Chris Legg, LPC, joins Dr. Mark Turman to discuss how psychology and faith integrate, how Legg works as a therapist and pastor, a biblical understanding of mental disorders, Jesus’ flawed yet sinless life, and the need for a healthy community.
Chris Legg talks about his family and career, how he became a licensed counselor, owner of a counseling practice, and head pastor of South Spring Church (2:14). Dr. Turmans asks for the definition of mental illness, which brings their discussion to a biblical understanding of disorders (8:00). Legg talks about how therapy and Christianity integrate in a holistic way, and explores how everyone is broken in one way or another (15:27). They consider how God’s will is not for us to be perfectly healthy in this life, and how we can pray for disorders to be healed (37:37). They talk about Jesus being perfect but not flawless as a sinless human and the need for a community to battle isolation (45:54). Legg closes by encouraging anyone struggling to seek help, that counselors, pastors, friends, family, and the Lord want to walk alongside you in dark times (56:34).
Resources and further reading:
About the host
Mark Turman, DMin, is the executive director of Denison Forum. He received his DMin from Truett at Baylor and previously served as lead pastor of Crosspoint Church.
About the guest
Chris Legg received his Master’s in Marriage and Family Counseling and Christian Teaching from Southwestern University and is a licensed professional counselor (LPC). He is the founder and owner of Alethia Counseling Center (which offers counseling, speaking, and business consulting) and is the head pastor at South Spring Baptist Church in Tyler, Texas.
He is passionate about helping others find freedom in Christ and training disciples to make disciples, equipping them to live life to the fullest. Legg speaks on various subjects to schools, camps, and conferences, but he is particularly expert in unpacking marriage, sex, and healthy relationships. He previously worked as the chaplain for Pine Cove Christian camps, establishing the Christian leadership program The Forge. He publishes a wide range of articles in his casual blog on Chrismlegg.com.
He has been joyfully married to his wife, Ginger, for over twenty-five years and has five children, two of whom are adopted. He cherishes his family and prioritizes his role as husband and father, which are second only to his allegiance to Christ.
Transcribed by Otter.ai
Mark Turman 00:10
Welcome back to the Denison Forum Podcast. I’m Dr. Mark Turman, Executive Director of Denison Forum. Thank you for being a part of this conversation. The Dennison forum exists to create a movement of culture changing Christians. We do that by providing transforming content hopefully, like you’re going to experience in today’s conversation and through other resources that you can find at Denison forum.org. Today, we’re having another conversation about faith and culture, and about how God is moving in our midst. May is Mental Health Month, and we’re going to be talking about mental health issues, faith and how the church is engaged and involved in being a part of that journey in that story. As a part of mental health month, you may know that we are concerned in many ways about the rising tide of suicide and suicide attempts in our culture. Let me remind you that not only are there resources locally and through your church and through your pastors, but also through the suicide hotline. 988 is the simple number to use. If you or someone else is struggling with depression and with other kinds of struggles, and you’re having thoughts of self harm. 988 is the number to use. Today we’re going to be talking with Chris leg. Chris is both a pastor and licensed professional counselor. He serves at South spring Baptist Church in East Texas. And we’re going to be talking with him today about many issues revolving around mental health through not only his work as a pastor and a minister, but also as a counselor. We look forward to the conversation. Thanks for joining us. We hope that it’s useful to you and that you’ll share it with others as well. Welcome to the Denison Forum Podcast. I’m Dr. Mark Turman. And we’re sitting down Today with Pastor Chris leg, who is not only a pastor of South spring Baptist Church in East Texas, where I’m from, but is also a licensed professional counselor. Chris, welcome to the podcast. It’s great to be here.
Chris Legg 02:12
Thanks, man. That’s gonna be great.
Mark Turman 02:14
Chris, give us a little bit of your formal background. How long have you been serving in ministry? How long have you been practicing as a counselor? And tell us a little bit a little bit about how those two worlds have come about together?
Chris Legg 02:28
Yeah. Well, the quick version after getting my master’s in marriage and family counseling, and another one in religious education from Southwestern, that’s now been closing in on 30 years ago, it’s been 25 plus years. And so I’ve been I’ve been doing counseling for about 25 plus years, as well. And then being in that being early 50s, my first student ministry job was when I was 19. So we can do the math there as well over 30 years now, which is ridiculous to think. But it’s been it’s been great. And then a few years ago, 11 years ago, a local church, I was doing full time private practice work here. And, and a church came, I did some interim work front church for another church in town, but when they were waiting to get their pastor, and preached and another church came to me in that time, and said, Would you be we would like for you to apply and that’s to be our pastor. And so that’s, that’s kind of the quick version of, of how I got to be at South spring and I own and operate a lengthier Family Counseling Center here in Tyler, Texas, and have several counselors as well. And, and I get to walk that the modern day tightrope of professional counseling, and at the same time, being a minister and a Christian so uh, carries with its own challenges. Yeah, yeah
Mark Turman 04:00
And under the banner of full disclosure, Chris is also a father and tell us a little bit about your family, one of your kids, Mark works on our staff with Dennis and forum. And I’ve had the joy over the last couple of years to develop a partnership and friendship with him. First of all, let me say extremely, extremely smart quality. Yes, great thinker. He’s pursuing additional higher education in philosophy So Mark, Mark is an incredible thinker and has been on our podcast writes for us some but tell us a little bit about your family and brag on mark if you want to
Chris Legg 04:39
I brag on all of them. And they’re it’s easy them I’ve been married now for almost 30 years and and our eldest is mark, and, you know, he was our rebellious one. He would wear suits to church and things like that when the rest of us including the pastor was wearing jeans and shakos he was wearing a suit but that was his idea of rebellion. He Yeah, he’s extraordinary and always has been he’s, you know, heading off to Scotland, allegedly. That’s the plan, Lord willing, not allegedly, Lord willing is what I mean there and, and, and to work on his master’s in philosophy and then I have for others, a daughter who’s working on her degree in Spanish and music. And and then I have a 17 year old as of four days ago he turned 17 and awesome leader in the youth group and among his friends and I have a 12 year old son who is into everything that’s kind of his deal right now if it’s if it’s interesting to him, that’s what he’s into. And, and then I also have a 10 year old daughter. And so it’s it’s been an amazing adventure. Obviously parenting always is have extraordinary wife we talked about the other day that the number one predictor for whether someone visits our church and stays is whether they meet my wife the first Sunday that they visit. And if they do, they’re staying there’s they’re not going anywhere. Right. She’s She’s extraordinary. Her gift of hospitality and shepherding is just, it’s off the charts. So yeah, I have a great have a great life out here. It’s it’s such a blessing.
