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Integrating Physiological Components of Anxiety with A Christian World and Life View

Updated on May 31, 2013

Great hub, but...

My last hub on anxiety got the following response.

"How timely of a hub, when we stalwartly put on faces of Christmas cheer, all the while wrestling against these terrors within ... How will I pay for this? Will she come to the family dinner? Does anyone really care? What happens if ... If ... If ...

"Wonderfully balanced perspective, Doc. Greatly enjoyed reading this hub.

"A question for you: how do you balance the spiritual approach here with the organic manifestation of anxiety / depression / other disorders? In other words, there are often identifiable, quantifiable physiological issues that create or exacerbate such things as anxiety, things like brain structure irregularities or chemical imbalances in the neuro-chemistry of the brain."

How would you integrate these phenomenon into your perspective above?"

That's a great question deserving more than a sentence or two.

My car broke down

I've often breathed a thank-you prayer for a car that has served me well for over 100,000 miles. But the other day, my friendly mechanic informed me that it has a serious disease: "strutitus." One strut was totally dead, the other three were on life-support. It would cost over $1,500 to cure her. I was shocked, copped an attitude toward the world for a while and then repented. I reasoned that the same Lord who had made it possible to purchase my vehicle brand new back in 2005 would provide now. I had long ago figured out that the most inexpensive car to drive is the one you already own. So I bit the bullet and took it for treatment. I'm grateful for a mechanic I trust.

What's that have to do with anything?

Just this. It never occurred to me to lay hands on my car and pray that God heal it. While for me there are spiritual dimensions associate with my car's condition, the car desperately needed the skills of a mechanic. What I mean is that its breakdown created opportunities for me either to trust the Lord or to ignore Him.

So it is with our bodies. Advances in medical science have offered us tremendous opportunities to understand how our system works. Physicians are able to treat injury and illness in the confidence that our bodies will heal. And yet, behind it all is the Creator and Sustainer of us all. So we gratefully accept medical treatment and humbly seek God's healing and grace. Remember that all healing in this life is temporary. And that's good. I have a living will instructing my family and physicians not to use heroic medical measures that would keep me form entering the presence of the Lord.

It get's complicated

It's clear that our emotions and perspectives are affected by the condition of our bodies. I can pray more effectively when I'm not sleepy. Is that a spiritual or a physical issue? Both. Spiritual, in that I may have abused my body, not allowing it proper rest (a violation of the sixth commandment); or I may be under the impression that God requires me to offer a ten minute prayer (a total misunderstanding of grace). It's a physical issue in that it can be scientifically shown that sleep deprivation affects emotional and cognitive performance.

I had a brother who suffered most of his life from schizophrenia, a mental disease with symptoms that look a lot like spiritual disorders. The schizophrenic will often hold to beliefs that are not true. He has trouble trusting anyone and has grandiose notions of himself. I saw these in my brother. Schizophrenia is incurable but its symptoms can be managed. As long as my brother took his medications he was able to function socially and hold down a job. But then, he'd think he'd whipped the illness and stop taking his medications, only to end up in a hospital for the umpteenth time. Physiological or spiritual? Both. It was physical in that he had a condition that clearly responded to medication, a physical treatment. But it was also spiritual in that when medicated and able to function he often failed to accept his condition (a faith issue) and neglected his medications.

It is significant that Paul instructed Timothy, "No longer drink only water, but use a little wine for the sake of your stomach and your frequent ailments" (I Timothy 5:23). Frequent ailments? Why didn't Paul just urge Timothy to pray more fervently? Instead, Timothy is to take a little wine. Twice Paul refers to associates who suffered illness. Trophimus he left ill at Miletus (II Timothy 4:20). He reports to the Philippians that Epaphroditus was ill and had almost died (Phlippians 2:27). I'm sure prayer was offered for both these men. Wonder why Paul didn't just heal them. He had healed others, even brought Eutychus back to life.

I address God's habit of using means to bring about a desired end: Cataracts, Lasers and Divine Spittle and Omnipotent Power Married to Patient Process. When God uses means, the outcome is often delayed.

What to do

You or a friend is feeling depressed, suffering from anxiety or finding it hard to focus. I suggest the following course of action. Assuming you are on talking terms with God, your first step is to consult Him. Seek his mercy and healing as did Paul, not once but three times. You pray humbly recognizing that God may choose to give you grace to deal with the malady rather than heal it right off. You also pray for guidance regarding whom to consult and what measures to take. Sometimes the answer is obvious. You know of a reputable counselor (preferably Christian) who can help you think through what's happening. He may recommend you see a physician who might prescribe medication. By all means, take advantage of whatever tools for healing that are available to you. Be alert that our contemporary culture has a tendency to medicate too quickly and to over-medicate. This is why I'd seek counsel before going to a doctor. If you are in a church where the leaders takes seriously the Scripture's call to pray for the sick, consult your pastor or elders.

