Domestic Abuse

Domestic Abuse

by Ann Maree Goudzwaard

I. Definition

A. Biblical perspective

1. Biblical definitions, explanations, & underpinnings

  • The two words “domestic abuse” are not found side by side in Scripture. A biblically informed definition of this modern-day issue would be: The misuse of an individual or individuals by someone with influence or control over another individual or individuals. The dominant person is able to exert power over those who are vulnerable to their care. The dominant person abuses their power and control by subjecting those at risk to threatening circumstances. This may be someone in whom the susceptible person trusts and loves. The goals of the abuser are to use these persons as objects for self-indulgence and/or personal gain (see passages below).
  • Both men and women may employ tactics for achieving this goal; however, women are disproportionately affected.[1] Male domination includes a heightened demonstration of fear. “Fear is the painful emotion that arises at the thought that we may be harmed or made to suffer. This fear persists while we are subject to the will of someone who does not desire our well-being.”[2]
  • The inherent nature involved in the following one-time events implies that this type of behavior can be interpreted as ongoing.
  • The sense in which the word abuse is used in Scripture includes physical, emotional, spiritual, and verbal misuse. In the Old Testament, abuse is used to describe the way in which one deals with another, whether that entity is God, nations, or individual men and women. The implication is that one is overly severe with the other. Abused is also a particular condition in which someone may find themselves. In 1 Samuel 11:2, Israel is brought into a state of “shame” (abuse) by Nahash the Ammonite who makes a treaty with them, threatening to gouge out all their right eyes, and thus bring disgrace on Israel. Ezra 9:7 speaks to physical, mental and emotional abuse, “From the days of our fathers to this day we have been in great guilt. And for our iniquities we, our kings, and our priests have been given into the hand of the kings of the lands, to the sword, to captivity, to plundering, and to utter shame, as it is today.” Proverbs 9:7 tells us that derisive speech is abuse, and the person who responds to the wicked man who uses it is in danger of injury. Proverbs 22:10 says that, to drive out a scoffer means that quarreling and abuse will cease. And Ezekiel prophesies to Israel that they will no longer hear abuse from the nations, indicating that it is verbal in nature. “And I will not let you hear anymore the reproach of the nations, and you shall no longer bear the disgrace of the peoples and no longer cause your nation to stumble, declares the Lord God” (36:15). Abuse is also found in Scripture in the form of cursing. In 2 Samuel, Shimei curses David. This grievance is of such a nature against God’s appointed king that David’s servant asks to take Shimei’s life, “Why should this dead dog curse my lord the king? Let me go over and take off his head” (2 Sam 16:5, 9). In the New Testament, Paul instructs Timothy regarding the type of elder/pastor he should look for. “Moreover, he must be well thought of by outsiders, so that he may not fall into disgrace, into a snare of the devil” (1 Tim 3:7). Paul implies here that even the thoughts and opinions of men can be disgraceful insults. The NT emphasizes the maltreatment of people made in the image of God by the harmful, intentional misuse of words. Matthew relates verbal abuse to persecution, “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account” (5:10, 11, 44). Matthew and Mark emphasize the severity of speaking cruelly to one another, “For God commanded, ‘Honor your father and your mother,’ and, ‘Whoever reviles father or mother must surely die’” (15:4). In John 9, the Pharisees abuse the blind man by using Scripture to “revile” him, “And they reviled him, saying, “You are his disciple, but we are disciples of Moses” (13-28). Peter instructs exiles to have a keep their consciences clear so that, when they are slandered, those who revile their good behavior in Christ might be put to shame (1 Pet 3:16).

2. Brief systematic theological review

  • Genesis 19:1-8; Ex. 1:10-11; 23-25; Jdg. 19:25; Esther 1:10-11; 1 Sam. 25:3; 2 Sam. 11:2-4. While these narratives in Scripture do not provide us with liberal details regarding the issue of domestic abuse, they do provide a snapshot of the experience.
    1. In Genesis 19:8, Lot offers his daughters to the men of Sodom to do with as they please. Lot (a father in whom his daughters trusted) violated his position of power by treating them as property.
    2. In Exodus 1:10-11, the king of Egypt calls together his people and proposes the way in which they will be able to control Israel. “let us deal shrewdly with them…afflict them with heavy burdens…oppress.” In Exodus 2:23-25, God acknowledges the severe maltreatment of his people (see also Deut. 26:7).
    3. In Judges 19:25, the concubine under the care of her Levite husband is given over to the cruelest form of abuse. The abuse is not from the hand of her husband; however, the Scriptures tell us that she is offered up as an object in order to secure the safety of her husband and his host.
    4. In Esther 1:10-11, King Xerxes demands that his wife Vashti perform a lewd act in order to impress his banquet guests. His command comes at the culmination of an event designed to display the magnitude and beauty of the king’s many possessions. Queen Vashti is simply one of many of those possessions of which he feels entitled to do with as he pleases.
    5. In 1 Samuel 25, Nabal –the husband of Abigail—is described as harsh and badly behaved in his dealings (v. 3). The Hebrew qashah is translated as cruel, evil, severe, harsh, and stubborn. This description of Nabal is used in association with his wife. The Scriptures call this type of man “worthless” (v. 17), one who is ungodly (Deut. 13:13; 1 Sam. 2:12).
    6. In 2 Samuel 11, David “took” Bathsheba for himself. Nathan later charges the King with taking something (someone) into possession that was not his to take (2 Sam. 12).
  • What makes the issue abusive in nature is found in the following Scripture. The Old Testament uses “abuse,” three times while the New Testament uses it twice. Qālāh in Proverbs 9:7 and 22:10 means “reproach, to make a mockery,” and in Judges 19:25 it describes a physical assault.
  • In the New Testament, epéreazó means to be threatened or verbally mistreated (Lk. 6:28), while blasphémos, from which we get the word “blaspheme,” means to demean, denigrate, or subject to foul language (2 Tim. 3:2).

B. Secular perspective

1. DSM

  • A psychiatric diagnosis for domestic abuse might be best stated as, “A system of abusive and violent behaviors [used] to control the victim for the purposes of the abuser.”[3] The DSM-5 categorizes adult maltreatment into four different manifestations (seen below).
  • “The term ‘domestic violence’ includes felony or misdemeanor crimes of violence committed by a current or former spouse or intimate partner of the victim, by a person with whom the victim shares a child in common, by a person who is cohabitating with or has cohabitated with the victim as a spouse or intimate partner, by a person similarly situated to a spouse of the victim under the domestic or family violence laws of the jurisdiction receiving grant monies, or by any other person against an adult or youth victim who is protected from that person’s acts under the domestic or family violence laws of the jurisdiction.”[4]


2. Psychological/psychiatric diagnoses and terminologies


  1. Physical, spouse or partner violence are “non-accidental acts of physical force that result…in physical harm.”[5] This includes any act that invokes significant fear, such as shoving.
  2. Sexual abuse includes any forced or coerced sexual act against a person’s will.
  3. Neglect is an act that deprives a dependent person of basic, physical or psychological needs.
  4. Psychological abuse is non-accidental verbal or symbolic act that will result in harm to the well-being of another person’s mental or emotional state.

All of these categories describe abuse between spouses, partners, nonspousal, or nonpartner adults. Other terminology involved in domestic abuse includes coercive control, domestic violence, intimate partner violence (IVP), abuse of power and control, partner violence, domination, male privilege, narcissism, or coercive threat.

C. History

    1. Domestic abuse has existed since the Fall of mankind. In Genesis 3:16, God tells Eve that, as a result of her sin, her husband will “rule over” her. The fall distorted God’s design in marriage, and a sinful desire to control ensued (Gen. 3:16; 4:8; Judg. 19; Ps. 82:3-4; James 4:1-3). Behind the abuse of power and control by men in the home are sinful thoughts, emotions, and actions. The men who abuse their partners are not men with a mind for Christ. At the core of this issue is the fact that the abuser has lost sight of his love and faithfulness to God. It is from within this void that his evil actions find life. “For with hearts like an oven they approach their intrigue; all night their anger smolders; in the morning it blazes like a flaming fire.” (Hosea 7:6) This is not the gentle leadership originally intended in the man’s headship.[6] It is likewise not a command for the husband to exercise dominance in marriage any more than it is for the woman to exercise a desire to control her husband. Both the woman’s pain in childbirth and desire to control her husband, as well as the husband’s toil in work and rule over his wife, are statements of fact that will occur as a result of the Fall.[7]

II. Evidence of the Problem

A. Common themes & patterns observed in the lives of those who have been diagnosed with this problem.[8]

  • The message in a home where abuse is taking place is that the husband is more important than the wife and that she exists to serve him.
  • The abusive man is the main frame of reference for how the woman behaves. The victim’s thinking is shaped by the perpetrator; his perceptions, his beliefs, and his actions.
  • Physical abuse may be unnecessary for the abuser to achieve his desired outcomes.
  • Threats are sometimes unspoken, but consequences for resistance are fully understood.
  • The type of abuser who resorts to coercive techniques has a thorough disrespect for truth and individuals.
  • Abusers (in marriage) tend toward their systems of coercion unconsciously. They likely have more awareness of desired outcomes rather than methods to achieve them.
  • The abuser’s goal is to get what he wants and to do this, he tries to control the victim’s heart and mind.
  • The abuser is the most powerful person in the victim’s life.
  • It is useless for the victim to try and challenge the abusive partner.

B. Common expressions of this problem[9]

1. Intimidation

Making the victim afraid by using looks, actions, gestures

Smashing things

Destroying the victim’s property

Abusing pets

Displaying weapons

2. Using Isolation

Controlling what the victim does, who the victim sees and talks to, what the victim reads, where the victim goes

3. Emotional Abuse

Putting the victim down

Making the victim feel bad about themselves

Calling the victim names

Making the victim think they’re crazy

Playing mind games

Humiliating the victim

Making the victim feel guilty

Limiting the victim’s outside involvement

Using jealousy to justify actions

4. Using the Children

Making the victim feel guilty about the children

Using the children to relay messages

Using visitation to harass the victim

Threatening to take the children away

5. Minimization, Denial, and Blame

Making light of the abuse

Not taking the victim’s concerns seriously

Saying the abuse didn’t happen

Shifting blame for abusive behavior

Saying the victim caused it

6. Male Privilege

Treating the victim like a servant

Making all the big decisions

Acting like the “master of the castle”

Being the one to define men’s and women’s roles.

7. Economic Abuse

Preventing the victim from getting or keeping a job

Making the victim ask for money

Giving the victim an allowance

Taking the victim’s money

Not letting the victim know about or have access to family income

8. Coercion and Threats

Making and/or carrying out threats to do something to hurt the victim

Threatening to leave the victim, to commit suicide, to report them to welfare

Making the victim drop charges

Making the victim do illegal things

III. Etiology

A. Spiritual Symptoms

  • “From a spiritual perspective, abusers, like false teachers warned against throughout Scripture, can only be identified by their fruit.”[10] “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thorn bushes, or figs from thistles? So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus you will recognize them by their fruits” (Matthew 7:15–20).
  • The marks of a true Christian, found in Romans 12:9-21, are
    • Genuine love
    • Abhorring what is evil
    • Holding fast to what is good
    • Loving one another with brotherly affection
    • Outdoing one another in showing honor
    • Not being slothful in zeal
    • Being fervent in spirit
    • Serving the Lord
    • Rejoicing in hope
    • Being patient in tribulation
    • Being constant in prayer
    • Contributing to the needs of the saints, and
    • Seeking to show hospitality.

The spiritual condition of a person who abuses their spouse is the opposite of these characteristics. These are people who do not walk by the Spirit (Rom. 16:18), but instead gratify the desires of the flesh with:

  • Sexual immorality
  • Impurity
  • Sensuality
  • Idolatry
  • Sorcery (one might consider abuse demonic, James 3:13-16)
  • Enmity
  • Strife
  • Jealousy
  • Fits of anger
  • Rivalries
  • Dissensions
  • Divisions, and
  • Envy (Gal. 5:19-21)

B. Physical Symptoms

Domestic abusers are people. “Every abuser is a person with value and worth. He, like all mankind, bears the image of God. In light of the gospel and Christ’s sacrificial death and resurrection, he is an individual in need of God’s saving, and sanctifying work.”[11] No two victims of abuse experience it in the same way. However, the basics of abuse are present in varying degrees with every abuser.[12]

  • They are entitled, and demand that their partner indulge them in their self-imposed standards of living. They insist that their world remain pleasant, their circumstances agreeable, and their importance acknowledged. Deviations from these standards are not their fault (they are typically the offending partner’s fault) and must be resolved immediately.
  • Criticism is never welcome.
  • Anyone fortunate enough to know them should be grateful.
  • Abusers believe that they have the highest degree of knowledge. All other opinions, perceptions, thought processes, and viewpoints are subject to evaluation by the abuser and generally trivialized as inferior and unworthy of consideration.
  • Abusive partners manage their control in part by mental gymnastics intended to keep the victim in a constant state of confusion, hysteria, madness, unreasonable thinking, or second guessing. The following are some of the maneuvers an abuser may employ:
    1. Withholding: the abusive partner pretends not to understand or refuses to listen.
    2. Countering: the abusive partner questions the victim’s memory of events, even when the victim remembers them accurately.
    3. Blocking/Diverting: the abusive partner changes the subject and/or questions the victim’s thoughts.
    4. Forgetting/Denial: the abusive partner pretends to have forgotten what actually occurred or denies things like promises made to the victim. (Adapted from: Source) [13]
  • Abusers control both the mind and the behavior of their partner. They are the standard for how things should be done, and they insist that their partner adhere to the conditions that they determine. This includes how they interact with the abusive partner; however, this dynamic is equally focused on how the abuser wants the victim to think and to behave.
  • The type of person who is abusive is oblivious to the idea of being an abuser. “When blindness and boldness, ignorance and arrogance, weakness and willfulness, meet together in men, it renders them odious to God, burdensome to society, dangerous to their counsels, disturbers of better purposes, intractable and incapable of better direction, miserable in the issue.”[14]
  • They also know how to behave and speak so as not to let anyone know that they are mistreating their partner.
  • They are adept at analyzing their partner’s weaknesses and capable of magnifying those weaknesses in such a way as to make the victim look like the more probable abuser in the relationship.
  • Because of an attitude that objectifies women and considers them as simply possessions, most abusive men have an addiction to pornography and/or significant misunderstandings and practices in their sexual relationships.
  • Abusers believe that men are superior beings and women exist to serve them.
  • Abusers believe that women are power hungry and male haters. Men are meant to keep women in line.
  • Abusers are people who seem to have been wronged by everyone in their world. They find this as justification for doing what they do.
  • Abusers are satisfied when they can create fear in their partner.