Mark Turman 06:15
That’s fantastic. And parenting. If nothing else, we’ll certainly bring mental health issues into view, along with significant faith struggles, right? Absolutely. It’s anytime you work with people. And parenting is just discipleship that neither one of you can escape. And it’s a and yeah, that the family is where the greatest things about us. And the ugliest things about us are usually pretty exposed. And which is which is great. That’s that’s part of how we grow up. Right. And I think I think community and relationships God gave us those. It’s always been intriguing to me, Mark that when that when God is the one who realizes that it’s not good that Adams alone, God’s immediate solution to that isn’t you know what we’ve been walking around in the cool of the evening, we better start hanging out in the cool of the morning to his his solution is to create another person. And so I think sometimes we can overdo that. Yes, of course, as believers, all we need is Christ. Literally all we need as in we don’t even need air or water. We’re allowed to be dead as long as we have Christ, because then we’re live. But God’s opinion seems to be that we need each other in order to have the abundant life that He has for us. And so when he sent out the 72, he sent him out in twos, I think for a reason. That’s a good unhearable. So as we’re talking about mental health issues, yeah, we get to experience our own and others and community, especially family, but that’s also where we find the comfort. The hope, with Christ, so absolutely. It’s an adventure every time should be no. I read a number of years ago, little little excerpt in what used to be called Reader’s Digest magazine, but not not seen by too many people as much anymore. But there was a little Bert blurb in Reader’s Digest that said, you know, marriage will teach you about patience and kindness and forgiveness and gentleness and clarity and persistence, and a whole bunch of other things that you wouldn’t have had to learn if you weren’t married. Right? That’s right. And kids only accelerate that on steroids as well and true. And like you said, being around, you know, being around people in any context. That’s, that’s certainly true. But we’re going to be dropping this podcast in the month of May, which has been designated as mental health month. Okay. So we want to talk you into some of those areas of your expertise. I wonder if we just might start with what you would give us as a definition of mental illness, or mental health? You know, how does it How does the person know Hey, am I just having a bad day? Or do I really have something that might be diagnoseable as a real quote, unquote, illness? I think, you know, just in my journey, similar to yours, through ministry, and through life, we seem to be getting a lot more comfortable in some ways, in some places with the discussions of mental illness, and getting better, hopefully, at understanding the complexity of it. Yeah. And the pathways for dealing with it both from the context of faith, but also from the context of, of medicine and other avenues. But if somebody’s wondering, Hey, am I struggling with something that might actually be a mental illness or as somebody in my family, in my circle of relationships, they’re not just going through a hard time or they’re just not having a bad day or a bad week, or something more than that? How does the person think about the definition of mental ill Bonus?
Chris Legg 10:01
Well, yeah, I’ll unpack that. But I would also say, it’s, it’s not like this is a pass fail type of exam. If what I tell people is if you suspect if there’s something that’s chronically handicapping you or just are tripping you up in life, you don’t, you don’t have to have a diagnosis, it’s okay to just get help, and to go talk to somebody. And if you if you don’t know, or you suspect, then my recommendation, this may seem self serving as a person who owns a counseling center. But my recommendation is, talk to somebody get help talk to a counselor, talk to a pastor talk to a close friend, like that’s back to that community thing, it’s it is a, it’s almost always a mistake, to just try to only sit and think about it yourself. Pray about it, take it, take it to God, and then take it to people who you know, and trust and who have the expertise, if needed to talk about it. But diagnoses are really, honestly, in my opinion, nothing more than shorthands, they don’t create anything, they only describe something they don’t, whether you’re diagnosed or not, has doesn’t tell you that you have a mental illness or not. It’s just a way for professionals to shorthand, it’s like, you know, at some point paleontologist got tired of describing the I found a skeleton with a really big head and a little alarms and a big tail. And so they just give it a name. And so they call it T Rex. And then they can say I found a T Rex. And so the same thing is true. If I say I think someone is chronically depressed, or has a social anxiety, or has an alcohol dependency, I’m not creating something, I’m just describing something, usually so that other professionals can talk about it more easily. Sometimes diagnoses are really scary, and we’re afraid of them. I mean, they can be abused, even in the Christian world, and in the professional world. But what I would say is, what you want to do is figure out what is not functioning well in your life, and get the help to deal with it, whether it’s diagnoseable or not, but at most things are diagnosed, but what it means is, is that you’re you’re experiencing something that the conditions around you don’t demand. And so either you’re experiencing something that that the conditions around you don’t exist, like a delusional disorder, or dementia disorder, or schizophrenia or something like that. And each of these really is kind of a spectrum, as in you can be and you could have a very low level version of this and be very, very functional. Or you can have a very powerful, overwhelming version of this and be very, very nonfunctional. And their burdens that for whatever reason God allows us to bear. And and that’s, that’s always a tough question too. But, but so whatever that happens to be those burdens, or an emotion and most people who have some diagnosis, it’s an emotional disorder, like depression or anxiety. And so those are just me, we all need to be able to have anxiety attacks, that’s just a fight or flight response. And if a guy steps out of an alley with a knife, I need to have an anxiety attack. That’s the body’s way of giving me the energy to run or fight or whatever. The problem is, if I’m having an anxiety attack when I’m trying to sit in church or walk through the mall. And, and now there’s no threat, there’s no actual threat, there may be a psychological threat, but there’s no actual physical threat. And yet my body is responding as though there is. And so that’s, that’s when it’s counts as a disorder is when you’re experiencing something that there might be a proper place for it. But but it’s not. It’s not functional for you. And so anyway, and I don’t, I think another this is what you were saying a minute ago, I think the church has done a better job in the last few years of waking up to the truth of mental illness, I think for a long time, and that there’s a swing of the pendulum. And for a long time, it was, you know, you just need to buck it up and put one foot in front of the