Through the Eyes of Faith.

Monday, October 26, 2009


Heightened anxiety is not just a product of our fast-paced, modern society but has been a common problem throughout human history. We find it discussed in the wisdom literature (Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes), by Jesus in the gospels (Matthew, Luke) and in the epistles of Paul (Philippians) and Peter (1 Peter). We also see it manifested in the lives of many Old and New Testament biblical characters (e.g., Adam, Job, Saul, David, Elijah, Martha, Paul and Peter). Anxiety at normal levels is healthy. Concern for the well being of others (2 Corinthians 11:28; Philippians 2:28) or a physiological response that rouses us to action in a threatening or dangerous situation is a God given part of our being. But excessive worry or worse an anxiety disorder is not healthy but destructive both physically and spiritually. Anxiety is mentally divisive and a result of that confusion of thought is often a misperception of the character of God. God is seen as punitive, perfectionistic and authoritative, someone who can never be satisfied no matter how hard you try. When ministering to those struggling with anxiety our emphasis should be on God’s unconditional love and faithful provision for us. We must remind them that we do not have to perform for God’s love and acceptance. By grace we already have it if we are in Christ. When my anxious thoughts multiply within me, Thy consolations delight my soul (Psalm 94:19).

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Personality Disorders and the Bible

A personality disorder is a rigid, ingrained pattern of thoughts and behaviors that deviates significantly from the expectations of one’s society. This maladaptive pattern is usually well-established by late adolescence or early adulthood and is serious enough to cause distress or impaired functioning. People with a personality disorder are usually unaware that their thoughts and behaviors are inappropriate, so they tend not to seek help on their own.
Two of the most common and troubling of the personality disorders are borderline personality disorder (BPD) and antisocial personality disorder (ASPD). These personality disorders share a number of overlapping and related symptoms including problems with emotional expression, difficulty forming stable, healthy relationships and impulsive, self-destructive behavior. You may have thought that the Bible would have little to say about personality disorders, but in fact it gives a very clear description of two individuals who shows many of the symptoms associated with BPD and ASPD. I believe that we see an example of ASPD in the description of the “stubborn and rebellious son” found in Deuteronomy 21:18-21 (and possibly Ezekiel 18:10-13) while Gomer in the Old Testament book of Hosea appears to be an example of BPD.
The book of Hosea outlines a five step process of restoration in the life of Gomer that may be effective in ministering to a person diagnosed with BPD or ASPD. Step one is to clearly identify sinful behaviors and describe the associated consequences of such behavior (Hosea 2:1-13). When ministering to the individual with BPD or ASPD, we must be honest with them about the nature of their behavior and its consequences. This must be done in a spirit of love not judgment. Step two is to not become an enabler of the individual’s sinful and extreme behavior (Hosea 2:6). This means that you are not accepting or in denial about the seriousness of the individual’s extreme behaviors. Inconsistency in your response will only make these behaviors more likely to occur. Step three is a difficult one, especially for parents: allow the individual to suffer the full consequences of their behavior (Hosea 2:7). If you or someone else constantly covers for the individual or minimizes the negative consequences of their behavior in some way (e.g., pay off debt, post bail), then the potential for restoration is greatly limited. Step four is to continually make it clear to the person that restoration and forgiveness are possible regardless of what they may have done (Hosea 3:3). In many instances this will require you to humble yourself. It is only through full submission to Christ that you will be able to offer such unconditional acceptance and forgiveness. Finally, step five is to set up appropriate boundaries. Behavior does not change overnight. Once the person has returned to the family or relationship, they will need to be guided towards healing and restoration (Hosea 3:3). Clear and appropriate boundaries will help both you and them as you guide and monitor their progress. This is a long and difficult process for both you and the person with the disorder. Reward successes and point out failures in an environment of acceptance and love.