IV. Examining the Heart

A. Heart Themes

  • Luke 6:43-45 helps our understanding of the heart involved in domestic abuse. An abusive partner reveals their heart by the fruit of their actions and speech. “No good tree bears bad fruit, nor does a bad tree bear good fruit. Each tree is recognized by its own fruit. People do not pick figs from thorn bushes, or grapes from briers. A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of.”
  • Galatians 5:13–17 describes those who walk by the flesh rather than by the Spirit. “For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” But if you bite and devour one another, watch out that you are not consumed by one another. But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do.”
  • Romans 1:17-32 is an accurate evaluation of what is happening in the life of abusive men who know truth, however they choose to suppress it (v. 17-23). The Lord then gives them up to self-worship (v. 24-31)

The righteousness of God is revealed in salvation, for salvation (v.17)

The unrighteous of men suppresses truth (v.18)

God reveals himself to man (v.19)

Man knows God’s power, deity, and glory but it condemns him (v.20)

God deserves honor (v.21)

Men who dishonor God are fools (and are blind of this fact) (v.22)

Immortal God deserves glory (v.23)

Foolish men glorify self (v.23)


God’s wrath is seen (v.24)

Sinful men are left to self-worship (v.25)

Self-worship is the foundation of domestic abuse.

Dishonorable passions (v.26, 27)

Debased mind, what ought not to be done (v.28)












Haters of God




Inventors of evil

Disobedient to parents




Ruthlessness (v.29-31)

B. Idols of the Heart

  • Why do abusers do what they do? James would tell us that it is because of what they want. A partner that would use any of the tactics listed above is one whose passions are at war within them. The predominant passion is pride, and at the center of that root of pride is the sin of self. Abusers fall prey to original sin over and over as they consistently chose self-worship over God-worship. “For the abuser, the shape of his world is him. So, all of his words, gestures, and attitudes (or worse) are intended to emotionally, spiritually and/or physically control his wife’s thinking and behavior. Whatever he does is meant to shape her heart and mind primarily toward him; his wants, his desires, his needs. His aim is to make himself supreme ‘on the throne of his own self-hood.’”[15]
  • In order to support self-worship, abusers must maintain control of their environment and relationships. The abuser who idolizes control assumes a position between their partner and Christ and takes His place in all rule, authority, power, and dominion in the relationship (Eph. 1:22).
  • Closely related to the idol of control is an idol of comfort. Control has, as its objective, shaping the abuser’s environment to accommodate the abuser’s comfort (Dan. 4:30).
  • Directly following the idol of comfort is an idol of privilege. In the kingdom of self, abusers believe they are entitled to be served rather than to serve (2 Sam. 11:1-4)
  • Other idols that feed self, control, and comfort include lust, pride, and fear of man. “On the surface, dominance appears to be blatant lust for power to facilitate self-indulgence. Lust and self-indulgence most certainly add fuel to the fire, but the source of the fire is pride. Pride pushes the individual to force others to acknowledge his or her superiority…Pride also generates fear of failure. Fear of failure demands ever greater dominance to attempt to ensure success.”[16]


V. Biblical Solutions

A. Counseling Agenda

  • Self-worship is considered a life dominating sin.[17] Counselors who work with men exhibiting this behavior focus on the heart by helping abusers restructure their thinking. Replacement of ungodly habits includes:
    • Putting off the old self, which belongs to a former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, being renewed in the spirit of the mind, and putting on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness (Ephesians 4:22–24).
    • It requires, continuous prayer, dependence on the Holy Spirit, hard work, and a long-term commitment.[18]
    • The heart of violence is not only be uprooted, it is also to be replaced with the mind of Christ (Phil 2:5).[19]
    • The abusive person is to look beyond their own interests and in humility considers others more important than themselves (Phil 2:3-4).[20]

B. Recommended books


  • Lundy Bancroft, Why Does He Do That: Inside the Minds of Angry and Controlling Men (New York, NY: Berkley Books, 2002). For a comprehensive understanding of an abusive man, Bancroft’s book is essential to the counselor. While insight from his sociology is important, he has no biblical understanding of anthropology or sin, nor does he recommend any biblical solutions. Caution is advised due to foul language and utter lack of hope found throughout the book.
  • Rachel Louise Snyder, No Visible Bruises: What We Don’t Know About Domestic Violence Can Kill Us (Bloomsbury Publishing: London, UK, 2019).Snyder’s book has been called a “tour de force” for understanding domestic violence in American culture. She is a recognized journalist and professor who approaches this topic with careful skill and razor-sharp detail: she “illuminates the dark corners” of what might be considered an epidemic in relationships today. One of the things that it is important to glean from No Visible Bruises is that we need to be asking better questions about violence in the home. It’s not enough to ask, “why doesn’t she just leave?” We must simultaneously be examining why men feel they have permission to resort to violence as a solution to their (perceived) problems, and how the church is uniquely poised to address that question head on. You won’t get that from Snyder’s book, however. She is not a Christian and extreme caution is advised. The language is raw and repulsive. But as victims of abuse will tell you—victims in Christian homes—they hear this type of language every day. Another important take-away from this book is the church’s potential naivety when it comes to domestic violence. Unless controlling behaviors are eradicated they will escalate—often times to extreme violence. Abusive tactics will intensify over time as the methods previously useful for achieving control diminish in influence. And “Christian” men can be just as dangerous as non-believers. Additionally, domestic abuse is not simply a difficulty that affects marriages: DA has been identified as a common factor behind most mass murders in the United States. The church is significantly behind the culture as far as examining the dynamics of domestic abuse. A final suggestion for how this book would be helpful is to encourage better discussions regarding how to go about preventing abuse in the home rather than simply how to respond to it. Snyder promotes her thoughts toward that end. But it’s likely we, as the church, should do so much better.


For understanding victims:

  • Joy Forrest, Called to Peace: Learning to See the Glories of God’s Love (Blue Ink Press: Raleigh, NC, 2018).
  • Sydney Millage, Sanctuary: Hope and Help for Victims of Domestic Abuse (Bemidji, MN: Focus Publishing, 2018).

For understanding abusers:

C. Recommended homework resources

For Victims

  • Michael Card, A Sacred Sorrow: Reaching Out to God in the Lost Language of Lament (Quiet Times for the Heart)(NavPress: Colorado Springs, CO, 2005)
  • Elyse Fitzpatrick, Because He Loves Me: How Christ Transforms Our Daily Life (Crossway: Wheaton, IL, 2010).
  • Mark Vroegop, Dark Clouds, Deep Mercy: Discovering the Grace of Lament (Crossway: Wheaton, IL, 2019).

For Victims and Abusers

  • Greg Gilbert, D.A. Carson, What is the Gospel? (Crossway: Wheaton, IL, 2010).
  • Milton Vincent, A Gospel Primer for Christians: Learning to See the Glories of God’s Love (Focus Publishing: Bemidji, MN, 2008).
  • John Owen, Spiritual-Mindedness, Editor, R.J.K. Law (Banner of Truth Publishing: Carlisle, PA, 2009).
  • W. Tozer, The Knowledge of the Holy (Harper Publishing: New York, NY, 1961).






[1]National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey, National Data on Intimate Partner Violence, Sexual Violence, and Stalking, (Accessed November 2019).

[2] A.W. Tozer, The Knowledge of the Holy (New York, NY: Harper One Publishers, 1961), 99.

[3] E. Pence and M. Paymar, Education Groups for Men Who Batter: The Duluth model, (Springer Publishing Co, New York, NY, 1993) 30. As quoted in Mary Ann Dutton, Lisa Goodman, R. James Schmidt, Development and Validation of a Coercive Control Measure for Intimate Partner Violence Final Technical Report, Prepared for:

National Institute of Justice Office of Justice Programs U.S. Department of Justice 810 Seventh Street, NW Washington, DC 20531, December 30, 2005.

[4] United States Department of Justice, (Accessed 12 November 2019).

[5] American Psychiatric Association, Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (American Psychiatric Publishing: Washington, DC, 2013), 720.

[6] John Calvin, & J. King Commentary on the First Book of Moses Called Genesis Vol. 1 (Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software, 2010), 172 as quoted in Ann Maree Goudzwaard, Help[H]er, General Editor, Melanie Cogdill Beyond the Roles: A Biblical Foundation for Women and Ministry, (Lawrenceville, GA: CDM Discipleship Ministries, 2019), 131.

[7] K. A. Mathews, Genesis 1-11:26 Vol. 1A, (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers,1996), 248–252.

[8] The Guardian, “It’s like you go to abuse school’: how domestic violence always follows the same script.” follows-the-same-script?CMP=share_btn_link

[9] Chris Moles, The Heart of Domestic Abuse (Focus Publishing: Bemidji, MN, 2015).

[10] Sydney Millage, Sanctuary: Hope and Help for Victims of Domestic Abuse (Bemidji, MN: Focus Publishing, 2018), 33.

[11] Millage, Sanctuary: Hope and Help for Victims of Domestic Abuse, 33.

[12] Lundy Bancroft, Why Does He Do That: Inside the Minds of Angry and Controlling Men (New York, NY: Berkley Books, 2002), 78-105.

[13]National Domestic Violence Hotline, What is Gaslighting? (accessed November, 2019) as quoted in, Healthy Place for your Mental Health, Natasha Tracy, Gaslighting Definition, Techniques and Being Gaslighted (accessed November 2019).

[14] Richard Sibbes, The Bruised Reed (Carlisle, PA: The Banner of Truth Trust, 1630, reprint 2011) as found in Millage, Sanctuary: Hope and Help for Victims of Domestic Abuse, 34.

[15] A.W. Tozer, The Knowledge of the Holy (New York, NY: Harper-Collins Publishers, 1961), 29 as quoted in, Ann Maree Goudzwaard, The Shape of Oppression, Part 2, (Accessed November 2019).

[16] Marshall and Mary Asher, The Christian’s Guide to Psychological Terms (Focus Publishing: Bemidji, MN, 2004), 63.

[17] Ibid, 108.

[18] Ibid.

[19] Moles, The Heart of Domestic Abuse, 97.

[20] Ibid, 98.

Discontentment (Singleness)

Discontentment (Singleness)

by Lauren Koval

I. Definition

A. Biblical perspective

1. Biblical Definition

Discontentment in the single life, as Dr. Ernie Baker explains in reference to one case of a discontent single man, “He continually struggled with really loving the Lord as his first priority because he believed that to be happy, he had to be married.”[1] The desire to be married, and, often, start a family, becomes the ultimate hope and satisfaction of the single’s life, and the unhappiness of that “hope deferred” (Proverbs 13:12) becomes all-consuming for the single person. This can result in loneliness, depression, or resentfulness.[2]

2. Biblical Perspective

God is always working all things for the believer’s good and his own glory (Romans 8:28). God does not withhold anything good from “those who walk uprightly” (Psalm 84:11). Since singleness is also in the control of God, then discontentment or anger at God is a lack of trust in his goodness and sovereignty to provide what is good to those who love him. Discontentment or the quest for fulfillment from an external or earthly circumstance, like marriage, also shows dissatisfaction with God. Paul learned contentment through Christ who gave him strength (Phil. 4:12-13) because he had learned how Christ was of such surpassing worth (Philippians 3:8).[3] The dissatisfied single longing for marriage to create her happiness looks to a “broken cistern” that holds no water, and to an unfulfilling hope (Jeremiah 2:13). The solution is “living water,” that is, Jesus himself (John 4), who can provide all the satisfaction, companionship, and grace that believers need.[4] The goal is not marriage or singleness, but pursuing a relationship with Christ and his kingdom as the ultimate satisfaction and delight.[5]

B. Secular perspective

Psychology has labeled discontentment and depression in singleness as an “ambiguous loss,” because, “adults who are single do not know when, if at all, someone who matches their anticipated spouse will come into their lives and choose to marry them.”[6] Because they do not see the realization of those hopes or dreams, yet have not completely lost hope of seeing them realized, they are in an in-between mourning stage of something that is not physically there, but is psychologically there.[7] This grief is in a “frozen” state, that which is unresolved, and thus more painful, and uncertain.[8] The longing for relationship flows from a desire for “joy and purpose” from another human, thus, “the absence of meaningful relationships typically leads to loneliness, emptiness, depression, and despair.”[9] With this comes the difficulty of societal pressures and expectations, and the inability to publicly mourn this “psychological loss.”[10]

The goal of treatment of this depressing and ambiguous loss is to train the person to “cope” with the mourning and continue on with life, changing the attitude, not the inevitable situation.[11] Because guilt, or identity-issues, or shame, or confusion can come when the hope of relationship is lost, but not quite, the psychologist can encourage the client by “supporting the notions that there is nothing wrong with enjoying singlehood and nothing wrong with enjoying marriage.”[12] Other therapies like acknowledging conflicting emotions and normalizing the struggle often helps the client come to terms with their own emotions.[13] Finally, helping the client find a new identity and meaning outside of “singleness” or “marriage,” causes them to keep the hope, but not be consumed by it.[14] More assertive therapies include accepting the singleness to the point of saying, “I am not married because I do not want to be…I am single because I am enough for me.”[15] This method encourages the discontent client to find their rest and identity and confidence in their own sufficiency, not their longing for marriage to fulfill them, or their fear of the stigma of singleness.