other, there’s nothing wrong with you just just get up and, you know, plow the field. Right. It was just a character flaw, if you are or if you’re in combat, and you, you know, curled up in a ball when the explosion started, you were just a coward is very easy, just a character flaw, or there was a faith issue is still a problem in some denominations that they will say, Well, if you had enough faith, you wouldn’t. You wouldn’t have these emotions or whatever. I think I’d be careful that we don’t swing all the way to the other end and say, they’re only medical, they’re only brain chemistry. I think that the human person is like Plato, in that you take purple playdough and yellow Play Doh and you mix them together and you get this weird kind of brown, nasty playdough but you’re never getting them apart again. And I think whatever we are the material and the immaterial are mixed and matched. Just like that, and I don’t think Christians need to be the ones saying, Oh, this is merely a spiritual issue, or this is merely an emotional issue, or this is merely a physical issue. It’s a human issue. And I believe so you treat all areas you medicine, it can be appropriate, and therapy can be appropriate and character development can be appropriate. And being anointed with oil and having the elders pray over can be appropriate. And all of that is working towards the same thing, right,
Mark Turman 15:27
and all of them are usually needed in almost every person’s story. That’s right. You know, I love what you said about, you know, what, no matter whether or not you can name it, and, and ascribe you know, a certain number of symptoms to it, or whatever. If it’s, if it’s particularly hindering your life and your joy and your ability to function well, within an overall picture of life, then it’s not a sign of weakness, it’s a sign of wisdom to go and get help. And, you know, and as, as somebody said, you know, you you can, you can either make all your own mistakes, or you can learn from the mistakes of others, you know, smart people learn from their mistakes, wise people learn from the mistakes of others, and don’t, don’t take too much of their time to make all the mistakes on their own. But can you talk a little bit about that subset of what is, at least in my experience, sometimes historically been called Clinical illness or clinical depression, that there that we are growing, at least on the medical side of things, which is, again, a part but not the whole of this reality in this in this adventure that we’re on, but they’re there, you know, just like, you know, in my case, my body for whatever, most of my life has produced too much stomach acid. And we finally figured that out about 30 years ago, that we can’t really figure out why, but there, it just simply does. And I can take a small amount of medication on a regular basis and experience a much higher quality of life, even though nobody really knows why my body produces an overabundance of, of stomach acid, right? Yep. And, and what we’re finding is, is that there are some real realities that we can say, you know, what, they’re just some blood chemistry, things that we can identify, that are not right or lacking. And I remember years ago, the theologian Leonard sweet, saying, You know what, I finally had to come to a realization that God’s will for my life was in this small pill that I needed to take every day so that my brain was working better. Speak a little bit to that side of it.
Chris Legg 17:39
That’s great. So the the community side is one that often professionals and Christians feel bad about, and sometimes even hear talk badly. Like, I literally heard someone teach that the other Bible says we’re like sheep and go astray. And then they took that phrase were like sheep and taught a whole week on. Here’s all the ways we’re like sheep, which clearly not a very good Bible. hermeneutic. But But, and one of them was that Sheep can’t help each other up. And therefore, humans shouldn’t go to other humans to help them up. They should only go to God. No, that’s a that’s a terrible teaching. I mean, it’s just not only is it a terrible Bible teaching humor hermeneutic but it’s not it’s not accurate. The Bible. I mean, plans fail, because you don’t have a multitude of counselors. And that’s life’s failed the same way. And so, anyway, the medical side, it’s intriguing, because one of our foundational doctrines of Christianity is that we are frail creatures of dust, is that we live we are broken creatures in a broken and fallen world. It doesn’t make a lot of sense that somehow we would magically not have any of the symptoms of the fallenness and brokenness, including inborn ones or biochemical ones or, and I think that’s part of the issue is I liked the analogy of the, although I’m sorry to hear about the stomach acid issue. That’s, that does not sound fun. But at the same time, what a great example, because it’s not visible to the people around you. And like mental illness, it’s not if someone’s walking around missing an arm, you know, you go out of your way to hold the door for them to be extra kind or whatever. But when someone is equally being being kind of, I don’t know, crippled, if that’s the right word, they’re being hamstrung by a mental illness, we can’t see it. And so, but yeah, there is a medical side to this. That’s not that shouldn’t be too surprising to us that all again, all of these go together. And there is totally a place for medication and, and we’re again, we’re probably in a little bit of a pendulum swing where we’re trying to learn those things. And we don’t know why. Some people’s brains, so all of us, if we get under the right feelings, you get a lot of pressure, you get a lot of stress. You’re gonna feel the temptation to kind of you know, lay in bed curl up, lay in bed where you’re safe and warm. And that’s that’s kind of the human version of curling up, you know, hiding in a hole and licking our wounds like a wolf would. Right well that’s that’s a good good instinct, sometimes we need to pull away, we can’t really handle any more stress, we’re overwhelmed. You know, one more thing is going to do us in. And so we need to close into where we’re safest. Well, that’s called depression. If it’s and it’s clinical depression, or it’s dysfunctional depression, if our life isn’t actually that, that overwhelming, if we’re not actually dealing with constant stressors, and whatever, and all of us should go through phases of that clinical or chronic means it doesn’t ever really go away. It’s there, seemingly all the time, or it’s this, it’s the failsafe, unless something really good happens in my life, I feel my baseline is low, depressed. And I’m constantly fighting the urge to just stay in bed. And if you can think of this, we all have a certain amount of psychological energy every day that we have to spend on the world around us, right. Part of part of what I like about the Jewish way of looking at a day is that they start their day starts in the evening. In the West, we think in terms of we crash in our beds after a long day, and they think of it as we get recharged at the first part of the day before the day begins is where we get our energy, it doesn’t change the reality, it just has an interesting way of looking at it, right? But but so we have a certain amount of psychological energy every day. And we spin that on all the things that don’t come naturally to us or