I recently had the opportunity to go to a conference featuring Dr. Caroline Leaf. I was so looking forward to it as I had heard and read so much about her. She is a cognitive neuroscientist who has written many books on the ‘mind-body connection’ and does so from a Biblical perspective. This conference was to be the launch of her new book, “Think, Learn, Succeed”.
I have to admit to being very disappointed.
Firstly the organisers of the conference had not allocated Dr. Leaf with enough time to fully teach and expand on her claims, leaving us with more questions than answers. Secondly, as someone suffering with Postnatal Depression, I felt both insulted and discouraged by her attitude towards mental illness.
In a nutshell, her opinion was that the majority of mental illnesses are not legitimate physical conditions but rather the by product of toxic thoughts. Her recommendation was to forgo medication and to rather ‘take every thought captive’ and ‘move into God’s Love Zone’, where you can operate in health and wholeness.
Let me be very clear that in no way do I disagree with the power of our thoughts. The Bible often speaks about the power of our thoughts and encourages us to be aware of what we think about.
“For as he thinks in his heart, so is he.” Proverbs 23:7 (NKJV)
“I destroy every claim and every reason that keeps people from knowing God. I keep every thought under control in order to make it obey Christ.” 2 Corinthians 10:5 (NIRV)
“And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.” Philippians 4:8 (NLT)
But I know from personal experience that when I am in the pit of depression, I can’t even begin to get my mind to think about anything – let alone positive thoughts! The darkness and heaviness are at times so oppressive that it feels as if I am stuck in the ’default mode’ of despair.
Dr Leaf may have the theoretical knowledge and a list of books on the New York Times Bestseller List, but I have lived it. I still live with it everyday.
I am in a much stronger place than I was 5 years ago and am now more able to correct my negative thoughts and use Scripture as a weapon in the battle that rages in my mind, but there are still days where I am so wounded that no amount of positive thinking will bring me victory.
At one point in her presentation I felt such a sense of condemnation. I began to think that it was my fault that I was depressed – that it was because I was weak and could not control my thinking.
I came home feeling more depressed than ever, but then God began to speak healing into my heart.
He reminded me that ‘there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus’ and that He is very accepting and supportive of His children who suffer with depression. He reminded me of His patience with great men of God such as David and Elijah, whose struggles with depression are well documented in Scripture.
What really concerned me was the fact that this had come from a Christian speaker who spoke in a Christian Church. As leaders in Christ, we represent Christ and are ambassadors for Him. If what they said and endorsed led to me feeling that I was weak and that God was disappointed in me, how much more would someone who is still in the early days of their struggle?
So, how should the church respond?
Rick and Kay Warren, pastors of Saddleback Church, lost their son Matthew to depression when he recently committed suicide. In the interviews which followed, they said that for them it was a wake up call that the church needs to make more of an effort to reach out to those who are ‘suffering in silence’. We need to remove the stigma of mental illness. The Warrens have since set up ministries which offer hope and healing to those with mental illnesses.
Read more about their ministry:
Another interesting read on the Church and mental illness:
Jesus encouraged us to love one another and to be a church body who carry each other’s burdens. (Gal. 6:2) It truly is a sad day when instead of carrying a person’s burdens, the Church adds to them instead.
So, was going to the Dr. Leaf conference a waste of time and money? Not entirely. I came away from the conference with a much stronger resolve to be the Voice of God in encouraging you, my precious Moms.
So continue to fight the good fight. Know that Your Heavenly Father loves you and that He will continue the healing work which He began in you.
From My Heart,