C. History

The idea of loneliness or discontentment in any situation has been since the Fall. Jane Clark says, “[loneliness] is caused by sin…by our estrangement from God and each other.”[16] Sin causes us to seek satisfaction outside of God, or assume we need something other than what God has given. However, the more modern and cultural situation of increasing singleness has only developed in the past few decades. In the 1950s, only thirty-one percent of adults in America were single. As of 2015, that number has jumped to forty-five percent. The ages of single adults has grown over the same amount of time; on average, the age at marriage has increased six to seven years older. [17] As the article points out, “Despite the high rates of singlehood in the United States, 93% of Americans report that marrying is one of the most important life objectives they have.”[18] So, though the amount of married couples is decreasing, the desire for marriage is not. As online dating services, and other creative methods of forming relationships abound, the issue becomes more and more prevalent.

For singles in the Church, the solution seems to be marriage, and singles are often seen as second best. Betty-Anne Van Rees discusses the “shift” to this issue beginning in World War II, when more women becoming increasingly independent in the work force, causing the increase of singles.[19] As the Church generally centered on families, ministering to the growing number of singles became more difficult to adjust to, and more people struggled with desiring marriage and being discontent with their singlehood. More recently, the approach to loneliness in singlehood in the secular world has been to embrace and celebrate “singlehood.” Books like Eliyam Kislev’s Happy Singlehood, or Keturah Kendrick’s No Thanks: Black, female, and living in the martyr-free zone, promote the idea of perspective, that loneliness is a choice one makes, and, that being single is a healthy and good thing.[20]

Kate Bolick, as explained on Lavin, argues that, “changing opportunities for women are changing the definition of the family, the workplace, the economy, and society as a whole.”[21] As the shift to singlehood grows, the desire for marriage and discontentment in singleness are set aside for celebration of singleness and independence.

II. Evidence of the Problem

Some common themes and patterns of discontented singleness include extreme feelings of loneliness that results in despair and depression. Pulling away from Church activities and involvement because of the pain of seeing married friends, never attending weddings, and experience long episodes of depression during holidays. They can be distracted from ministry and are too preoccupied with searching for a spouse that they are unable to serve the Lord and his Kingdom.

Other results of this discontentedness include dating incessantly or settling for someone who is below the person’s standards.[22] Or, the desire to have attention from someone and escape loneliness causes them to turn to sexual intimacy outside of marriage. Self-pity, feelings of inferiority, or feelings of meaningless are also signs of discontented singleness.

III. Etiology

A. The Physical (external) Causes:

-Lacking a marriage or dating partner.

-Same Sex Attraction. Desiring marriage but not being attracted to the opposite sex.

B. The Spiritual Causes:

-Marriage fantasizing and idolizing

-Desire for affirmation and validation

-Lacking trust in God

-Seeing Singleness as a curse

IV. Examining the Heart

    1. Discontented singleness can flow from a variety of heart idols or themes. The person who desires marriage so strongly that they have become bitter towards God can result from a heart that is worshiping acceptance or security in relationships as the ultimate goal. They feel they are incomplete or invalidated by not achieving marriage, or, feel that the love of another human will complete them and make them less inferior. This is similar to the idol of people’s acceptance, placing one’s hope in the love of another human. Discontent can flow from a misunderstanding of desires. Jayne Clark argues that it is a misconception that God will always fulfill the desire of marriage if he has given it to someone. She refutes this claim by saying God has never guaranteed this in His Word, but that those desires are meant to be brought “under the lordship of Jesus Christ.”[23] Other heart idols are worshiping comfort or security in circumstantial change, worshiping a sense of importance because of marriage, or worshiping the ability to control circumstances to one’s desired end. This demonstrates a lack of trust in God’s goodness, and a desire for satisfaction outside of him.


V. Biblical Solutions

A. Key Counseling Points

Because discontentment is rooted in heart idols, Dr. Ernie Baker discusses in his book, Marry Wisely, Marry Well, that, singles must examine their heart. If they are looking to marriage to make them happy, then it is replacing Christ and what he alone can give.[24] If others have become the rock, the hope of fulfillment or happiness, then that is an idol that replaces the Lord.[25] A sense of need of fulfillment of others by marriage forsakes the Lord as the true place of refuge.[26] This must be repented of, and then worship of and love for the Lord turns the heart to find satisfaction in him.

Discontent singles must also overcome wrong beliefs about loneliness. Jayne Clark says, “Loneliness is actually caused…by sin…our estrangement from God.”[27] Because this is true, “The solution lies in the redemption of our relationship with God.”[28] Pursuing a deeper and more meaningful relationship with the Father through his Son is where true happiness comes. This idea, of pursuing deeper communion with God for lasting contentment rather than looking to marriage for the cure to loneliness is echoed by Dr. Ernie Baker, Lori Smith, Sean Perron, and many others. Because of Christian community, the call out of loneliness is to then turn to the community and union of the Body of Christ and enjoy the fellowship of believers.[29]

The single person must learn to trust the Lord. Bitterness and anger at God for not fulfilling the desire for marriage results from disbelieving that he is good, that he does not withhold anything good from his children, or disbelieving that he is in control of every circumstance (Romans 8:28; Psalm 84:11). If singleness is God’s plan, then it is the best plan for your life at this time. Embrace it, and rejoice in God’s goodness towards you, and turn to him.[30] It’s not something to settle for, but something to thank God for, that he has given this circumstance in this time, and has its own joys and blessings.

Sean Perron, author for “Biblical Counseling Coalition” and Marshall Seagal, author of Not Yet Married: The Pursuit of Joy in Singleness and Dating as well as others encourage singles to develop their love for the Lord and his Word, and then rest in his love for them. This leads to the conviction that Jesus alone is living water (John 4). Finally, because Christians are made to enjoy community with other believers with the union of the Body of Christ, they must involve themselves in the Church, building relationships, discipling others, and serving by using their gifts, not bemoaning their unmarried state and wasting the time in their life to serve.[31]

Discontent singles with same sex attraction need to understand the same principles as above. But, an even more intense feeling of loneliness or isolation can come upon them. As a result, they must be reminded that they are not left alone by Jesus, nor by his church, and that their struggle is common to man (1 Cor. 10:13). There is hope for the pursuit of holiness and love for the Lord. Their struggles should not be reduced to something simple, but, in love, they must be shown God’s goodness and grace in their struggle.[32]

Counseling for contentment also doesn’t mean that the desire for marriage should vanish in contentment. Asking the Lord for a godly spouse, pursuing relationships toward marriage, and examining ways that you can grow are all things that are important parts of this season in life.

B. Important passages in contentment in singleness:

-Know the Lord’s goodness (Psalm 103; Psalm 84:11)

-Know the Lord is in control and trustworthy, working in all situations (Romans 8:28)

-Use singleness as an opportunity and delight and gift to please the Lord (1 Corinthians 7)

-Set surpassing worth on knowing Christ (Philippians 3:8; Phil. 4:11-13).

-Humble yourself before the Lord and draw near to him, repenting of coveting and discontentment (James 4:1-10).

-Rest in the satisfaction God brings (John 4)


C. Recommended Books

Not Yet Married: The Pursuit of Singleness and Dating by Marshall Segal

Marry Wisely, Marry Well by Dr. Ernie Baker

The Secret of Contentment by William B. Barcley

Single and Lonely: Finding the Intimacy you Desire by Jayne V. Clark

Quest for Love by Elisabeth Elliot

Passion and Purity: Learning to Bring your Love Life under Christ’s Control by Elisabeth Elliot.

Redeeming Singleness: How the Storyline of Scripture Affirms the Single Life by Barry Danylak

Seven Myths about Singleness by Sam Allberry

D. Homework Resources

Contentment: Seeing God’s Goodness: 31-Day Devotional by Megan Hill

Discovering Wonderful Things Worksheet for:

Philippians 4:11-13

Study 1 Corinthians 7

Chapters 5 and 7 in Marry Wisely, Marry Well and answer the questions at the end of the chapters.





Asmus, Christopher. “Satisfied in the Arms of Another: Four Lessons for Same-Sex-Attracted

Christians.” Desiring God, October 24, 2018.

Baker, Dr. Ernie. Marry Wisely, Marry Well. Wapwallopen: Shepherd Press, 2016.

Clark, Jayne V. “Struggling through Singleness.” Journal of Biblical Counseling 29, no. 1,

(2015): 7-18.

DePaulo, Bella. “Single Life in the 21st Century: A Guide to Owning It.” Psychology Today,

June 22, 2019.


Jackson, Jeffrey B., “The Ambiguous Loss of Singlehood: Conceptualizing and Treating

Singlehood Ambiguous Loss Among Never-Married Adults.” Contemporary Family

Therapy 40, (2018): 210-222.

Lavin. “Going It Alone: Kate Bolick on the History of Singlehood.” Lavin, December 27, 2012.


Perron, Sean. “Relationships: Contentment and Dating.” Biblical Counseling Coalition, February

7, 2018.


Reju, Deepak. “How Can you Be Satisfied on Valentine’s Day (And for the Rest of Your Life)?”

Biblical Counseling Coalition, February 13, 2019,

Van Rees, Betty-Anne. “Single in the Church.” Biblical Counseling Coalition, February 14,













[1] Dr. Ernie Baker, Marry Wisely, Marry Well (Wapwallopen: Shepherd Press, 2016), 71.

[2] Jayne V. Clark, “Struggling through Singleness,” Journal of Biblical Counseling 29, no. 1, (2015), 15.

[3] Sean Perron, “Relationships: Contentment and Dating,” Biblical Counseling Coalition, February 7, 2018,

[4] Deepak Reju, “How Can you Be Satisfied on Valentine’s Day (And for the Rest of Your Life)?” Biblical Counseling Coalition, February 13, 2019,

[5] Sean Perron, “Relationships: Contentment and Dating.”


[6] Jeffrey B. Jackson, “The Ambiguous Loss of Singlehood: Conceptualizing and Treating Singlehood Ambiguous Loss Among Never-Married Adults,” Contemporary Family Therapy 40 (2018): 213.


[7] Ibid., 213.

[8] Ibid., 211.

[9] Ibid., 212.

[10] Ibid., 214.

[11] Ibid., 215.

[12] Ibid., 216.

[13] Ibid., 217.

[14] Ibid., 219.

[15] Bella DePaulo, “Single Life in the 21st Century: A Guide to Owning It,” Psychology Today, June 22, 2019,

[16] Jayne V. Clark, “Struggling through Singleness,” 10.

[17] Jeffrey B. Jackson, “The Ambiguous Loss of Singlehood,” 210.

[18] Ibid., 211.

[19] Betty-Anne Van Rees, “Single in the Church,” Biblical Counseling Coalition, February 14, 2015,

[20] Bella DePaulo, “Single Life in the 21st Century.”

[21] Lavin, “Going It Alone: Kate Bolick on the History of Singlehood,” Lavin, December 27, 2012,

[22] Deepak Reju, “How Can you Be Satisfied on Valentine’s Day (And for the Rest of Your Life)?”

[23] Jayne. V. Clark, “Struggling Through Singleness,” 9.

[24] Dr. Ernie Baker, Marry Wisely, Marry Well (Wapwallopen: Shepherd Press, 2016), 28.


[25] Ibid., 29.


[26] Ibid., 44.


[27] Jayne V. Clark, “Struggling Through Singleness,” 10.

[28] Ibid., 11.

[29] Dr. Ernie Baker, Marry Wisely 72.



[31] Ibid., 75-77

[32] Christopher Asmus, “Satisfied in the Arms of Another: Four Lessons for Same-Sex-Attracted Christians,” Desiring God, October 24, 2018,

Self Image


By Amena Garber

I. Definition

Self-image or self-esteem is how one views himself, both internally and externally, in a way that either exalts or humbles.