whatever. Well, if you have a disorder, anxiety or depression, you may start with a lot less than your neighbor. And or you may be having like tax, TAX on everything that goes into the store might cause 10 points of psychological energy. But for you, it costs 30 Because you have chronic depression. And it just how do you work out the energy, and actually helps people when I’m helping families understand it is imagine if whatever it takes you to spend energy expense or to do something, it costs three times that much. And then you could imagine going, I just, I just can’t go to the store today. No, you can imagine it under those conditions. That’s what the other person is experiencing, psychologically, and why they need help, why they need friends, and why they might need to try different medications to see if any of those reduce some of those symptoms. So they can live more, according to who they are naturally, outside of that, whatever that biochemical issue is that’s going on, right. And you’re right, in that we don’t we still don’t fully understand these things. But it’s not at all we don’t some of the medications, we don’t understand why they work. We just it’s just reported that they do.
Mark Turman 22:38
Right. And then and that’s true. Like I said, we sometimes, you know, we were very, especially on our part of the world very impatient. And we’re like, well, we just want we want a simple pill or an injection and make it go away and get me past it. And and I don’t have I don’t have time to deal with the long term complexities of it, just get me past it. Right. Right. But speak a little bit about I’ve read some of your writing in this area about just understanding how prevalent both mental illness and emotional struggles actually are. That if you have 100 people in the room, it in some ways, when you’re in this kind of area, it almost feels like Well, everybody has got something of I would almost say biblical proportion in and we do obviously have this very big thing called a sin nature that we’ll get to in a moment. That as you as you referenced a minute ago, we are all broken people. But it almost seems like when you know you’re turning on your computer, you’re on various news sites, social media sites, that type of thing. You almost feel like, you know, because of the amount of of news that we’re available that’s available to us the kind of exposure we have, from a digital environment and a news saturated age. It’s almost it’s almost alarming and sometimes is alarming to feel like you know it just as really out of control. And and some of your writing, I read that, you know, almost all of us are going to likely encounter a serious season at least once or a few times in life of real struggle with emotional mental type of, of situations. We’re going to get wounded likely, in some way or we’re going to go through some other kind of experience. But can you kind of give us a scope and scale just so when we walk into a room with 20 people in it or we walk into a room with 100 people or even 1000 people for an event or a worship service? What can we kind of assume or know is is kind of going on in the hearts and lives of people You know, it’s marketing really, not surprisingly, it comes down to how you kind of define things.
Chris Legg 25:06
A couple of times I’ve done exactly that in our church. And those are on the actually, if, if someone’s listening at South spring.org, we keep it pinned near the top of our sermons as to sermons that I did on suicide and mental illness. And, and at least one of those, and maybe in both of them, I actually said, okay, you know, there’s 500 people 800 people in the room. Everyone who has, who is medicated has experiencing who’s receiving any psychotropic medication for attention deficit, or depression or anxiety, or in the last year, who has gone to a professional talk about relationship stress, and issues? Or who takes sleep medication, etc. Please stand. And, and it’s funny because there’s this slow movement as people are, people legitimately think, Oh, great, I’m going to be the only person standing. And that about 70% of the people in the room stood. So just that, and that’s a normal church. I mean, I don’t think our church is extraordinary in any way with this 70 People already stood. And then I said, Okay, how many of you think you’re dependent on either alcohol, sugar, caffeine, or cannabis to get through the day? And then another 25%? I mean, totally, we ended up with about 5% Still sitting? And I was like, No, and those were the five year olds. Right? Exactly. Right. Those were the dishonest ones. And so the, those are ones who have a line problem. So it is a, it, the truth is that we all go through at minimum stages, and phases of life, where we are going to probably need some outside help. That may just be we need our friends to gather around us and kind of hold us close. It may just be we need to talk to a close, you know, another couple of friend or something. But then when you start adding up all the different things that we run into in life, and that I mean, as we say, No one gets out of this life unscathed. I mean, no one gets out of it alive, that’s for sure. And so that whole, that whole concept of the trauma we’ve experienced. I mean, I just I was impressed to discover at one point that a huge percentage of the women who were coming to counseling with me were post abortive. And I had never been trained on post abortion, trauma counseling, right. And so I realized in the timelines that I do with my clients, I began to discover that, I mean, the vast majority of the women who I was working with had experience in abortion in their life. And here was an issue that I didn’t know how to talk through with them. So I needed to go get special training. Well, I suspect a decent percentage of the people in our church, if you just add in what we know statistics of things like sexual trauma and physical abuse, I mean, that probably represents close to half our church alone, that they have faced some level of significant sexual or abuse trauma in their childhood. And that doesn’t include the ones who’ve experienced other types of trauma. And those, those all have, we’ve all learned to survive them, good or bad. We’ve all developed psychological limps to get us through life. And sometimes those limps, they become, you know, something that we learn to live with them, sometimes they become unnecessary, and we’ve forgotten how to walk well. And some good counseling, or good pastoral help, or just good friends, good community groups, can really help us learn to shake off some of those scar tissues. That was actually the analogy. Another analogy was I went, I had some back trouble. And I went to an orthopedic person who was digging through my back with her thumbs and elbows to find you know, where the damage was. And she found a muscle that apparently I had damaged in childhood very badly, and it was covered with scar tissue. Wow. And to quote her, she started breaking up, I don’t know what that means breaking up the scar tissue. And it was excruciating. And yet my by the time she was done, my pain level went from about a six most days to a two. But it took her finding that and it was a it was a damaged muscle that I don’t remember when I damaged it. I don’t have any memory of it. And, and yet, psychologically, our bodies have some similar traits. Right.So I don’t know if I answered the question.
