Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Sane Faith

David Powlison has been writing some fantastic articles for "Boundless" webzine, a publication of Focus on the Family. I believe these articles are life-changing. I've enclosed a portion of the first article below. You'll want to go to the website for the whole thing.

David Powlison has made a huge impact on how we at KGC understand gospel-centered living and biblical counseling. I believe David takes the theological wisdom of the Puritans, tempers it where needed with biblical insight and delivers us a down-to-earth biblically-faithful Christ-centered approach to Christian living. (A note of interest - David has roots in our area - he lived in Newton, MA, went to Harvard and served for some time at McClean Hospital in Belmont. He is a wonderful humble man - I got to sit down with him some years ago.)

Please read the articles slowly - perhaps just one a day or one a week over the next month or so. Take time to think about what David is saying. Get your bibles out and examine the articles in light of the word of God. Pray about it. And then think about how to live in light of these truths.


Garrett, 23, is a recent college grad. When some little thing frustrates him or he doesn't get his way, he explodes in anger. It goes way over the top. In college he was an episodic binge drinker, but he's started to drink regularly and heavily over the past year. The effects of alcohol in him are unpredictable. Sometimes booze mellows Garrett out, but most times it lowers his threshold for volatile hostility. In addition to his growing drinking problem, he routinely turns to online pornography for a "fix." His friends don't know about that, but they fear for his future, wondering if he will self-destruct with his drinking and violent temper.

Official diagnosis and current street wisdom? "Garrett suffers from intermittent explosive disorder (IED) and is an addictive personality — and Garrett is all about Garrett, and has control issues, big-time."

Sarah, a 29-year-old single woman, has become increasingly preoccupied with her looks, her calorie intake, and her exercise regime. She often "feels fat," at 5'9" tall and weighing only 103 pounds, She's relentless in her activities and self-care, competitive, always trying to prove herself. Her roommates and family have become more and more concerned. Sarah seems joyless, and has been detaching herself from normal social interactions. She seems nervously self-preoccupied most of the time, so she has little time, energy, or attention for anything or anyone besides herself.

Diagnosis and current wisdom? "Sarah has anorexia — and she's a perfectionist with low self-esteem."

Lise, 32 and married, with a toddler, has felt down ever since she had the baby. Lise has had a tendency to wallow in self-reproach ever since childhood, but lately it's gotten worse. She's mired in loops of self-condemning thoughts, endlessly rehearsing and bemoaning her faults, both real and imaginary. She has developed elaborate "quiet time" rituals that help her feel some sense that her life is OK. She never feels like God loves her. Her husband worries that Lise's ritualistic habits and "sticky thoughts" about personal failings interfere with her ability to raise their child. Her brooding casts a pall over their relationship, too. The simplest question — "How was your day?" — often turns into a dark spiral of complaint and despair. He walks on eggshells: "What can I do? What can I say?"

Diagnosis and current wisdom? "Lise has a case of clinical depression and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) — and she sets impossible standards for herself."

Chandra, 21, a senior in college, has battled intense anxiety feelings ever since adolescence. She gets tongue-tied if she's put on the spot in a social interaction. She increasingly avoids social situations, and only goes to gatherings or events if she has a friend with her to run interference and carry the ball conversationally. She hasn't been out on a date since a couple of ill-fated attempts in high school when she "almost had a panic attack" trying to figure out what to talk about. Chandra medicates her anxiety with daytime TV, Netflix and chocolate ice cream.

Diagnosis and current wisdom? "Chandra suffers from social anxiety disorder — and she's shy, gets glued to the tube, and needs her chocolate fix."

Do you recognize any of your friends in these people? I do. Do you recognize something of yourself in any of their problems? I do, too.

And do you also notice how each diagnostic label simply takes what we already know and then restates it in quasi-medical-sounding language? The actual experiences of life-lived get turned into a depersonalized "condition." Problems get viewed exclusively as something a person "has," rather than the array of things a person feels, thinks and does.

It's curious. The labels don't actually add any information to what we already know. Yet they somehow alter the entire way we perceive a person. They even alter how people perceive themselves. The story and the struggle get lost in translation.

Hold onto that thought, and we'll come back to it later. First we're going to climb into the story and the struggle.

See for more.

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