A. Biblical perspective

Self-image in and of itself isn’t necessarily a problem. The issue is in the high view of oneself and the exaltation oneself over God. A wrong self-image is characterized by a view that one should love himself first, in order to then go out and love others. Not only is this seen in the secular world, it is also seen quite often in the modern church. Walter Trobisch says this in his book Love Yourself, “Self-love is thus the prerequisite and the criterion for our conduct towards our neighbor.”[1] The world sees self-love and acceptance from others as a need. But what would the biblical perspective of this be? Matthew 6:25-33 speaks on a biblical and Christian view in comparison to a gentile view of needs and how they will be provided. Then the author of this ends with a command for Christians to follow, “But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” There is another command like this in Luke 10:27: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.” From this verse one can see that people aren’t to love themselves first in order to love God and others. In fact, it is the complete opposite to that. The biblical view of self-image is to have a humble and lowly view of self. Now, this is not to lessen the value of a person, but Christians are called to “not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgement, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned” (Romans 12:3, ESV). Philippians also speaks about this in Philippians 2:3-4 specifically in seeing others as more important that oneself.

B. Secular perspective

A secular definition of self-image is “How we see ourselves on a more global level, both internally and externally.”[2] It is a mental image one has of himself. According to Ackerman, self-image has three basic elements:

  1. The way a person perceives himself
  2. The way a person interprets others’ perceptions of himself
  3. The way a person would like to be

Again, self-image isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but having a low self-image or an obsession with self-image is. There are several different ways psychologists treat or help this issue of a low self-image. There are a few different forms of therapy that can be used for this.

  1. Traditional Psychoanalysis
  2. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
  3. Dialectic Behavior Therapy
  4. Client – Centered Therapy

C. History

While the idea of self-image has existed for quite some time, there is a bit of history on the study and formation of thought on it. Morris Rosenburg wrote a book in 1965 titled Society and the Adolescent Self-Image. This book was one of the first to explore the topic. Abraham Maslow and Alfred Adler also created a hierarchy of needs, showing the secular view of humans needs that are both physical and emotional.

A wrong view of self has existed since Adam and Eve sinned, but it has become more popular in today’s society and has caused a ‘self-love’ movement. In fact, this has even reached the point that it is becoming common in modern churches today.

II. Evidence of the Problem

A few themes one may find in someone who is struggling with a low or distorted self-image could be:

  • Feelings of emptiness
  • Loneliness
  • Always seeking attention
  • Seeking isolation
  • Can be very boisterous
  • History of unstable or unhealthy relationships

A low or distorted self-image may also find (in extreme cases) that they are depressed, struggle with an eating disorder, and may have anxiety.

III. Examining the Heart

A. Possible Heart Themes

      1. Pride
      2. Self-Obsession
      3. Lack of Trust
      4. Self-Glorification


B. Idols of the Heart

      1. Control
      2. Vanity


IV. Biblical Solutions 

When counseling someone with a distorted self-image, counselors have gone back to the Bible and the self-worth shown there. From there they show that Christians image and identity is/should be in Christ. The Bible never commands to love self, but instead to love God first and to love your neighbor. This is a wonderful verse to go directly to and has been used to help counselees who are struggling with this.

A. Recommended books

 Idols of the Heart by Elyse Fitzpatrick

Lies Women Believe by Nancy Leigh DeMoss

The Biblical View of Self-Esteem, Self-Love, and Self-Image by Jay Adams


B. Recommended Homework

Discovering Wonderful Things Worksheets

  • Matthew 6:33
  • Romans 12:3
  • Philippians 2:3-4

Daily Journal

Prayer Journal




Works Cited


Fitzpatrick, Elyse, Idols of the Heart, Phillipsburg, P&R Publishing, 2001.

DeMoss, Nancy Leigh, Lies Women Believe, Chicago, Moody Publishers, 2001.

Adams, Jay, The Biblical View of Self-Esteem, Self-Love, and Self-Image, Eugene, Harvest House Publishers, 1986.

James, Sharon, God’s Design for Women, Webster, Evangelical Press, 2002.



[1] (Trobisch 1976)

[2] (Courtney E 2019)



By Alethia Brewer


  1. Definition

A habit is as an unconsciously-acted, learned pattern of behavior.

  1. History

Great philosophical thinkers such as Aristotle, Descartes, Hobbes, Rousseau, Newton, Hume, and others throughout history have desired to understand people and why they do what they do. A large part of this understanding involves understanding patterns of behaviors: habits. Aristotle began the idea of associationism which views mental phenomena as formed by the association of simple events. Certain pathways of behavior and sensations will be preferred and strengthened if they have been favored in the past.[1] This idea was strengthened by behaviorism which reinforced the idea of association with conditioning. Stimuli and response, and external observables and possibilities, and the idea of rewards, all enforce neurological pathways i.e., habits. Those in the associationism camp tend to view habits as a result of brain function and conditioning.

There is another train of thought on habits called the organicist trend, Kant, Spinoza, Hagel, and Gestalt are major contributors to this view, though all differ in their conclusions. Habits are not seen as the passive result of biological automation working with pre-established ideas, stimulus, or rewards, but as “dynamically configured stable patterns”[2] The more these patterns are enacted, the more they are established. The organicist view treats the formation of habits as relating to the whole entity of an organism: it is not just the brain creating pathways. Habits involve both mechanism and cognitive intentionality creating a framework to ground the individual in his identity.

  1. Secular Perspective

Positive Habits

Habits are positive because they decrease cognitive effort in an individual and often result in saved time because one is not consciously thinking through routine choices such as when and how to brush their teeth. Habits are important in behavior change because those who act on beneficial habits can have an automated means of self-control.[3] Habits create a tangible pathway for change in an individual who wants a new pattern of behavior, achieve a long-term goal, and self-regulate.

Negative Habits

Habits are negative because often intentionality is decreased. because there is no desire for a change in behavior if the immediate outcome is desirable. Therefore, they are good in the short term but have consequences in the long term. Habits are can be resistant to change when ingrained in the individual because they are not intentionally considering new information or possibilities,[4] instead, they are acting on automation. Habits can lead to compulsive behavior that is characteristic of addiction which is a sign that it is a destructive habit. Bad habits cause stress and anxiety because they have harmful future effects, but good habits bring happiness because they have positive long-term repercussions.[5]


Habits are biological functions of the brain where it has a preferred tendency to certain behavior as a result of repetition. Neural pathways in the brain have been conditioned by repetition and past performance to an extent where the individual is no longer cognitively acting. Habits are responses of the brain to the environment with little intention involved. Certain social and environmental ques invoke specified reactions in the individual. The environment is not just the people and situations around them but also may be internal thoughts, stress, or motivation. These environments may trigger old habits without intention because the pathways of the brain have not been redone completely.[6]

Habit Change

To change a habit a person must intentionally and consistently work to replace the existing habit with a new one, one cannot just stop a habit. The individual’s brain has been taught by repetition to react and desire certain things. Orthodox ways of changing habits involve education of the negative effects of the habit. One must fully understand the repercussions of unwanted actions. They should evaluate their motivations and think about the positive things that will happen with the new changed pattern of behavior. They should intentionally contrast these side-effects of certain behavior.[7] After this, they should sit down and make a tangible and intentional plan of implementation which involves when they will practice the good habit, ways of making the negative habit easier to do, and situations of avoiding the desire to act on that habit. Habit change involves stopping the unwanted response when activated in the mind.[8] This is only successful if the plan is carried out repeatedly over a long duration. Eventually, this will become a new and healthy pattern of behavior.

  1. Biblical Perspective

Positive Habits

Patterns of actions are not inherently wrong but are sovereign gifts from God, so man does not have to relearn continually.[9] The Bible often speaks of habits, but not with the specific word “habit,” instead it speaks of patterns of behavior and trained ways of responding to situations. Hebrews 5:14 speaks of the formation of a habit by repetition, “solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil. (ESV)” Mature believers have faithfully and repetitiously trained themselves to intentionally practice discernment. Positive behaviors are actions that obey God’s commands, are motivated by his priorities, and bring glory to him, “So we make it our goal to please him, whether we are at home in the body or away from it.”[10] Habits are formed by repetition and practice of God-honoring responses, “training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age.”[11] As a result of training to please God, those in Hebrews now have an automatic skill to critically evaluate situations for their moral repercussions. Positive habits are a sign of a wise and maturing believer who is striving to honor the Lord in their actions.

Negative Habits

Negative habits are actions that are not honoring to God. When behavior does not honor God, it may have a short or long-term consequence, but also may seem positive but is still a negative in the eyes of God “for whatever does not proceed from faith is sin.”[12] Negative habits are the result of heart patterns that have overflowed into detrimental or unwanted behavior. These are reinforced by repetition and create standard responses in an individual. An example of this is in 2 Peter 2:14 “having eyes full of adultery that never cease from sin, enticing unstable souls, having a heart trained in greed, accursed children! (NASB)” This person has a habit of never ceasing to look with lust which is a result of a heart trained in greed. This word, γυμνάζω (to train), has the idea of an athlete training rigorously and consistently. Habits are actions, responses, and as seen here are thoughts that have been trained into the heart and mind of an individual.


All behavior, including behavior that seems to be unintentional flow from the heart of an individual. Though these patterns may be established neural pathways in the brain, the habit is not what motivates a person to act in a specific way. Instead, the person’s actions are dictated from the desires of their heart, “out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. The good person out of his good treasure brings forth good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure brings forth evil.”[13] In the heart of the person lays what he treasures most. This treasure drives thoughts, and actions and is the ultimate reason why people do what they do (Proverbs 4:23).

Habit Change

Patterns of behavior can and must be changed in the life of a believer. It may be hard, but with discipline and practice “unbiblical habits can be unlearned, and biblical habits can be learned and strengthened.” Lasting change is rooted in the hope of Jesus Christ, “and such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.”[14] The previous verses in the passage spoke of those whose patterns of behavior were unpleasing to the Lord, but they no longer are conformed to those habits, they have been changed by the power of Christ! Change comes from an intentional choice to discern what they are worshiping in place of God and put this off, renew their minds in Christ and the promises and commands that are in God’s word, and then put on the new, God-honoring pattern of behavior as outlined in Ephesians 4:22-24. This involves intentionally working and guarding the heart against sin and submitting one’s evil thoughts to Christ (Proverbs 4:23, 2 Corinthians 10:5). Learning proper behavior is dependent on mind renewal and obedient responses to real life.[15] This can be practically done by facilitating homework based on biblical principles that involve application and practice by forcing the individual to concretely understand the biblical principle and act upon change.

  1. Recommended Books

Christian Counselor’s Manual by Jay Adams

How People Change by Timothy S. Lane and Paul David Trip

How to Help People Change by Jay Adams

Addictive Habits: Changing for Good by David Dunham

  1. Recommended Articles

  1. Recommended Homework

Addictive Habits: Changing for Good by David Dunham

Thought Journal

Doing Wonderful Things (DWT) Worksheets

-Romans 13:14

-2 Corinthians 10:5

-Ephesians 4:8

-Ephesians 4:22-24

-James 1:14-15

[1] Barandiaran, Xabier E, and Ezequiel A Di Paolo. “A genealogical map of the concept of habit.” Frontiers in human neuroscience vol. 8 522. 21 Jul. 2014, doi:10.3389/fnhum.2014.00522

[2] Ibid.

[3] Lucas Carden, Wendy Wood, Habit formation and change, Current Opinion in Behavioral Sciences, Volume 20, 2018, Pages 117-122, ISSN 2352-1546, (

[4] Jager, W. (2003) Breaking ’bad habits’: a dynamical perspective on habit formation and change. in: L. Hendrickx, W. Jager, L. Steg, (Eds.) Human Decision Making and Environmental Perception. Understanding and Assisting Human Decision Making in Real-life Settings. Liber Amicorum for Charles Vlek. Groningen: University of Groningen.

[5] Schwartz, Jeffrey, and Rebecca Gladding. You Are Not Your Brain: the 4-Step Solution for Changing Bad Habits, Ending Unhealthy Thinking, and Taking Control of Your Life. Penguin Group, 2012.

[6] Dean, Jeremy. 2013. Making Habits, Breaking Habits : Why We Do Things, Why We Don’t, and How to Make Any Change Stick. Boston, MA: Da Capo Press. Chapter 3.

[7] Ibid.

[8] Quinn, Jeffrey M., Anthony Pascoe, Wendy Wood, and David T. Neal. “Can’t Control Yourself? Monitor Those Bad Habits.” Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin 36, no. 4 (April 2010): 499–511. doi:10.1177/0146167209360665.

[9] Master’s College. 2005. Counseling: How to Counsel Biblically. Edited by John MacArthur and Wayne A Mack. The John Macarthur Pastor’s Library. Nashville, Tenn.: Thomas Nelson.

[10] 2 Corinthians 5:9 ESV

[11] Titus 2:12 ESV

[12] Romans 14:23 ESV

[13] Matthew 12:34b-35 ESV

[14] 1 Corinthians 6:11 ESV

[15] Adams, Jay E. 2010. The Christian Counselor’s Manual : The Practice of Nouthetic Counseling. The Jay Adams Library. Grand Rapids, Mich: Zondervan. Chapter 19.

Fear of Man

By Brianna Klassen

I. Definition: 

Fear of man is defined as an epidemic of the soul that can be characterized by peer-pressure, worry, and codependency. It is the act of placing others before God in one’s life.