Mark Turman 29:35
Well, that is a well, it just, you know, one of the one of the things that you and I know as pastors that the devil does is he tries to make you feel like you’re the only one and then and that there’s there’s a brokenness or a reality in you that is not common to other people and that you’re you’re going to suffer in silence because there There’s nobody else like you and you’re, you’re broken in a way, that’s never been seen before. And that can never be helped. And you need to withdraw as far as you can, you know, sometimes, what I call the turtle effect is totally normal, like you said, you know, especially we go through a hard time we have an illness or an injury and accident, we suffer a great loss, we naturally want to withdraw into our shell for protection. And that’s, that’s totally appropriate in many ways, and for usually for a season. But we also have to learn to do some things that are counter intuitive to say, you know, what, this, this may have been an initial right step, but it’s not the permanent step that I should engage. And I have to learn because of what I’ve been through, and because of my limitations as a human being, and because of my brokenness, as a sinner, I sometimes have to learn to trust God and be counterintuitive. So that’s, that’s where I want to kind of bring the conversation around to which is the unique intersection, particularly that you are living out the intersection between faith and mental illness and mental health care? And what are you seeing going on in in that aspect, some people would say, as you have said, on on a previous occasion, you know what, this idea that you can just pray it away, is really, really off the mark and is really actually creates more struggle and more pain. But there is a unique and actually beautiful dynamic between specific and intentional kind of mental illness, intervention and counseling, and also the life of faith. It’s also wrong to go the other way and look at your church or to look at your pastors and to say, well, if my pastors were better, they could solve these issues for me without me going to the other. Right. Right. Right. And so speak to that a little bit this intersection and what you’re seeing even more More recently, in the intersection between faith theology and mental health, mental illness?
Chris Legg 32:18
Yeah. Well, it’s it is my opinion, that God’s truth never comes in conflict with God’s truth. And so if something is if something is true, from a psychological or, or scientific perspective, it’s not going to ever be in conflict with some other truth of God’s it’s always going to integrate, because truth is truth. And so this, this, what I think what we’re learning is that they do integrate, there is an intersection. And that there doesn’t need to be, of course, there’s going to be theoretical conflicts, there’s going to be, you know, the secular mindset is often going to be somehow in conflict like that the secular world has gone to the purely physical, there is nothing spiritual, there is nothing outside of the physical brain and biochemistry. Well, as a Christian, I disagree with that. But that doesn’t mean there’s not stuff to learn there. But I think I think, what’s, what’s healthy. And what’s really good is that even though there are going to be clashes, and there’s going to be disagreement, and there’s going to be different viewpoints that we run into. They don’t need to clash at the at the healthiest level there. The truth is that we discovered that, that faith, things prayer, and those kinds of things do impact, mental illness, and they do help with certain things. And of course, God has the authority and right to just curious whenever he feels, it’s the right thing to do. And everyone’s role, you see that? I think one of the most odd, interesting versions of that ever was a gentleman who I saw who he had about four different diagnoses. And he was convinced that God had healed him, but only have one of them. That God just took it away and was like, Yeah, you know what, you’re, you’re overburdened, and I’m going to take this away from you. And then I’m going to continue to walk you through the other four. And like that, I mean, certainly that would be within God’s prerogative to do so I do think we should pray and ask God like the apostle Paul did to remove whatever his thorn was. And at the same time, we are children of flesh. So long as we’re living in this world, the flesh does not follow us to heaven, and yet, it is still a part of our lives here. And the flesh is that weak little kid inside of each of us that just wants to feel better. I just, I just want to feel better right now. And what would make me feel better right now is, is my sugar addiction or my alcohol addiction or my pornography addiction engaging in that would make me feel better right now. And the flesh doesn’t care how you feel better. It just wants you to stop being lonely. Stop being angry, stop being sad, stop being cold, whatever, hungry and so on. that what Jesus teaches us know that that’s not sufficient. The apostle Paul certainly does that that’s we have to we can’t trust the flesh in us even though it’s there. And we we need to engage with healthy and right moral decision making across the board. It’s not surprising, of course, that there there can be addictions that aren’t unhealthy or sinful inherently. But that can become a an idol, something we look to, to comfort us in place of God or look to, to offers guidance in place of God. But what I’ve discovered is that that healthy, live healthy Christ following is typically going to be also the healthiest route for every area of our lives. And so they integrate really well. And vice versa, very often making healthy choices in life, guide us towards the One who created the world that made that healthy. And so I think there is a powerful integration and more and more churches, you know, more as more and more churches have counseling centers and things like that. And, and, yes, there’s going to be conflict and trouble and difficulties as we face the way the world is trying to disintegrate these things. As if we are trying to integrate them, of course, that’s going to create conflict. But I think