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.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

A Christ Centered Home

In my writings I try and emphasize that mental disorders result from an interaction between biological vulnerabilities and environmental factors. Risk factors such as family conflict, physical or sexual abuse, low self-esteem, and a negative outlook on life are common to a number of psychiatric disorders. I would suggest that, in addition to offering help to those presently suffering with mental disorders, we in the body of Christ also have an opportunity to help prevent or limit the development of these disorders. We may not be able to do much about our biology, but we can certainly alter our environment. We can do this by making Christ the central focus of our families and teaching our children how valued they are in the eyes of God.

While there is no special formula for developing a Christ centered home and family, I would like to give you a simple set of characteristics that I believe are helpful. To make these characteristics easier to remember, I have formed them into an acrostic: CHRIST (C–Commitment, H–Humility, R–Responsibility, I–Intentionality, S–Safety, T–Transparency).

In the development of a Christ centered home, the parents must be fully committed to one another (Matthew 19:6). Divorce is not an option (Malachi 2:14–16), and the children need to know that. You must recognize that there are many trials in a marriage, but that through the power of Christ those trials are actually opportunities to grow closer together (James 1:2–4). As parents, we must be humble before God and recognize that we are powerless without him (John 15:5; James 4:6–10). Trying to do it all on our own will only lead to frustration and failure. God has given us a great responsibility as parents, and we must accept our role as guardian and teacher (Proverbs 22:6). If we don’t, the world is all too ready to train our children in its way of living. Be intentional in teaching your children about the Lord (Deuteronomy 6:6–9). Read the Bible and pray with them; have family discussions about the faith. Some of my best memories are conversations with my daughter about science and faith. Fill your home with the sights and sounds of God. It is our duty as parents to teach our children the things of the Lord, and we must be proactive in doing so. Make your home and family a safe haven. What I mean by a “safe haven” is a place in which your children are loved and accepted for who they are, not for how they perform. Children will be drawn to that type of environment and they will have a better appreciation for the unconditional love and acceptance that is offered to us through Christ (Romans 8:1–2). Finally, be transparent in your faith. Let your children see that Christ is your life. Show them that while the life of a Christian may have its ups and downs, Christ is steadfast in His love and an unmovable foundation on which to build our lives (Luke 6:47–48).

Just imagine a young girl who grows up recognizing that she is unconditionally accepted and loved by God. She sees God the Father reflected in her earthly father and the image of Christ and the church reflected in her parents’ marriage. She is constantly reminded by her family that their love and acceptance are not based on her performance. She has a real hope and a real future. It is not impossible for her to have a problem—even a mental disorder—but many of the risk factors have been removed. Much like Job, she is prepared when the storm comes.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Psychiatric and Developmental Disorders in Children

For me the emails and phone calls are now a regular occurrence, happening several times a week. Desperate parents seeking help for a child suffering with a psychiatric or developmental disorder. Today my post is mainly for those parents who struggle daily to support and care for a child afflicted by a brain related disorder.

You have most likely doubted your ability to effectively parent your child. You may have blamed yourself for your child’s problems. What did I do wrong? You may have even questioned your ability to love your child. I don’t have any more to give! Let me encourage you from the Word of God. Your child with all his problems was created by a loving, almighty God just as he is, disorder and all. God doesn’t make mistakes (Genesis 1:31). He knew him before his birth (Jeremiah 1:5), He formed him in the womb (Psalm 139:13; Isaiah 44:2, 24) and He brought him into the world (Psalm 22:9; 71:6). God has given him to you as a gift, a reward (Psalm 127:3). He is no less of a gift because he has a disorder, nor is he any less loved by God. God chose you to be his parent. And as a believer in Christ, He has equipped you with all the love and patience necessary to raise him (2 Thessalonians 3:5). At times that may seem impossible, but remember, you have been transformed. You are a new creation in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17). God has placed His very Spirit within you (Galatians 4:6). And the same power that raised Christ from the dead is working within you at this very moment (Ephesians 1:19-20). Since God chose you to be his parent and He poured His life into you, don’t you think He will support you through this trial? This is an opportunity for you to grow closer to Him! Your son may have greater cognitive and physical needs than most children, but he has the same spiritual needs that everyone has --- to know the Way, the Truth and the Life, Jesus Christ. You have been given the honor of training him up in Christ. God has a great purpose and plan for his life, just as He does for yours. Do not let the world define your child for you. See him for who he is; the beloved creation of God, made in His image and given to you as a gift.

So what are we, the church, to do? As a community of believers, we must not withdraw from the problem of psychiatric and developmental disorders in children but instead choose to face it with God’s grace and wisdom. Our children are struggling and we, the disciples of Christ Jesus, have adopted a cold, judgmental approach to dealing with these problems. This is not who we are! Christ said that they would know we were His disciples because of our love for one another (John 13:35). Where better for a child, whether they have a brain disorder or not, to look for love and acceptance than the church? Where better for parents to go for support and comfort than the Body of Christ? As a community our approach to these disorders, should be one of love and grace. We must lead by example. So let us love one another, because love is from God (1 John 4:7).