II. Biblical perspective

Fear of man is expressed biblically as a “snare” in Proverbs 29:25. In the book When People Are Big and God Is Small, Edward Welch best describes fear of man as, “Fear in the biblical sense…includes being afraid of someone, but it extends to holding someone in awe, being controlled or mastered by people, worshipping other people, putting your trust in people, or needing people.” This problem is severe and must be combatted with the truth of God’s Word. All throughout Scripture we are commanded to fear God and not man. Scripture is sufficient and superior than any other form of help and comfort. It is the only means by which biblical change comes about.

We are given two clear examples of fear of man in the Bible. The most well-known case of this is one of Jesus’ beloved, Peter. After Christ had been taken and questioned, Peter repeatedly denies Christ three times. This was the fear of man inside Peter that caused him to fear others instead of his Savior. This trial later leads Peter to write to encourage others in 1 Peter 3:14, “…have no fear of them, nor be troubled, but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you.” Another example of fear of man in God’s Word is the story of the Pharisee named Nicodemus. John 3:1-2, “Now there was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. 2 This man came to Jesus by night and said to him, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher come from God, for no one can do these signs that you do unless God is with him.” Nicodemus was a powerful ruler that met Jesus under the cover of night in order to prevent anyone to know he was there. Nicodemus and Peter were both ruled by the fear of man and it manifested in both of their actions and thinking.

Secular perspective


  1. The term “fear of man” does not exist in the secular world and culture. Based upon the physical and emotional symptoms that fear of man can have on a person, the most commonly probable diagnosis would be a Borderline Personality Disorder, specifically the Avoidant Personality Disorder or Dependent Personality Disorder.
  2. The Cleveland Clinic characterizes the Avoidant Personality Disorder as being a condition included in the anxious personality disorder group. This group, they claim, includes disorders marked by feelings of nervousness and fear. People with avoidant personality disorder have poor self-esteem. They also have an intense fear of rejection and being negatively judged by others.

The Cleveland Clinic describes the Dependent personality disorder as the need to be cared for by others. This condition results in submissive and clingy behavior, a fear of separation, and difficulty making decisions without reassurance from others.

Diagnostic criteria for Avoidant Personality Disorder and Dependent Personality Disorder based on DSM-IV:

  1. avoids occupational activities that involve significant interpersonal contact, because of fears of criticism, disapproval, or rejection
  2. is unwilling to get involved with people unless certain of being liked
  3. shows restraint within intimate relationships because of the fear of being shamed or ridiculed
  4. is preoccupied with being criticized or rejected in social situations
  5. is inhibited in new interpersonal situations because of feelings of inadequacy
  6. views self as socially inept, personally unappealing, or inferior to others
  7. is unusually reluctant to take personal risks or to engage in any new activities because they may prove embarrassing
  8. A pattern of unstable and intense interpersonal relationships characterized by alternating between extremes of idealization and devaluation.
  9. Has difficulty expressing disagreement with others because of fear of loss of support or approval.
  10. Has difficulty initiating projects or doing things on their own (because of a lack of self confidence in judgment or abilities rather than a lack of motivation or energy).
  11. Goes to excessive lengths to obtain nurturance and support from others, to the point of volunteering to do things that are unpleasant.


Symptoms according to DSM-IV:

  1. Feelings of inadequacy
  2. Feelings of consistent anxiety
  3. Fear of rejection
  4. Easily hurt by criticism
  5. Lack of close friends
  6. Reluctance to become involved with people
  7. Avoidance of activities or occupations that involve contact with others
  8. Shyness in social situations out of fear of doing something wrong
  9. Has difficulty making everyday decisions without an excessive amount of advice and reassurance from others.
  10. Needs others to assume responsibility for most major areas of their life.


The Avoidant and Dependent Personality disorders, in the secular world, are sometimes characterized as “incurable” and those who are diagnosed with it are encouraged to pursue ways of keeping it maintained and manageable.

  • Therapies recommended to those with avoidant or dependent personality disorder:
  • Psychotherapy
  • Cognitive-Behavioral therapy
  • Desensitization
  • Medications recommended to those with avoidant or dependent personality disorder:


Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitor (SSRI)


  • Recommended specialists:
  1. Clinical psychologist
  2. Psychiatrist
  3. Primary care provider
  4. Emergency medicine doctor

III. History  

 The phrase “fear of man” is a term that was first mentioned in Proverbs 29:25, “The fear of man lays a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord is safe.” This sin often goes unnoticed in most because it is a sin that all are tempted in. This issue hasn’t been widely covered and there are not many resources that are directed to this exact problem. The research on this history of this phrase is not very evident. One of the first books that has directly covered fear of man is Edward Welch’s book, When People Are Big and God Is Small: Overcoming Peer Pressure, Codependency, and the Fear of Man. This book provides a very clear and beneficial perspective on fear of man. It has been significantly helpful in laying out the theology behind this struggle and promoting growth and change.

IV. Evidence of the Problem

Fear of man is evident in everyone’s life in some way or another. The extent of this struggle will appear different in most. We all struggle with how we view ourselves in compared to others. We base our choices and decisions on whether or not others will think highly of us. Welch describes this perfectly as, “We are more concerned about looking stupid (a fear of people) than we are about acting sinfully (a fear of God).”  We become consumed with how others view us, and we forget how we look in front of the One who created us. The fear of man is captivating and controlling and will run our lives if we do not fight it. Galatians 1:10 declares, “For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ.”

V. Etiology

Fear of man is integrated into every person because of our sinful nature. Everyone will struggle with fear of man at different times and in different ways, both spiritually and physically. This sin has definite consequences that can represent itself in both physical and spiritual symptoms. Spiritual causes of fear of man will come from an inner sinful attitude or thinking. Physical symptoms of fear of man will represent itself in the outward actions that flow from the heart.

Spiritual symptoms

  1. Discouragement
  2. Lack of peace
  3. Ungratefulness
  4. Anxiety
  5. Envy

 Physical symptoms

  • Unclear of shifting self-image
  • Impulsive behavior
  • Emotional mood swings
  • Ingenuine behavior
  • Fickle
  • Insomnia
  • Insecure
  • People-pleasing
  • Discontentment
  • Lack of self esteem


VI. Examining the Heart

  1. Heart themes
    1. Incorrect view of the sovereignty of God
    2. Incorrect view of self
    3. Fear of others
    4. Lack of understanding of Scripture
    5. Lack of love for others
  2. Idols of the heart
    1. Self-image
    2. Pride
    3. Others’ opinions
    4. Control
    5. Envy

VII. Biblical Solutions

 Counseling Agenda

Fear of man is the most common struggle that we all face. We ache to feel connected to others and to feel a sense of belonging. In order to feel that way we do everything we can to please those around us, even at the cost of ourselves and God. In order to face this inner battle of worship we must turn to God’s Word. Scripture will remain as the only way to be truly renewed and changed by the Holy Spirit. Therapies and medications can be helpful and can erase some of the physical symptoms of fear of man, but it will never get to the heart of a person, only Jesus Christ is capable. There is a reason and a purpose for the struggle of the fear of man. As Edward Welch states the truth that, “Jesus did not die to increase our self-esteem. Rather, Jesus died to bring glory to the Father by redeeming people from the curse of sin.”  In order to be changed and renewed from our desire to please man instead of our Creator, we must turn to Christ and Scripture.




  • Bloom, Jon. “Lay Aside the Fear of Man.” Desiring God, September 16, 2016.
  • Mack, Wayne A., et al. Courage: Fighting Fear with Fear. P&R Publishing, 2014.
  • Welch, Edward T. When People Are Big and God Is Small: Overcoming Peer Pressure, Codependency, and the Fear of Man. P & R Pub., 1997.



Recommended Resources:



Adams, Jay E. What Do You Do When Fear Overcomes You? Nutley, NJ: Presbyterian & Reformed Pub., 1975.


Fitzpatrick, Elyse. Overcoming Fear, Worry and Anxiety: Becoming a Woman of Faith & Confidence. Vereeniging: Christian Art, 2002.


Fitzpatrick, Elyse. Idols of the Heart: Learning to Long for God Alone. Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing, 2016.


MacArthur, John F. David C Cook, 2012.


Mack, Wayne A., and Joshua Mack. The Fear Factor: What Satan Doesn’t Want You to Know. Tulsa, OK: Hensley Publishing, 2002.


Mack, Wayne A., Joshua Mack, and Jerry Bridges. Courage: Fighting Fear with Fear. Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing, 2014.


Mellinger, Jared. A Bright Tomorrow: How to Face the Future without Fear. Greensboro, NC: New Growth Press, 2018.


Smith, William Paul. Living in a Dangerous World: Moving from Fear to Faith. Greensboro, NC: New Growth Press, 2011.


Welch, Edward T. When People Are Big and God Is Small: Overcoming Peer Pressure, Codependency, and the Fear of Man. Phillipsburg, NJ: P & R Pub., 1997.


Welch, Edward T. Running Scared: Fear, Worry, and the God of Rest. Greensboro, NC: New Growth Press, 2007.


Welch, Edward T. When I Am Afraid: A Step-by-step Guide Away from Fear and Anxiety. Greensboro, NC: New Growth Press, 2010.





  • Bloom, Jon. “Lay Aside the Fear of Man.” Desiring God, September 16, 2016.
  • Jones, Robert D. “Getting to the Heart of Your Worry.” The Journal of Biblical Counseling 17, no. 3 (1999): 21-24.
  • Andrew H. Selle, “The Bridge over Troubled Waters: Overcoming Crippling Fear by Faith and Love,” Journal of Biblical Counseling.




Recommended homework resources


Edward Welch recommends completing various homework assignments that can accurately assess where one lies spiritually.



(taken from Edward Welch’s book, When People Are Big and God Is Small: Overcoming Peer Pressure, Codependency, and the Fear of Man.)


Example 1:


  1. In your own words, what is fear of man?
  2. If the fear of others is as prevalent in our lives as the Bible suggests, make a list of the ways it is expressed in your life.
  3. Answer these questions to uncover a fear of man,
    • What thoughts or actions do you prefer to keep in the dark?
    • Have you noticed times when you cover up with lies, justifications, blaming, avoiding, or changing the subject?
    • Do you show favoritism?
  4. What are some word pictures that describe you?
  5. Try to interpret the descriptions of codependency and see the idols that lie behind them.


Another beneficial homework assignment to combat the fear of man with a godly fear would be as follows,


Example 2:


David’s psalms are not illustrations of the fear of man. His fear was within godly parameters. In his fear he consistently turned to his King. He is an illustration that ad experiences don’t have to provoke the sinful fear of people. But notice what David did. He was constantly reminding himself that he stood at the crossroads between faith in god and fear of people. He was always alert to his vulnerability to the fear of people. It is a slippery slope between normal fear and an idolatrous fear of man. To stay on track and to keep yourself accountable, meditate on the Psalms with faith and follow David’s example. Try to align your heart’s desire with Psalm 27


The Lord is my light and my salvation;
whom shall I fear?
The Lord is the stronghold of my life;
of whom shall I be afraid?

When evildoers assail me
to eat up my flesh,
my adversaries and foes,
it is they who stumble and fall.

Though an army encamp against me,
my heart shall not fear;
though war arise against me,
yet I will be confident.

One thing have I asked of the Lord,
that will I seek after:
that I may dwell in the house of the Lord
all the days of my life,
to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord
and to inquire in his temple.



Example 3:


A simple but effective homework assignment is writing down these verses on notecards and placing them in areas that you see often, (ex. mirror, car, etc.)


  1. 2 Timothy 1:7, “For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.”
  2. Galatians 1:10, “For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ.”
  3. Isaiah 51:12, “I, I am he who comforts you; who are you that you are afraid of man who dies, of the son of man who is made like grass”





Other useful resources for homework
















By Hannah Walsh

I. Definition:

Eating Disorder: the habitual misuse of food, characterized by severe disturbances in eating behaviors and related thoughts and emotions. Anorexia Nervosa: an eating disorder characterized by extreme weight loss.

Biblical Perspective

A person ought to bring glory to God in all that they do, including eating and drinking (1 Corinthians 10:31). Eating disorders are a misuse of God’s gift of food, and are contrary to God’s design for human beings. God created food to be enjoyable and nourishing. Unfortunately, sin affects the proper use and enjoyment of food. A person may misuse food by overeating, undereating, or having the wrong attitude about food. This is a result of being controlled or enslaved by wrong desires (1 Corinthians 6:12-13). Indwelling heart idols such as control, pride, or vanity may lead an individual to develop an eating disorder. Actions are sinful when one does them primarily to satisfy one’s own desires instead of to please God.[1] 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 says that one ought to honor God with one’s body. A person’s body does not belong to themselves, but to God (Romans 14:7–8). It is clear that someone with an eating disorder is not glorifying the Lord in the way that they are treating their body and the provisions that He has provided, nor with the desires that initially brought on the eating disorder.

Secular Perspective:

The National Eating Disorders Association states that there is a growing consensus that eating disorders are caused by a range of biological, psychological, and sociocultural factors.[2] More than merely a lifestyle choice, eating disorders are considered serious and often fatal illnesses.[3] Someone with an eating disorder is often described as having an abnormal eating pattern, stemming from mental or emotional issues. Signs of eating disorders may include an unhealthy obsession with food, body weight, and shape. The three general types of eating disorders are known as anorexia, bulimia, and binge-eating. [4] It is commonly accepted that eating disorders most often stem from incorrect thinking, and in particular an incorrect view of self.