we’re, I think what’s cool right now, it’s fun for me as a as a Christian and as a psychologist or as a therapist right now, is that that I think we’re on the right track. I don’t I think there’s mistakes being made for sure. But I think by integrating these ideas, yes, you need Chuck Swindoll years ago, Chuck Swindoll. And one of his books referenced that when James says go to the elders, have them pray over you and anoint you with oil. What a lot of people didn’t don’t realize is that is that oil was considered medicine, then there was just like it is for a lot of Evangelicals today, right. And so the essential oil movement, you know, has kind of reintroduced that in some ways. But that that Swindoll said, probably the correct interpretation of that passage is go to the elders, have them pray and take your medicine. And as if there’s not some conflict between those, and I firmly believe there isn’t just like, Jesus models, healthy boundaries, time alone, time with friends and community. He’s he’s like, he models all of this so well for us. And so I yeah, I it is, it’s an intriguing time to be in this crossroads, for several reasons. But this is certainly one of them. And an encouraging one, and
Mark Turman 37:37
particularly, you know, most of the people that are likely listening to our podcast are people of faith would be a pretty good expectation. But also this expectation of that, that God’s will is not necessarily for us to be perfectly healthy. In all respects, on this side of heaven. We, as you, as you mentioned, we certainly know that Jesus went around doing good and he spent a great amount of his time healing people of all different kinds of situations. But then we also know that, you know, I have to remind people when I was pastoring, in my church, every single one of those people that Jesus healed, and even people, he resurrected two or three of them that we read about Lazarus being the most familiar one, Lazarus still died later on. And that’s what happened when he either got sick, or he had an injury, or he just got old. What happened when he died? I mean, there probably was, at least for a while, the expectation that well, he’s never going to die. But he ended up dying, as did all these other people who were healed. And then I remember years ago, my pastor, preached this sermon. And the part of the text was about this little bitty vignette out of the Apostle Paul’s writing where he says, I left Trophimus sick in my Letus, which was Trophimus was one of his friends, one of his ministry team. And Paul does this was various people, he, he says, at one point, you know, this other friend of mine almost died of a particular illness. And right and but this interesting idea was is that you know, what, sometimes in the planet will and economy of God and in just the limitations of our broken world, sometimes people including Christians do get sick. And that includes mental emotional illnesses and challenges. Sometimes they stay sick for a long time, if not their whole life. You know, my I have a family member that is a type one juvenile diabetic and has been that way for 30 plus years, pray for that to be healed. But also pray for them to take care Edison and to get help in other ways. Talk a little bit about that idea of our expectation, particularly as believers, I heard another very prominent Christian talking about her own story recently. And she said, you know, her, her husband, who had had some really significant challenges from a wound in his childhood, you know, she, she heard him say, one time, you have to understand, some people have lives that are harder than others. And absolutely, she didn’t agree with that. She pushed back on that initially. But the more they talked about it, the more they thought about it, she’s like, You know what, some people do have lives that are just simply harder than others. That’s just the reality. So talk a little bit about expectations.
Chris Legg 40:47
Wow, well, I’m, I’m not a big fan of the of the term expectation, even in that it seems to imply that I have some kind of rights to expect certain things or to demand certain things, we usually either mean requirements, like I expect you to get your job done. Or to put up the dishes, or we made a prediction, I’m expecting that you’re not going to put up the dishes like, it’s, we need one of those two things. I think sometimes we try to mix those that can be confusing. And so I’m not I’m not a like, you know, I want things to be free gifts or requirements, not not just some kind of hazy thing there. And I think that gets us in trouble when we say I expect God to blank. And I think you’re either you need to trust His promises. Or don’t vote, don’t assume don’t presume upon him. That if you say, Listen, I expect that God’s never going to let me be depressed or have dementia. Well, he’s he’s under no such obligation. Actually, my personal opinions I think they actually word we use for depressed comes from from some of David’s Psalms, a Hebrew word that means pressed in. And so we that’s what we feel is pressed in when we when we are depressed. And so I think that’s right. You would love and you have to ask Mark the story sometime, you know, Mark had some health issues when he was a young man, and some kidney issues, and he was a sweet lady in the church wanted to come and pray over him and, and she brought a friend with her from a different faith background. And the friend was like, I’m gonna pray with him too. And like, great, well, we’ll take it all like we love it, please, yes. Well, she got there. She starts by asking Mark at 14, do you believe that God never would never want you to suffer or hurt? And he said, Well, no, I don’t believe that. At 14. He’s like, no, no, that’s, of course God might. That’s part of discipline, that’s part of life. That’s part of whatever. And she’s like, well, I don’t know if you can be healed unless you believe that God would never want you to suffer. Never, ever want you to suffer. And I’m like, I’m ready as dad to step in. But it turns out, you know, it’s Mark. I don’t know what Mark said. But But don’t you feel like the apostle Paul suffered and asked God to take that away? And God said, No, we got just flat told