In life and ministry we have to recognise and accept that some of the challenges people face are very serious ones.
In many situations individuals who come for counselling (and indeed we may recognise this in ourselves) may be suffering from mental health problems and need medical attention. Prayer and scriptural verses alone will not be enough. If they are suffering from acute anxiety or depression, usually they are unable to concentrate sufficiently to read the Bible or pray and they need to be referred to a doctor or hospital.
As cell members, leaders or counsellors we should not feel we have failed them if we refer people with such needs to medical professionals. We can go on supporting them and praying for them alongside their medical care or treatment.
Some of the challenges, which come up in counselling, could be extreme fear or anxiety; they usually go hand in hand – fear producing worry and worry, anxiety which can also develop into depression.
Anxiety is a symptom, a response to a potentially challenging or threatening experience. When the threat is not acute or sudden and we have to think about it beforehand, worry and nervousness can produce anxiety. Anxiety is closely linked to fear which is a primary emotion that helps us deal with danger.
Not all anxiety is negative. It can be very positive. Some form of anxiety is unavoidable living in our present hectic society and it is the body’s way of telling us to pay attention, especially in dangerous situations, otherwise the consequences could be disastrous. But sometimes, anxiety seems to spiral out of control and it becomes a serious issue which begins to take over a person’s life. Desperate feelings of anxiety, which are not related to obvious external circumstances, seem to dominate a person’s thoughts. They are filled with a sense of dread and negative foreboding. Severe problems of anxiety like this, which can often be linked to depression, need medical input.
There are many different forms of depression – from discouragement to severe depression and everything in between.
Life issues often get people down and usually ministry and support will bring this individual back to a place of trust and confidence in God to bring them through. But a person, who has prolonged sadness with unrelenting symptoms, becomes unable to enjoy life and loses interest in everything. This results in a pervading sense of hopelessness, feelings of dread and a general lack of ability to concentrate or to control thoughts. This is a disabling condition and needs urgent medical help.
People suffering from depression will usually have a chemical imbalance in their body, which is why they are prescribed some form of medication. When that is corrected they can enter fully into the counselling process.
For a Christian to accept he/she is depressed can be very difficult. And so they need a lot of encouragement and support to seek medical attention and indeed to take the medication prescribed (if there is a prescription).
In John 5:2-9, we read the story of the man by the pool with no one to put him in when the waters were troubled. When Jesus came along he was totally healed. There is emotional healing as well as physical healing in the cross. Healing is available for fear, rejection, poor self image, past hurts and every other symptom of damaged emotions. When we release forgiveness to the individuals who have hurt us we step into the pool. And that pool is big enough for all of us.