Generally, people suffering from anorexia nervosa obsessively restrict calories and foods. Dorland’s Medical Dictionary for Health Consumers states that, most commonly occurring in young females, anorexia is characterized by a refusal to maintain normal body weight, a fear of gaining weight or becoming obese, a disturbance of body image, an unwarranted reliance on body weight or shape for self-evaluation, and amenorrhea.[5]

Secular treatments for eating disorders include nutritional rehabilitation, individual psychotherapy, reinforcement and cognition, inpatient and residential, group therapy, and family interventions, and medication.[6]

II. History

In the 19th century, a French psychiatrist named Charles Lasegue studied anorexia from a social and psychological standpoint.[7] In time physicians agreed that eating disorders were medical conditions and physical diseases, and later it was come to be accepted that they were not merely physical, but emotional and mental matters. In 1980, The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-III) added an eating disorders section for the first time.[8] Since that time, eating disorders have come to be considered serious issues stemming from mental illnesses.[9]

III. Etiology

Eating disorders are both spiritual and physical matters. It is important to understand both the spiritual and physical aspects.

Physical evidences of eating disorders depends upon the particular disorder. A person with anorexia nervosa will exhibit certain distinguishable behaviors The DSM-IV outlines four major criteria for diagnosis of anorexia nervosa, which include a refusal to maintain body weight at or above a minimally normal weight for their age and height , an experience of intense fear of gaining weight or becoming obese even though they are underweight, a misunderstanding of the seriousness of their weight loss provide and a demonstration of disturbances in the way their body weight and shape is experienced.[10] Obvious symptoms may include abnormal blood count, fatigue,  dizziness/fainting, anxiety and depression, insomnia, thinning hair, discoloration of skin, osteoporosis, or low blood pressure. A person with an eating disorders may isolate themselves from others or exhibit compulsive behavior.[11]

The spiritual side of the matter is of even more importance, as it is of eternal importance. Even secular psychologies state that eating disorders are not merely physical. The disorders stem from internal desires, and result in further spiritual issues. A person may, for example, desire to be in control of every aspect of their life, or desire to be beautiful or perfect. These desires, when desired above God, lead to sinful behavior. The eating disorder may lead to further sinful responses or attitudes, such as anger, depression, or anxiety.

IV. Examining the Heart

It is important that a believer thinks about the issues of eating disorders through the lens of Scripture. There are two emergency situations involved in eating disorders – the first is the physical life-threatening emergency, and the second is the spiritual eternal-soul threatening emergency.[12]  Both must be dealt with in the proper way. The goal in counseling an individual who is dealing from an eating disorder is not merely to help restore them to a place where they are physically healthy and out of danger, but ultimately that the individual would experience true biblical change that can only come from the truth of God’s Word and the work of the Spirit impacting their heart and mind. Ultimately, as in all matters, the goal is that Jesus Christ would be glorified.

A counselee should be led towards a better understanding of who God is and why He made man. This will lead into a better understanding of how one ought to live in response, and how that affects even the way that one eats.

Once determined, the heart issues need to be addresses. Common heart themes in regards to eating disorders are control and vanity.

Control: A person who idolizes control is not trusting in God’s sovereignty. There desire is, essentially, to try to be God instead of trusting and living in submission to God. This idol can lead to eating disorders, such as anorexia, because the person desires to control every calorie they intake or every pound they weigh to the point where is becomes unhealthy and obsessive. They may pride themselves in having control over their feelings of hunger. The desire to be in control can lead to obsessive behavior in regards to food.

Vanity: Vanity is another common root of eating disorders. Many secular counselors will tell their counselees that they need to think more highly of themselves, that there self-esteem is too low. This is not the case. On the contrary, a person is thinking too highly of themselves when they so strongly desire to look a certain way that they are willing to hurt themselves to get there.

V. Biblical Solutions

When it comes to eating disorders, many biblical counselors use what is sometimes called the Three-Pronged Approach to care for their counselee in the best possible way.[13] This refers to the team approach that should be taken, as eating disorders are both a physical emergency as well as a heart issue. The three-prongs are: Medical doctor, Nutritionist, and Biblical Counselor. A biblical counselor needs to care for the counselee’s soul and mind, while encouraging her to be heeding the instructions of her doctor and nutritionist. Eating disorders are unique counseling issues as the spiritual and the physical aspects of eating disorders correlate. As in any counseling issue, the goal is that a counselee would move towards Christlikeness. The purpose is promoting genuine, lasting change in the life of a counselee, for the glory of God. Ephesians 4 demonstrates that sin needs to be put off, and righteousness needs to be put on. In some cases, the sin of control or vanity needs to be put off, and trust in God and humility need to be put on. Sinful behaviors and actions, such as the misuse of food, need to be put off, and godly behaviors need to replace them. This can only be done through a work of the Holy Spirit in one’s heart. A counselee needs to be led to heart-altering truth of God’s Word in order to experience change.


Recommended Sources:

“How to Help People Change” by Jay Adams

“Love to Eat, Hate to Eat” by Elyse Fitzpatrick

“Redeemed From the Pit: Biblical Repentance And Restoration From The Bondage of Eating Disorders” by Marie Notcheva

“Counseling as if Life Depended on It” by Martha Peace (audio)

“Eating Disorders: Hope for Hungering Souls” by Mark Shaw

“Eating Disorders: The Quest for Thinness” by Ed Welch



Recommended Homework Sources:

“A Homework Manual for Biblical Living” by Wayne Mack

“More Than Bread: A Workbook for Women Who Struggle with Eating” by Elyse Fitzpatrick

Discovering Wonderful Things Worksheets

  • 1 Corinthians 10:13
  • 1 Corinthians 6:19-20
  • Matthew 6:33

Self-Talk Log Worksheet

Daily Prayer Journal





Works Cited

[1] Fitzpatrick, Elyse. More than Bread. 19.



[4]National Institute for Mental Health, Eating Disorders: About More Than Food.

[5] Dorland, W. A. Newman. Dorland’s Medical Dictionary for Health Consumers. 91.

[6] Mental Health: American Addiction Centers, Inc: “Eating Disorder Professional Treatment


[8] “DSM-IV-TR Classification.” Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition, Text Revision (DSM-IV-TR)




[12]Peace, Martha. “Counseling as If a Life Depended on It (Anorexia).”IBCD Institute for Biblical

Counseling and Discipleship, 13 July 2017,



Bi-Polar Disorder

By Kelsey Trainor

I. Definition        

Secular Perspective

Those diagnosed with bipolar disorder are characterized by intense mood expressions that cycle from very up (manic) to very down (depressed). These moods typically last for weeks at a time. While there is great variation in secular approaches to treating and explaining bipolar disorder. There is overwhelming consensus that it is in fact a real physical disorder and not merely a habit pattern that the counselee falls into.

DSM-5: Bipolar is placed between Schizophrenia and depressive disorders, in DSM-5 because it is thought to relate to both and appears practically to be a cross between them. Since a bipolar diagnosis requires the counselee to experience both manic and depressive episodes, there must be criteria for qualifying these states, and that is what the DSM-5 tries to do.[1] Continue reading Bi-Polar Disorder

Persistent Depressive Disorder (Dysthymia)

By David Wong

I. Definition

  1. Biblical Perspective
    1. Persistent Depressive Disorder is “a continuous long-term (chronic) form of depression.”[1] Asher and Asher say that “the primary diagnostic feature is clinical depression (see Depression) that lasts more or less continuously for two years (one year in children and adolescents).”[2]
    2. Persistent Depressive Disorder is similar in nature to Major Depression, but Persistent Depressive Disorder “usually has fewer or less serious symptoms than major depression”[3]
      1. Major distinctive characteristic is the time frame and severity of the disorder.
  2. Secular Perspective
    1. DSM V
      1. “Depressed mood for most of the day, for more days than not, as indicated by either subjective account or observation by others, for at least 2 years.”[4]
        1. 1 year for adolescents and children
      2. Treatments/Methodologies
        1. One of the significant treatments applicable to those diagnosed with Persistent Depressive Disorder through Psychology is Psychotherapy.
          1. Psychotherapy refers to therapeutic treatment of mental disorders without the use of medication.
          2. Some common therapies include[5]:
            1. Cognitive Behavioral Theory
            2. Interpersonal Therapy
            3. Dialectic Behavioral Therapy
            4. Psychodynamic Therapy
            5. Psychoanalytical Therapy
            6. Supportive Therapy
            7. Other Therapies include:
              1. Animal Assisted Therapy
              2. Creative Arts Therapy
              3. Play Therapy
              4. Yoga
              5. Psychotherapy does not necessarily have to be strict as to the type of psychotherapy being used. Psychologists may combine elements from several styles of psychotherapy, “they blend elements from different approaches and tailor their treatment according to each client’s needs.”[6]
        2. Medication
          1. Psychology also advocates for the use of anti-depressants as medication for depression as well. Some common medicines include[7]:
            1. Selective Serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs)
            2. Tricyclic Antidepressants (TCAs)
            3. Serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs)
            4. Other Types[8]
            5. Atypical Antidepressants
            6. Monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs)

II. History

  1. DSM III
    1. Categorized as Dysthymic Disorder (Depressive Neurosis) under 300.40 in Affective Disorders.
    2. Dysthymia was originally introduced in the DSM III[9]
    3. Dysthymia occurs when, during the last two years, the “individual has been bothered most or all of the time by symptoms characteristic of the depressive syndrome but that are not of sufficient severity and duration to meet the criteria for a major depressive episode.”[10]
      1. Duration of 2 years for adults
      2. Duration of 1 year for children and adolescents
    4. “The manifestations of the depressive syndrome may be relatively persistent or separated by periods of normal mood lasting a few days to a few weeks, but no more than a few months at a time”[11]
  2. DSM V
    1. Classified as Persistent Depressive Disorder (Dysthymia) under 300.4 (F34.1) as a Depressive Disorder.
    2. The major change from the DSM IV to the DSM V is that Dysthymia is gone, replaced with persistent depressive disorder
      1. This new condition includes both chronic major depression and dysthymia because of the “inability to find scientifically meaningful differences between these two conditions”[12]
    3. Evidence of the Problem
      1. The DSM V says that those experiencing two (or more) of the following are likely to have Persistent Depressive Disorder[13]:
        1. Poor appetite or overeating
        2. Insomnia or Hypersomnia
        3. Low energy or fatigue
        4. Low self-esteem
        5. Poor concentration or difficulty making decisions
        6. Feelings of hopelessness

III. Etiology

  1. Potential Causes of Persistent Depressive Disorder (Psychological View)
    1. The exact cause of Persistent Depressive Disorder is unknown. However, it could be a result of such causes as:
      1. Biological Differences or Brain Chemistry[14]
        1. Scientists have identified many different neurotransmitters that may play a role in depression, and this includes neurotransmitters like[15]
          1. Acetylcholine
          2. Serotonin
          3. Norepinephrine
          4. Dopamine
          5. Glutamate
          6. Gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA)
  1. Inherited Traits
    1. “Depression does not have a clear pattern of inheritance in families.”[16]
    2. However, “people who have a first-degree relative with depression appear to have a two to three times greater risk of developing the condition than the general public”[17]
  2. Life Events
    1. “Traumatic events such as the loss of a loved one, financial problems or a high level of stress can trigger persistent depressive disorder in some people”[18]
  3. Potential Causes of Persistent Depressive Disorder (Spiritual)
    1. Biblical counselors must recognize that physical, physiological, and biological issues occurring with the counselee do have the ability to influence the response of the counselee.
      1. However, while physical, physiological, and biological issues can influence a person, they cannot force a person to respond with sin.
    2. “Depression unrelated to drugs or a physical illness are often indicative of wrong thinking or other spiritual problems”[19]
      1. The person must respond to their sin with confession to the Lord and repentance from their sin
        1. Persistent depressive disorder is not, in and of itself, a sin
          1. Sinful actions and habits may lead to persistent depressive disorder, and persistent depressive disorder may result in sinful actions and habits
          2. However, Persistent depressive disorder is not, in and of itself, a sin
        2. Spiritual Symptoms
          1. Guilt
          2. Anxiety
          3. Suffering
          4. Feelings of Inferiority
          5. Hopelessness
  4. Physical Symptoms
    1. Poor appetite or overeating
    2. Insomnia or Hypersomnia
    3. Low energy or fatigue