Paul, no, I’m not taking away whatever this suffering thing is. My grace is sufficient. And this suffering teaches you to trust me. And, and Paul begs God for it, and God tells him No, and he’s like, I, I think God reserves the right to allow and even bring about, either allow suffering or bring about discipline type of suffering in our lives. I mean, it sure felt like suffering when I soccer coach made me run wind sprints. But I appreciated it later in the game. You know, it’s it’s a so anyway, I, it’s, I think that’s an error in thinking that’s, I think, is a simplified version that we jumped into, I think, I think Jesus faced moments of loneliness. I mean, he, Jesus prayed that the cup would pass from him. And, and, and yet, so in a technical sense, Jesus prayed for something that didn’t happen. And so even Jesus got to know on a prayer request, that’s it’s when he understood, but it was still something he was praying he had to pray through as well. And, and I think, for us to think, oh, because I’m a Christian, I won’t face these challenges, I think is a mistake. I don’t think it’s biblical at all. And in fact, there I’ve had clients over the years who they carry burdens, I’m not sure I could care, right? effect. I’ve known several who I’m pretty sure I could not. And it’s amazing to me the strength. And anyone who sees them from the outside would go, wow, they sure are walking fast are getting very far in life. And my thought is, yeah, if I had to hold what they have to haul I wouldn’t get very far either. I mean, the burdens they carry are massive. And I pray for them, sometimes daily, and I sit and talk and we create strategies and but for whatever reason, God has not ordained them to be healed of this or to take away those burdens and give them different ones. And I don’t pretend to understand why and I’ll keep asking And I’ll keep walking with them as long as I can. But I think that’s, I just don’t see any good biblical evidence, I know there’s a verse you can pull here or there, you know, and you can say, by his stripes were healed. And I think if you kind of twist that passage, you can try to make it mean, therefore, we should never be sick. I just don’t think we have any examples of anyone like that in the entire Bible Christ included. And so I just think that’s, I think, I think God’s solutions for us aren’t to take away all the storms and pain and difficulty. He’s not a helicopter mom, our lawnmower dad tried to make everything easy for us. He instead he wants us to rely on him depend on Him, and to turn to His provision of one another, and the good things he brings about in life for us to just walk in faith like that,
Mark Turman 45:54
and, and even, you know, it’s really just astounding, even to somewhat contemplate, right, especially in the life of Christ. You know, I had a conversation with my wife just about this in the last couple of weeks of, you know, I wonder if Jesus ever had a stomachache? Did he ever get a? Did he ever get a stomach virus or an allergy attack or a migraine headache or, you know, any of those kinds of things? And I would expect that he did in terms of fully identifying what has led those he did experience those things, and how those things, challenge your thinking and your perspective in other ways. And I think that’s one of the glories of what it means for Jesus to have fully identified himself with us in every way except in the decision to sin. wasn’t right.
Chris Legg 46:44
He was sinless. Not flawless,
Mark Turman 46:46
there you go. Yeah. He took him.
Chris Legg 46:49
Sometimes he stubbed his toe, he may have missed a question on a math test. He, you know, he all he he was experiencing life as a human.
Mark Turman 46:57
And that’s, that’s vida, which even you know, that one thought is worth, you know, maybe about three days worth of pondering of what does it mean for Jesus to be sinless, but not flawless? You know, to twist his ankle, because he wasn’t paying attention where he was walking like he should have been or so? I’ll be so exhausted that he slipped in a storm on the Galilee.
Chris Legg 47:18
Yeah, I’ve been in a storm on the Galilee, I was not tempted to fall asleep.
Mark Turman 47:22
Yeah. And how and how exhausted do you have to be to be able to do that? So I’ve sneak a little bit we talked about, you know, obviously, the real real, all truth is God’s truth. And God is at work in all kinds of ways that, that are beyond are some of which are in our comprehension. Some are beyond our comprehension. But the intersection of, of a pursuit of a faith life that is anchored in the Bible, and anchored and centered around the person of Christ, an openness and a pursuit even of both medical and mental health counseling resources, where you’ve spent a great deal of your time. Talk a little bit about just the practice engagement, rhythm of what what, why is the local church a part of the strategy here? Wow. And you know, you and I would we would unhesitatingly say to people, you need the church. Yes. You know, I had Mike again, I like quoting my pastor, my pastor said, you know, sometimes we might really be able to say that more help mentally and emotionally, spiritually happens, over two people having coffee together, who trust each other. That happens in a counseling office all day long, right. And there’s an element which that’s true, I would tell people all the time when they came to join our church, you need to be in this church regularly developing relationships and experiencing rhythms of faith. Because you’re going to find out when you’re here that you’re not crazy, that you’re not the only one can where you’re just as crazy as the rest of you are just as crazy as the rest of us, which is weirdly comfortable in its own right. But from that angle, as we have a few minutes before we close here, just that angle about how to think about a local church, and the rhythms of faith and the realities that come through simple human fellowship that hopefully can be facilitated in any local church, or most local churches. Talk about that. It’s talking about how that is so vital, because one of the real plagues that we see and that you and I talked about all the time, it’s just the plague of isolation.
