The Importance of Friends

Written by Dan Brown, MA (Director of Operations, Senior Clinician)

As a follower of Christ, I don’t know what I would do without my Christian and non-Christian friends alike.  These are people with whom I can share small moments like a kid’s birthday or big moments like the passing of a family member.  I need them in my life to share these moments, but I also need them in my life to point out my weak spots and to pray for me and my family.  

God did not design us to be alone.  The first thing in the Garden that was “not good” was that Adam was by himself.  He was alone.  God remedied that by giving him a companion.  

We need companions.  We need friends.  We need family members.  We need people even if we don’t always think we do.  Now, not all friends and family are helpful, but that will be a topic we cover in a future post.

From our chair in the counseling offices at Harbor, we are always curious to find out what natural supports a client has around them as well as any supports are not helpful.  Who in their life is positive to their mental health?  And who might not be a healthy influence in their life?  We look for people who love them and are willing to support them while at the same time not enabling them in any sinful or maladaptive behavior.  We look for people that are praying for them.

Mark’s account of the life of Jesus gives us an interesting look at what it means to be this kind of friend. Mark 2:3-5 reads:

“And they came, bringing to (Jesus) a paralytic carried by four men.  And when they could not get near him because of the crowd, they removed the roof above him, and when they had made an opening, they let down the bed on which the paralytic lay.  And when Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, ‘Son, your sins are forgiven.’”

In this story, the author doesn’t elaborate on the nature of these four friends’ faith.  Maybe they were all good Jews, perhaps they were new converts to this radical Rabbi Jesus, or maybe they were a mix of normal guys from a fishing village.  The text doesn’t explicitly tell us about their faith, but what is made explicit is that these four men cared deeply for the paralytic man.  They knew was that Jesus was performing miracles and their friend needed one.  But they couldn’t get in the door.  So what did these friends do?  The ESV states that they literally ripped the roof off the place.  

What I want to point out in this text is that it does not say that the paralytic man’s faith made him well but rather that Jesus saw the faith of his friends and forgave the man his sins and healed him.

Now sure you exegetes out there are thinking there are other things going on in this text that are important, but for the purposes of this post let’s think of the friends we surround ourselves with and how we serve as a friend to others.  Do we have friends around us that are willing to rip roofs off to get us closer to Jesus?  And are we willing to rip off roofs for our friends to get them closer to Jesus?  Sometimes we can’t just say we will pray for our friends; rather, we need to put some feet to our prayers.  

The ultimate miracle that Jesus performs for the world is that He forgives sin, and this was the ultimate miracle for this man not just that he regained the strength of his legs.  You wonder if Jesus was thinking of Psalm 103:3 when He forgave the man wondering if the religious leaders would remember the rest of the verse or just get hung up on their religiosity?  

You might conclude that you don’t have four good friends like that in your life and the thought of that void reveals a deep sense of loneliness within you.   If so, maybe you can take a step into someone else’s life to be a better friend.  Maybe not a “rip off the roof” friend just yet (we have to work up to that) but someone that is present in someone else’s life, with whom you learn to listen and not just talk about your problems as they talk about their own concerns.  Or maybe you simply say to the friends around you that you’ll be praying for them.  And then, when they need something later, you’ll be able to put more feet to your prayers and become one of their four friends.  And by becoming a friend like this to someone else, maybe you’ll find one of your four friends in your own life.

Anxiety and Faith

Written by Day Marshall, LMHC (Senior Clinician)

Anxiety is one of the most common reasons people enter a therapeutic setting. The symptoms of anxiety can be as varied as the individuals it affects, but generally, it shows up as jumbled, racing thoughts of worry and negativity about self or others, resulting in an impaired ability to focus, process options, problem solve, or make decisions. Anxiety often manifests physically as sweaty palms, increased heart rate, lightheadedness, and either lack of purposeful motion or excessive activity.

At times, Christians who come to counseling with a hope to resolve anxiety can express a sense of failure or disappointment in their walk with God. There is a belief that their anxious thoughts and feelings are somehow related to a lack of faith or ability to rest in God’s goodness. And though resting in God plays a part in the management of anxiety, it is often relieving for clients to recognize that anxiety is very often closely related to values, beliefs and coping strategies established in early childhood, usually long before a comprehensive understanding of God is formed. This means that learning how to apply faith and God’s truths to anxiety responses can take some coaching and skills building: learning proper application of God’s healing balm, if you will.

Since many neurological pathways are solidly established for anxious responses early in life, it is helpful to have the capacity to apply critical thinking and reason to practical skills building in order to carve new pathways for responding to stressors. Faith and God’s truth can be powerful components in establishing these new responses. For example, applying Scripture and God’s promises during grounding and self-soothing techniques can often be very effective at mitigating the impacts of anxiety. One possible application of this is the practice of breathing in deeply while thinking, “He is my refuge” or “Rest for the weary”, and then visualizing breathing out worry and fear.

Rather than experiencing guilt or a sense of failure, those with anxiety can be encouraged that peace and rest for the anxious mind is closely related to learning how to apply the healing balm of God to those affected areas.