IV. Examining the Heart

  1. Heart Themes
    1. Fear of Man
      1. “Instead of a biblically guided fear of the Lord, we fear others”[20]
      2. The most radical treatment for the fear of man is the fear of the Lord.
        1. The sufferer must first “know that God is awesome and glorious, not other people”[21]
      3. The action the counselee must take to remedy the fear of man is to “need them less and love them more”[22]
      4. Relevant Passages
        1. Proverbs 29:25
        2. Matthew 10:28
        3. Galatians 1:10
        4. Mark 12:30-31
      5. Control
        1. Wrong thinking and belief that control will bring us satisfaction or happiness.
        2. “We don’t know what’s best for us because we’re not the Creator.”[23]
        3. Show counselee that God is in control and that He is working for good
          1. God is Sovereignly in control
          2. God is Good and acts according to His goodness
          3. God is Faithful and always fulfills His promises for our good
  2. Comfort
    1. Obedience to God oftentimes means stepping outside of your comfort zone
      1. John 14:15
      2. 1 John 5:3
      3. Romans 12:1-2
    2. Chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.
  3. Biblical Solutions
    1. Counseling Agenda
      1. Involvement
        1. Seek to build a relationship with the counselee
          1. Enter the person’s world[24]
            1. Includes listening to the counselee to discern where they are struggling[25]
          2. Incarnate the love of Christ[26]
            1. “As Christ’s ambassadors, it’s not just what we say that God uses to encourage change in people; it’s also who we are and what we do”[27]
          3. Inspiration
            1. Provide hope to the counselee that Scripture has answers to their problems and that lasting change is possible
              1. “Hope is more than convincing people that things will get better, or helping them decide what to do”[28]
              2. Hope “helps people who are dealing with the unthinkable to view life from the perspective of God’s glory and grace and their identity as His children”[29]
                1. Romans 15:4
                2. 1 Corinthians 10:13
                3. Galatians 3:26
                4. John 1:12
    2. Inventory
      1. Gather physical data
        1. Sleep
        2. Diet
        3. Exercise
        4. Illness
        5. Medication
      2. Discern their heart through speaking and asking appropriate questions to better understand them
      3. Information the counselor wants to know[30]
        1. The situation
        2. The responses
        3. The thoughts
        4. The motives
    3. Interpretation
      1. Involves “accurately analyzing or conceptualizing the data and explaining it to the counselee” [31]
        1. Discern biblical categories that best describe the counselee [32]
          1. Saved or Unsaved?
          2. Spiritually mature or immature
          3. Unruly, fainthearted, weak?
            1. 1 Thessalonians 5:14
      2. Formulate a Working Interpretation[33]
      3. Determine possible reasons for the problem
      4. Consider the Counselee’s heart
      5. Test the Validity of Your Interpretation[34]
    4. Instruction
      1. Instruction should be biblically based[35]
        1. “Counseling that is faithful to the Bible effectively communicates the original meaning of the biblical text in a way that is relevant to the situation and heart of the person you are counseling”[36]
      2. Specific Instruction as to Depression
        1. Physical and Physiological Issues
          1. The counselor must provide biblical instruction as it relates to the physical or physiological aspects of their lives
            1. The extent of this counsel should be to counsel the counselee against unhealthy actions and habits as well as instructing the counselee to undertake healthy living (i.e. sleeping habits, eating habits, exercising, etc.)
              1. For issues that are medical, or may require more professional attention, the counselor should encourage the counselee to see their medical practitioner
            2. Instruct on the heart
              1. Potential heart themes for those struggling the Dysthymia
                1. Control
                2. Comfort
                3. Fear of Man
              2. The role of feelings
              3. Various problems and issues the counselee may be struggling with[37]
                1. Guilt
                2. Anxiety
          2. Suffering
            1. Inferiority
            2. Hopelessness
            3. Laziness
            4. Self-control
    5. Inducement[38]
      1. Fire up the counselee to make certain decisions and commitments that will facilitate change
      2. “Bring counselees to the realization that biblical change involves personal choice”[39]
      3. Promotes a concern about heart sins as well as behavioral sins[40]
        1. “Nothing less than heart repentance and heart change will please God and produce change that is genuine and lasting”
      4. “Secure a commitment from counselees to put off the desires, thoughts, and actions that hinder biblical change and to replace them with ones that promote biblical change”[41]
    6. Implementation
      1. Ephesians 4 Model
        1. Put off the Old
          1. Identify factors that hinder biblical change and take steps to eliminate them[42]
        2. Renewal of the Mind
          1. Provide practical action for the counselee to engage in, in the hopes that the counselee would be personally engaged with Scripture and contain a renewed perspective pertaining to their issues and problems as well as their heart
            1. Prayer
            2. Bible Reading
            3. Biblical instruction
          2. Put on the New[43]
            1. Should be specific as to the counselee according to the Ephesians 4 model
          3. Homework
            1. Homework should provide specific and practical action for the counselee to take
            2. Assigned Bible Reading for the counselee to do and meditate upon
              1. Ephesians 4
              2. 1 Corinthians 10:13
              3. Romans 15:4
            3. Homework should “assist the counselee to apply the truths learned about God, self, and others to the specifics of his living situation, making biblical corrections and instituting new biblical habits”[44]
    7. Integration
      1. Ensure that they are getting involved in their local Church
        1. Sunday Service
        2. Bible Studies
        3. Fellowship Groups
        4. Accountability
      2. At this point, the counselor would like their local church to be shepherding and guiding this person
        1. This includes ongoing discipleship and accountability within the Church
        2. Ensuring that the counselee is surrounded by strong believers that are devoted to the Word and are committed to discipling and keeping the counselee accountable in their living
      3. Recommended Books
        1. How to Help People Change by Jay E. Adams
        2. Counseling: How to Counsel Biblically by The Master’s College
        3. Instruments in the Redeemer’s Hands by Paul David Tripp
        4. When People are Big and God is Small by Edward T. Welch
        5. The Christian’s Guide to Psychological Terms by Marshall and Mary Asher
  1. Recommended Homework Resources
    1. A Homework Manual for Biblical Living by Wayne Mack
    2. Depression Homework Assignment Samples from IBCD




American Psychiatric Association. 1987. Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental       Disorders : Dsm-Iii-R. 3Rd edition, revised. Washington, DC: American Psychiatric      Association.

American Psychiatric Association. 1994. Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental       Disorders : Dsm-Iv. 4th ed. Washington, DC: American Psychiatric Association.

American Psychiatric Association. 2013. Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders:             Dsm-5. 5th ed. Arlington, VA: American Psychiatric Association.

“Antidepressants: Selecting One That’s Right for You.” Mayo Clinic. November 17, 2017.           Accessed April 16, 2019.       depth/antidepressants/art-20046273.

Daniel Wiswede, et al. 2014. “Tracking Functional Brain Changes in Patients with Depression     under Psychodynamic Psychotherapy Using Individualized Stimuli.”           

“DSM5 Diagnostic Criteria Persistent Depressive Disorder.” 2013.

“Dysthymia – Harvard Health Publications.” 2010. January 6, 2010.              Dysthymia.htm.

Edward T. Welch, 1997. When People Are Big and God Is Small : Overcoming Peer Pressure,     Codependency, and the Fear of Man. Resources for Changing Lives. Phillipsburg, N.J.: P      & R Pub.

Marshall Asher and Mary Asher. The Christian’s Guide to Psychological Terms. Focus Pub.,        2014.

Moore, Beverly. “The Illusion of Control.” Biblical Counseling Coalition. February 02, 2018.      Accessed April 18, 2019.           illusion-of-control/.

 “Persistent Depressive Disorder (Dysthymia) – Symptoms and Causes.” n.d. Mayo Clinic.           Accessed February 16, 2019. depressive-disorder/symptoms-causes/syc-20350929.

Publishing, Harvard Health. n.d. “What Causes Depression?” Harvard Health. Accessed   February 19, 2019.        depression.

Reference, Genetics Home. n.d. “Depression.” Genetics Home Reference. Accessed February      19, 2019.

Robin L. Cautin and Scott O. Lilienfeld, eds. 2014. The Encyclopedia of Clinical Psychology.     Hoboken, NJ, USA: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

Tripp, Paul David. 2002. Instruments in the Redeemer’s Hands : People in Need of Change          Helping People in Need of Change. Resources for Changing Lives. Phillipsburg, N.J.: P      & R Pub.

 “Understanding Psychotherapy and How It Works.” n.d. Https://Www.Apa.Org. Accessed          February 17, 2019.

[1] “Persistent Depressive Disorder (Dysthymia) – Symptoms and Causes.” n.d. Mayo Clinic. Accessed February 16, 2019.

[2] Marshall Asher and Mary Asher. The Christian’s Guide to Psychological Terms. Focus Pub., 2014, 143.

[3] “Dysthymia – Harvard Health Publications.” 2010. January 6, 2010.

[4] American Psychiatric Association. 2013. Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders: Dsm-5. 5th ed. Arlington, VA: American Psychiatric Association, 168.

[5] Daniel Wiswede, et al. 2014. “Tracking Functional Brain Changes in Patients with Depression under Psychodynamic Psychotherapy Using Individualized Stimuli.”

[6] “Understanding Psychotherapy and How It Works.” n.d. Https://Www.Apa.Org. Accessed February 17, 2019.

[7] Robin L. Cautin and Scott O. Lilienfeld, eds. 2014. The Encyclopedia of Clinical Psychology. Hoboken, NJ, USA: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

[8] “Antidepressants: Selecting One That’s Right for You.” Mayo Clinic. November 17, 2017. Accessed April 16, 2019.

[9] American Psychiatric Association. 1994. Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders : Dsm-Iv. 4th ed. Washington, DC: American Psychiatric Association, 209.

[10] American Psychiatric Association. 1987. Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders : Dsm-Iii-R. 3Rd edition, revised. Washington, DC: American Psychiatric Association, 222.

[11] Ibid.

[12] American Psychiatric Association. 2013. Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders: Dsm-5. 5th ed. Arlington, VA: American Psychiatric Association, 168.

[13] “DSM5 Diagnostic Criteria Persistent Depressive Disorder.” 2013, 3.

[14] “Persistent Depressive Disorder (Dysthymia) – Symptoms and Causes.” n.d. Mayo Clinic. Accessed February 16, 2019.

[15] Publishing, Harvard Health. n.d. “What Causes Depression?” Harvard Health. Accessed February 19, 2019.

[16] Reference, Genetics Home. n.d. “Depression.” Genetics Home Reference. Accessed February 19, 2019.

[17] Ibid.

[18] “Persistent Depressive Disorder (Dysthymia) – Symptoms and Causes.” n.d. Mayo Clinic.

[19] Marshall Asher and Mary Asher. The Christian’s Guide to Psychological Terms. Focus Pub., 2014, 61.

[20] Edward T. Welch, 1997. When People Are Big and God Is Small : Overcoming Peer Pressure,   Codependency, and the Fear of Man. Resources for Changing Lives. Phillipsburg, N.J.: P & R Pub, 14.

[21] Ibid., 95.

[22] Ibid., 193.

[23] Moore, Beverly. “The Illusion of Control.” Biblical Counseling Coalition. February 02, 2018. Accessed April 18, 2019.

[24] Tripp, Paul David. 2002. Instruments in the Redeemer’s Hands : People in Need of Change Helping People in Need of Change. Resources for Changing Lives. Phillipsburg, N.J.: P & R Pub, 126.

[25] Ibid., 128.

[26] Ibid., 133.

[27] Ibid., 134.

[28] Ibid., 157.

[29] Ibid.

[30] Ibid., 189.

[31] Master’s College. 2005. Counseling : How to Counsel Biblically,147.

[32] Ibid., 150.

[33] Ibid., 157-160

[34] Ibid., 159-160.

[35] Ibid., 163.

[36] Street, John D. 2013. Men Counseling Men. Eugene, Or.: Harvest House, Chapter 2.

[37] Marshall Asher and Mary Asher. The Christian’s Guide to Psychological Terms. Focus Pub., 2014, 61-62

[38] Master’s College. 2005. Counseling: How to Counsel Biblically, 176-177

[39] Ibid.

[40] Ibid.

[41] Ibid.

[42] Ibid., 190.

[43] Ibid., 193.

[44] Tripp, Paul David. 2002. Instruments in the Redeemer’s Hands: People in Need of Change Helping People in Need of Change, 343.

Post-Partum Depression

By Andrea Johnson

I. Definition

Postpartum depression (PPD) refers to the intense sadness women sometimes experience after giving birth.[1] It must occur within the first four weeks of giving birth and last for a period of two weeks or longer.[2]

II. Secular Perspective

The DSM IV was the first resource to place postpartum depression under the category of major depression. Therefore, PPD is viewed/treated similarly to major depression, with the exception of the use of medication, because some anti-depressants are not recommended for mothers who are breastfeeding. PPD has a prevalence of 13% amongst new mothers[3], and it generally self-resolves within two weeks to three months. PPD often disrupts the mother’s interpersonal relationships, and can even harm child development.[4]

Those who are a part of the feminist camp do not approve of PPD being a specific category at all. PPD is offensive to them because they do not want women to have a specific disorder that does not pertain to men, as this would cause women to potentially appear weak. They argue that because men do not have a specific label for any hormonal or emotional imbalances, neither should women.

Secular treatment for PPD includes interpersonal psychotherapy, short-term cognitive behavioral therapy, pharmacotherapy, hormonal therapy, and in extreme cases, psychiatric hospitalization.

III. Biblical Perspective

Postpartum depression affects both the inner and outer man. Body and soul are distinguished, but they cannot be separated (2 Corinthians 4:16). PPD affects the woman as a whole – her physical body is experiencing hormonal changes, lack of sleep, shock to new motherhood, and physical pain due to childbearing, meanwhile her thinking, attitude, motivations, desires, and reactions are all being affected. Where there is a physical problem, there will also certainly be a spiritual problem.[5] Therefore, a woman who is experiencing PPD should care for both her physical body and her inner heart. 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 says that our bodies are the temple of the Holy Spirit. So the woman experiencing postpartum depression should be cared for as a whole person, both the physical outer man and the spiritual inner man.