What if the answer isn't so obvious? There's a counselor but she's not a Christian. The counselor, though not a Christian, may have some significant insight into mental health that would be useful to you. You'll need to filter it through the lens of a Christian world and life view. That's all the more reason to stay close to your pastor or small group of brothers and sisters. Perhaps there is no counselor or you're not connected to a faithful church. You may find a good counselor through the American Association of Christian Counselors. You'll see a "find a counselor" feature at its website.

Comments - I'm listening

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    • liftandsoar profile imageAUTHOR

      Frank P. Crane 

      5 years ago from Richmond, VA

      prairieprincess, great to meet you. Thanks for your kind comments. Very encouraging.

    • prairieprincess profile image

      Sharilee Swaity 

      5 years ago from Canada

      Liftandsoar, this is a very well-tempered, balanced explanation of this very complex issue. It is so true that it often hard to tell whether emotional/mental issues are of a spiritual or biological origin, or both. I like your advice to ask for wisdom from God, first, and then see where it leads. I look forward to reading more, and I am definitely your latest follower. Bless you!

    • liftandsoar profile imageAUTHOR

      Frank P. Crane 

      5 years ago from Richmond, VA

      Pastor Brad, Knowing how desperate you are to drink deeply of my "wisdom" I started a new hub yesterday. It may take a week to finish, but rest assured, there will be a hub. Whether or not it satisfies your ever inquiring mind and insatiable longing for wisdom I leave to you.

    • Pastor Brad profile image

      Brad Gromis 

      5 years ago from Richmond, Virginia

      So does this mean I am to wait patiently for the next installment of wisdom rich hubness? As mentioned on your last hub, patience is not a ready commodity of mine. I shall have to work on that!

      I suppose the line between the physical and the spiritual for which I am curious is a result of my Western mind: the categorical classification of this life helps to bring order in the midst of chaos, at least in some philosophical way, in the abstract sense, and I would even propose in some rather practical ways, as well. While I will readily admit that God has defined and designed us as much more integrated than my neatly-ordered request, there does seem to be sense that certain aspects of this life are more "one sphere" than another or can be examined "one sphere at a time" in an effort to gain a more complete understanding.

      For instance, let's more aside from the issue of the psychological and consider a more "medical" issue: cancer. While I would submit that there are valid spiritual issues (including foundational and causal ones) to be discussed, we would be readily engaged in a discussion of defining the medical intervention and delineating the lines between spiritual and physical / biological treatments. We would be able (and I would propose, rightly so) to look at the separate spheres in which cancer exists and discussing therein. We would treat cancer medically, while still addressing the adjacent spiritual issues.

      I suppose for me - given my background personally and professionally - that I see the benefit of seeing these lines and understanding them in their own rights insomuch as they are then able to be integrated in a wholistic fashion. If I can determine that a particular facet of anxiety or depression is primarily a spiritual issue, then the medical intervention becomes a secondary concern. If the foundational issue is medical, then the converses true, necessitating that the medical interventional take place in order that true spiritual needs might be addressed.

      Thus I would seek your wisdom: how to differentiate between the "organic" and the spiritual facets of our psychological maladies.

    • liftandsoar profile imageAUTHOR

      Frank P. Crane 

      5 years ago from Richmond, VA

      Yes, Eric, you illustrate a general principle. Without in the least contradicting the reality of God's grace, there is a principle that says that if you walk with God things go better. Sometimes you see that immediately. Sometimes it's not until eternity. We are saved by grace alone, but saving grace is never alone. So tought the 15th century reformers.

    • Ericdierker profile image

      Eric Dierker 

      5 years ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

      Nice hub. I always remember that for man much is impossible yet for God nothing. I have a malady that requires medicinal intervention, if I want to function well in this world. What that really means is "if I want to function as everyone thinks I should". But I have and can take time off and center my everyday on God and nature and healthy activity and good living and do fine without medications. So for me the cause and effect is real, the further I am from God and into this world, the more I need this worlds cures. Interesting huh.

    • liftandsoar profile imageAUTHOR

      Frank P. Crane 

      5 years ago from Richmond, VA

      Ha, my friend, another hub, another week! I'll give it some thought. In the case of worry, stress or anxiety (they might be synonymous, but seem to have slightly different nuances), why is it necessary to draw a line between the physiological and the spiritual? It's both, so you pray, you consult trusted friends, see a doctor and pray some more.

    • Pastor Brad profile image

      Brad Gromis 

      5 years ago from Richmond, Virginia

      It was worth the wait.

      As usual, balanced and biblical, my friend.

      As far as seeking counsel, from God, spiritual leaders, or the fellowship of other believers, how would you counsel to differentiate between what is a manifesting of physiological / biological issues and what is are spiritual issues? I appreciate your description of your friend with schizophrenia, but for the larger segment of your readership, I would assume the organic issues would be less obvious or severe.

      If I am struggling with worry, what are some of the litmus tests to determine the nature of that worry? If I am struggling with depression, how do I know if it is something more medically focused as opposed to primarily spiritual at its core?


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