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, December 14, 2009

AD/HD Interview

For all those interested I will be on Midday Connect (www.middayconnection.org) with Melinda Schmidt discussing Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder, Monday, Dec. 28th at noon CST.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009


Personal stories are powerful. When we really get to know someone and begin to understand the events that have preceded their present circumstances it becomes harder to judge them and easier to show compassion. From time to time I will be posting the stories of the hurting people that I work with so that we all might begin to see suffering with the eyes of Christ.

Joanna was born in Germany where her father was stationed in the military. While appearing happy on the outside the family hid a dark secret and was in constant conflict. Joanna’s father was an alcoholic who physically abused both her and her mother. After the birth of her brother when she was five, Joanna adopted the role of mother/protector and worked hard to make the home environment safe and happy for him. To dull the pain from years of abuse she began drinking and smoking marijuana at 15. “I wanted freedom” she told me, “I was unhappy with my parents trying to control me”. While she would experiment with different drugs (marijuana, crack cocaine, prescription pain killers) through the years, much like her father alcohol was always her main addiction. Despite her heavy drinking she was able to graduate from high school and completed three years of college.

After 25 years of heavy drinking the longest period of sobriety she can remember is 30 months. She has attended seven different alcohol treatment programs but relapsed soon after completing each. Never married she has been involved in a number of unhealthy and abusive relationships with men. She has also been unable to hold a job for more than a few months at a time due to her addiction. “If I’m unhappy, I want to drink and because I drink I’m always unhappy”. When I met Joanna she had just completed her third week in a local inpatient, faith-based drug treatment program that I work with.

At 35 Joanna has no relationship with her father and hasn’t for some time. As I listened to her story I was struck by the amazing parallels between the life of a daughter left empty by the lack of a father’s love and the life of a father who never appreciated the blessing he had been given. She likely began drinking both because of a genetic predisposition passed down to her from her father and the severe abuse that he inflicted on her. As an adult she continued to try and heal her pain with alcohol as she moved from one abuser to another recreating the father-daughter relationship that had so damaged her as a child. In 1997 Joanna’s father was convicted of intoxication manslaughter and sentenced to prison for deaths he caused while driving drunk. Joanna herself has two convictions for driving while intoxicated. The legacy of this family, passed from generation to generation, is alcoholism and abuse. Joanna received it from her father much like he, as Joanna reported, had received it from his alcoholic father (Joanna’s grandfather).

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

The Bible and Madness

What we call mental illness was not always treated as a medical problem. In the not too distant past the abnormal thoughts, feelings and behaviors often associated with these disorders were suggested to be signs of personal weakness and something to be ashamed of. Unfortunately, this is still a far too common perception in the Church today and has resulted in the alienation of thousands who desperately need the spiritual support that only the body of Christ can provide.

Some have said that mental illness did not exist in biblical times and is just a modern invention to legitimize sinful behavior. I once read an author that based his argument on the fact that you cannot find the terms mental illness or mental disorder in the Scriptures. He is correct of course, you cannot find those terms in the Bible but you do see the related terms madness and insanity used often. These terms are used to describe a set of thoughts and behaviors recognized to be extreme, debilitating and abnormal in nature. The existence of madness and insanity in biblical times is clear:

Some References to Madness and Insanity in the Bible

Old Testament
A punishment for violating the covenant (Deuteronomy 28:28)
Feigned by David to escape capture (1 Samuel 21:13-15)
Prophet’s servant is thought mad (2 Kings 9:11)
Madness compared to foolish behavior (Proverbs 26:18)
Madness is the opposite of wisdom (Ecclesiastes 1:17; 7:7)
Nebuchadnezzar’s punishment (Daniel 4:32-34)

New Testament
Jesus is thought to be insane by His family (Mark 3:21; John 10:20)
Jesus heals a lunatic (Matthew 17:15)
Festus suggests that Paul is mad (Acts 26:24-25)
Believers could be thought to be mad (1 Corinthians 14:23)
Paul’s ideas so extreme as to be thought insane (2 Corinthians 11:23)

So individuals displaying abnormal thoughts and behaviors, the mentally ill, were clearly known throughout biblical history. Today those same abnormal thoughts and behaviors have been categorized into a set of specific mental disorders for which many effective interventions and treatments have been developed. Mental health research and practice have made significant strides in relieving the mental and physical suffering of those afflicted with mental illness. Yet there continues to be a high level of suspicion, distrust and even fear in the Church when it comes to psychology and psychiatry. The simple fact is that Christians develop mental illness at the same rates seen in the general population and suggestions such as “you need to pray more” or “this is just the result of weak faith” are ineffective in dealing with these serious medical conditions.