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I have been seeing a lot of response online regarding the death of Matthew Warren last week.
As you are probably aware, Matthew, age 27, was the youngest son of Pastor Rick Warren, and last Friday after many years of depression and despair, he ended his own life.
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A Song of Ascents. Out of the depths I cry to you, O Lord! O Lord, hear my voice! Let your ears be attentive to the voice of my pleas for mercy! Psalm 130: 1-2 * * *
Read an excerpt from Rick Warren’s e-mail he sent to his staff which was taken from this CNN article:
You who watched Matthew grow up knew he was an incredibly kind, gentle, and compassionate man. He had a brilliant intellect and a gift for sensing who was most in pain or most uncomfortable in a room. He’d then make a bee-line to that person to engage and encourage them.
But only those closest knew that he struggled from birth with mental illness, dark holes of depression, and even suicidal thoughts. In spite of America’s best doctors, meds, counselors, and prayers for healing, the torture of mental illness never subsided. Today, after a fun evening together with Kay and me, in a momentary wave of despair at his home, he took his life.
Kay and I often marveled at his courage to keep moving in spite of relentless pain. I’ll never forget how, many years ago, after another approach had failed to give relief, Matthew said ” Dad, I know I’m going to heaven. Why can’t I just die and end this pain?” but he kept going for another decade.
Rick Warren has handled this family crisis with such strength and dignity and sensitivity. He has a very public ministry and has been very transparent with his grief and expressions of sorry.
Today, I came across this tweet:
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I am wondering about this, too. When I read that Heath Lambert thinks SBTS has the answers I of course was intrigued, so I clicked on the link. At the website was information about a two-day counseling course put on by Southern Baptist Theological Seminary (SBTS) Alumni Academy. Heath Lambert is teaching this class along with Stuart Scott. Read the description:
Counseling the Hard Cases
August 1-2, 2013
Join Drs. Stuart Scott and Heath Lambert as they teach Counseling the Hard Cases on August 1-2, 2013 for one of our forthcoming Alumni Academy courses. This class will flow from their recently published work Counseling the Hard Cases: True Stories Illustrating the Sufficiency of God’s Resources in Scripture.
The class will be a study of the sufficiency of the Bible as a resource for handling counseling problems. Scott and Lambert will demonstrate Scripture’s competency to speak to the most difficult and complex counseling problems, which are theological at heart. Because of Scripture’s sufficiency in this regard pastors and counselors can be assured that Scripture contains all things necessary for counseling the hard cases in counseling ministry. Participants will come to understand that Scripture is relevant to the counseling task, and that the grace of Christ in Scripture ensures help in even the most difficult issues of life.
Heath Lambert is Assistant Professor of Biblical Counseling; Department Coordinator, Biblical Counseling. He was recently named Executive Director of the National Association of Nouthetic Counselors (NANC).
Stuart Scott also will teach this 2-day class. Here is part of his bio from the website:
Dr. Scott comes to Southern Seminary with over twenty-five years of experience in counseling and pastoral ministry, including ten years as associate pastor of family ministries and counseling at Grace Community Church in the Los Angeles area with Pastor John MacArthur. Prior to joining the faculty at Southern Seminary/Boyce College, Dr. Scott served on the faculty of The Master’s College and Seminary in the area of biblical counseling. He is a Fellow and member of the board of the National Association of Nouthetic Counselors (NANC) and a member of the Association of Biblical Counselors.
How would SBTS and other biblical counselors deal with cases like Matthew’s?
Read this again: Because of Scripture’s sufficiency in this regard pastors and counselors can be assured that Scripture contains all things necessary for counseling the hard cases in counseling ministry. Participants will come to understand that Scripture is relevant to the counseling task, and that the grace of Christ in Scripture ensures help in even the most difficult issues of life.
And once again: Scripture contains all things necessary for counseling the hard cases in counseling ministry.
This is implying that we need nothing else except the Bible for counseling, is it not? They are specifically referring to “even the most difficult issues of life.” So what they are saying is that pastors using the Bible should be able to handle all cases – including hard cases. Even Matthew’s case?
A big focus on this kind of counseling (NANC) is to work on the sin in one’s life. In general, this does work. However, what about abuse cases? What about war veterans suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)? Pastors should be able to handle that, right? Do war veterans and abuse victims suffer as a result of their sin? What about postpartum depression in which a woman is hormonally imbalanced? What about when there are other medical conditions going on resulting in depression? What about when someone is in so much physical pain, they cannot sleep and the lack of sleep is making them go in a downward spiral. Is Biblical counseling the answer?
Sovereign Grace Ministries pastors and my former pastor thought that they should be able to handle sex abuse cases within the church without notifying civil authorities. In a similar fashion, many pastors believe that the Bible has given them all the answers they need to help people with mental health issues – all mental health issues and crises. I am not so convinced. I have seen people slip through the cracks. It sounds as if Matthew Warren’s parents realized that their son’s despair was beyond their control and sought medical assistance for him for many years. They did everything they knew. He still died. Many Christians will judge that harshly. Some hateful “Christians” might even say that he died because he didn’t get true Biblical counseling. Yes, I’ve seen some of those comments around social media and they disgust me.
While I believe the Bible does have the answer to so many of life’s problems, I think there is an appropriate time to seek additional help. I do not believe the lines are as black and white as many of our pastors have led us to believe. In fact, I believe many of those black/white pastors are putting people in harm’s way because they are ill-equipped to handle the serious cases many experience in a mental health crisis.
I am interested in hearing any stories you might have regarding counseling at church. This is a sensitive subject. Feel free to use a pseudonym if that makes you feel more comfortable. I’m also working on sharing a personal story with regard to mental health. I want to share my experiences with Biblical counseling. Stay tuned for that.
To the choirmaster. A Psalm of David. I waited patiently for the Lord; he inclined to me and heard my cry. He drew me up from the pit of destruction, out of the miry bog, and set my feet upon a rock, making my steps secure. He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God. Many will see and fear, and put their trust in the Lord. Psalm 40:1-3