Depression/anguish is not seen as a sin in and of itself in the Bible. We see this in the examples of David (Ps. 42, 2 Sam. 12:15-24), Job (Job 2:9, 4:9), and even Jesus (Isaiah 53:3, Luke 22:44). Postpartum depression means that a woman is experiencing real pain that is both physical and spiritual, and she should be cared for equally in both areas.

IV. Evidence of the Problem

Common themes and patterns for women experiencing PPD are lack of sleep, transitional shock, hormonal withdrawal, and previous depression[6]. Common expressions of PPD are crying spells, insomnia, depressed mood, fatigue, anxiety, poor concentration, lack of interest in daily activities, increased or decreased appetite, hypersomnia, phychomotive behavior, feelings of worthlessness or inadequacy about being a mother, guilt about being depressed, and recurring thoughts of death regarding either her or the baby.[7] Women experience these expressions in varying degrees ranging from mild (i.e. the “baby blues”) to severe (i.e. postpartum psychosis). There are several risk factors that greatly contribute to a new mother’s chance of experiencing PPD[8]. These include previous depression, prenatal depression, prenatal anxiety, life stress, poor marital relationship, lack of social support, child care stress, and temperamental or sick infants.

There are consequences for both the mother and the infant that can arise from the presence of PPD, such as behavioral and cognitive development in the child[9], disrupted mother-infant bonding, disruption of interpersonal relationships for the mother, and disruption to the mother’s marriage[10].

V. Examining the Heart

It is important to investigate each scenario to find out what each woman is struggling with individually. PPD is looks different for different women, both physically and spiritually. Sinful heart themes that may be present are: pride in the unacceptance of physical weakness, a wrong view of motherhood, false expectations for motherhood, resistance to connecting with the local church/asking for help. Women who are new mothers may want to prove to themselves and others that they are a capable mother. In addition, their view of “capable/good motherhood” may not be biblical. This may contribute to a depressed state because women will never live up to an unrealistic and unbiblical standard of good motherhood. Motherhood must be learned, it is not simply known. Women experiencing PPD will often ignore their own physical pain in an attempt to focus on their child, when they should also be caring for themselves physically, and asking for necessary help. Sleep deprivation has been found to be one of the leading factors of depression[11], but women are often not aware of the implications of their sleep deprivation and other physical stress they are experiencing. This could be rooted in the pride of not wanting to accept their physical limitations, and not wanting to look like an incapable mother by asking for assistance.

VI. Biblical Solutions

A woman experiencing PPD must ensure she has a biblical perspective of motherhood, humbles herself to admit her physical weakness, and ask for help from the local church. She also needs to understand that it is good to take care of her physical body, as this will impact her inner soul as well. Heath Lambert and Stuart Scott recommend that a woman with PPD should seek help from her husband/friends/the local church, so that she is able to tend to her immediate physical needs of sleep and food. She should study Romans 5:1-5 to be encouraged that her suffering is not pointless, and she has the opportunity to see the Lord’s hand through her depression. She should confess sins of pride and any unrealistic expectations she has placed on herself. Finally, she should gain a biblical understanding of motherhood by learning from other women who have gone before her, as Titus 2:3-5 commands.

Homework would include prayer, studying Romans 5:1-5, meeting with an older woman from church, and setting a daily schedule. Setting a schedule will help the new mother ensure that she is getting rest, food, and daily tasks accomplished, and will help her to find out what areas she specifically needs help in (i.e. meal prep, laundry, house cleaning, etc.)

Recommended books include: Overcoming Fear, Worry, and Anxiety by Elise Fitzpatrick; Women Counseling Women by Elise Fitzpatrick; Depression: Looking Up from the Stubborn Darkness by Edward T. Welch; and Lies Women Believe by Nancy Lee DeMoss.





Anderson, Gary R. 2017. Postpartum Depression: Prevalence, Risk Factors and Outcomes.         Health Psychology Research Focus. Hauppauge, New York: Nova        Biomedical.  ebk&AN=1453453&site=ehost-live&scope=site&custid=s8898283.

Andrews-Fike, Christa. 1999. “A Review of Postpartum Depression.” Primary Care         Companion to The Journal of Clinical Psychiatry 1 (1):        914.

Asher, Marshall and Mary. The Christian’s Guide to Psychological Terms, 2nd ed. 2004.

Bernard-Bonnin, Dr. Anne-Claude. “Maternal Depression and Child Development.” US National Library of Medicine. October 2004. Accessed April 13, 2019. https://www.ncbi.

Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders: DSM-IV-TR. Washington, DC:    American Psychiatric Association, 2000.

“Interview with Charles Hodges & Jim Newheiser {Transcript}.” 2017. IBCD. March 24, 2017.

O’Hara, Michael W. 2009. “Postpartum Depression: What We Know.” Journal of Clinical           Psychology 65 (12): 1258–69.

STUART, SCOTT, and MICHAEL W. O’HARA. 1995. “Interpersonal Psychotherapy for           Postpartum Depression.” The Journal of Psychotherapy Practice and Research 4 (1): 18        29.


[1] Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders: DSM-IV-TR. Washington, DC: American

Psychiatric Association, 2000.

[2] Asher, Marshall and Mary, The Christian’s Guide to Psychological Terms, 2nd ed., 2004, 149.

[3] Anderson, Gary R. 2017, Postpartum Depression: Prevalence, Risk Factors and Outcomes, Health Psychology Research Focus, Hauppauge, New  York: NovaBiomedical,

[4] O’Hara, Michael W. 2009, “Postpartum Depression: What We Know,” Journal of Clinical Psychology 65 (12): 1258–69,

[5] “Interview with Charles Hodges & Jim Newheiser {Transcript},” 2017, IBCD, March 24, 2017,

[6] Asher, Marshall and Mary, The Christian’s Guide to Psychological Terms,

[7] Andrews-Fike, Christa, 1999, “A Review of Postpartum Depression,” Primary Care Companion to The Journal of Clinical Psychiatry 1 (1):914,

[8] O’Hara, Michael W. 2009, “Postpartum Depression: What We Know,” Journal of Clinical Psychology 65 (12): 1258–69,

[9] Bernard-Bonnin, Dr. Anne-Claude, “Maternal Depression and Child Development,” US National Library of Medicine, October 2004, Accessed April 13, 2019,

[10] STUART, SCOTT, and MICHAEL W. O’HARA, 1995, “Interpersonal Psychotherapy for Postpartum Depression,” The Journal of Psychotherapy Practice and Research 4 (1): 18 29, pmc/articles/PMC3330386/, 20.

[11] “Interview with Charles Hodges & Jim Newheiser {Transcript},” 2017, IBCD, March 24, 2017,

Social Anxiety

By Josiah Garber


I. Definition

Biblical perspective

Biblically, social anxiety comes from the underlying main issue of pride. That is to say that social anxiety is a sin that stems from a person focusing on themselves too much. The person with social anxiety sees the approval of man as the ultimate good in their lives. This means that they despair when they believe that they will not receive that approval that they feel they need. Therefore, social anxiety is a sinful self-centeredness that is the inverse of self-exaltation. This self-centeredness then replaces God with a love of oneself that manifests itself in either traditional prideful actions or, in the case of social anxiety, a despair that the one does not live up to the standard that they believe they should. Effectively, the god of the person who is struggling with social anxiety is himself. Social Anxiety manifests itself in people feeling inferior to those around them. Viewing ourselves as less than we are, less than God created us to be, stops us from loving others the way that we should.

Scripture calls social anxiety sin very clearly. This is seen first of all in Matthew 6:25-34 where Christ exhorts all not to worry. In this passage, we are called to not be anxious.  Anxiety is shown to be useless; it will not add a single day to our life. Instead, Christ calls us to focus on the struggles of today. It is a call to focus on what we are currently up against, not our fears of the future. This whole passage, through the analogy of the flowers and of the sparrows, emphasizes the sovereignty of God. He is the one who will provide for all of our needs.

A second passage that deals with this issue is Philippians 4:6-9. In these brief few verses, Paul commands the Philippians to “not be anxious about anything.” Social Anxiety, then would  be included. This is a clear demonstration that anxiety is sin. However, Paul gives the solution to anxiety in this passage. That is, he states that the one who is anxious is to give their requests to God in thanksgiving, prayer, and faith. Peace, he states, is the result of this. This means that faith is important as the believer must trust not that God will grant what they want, but that He will give what is best for them.

Secular perspective

Social Anxiety Disorder, also called Social Phobia, is defined as “an emotion characterized by apprehension and somatic symptoms of tension in which an individual anticipates impending danger, catastrophe, or misfortune. The body often mobilizes itself to meet the perceived threat: Muscles become tense, breathing is faster, and the heart beats more rapidly.”[1] The secular view is purely physical, saying that it is simply an anticipatory fear of social situations. They distinguish fear and anxiety by saying that “Fear is the emotional response to real or perceived imminent threat, whereas anxiety is anticipation of future threat.”[2]

The treatment of social anxiety normally takes the form of one of two separate forms. The first is the use of psychiatric medications. These are usually similar to the ones used for depression, and they vary in their effectiveness at curbing symptoms from mildly successful to somewhat moderately successful. The second form of treatment is cognitive behavioral therapy. This will often take the form of exposure therapy or group therapy. It is also quite common for there to be a mixture of the two approaches in an attempt to cover the weaknesses of each approach. [3] In order for someone to be diagnosed with Social Anxiety they must have manifested symptoms for 6 months or longer.


II. History

Social Anxiety has existed for a very long time, with even general anxiety being directly addressed by both Jesus and Paul. The idea of social anxiety may have originated Hippocrates as early as 400 B.C. However, it wasn’t until 1968 in the DSM-II that Social Anxiety was specifically mentioned and defined. It was here that it was first classified, and the idea of it has only become more prevalent since.

III. Evidence of the Problem

Social Anxiety’s main theme is an avoidance of stressful social interactions. “The feared situation is most often avoided altogether or else it is endured with marked discomfort or dread.”[4] This often leads to isolation, where the person will distance themselves from their family or friends. Social Anxiety also manifests itself through a fear of judgement from others. It is a “fear or anxiety about one or more social situations in which the individual is exposed to possible scrutiny by others.[5]

The person struggling with this will often fear that they will be rejected, unloved, or perceived as annoying, lame, stupid, weird, rude, boring, or a whole host of other undesirable outcomes.

IV. Etiology

While there is no known medical condition that causes Social Anxiety, there are several factors that may contribute to it. These factors are things such as abuse, internalization of fears, an unhealthy level of comparison of oneself to people one may see as ideal, and the perceived need to become the ideal form of oneself. Spiritually, Social Anxiety comes from a lack of trust in God, a propensity to not leave the worries of one’s life in the hands of God through faith and prayer. It may also come from valuing oneself as the most important thing, thus leading to that value having ultimate control over emotions and actions. [6]

Some physical symptoms of this issue are the avoidance of social situations, tremors, increased heart rate, tenseness, perspiration, and, in some more extreme cases, panic attacks. [7] Spiritual symptoms include a lack of trust in God, doubt in His promises to give  all that is needed, and a view of God’s love and provisions as not enough to satisfy social needs.


V. Examining the Heart

The possible heart themes behind Social Anxiety are a desire for control and a fear of man. The person with Social Anxiety will desire for the people in their lives to see them as they wish to be seen, of value, enjoyable to be around, and acceptable in their preferred social situations. Some idols that go along with this are a love of self, pride, and a love of comfort.

VI. Biblical Solutions 

In his Christian Counselor’s Manual, Jay Adams says “If the counselee’s fear fundamentally is a fear of men, then the answer lies in encouraging him to engage in loving ministry, in which he may give of himself to others. Granted, more may be involved, but ultimately, fear will vanish only when he has learned to live the life of loving concern for his neighbor.”[8] Adams also states that a constant and continuous prayer life will lead to peace. [9] Others mention that it is most important that one does not value himself primarily, as that will lead to worry. Valuing Christ first and other people before oneself will take the focus off of oneself, helping to get rid of anxiety. [10]

Recommended Books

“When People are Big and God is Small” by Edward T. Welch

“Overcoming Anxiety: Relief for Worried People” by David Powlison

“Anxiety Attacked: Applying Scripture to the Cares of the Soul” by John MacArthur

Recommended Homework Resources

“A Christian Growth and Discipleship Manual: A Homework Manual for Biblical Living Volume 3” by Wayne A. Mack and Wayne Erick Johnston

“For Further Thought” sections in “When People are Big and God is Small” by Edward T. Welch




[1] Gary R. VadenBos, APA Dictionary of Psychology (Washington, D.C.: American Psychiatric Association, 2015), 66.

[2] David J. Kupper et al., DSM-V (Washington, D.C.: American Psychiatric Association, 2013), 189.

[3] Vladin Staracevic, Anxiety Disorders in Adults: A Clinical Guide (Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, 2010), 183.

[4] VadenBos, 999.

[5] Kupper et al, 202.

[6] Robert D. Jones, “Getting to the Heart of Your Worry,” The Journal of Biblical Counseling 17, no. 3 (Spring 1999), 22.


[7] James Morrison, DSM-IV Made Easy (New York, NY: The Guilford Publications, 1995), 262.

[8] Adams, 417.

[9]  Jay E. Adams, The Practical Encyclopedia of Christian Counseling (Heckettstown, NJ: Timeless Texts, 2003), 190-191.

[10] Jones, 22.