Thursday, January 7, 2010

Paul Washer on Jay Adams...on Depression

Recently, I watched the following short video of Paul Washer being interviewed on the subject of young pastors "idolizing" celebrity pastors. Tangentally, Washer mentioned a few of the men whose ministries have really blessed him and how he has learned from them - Jay Adams included. (As many of you know, Jay Adams is the founder of biblical counseling and the founder of NANC). He has written too many books to mention, but his writing has been extremely helpful to me, and thousands of others, in understanding where secular psychology falls flat and how God's Word is sufficient for the believer to overcome all manner of problems (especially those stemming from sin).

Rev. Paul Washer, or "Brother Paul" as he prefers to be called, is a deeply intense, strikingly humble and self-deprecating young pastor who has gained quite a following in recent years due to his radical call for repentance and uncompromised preaching of the Gospel. He has an incredible burden both for the lost and for the Church. Each time he opens his mouth, you sense the love, compassion, and sense of urgency as he pleads with people to recognize their lostness and the futility of a "cross-less" Christianity.

So it did not shock me when Brother Paul admitted in this interview (disclosing his own "clay feet") that he has struggles with depression. His overwhelming passion to know Christ and Him crucified belies an unusually intense personality. Seeing the way he speaks, the authentic emotion that carries itself into his message, and the depth of his love for people (enough to tell them hard truths), it is not surprising that he would be given to periods of melancholy (much like Charles Spurgeon was). It was extremely edifying to see him, in a few brief minutes, point to the Bible's answer to depression - paraphrasing Adams, who has laid out the Scriptural principals so clearly, so many times. He didn't endorse the man-centric solution "I just try to feel good about myself".

I have great respect for both Paul Washer and Jay Adams for their uncompromising commitment to live, and preach, to God's glory. I appreciate them for their humility, transparency, compassion, and constant teaching of the Truth - even when the world doesn't want to hear it.

"What I have learned from Jay Adams...the greatest thing is to be able to discern when I am believing a lie; something that is not true; that doesn't conform to God's Word, and then to preach it to myself. Instead of letting my heart preach to me, I want to preach God's Word to my heart, and stand on the realities of God's Word rather than on feelings.

Another thing that has been very helpful... is that so many things that would cause us to pity and coddle a man, instead of allowing that...the man should be rebuked - because he's believing a lie. So many things that seem to be where we treat ourselves as pitiful victims; when in actuality we're "filthy criminals" and just facing that....facing that with the Word of God and repenting.

Another thing that I think is very, very good is that it is not enough to say "no" to the flesh; to say "no" to an evil practice, but to substitute that evil practice with the doing of good; with virtue. It's not just "putting off"; but it's "putting on". And much of that has been very, very helpful." --- Paul Washer


Fata Morgana said...

Thank you for this post! It is amazing how the Lord answers our questions quickly- I was just praying about this today, and less than an hour later, I found the video of Paul Washer speaking of his weaknesses and the proper approach to them.

This seems to be particularly important truth right now, when statistically, there are more people suffering from depression than ever- believers and non-believers alike. And modern gurus pour lies into the hearts of our children and young people.

I wonder often about the benefit of drugs for treating psycological symptions... thoughts?

Marie said...

Hi Fata,

Thanks for your comment!

I am studying biblical counseling right now, and have been for a few years. One excellent book I would recommend to you on the topic is "Deceptive Diagnosis: When Sin is Called Sickness" by Tyler and Grady. Another is Ed Buckley's "Why Christians Can't Trust Psychology."

Depression is not an organic "disease", as we've been conditined to believe. Anti-depressants treat the symptom; you don't feel the emotion (guilt; pain; self-pity or whatever) and need ever-increasing dosages of the drug to "feel better". Depression is a spiritual condition, indicating something is wrong. Jay Adams compares taking drugs for depression to, when seeing the red warning light go on on your driver's control panel, taking a hammer and smashing it to stop the light. Eventually the car will break down.

Most people are afraid to examine biblically why they are depressed, and to do the hard work of change as God demands.