Chris Legg 49:49
So you probably saw that report that just came out about isolation and loneliness. Yeah, it’s it’s, it is as hard it’s as dangerous as smoking. Yeah. Right. Okay, exactly. Yep. I think you guys had an article that was exactly about that. Yeah. Yeah. It was a fascinating read. It’s always fascinating when someone in the world catches up to a truth that’s that we’ve known about for three or 4000 years in the Judeo Christian ethic, right? It’s, it’s breaking news for them. But it’s but it’s not good demand is alone. That’s that’s breaking news, apparently. Right. But But what I would say is and and the way I would respond, what what your pastor said is exactly right. I would just say that there’s no dichotomy. Yes, mental health may be really well fed by and fed more powerfully by coffee with a friend. That doesn’t, that’s not in competition with also talking to a doctor talking to a therapist talk. Like, I think that’s a habit. There’s a there’s a church that I’ve done training with before. And their mindset is a little bit of, if you go outside of the local church to get help, that means the church has failed. And I just said, I think your your definition of the church is way too small. I think when I go to a surgeon, who is a Christian, I’m going to the church, the church is made up of God’s people, not God’s property. Anyway, so. And so I think I think that is a, it’s healthy for us to reach out to one another in that week. But when we, but when we invite people to join our church at South spring, we say, if you would like to join our dysfunctional family, then here’s how we go through that process. And I’ll tell people, I hope it’s not an abusive family. I don’t know there’s no abuse of people in here. But my prayer is that it’s we’re never an abusive family. I, my prayer is that it’s a safe place. And we work hard to create that. But also, we are dysfunctional. It’s a whole bunch of dysfunctional people coming together, that’s probably going to lead to a dysfunctional community. Right. But dysfunctional doesn’t mean it’s not good. It is what we need. We, we need each other. And we need that. And all of those in my mind. Again, they integrate Why would you say? Well, do I go to therapy? Or do I go to small group? Well, yes, yeah. Do I go to the whatever the region type ministry that we have at our church to work through discipleship and addiction together? Or do I go talk to the pastor? Well, yeah, yeah, let’s do those. And, and should I go to the movies with my friends and coffee with my friends? Or should I take my wife on a date and go walk in with my kids and I, yes, every one of those are bricks in a building, and neither one replaces the other one. It’s, we need all of those. And what we discover is, the more of those we have in our life, the more likely we are to be thriving. And so no matter who runs the study, if the Christians run the study, we discover people who engage with other people at them all the way from my own family, to my neighbors, my friends, and all the way to professionals, or whether the world and I’ve always loved that every time you get a secular study on what non medically treats depression, and this has stopped being done because they keep getting the same answers. It turns out prayer and, and religious behavior and community are two of the most powerful non medical ways to fight even depression. And that I think that doesn’t fit with the, with the zeitgeist to the mindset of the time that it’s all just brain chemistry in the secular world. And we’re going yeah, those are vital. God made us that way. And then because the fall, I think we may need medical help, or we need our because of our own Sanders, dumb behavior, or other people’s sin or dumb behavior, or just living in a kind of a jacked up world we need. We need all of this. And the church offers an opportunity to integrate all of those that apparently based on that study, no one else is doing, right. I mean, when I ask people, what communities are you involved in, in this area? It’s church or nothing. There’s like, there’s not hardly I go to work that my friends are at work where else that’s it. And so the world has lost really, really depleted its ability to unite us. And we’re now left with we desperately need the local body. And, and just so for just recently in our community, we had a pastor take his own life, which is a whole other conversation, right? But the part I want to focus on is about a dozen churches stepped up and have been supplying support for that church and its people now for several weeks, providing meals, all host hosting the family, providing the children’s ministers the next few weeks and the church for them saying we’re sending our people to take care of your kids so all of you can be together. And it’s all of this and the wife, his wife at the funeral sent a note for someone to read on the stage. And one of what the note said was, I have never seen The bride more radiant. And it is unfathomable that people have to face those kinds of moments without a community and without a redeemer. Right. And so, as we talked about when you, you know, when you’re discussing with someone, the problem of suffering, which is hard and horrible, that there’s suffering in the world, taking God out of that picture does not reduce the suffering, it just reduces the potential for redemption of the suffering. And so we need all of that, and, and my life is built around the idea that those are not in conflict. I don’t have to choose between those. And in fact, the church very often helps me get the medical or mental health, that practice that I need. And those things integrate. I think they integrate very well, again, I don’t know how long that can last, from the world’s perspective, the way it is it integrated now, and choices may have to be made. But that’s I do think they’re they they dance well and harmonized. Well, absolutely.
Mark Turman 56:01
And like I said, just just being real honest with ourselves, that we are complex beings, and we live in a complex world. And yes, and there’s a lot of pathways and portals that we have to that we have to understand and, and pursue simultaneously. It’s not. It’s a multi faceted kind of reality. Thanks, Chris. Just, I’m gonna give you the last word, just such a good word. And is there anything I didn’t ask you there? You really want to make sure that our folks here?
Chris Legg 56:34
Wow. No, I mean, Mark, I think we’ve covered the bases, what I would tell people is the reminder always is there are people who would love to help, whether they’re paid or not, whether they’re professionals or not. Most of us need some professionals in our life at some point. And, and don’t hesitate to do that. All of us need friends and family and community we, we were wired to require that. And in when someone is struggling in isolation, what I would say is that’s not it’s not necessary to struggle in isolation. So whether you’re a lead pastor, or any other role in the body of Christ, if you’re, if you’re right now saying, I’m struggling, you’re not alone, you can get help reach out. I know Mark, they could reach out to Dennison forum, they could reach out to us that at our website is a lengthier counseling.com They could come to reach out to me at South spring, whatever we will we can help you find whatever it is, professionally and or community wise, we will we would love nothing more than to help you find that. It’s what God intended. I believe that’s part of his abundant life. You know, Mark, Mark tin, has that great passage where Jesus talks about those of us who give stuff up for the faith, he replaces them 100 times over with with mothers and brothers and sisters and lands, and yes, persecutions. And so those aren’t all again, all integrated. I think we all need dozens, if not hundreds of mothers and brothers and, and mentors and and friends in our lifetime. And and God has a provision for that through his church. Absolutely. I think it’s fun. It’s cool to be a part of it. Absolutely.
Mark Turman 58:22
Thank you for the conversation and for the work that you’re doing with Christ and for the Kingdom. It’s just great to get to partner with you. And we hope that this podcast will be beneficial to our audience. And as I always say to our folks, if this is helping you let other people know that is helping by sharing it with them, pointing them to the Denison Forum Podcast to the Dennison Forum website. And also, as Chris said, to South spring Baptist Church Alafia Counseling Center. Even if you don’t live in the area, you can still digitally get assistance from us. And from Harrison his work, we can help. That’s a great thing about technology in many ways we can help people no matter where they are. And so we appreciate our folks tuning in, if you would rate and review us and as I said at the beginning in the introduction to this podcast, if you are you know someone who is really struggling, and even thinking of self harm. The last thing we would want to remind them, reach out to your church reach out to others, and there’s always a national hotline. 988 is now the new number that you can use. If you or someone you know is struggling with self harm ideas. That’s the suicide prevention hotline. That’s a resource to be aware of as well. Thank you for this conversation and thank you for listening. This is the Denison Forum Podcast.