That said, I am of the opinion that there ARE rare cases where medication may be justified - at least for a very short time - and weaning one's self off as soon as possible. An obvious case of this would be post-partum depression (which is hormonal). Although, again, the person may grow dependant on the drug so I am not sure on that. But at least 95% of the time, the bad feelings we usually associate with depression have a spiritual cause and should be treated as such.

In the course I just took, Adams explains that feeling sad/blues is not depression; and it's normal to have those feelings (which may be intense at times). "Depression" is only when the person "gives in" to those feelings and stops fulfilling his/her responsibilities because he or she is following their feelings. This is sin, and it needs to be repented. Many times, what we consider depression is actually self-pity or morbid introspection. I think this is what Washer was referring to.

Fata Morgana said...

Thank you for the info and insight! As time allows, I would enjoy reading those books and spending a little more time researching this. As someone who has struggled with depression, to hear Paul Washer speak openly about his depression was an encouragement- that I am not alone. I am not sure that people who are prone to “the blues” (the precursor to depression, I suppose) ever “fix” it- some people are just more melancholic than others, and it is yet another opportunity for Christ to be glorified in our weakness. Christ never promised to “fix” us to be perfect in this life.

I can say that the process of taking a good, long look at myself was so uncomfortable that it made me want to vomit, and yet I cannot see how Christ can become precious until we fully understand how horrible we really are- that He died for us while we were still enemies of the cross. This type of counseling is not popular today!

As far as medication goes, I have friends on both sides of the argument, and while I chose not to take drugs and submit to Christian counseling, I would never judge another person for taking drugs along with counseling. The image of the car’s warning light is very apt!

Imagine how little depth there would be in the Psalms if David had taken drugs every time he felt blue!

I have been mulling this thought over in my head- that a lot of the problems in our teens (I work with kids/teens) have are a result of a lack of leadership- where are the great truth tellers of our century? They are few and far between. So, when our children see our hypocrisy and act out, we drug them, tell them to be quiet.

Is Christian counseling ever effective for non-believers? I can’t imagine that it would have much profit. As I am writing, I want to write more- this topic hits so close to home not only for me, but for my family and friends, coworkers, community, the Bride and the lost. Where is the balm that will heal?

PS- I appreciated your mentioning the concept of following feeling and not truth. Women seem particularly good at this!

Marie said...

Hi Fata,

That mental process that leads to "the blues" and is a downward spiral to depression can be stopped, but it takes discipline ("taking every thought captive to make it obedient to Christ"). Emotions/feelings are not sinful (there would be something wrong with us if we DIDN'T grieve, for example), but self-pity and negative self-talk is. It's disbelief. If you'll send me your e-mail, I'd be happy to send you a visual that helps counselees recognize the "point of decision" in their thought processes - it's called "The Y Chart".

True Christian counseling is never effective for non-believers, nor should it be attempted. With someone who has not been born again, you have to do "pre-counseling", ie. evangelism. You keep sharing the Gospel with him/her until they either submit to Christ and repent, or they walk away. As Jay Adams often says, "you don't want to help someone go from a lifestyle that's displeasing to God to another lifestyle that's equally displeasing to God". A non-Christian can never please God; he/she is under wrath.

I would recommend Ed Welch to you - he has written about depression, and I have found him to be very solid and compassionate overall in his writing (he is a CCEF leader, as well as a great writer).

Yes, I think that we women ARE more prone to follow our emotions (even when wrong) that men are - we're just hard-wired that way. I believe that is a primary reason that God's model is for male leadership in the home and the church. We can certainly use our gifts and discernment to disciple/counsel other women, though.

Susan said...

I can not recommend to highly Dr. David Murray's book
"Christians Get Depressed too" available on amazon or through reformation heritage press. He is a professor at Puritan Reformed Seminary in Grand Rapids MI
There may also still be videos on you tube from an excellent series he did whilst a pastor of the Free
Church of Scotland.(continuing) There is true
Encouragement for the depressed there!
God Bless

Marie said...

Thank you, Susan! That sounds like one I'd like to read for myself and have in my counseling library. I'll check it out. Thanks again!!