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What’s God Think about My Anxiety? Dr. Ed Welch

Family Life Today / Dave & Ann Wilson, Bob Lepine
The Truth Network Radio
August 4, 2023 5:15 am

What’s God Think about My Anxiety? Dr. Ed Welch

Family Life Today / Dave & Ann Wilson, Bob Lepine

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August 4, 2023 5:15 am

Anxiety can feel crippling and heavy with shame. Psychologist and author Dr. Ed Welch fumbled with his own anxiety, and eventually, it led him into life-altering encounters with God—who, it turned out, had beautiful things to say.

Show Notes and Resources

Hear Ed Welch on Right Now Media and listen to other episodes he's been on and connect with his Christian couseling ministry.

Intrigued by today's episode? Think deeper about anxiety in our blog post, Anxiety: What You Need to Know.

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How can we create a context in our home where children can speak openly?

That's the challenge. If our children are accustomed to being rebuked quickly or corrected quickly, it doesn't take many of those occasions for a child to say, well, there's certain things you're not allowed to talk about here, and so we don't talk about these things. How can we, how can we as parents and how can we as churches create a place where people can speak from their hearts? So you've met with more teenage, college-aged girls recently than I can remember in the last 20 years about, I don't know, depression, trauma, shame? Anxiety, suicidal ideation, self-harm, and I've met with a lot of those moms as well, and they're scared. They're scared for their daughters. They're scared because they're wondering what's causing this? Is it COVID? Is it social media?

How can I help her? And I think a lot of parents not only have daughters, but our sons that are fearful. We live in a culture and day and age where there's so much going on that feels fearful. I think there's a part of us as parents that want to just hide our kids away.

Yeah, or we want to help like, OK, how do I parent in this culture, in this generation? I don't know if it's heightened. Is it a lot more heightened than it was 50 years ago? But it sure feels like it.

And I think it probably is. And we've got an expert in here to tell us if we're on the right path or not. Ed Welch, welcome back. You're a doctor of psychology. You've written, you've taught, you're a dad and a husband. You've got kids.

So you've lived all this stuff out. As you hear us talk about this and you live in this culture, where do we start? You can go to a manual that has every single psychiatric disorder in it. And we would have a similar conversation where they're all increasing. They're all increasing more than ever before.

Right now? Every one of them across the board. Depression, anxiety, the various kinds of anxieties. We talked about panic attacks where they're commonplace, where they were so rare before.

Suicide, suicidal ideation, suicidal thoughts. It's affecting more people and it's affecting more younger people. So I'm sort of painting a large picture first and it raises the question, well, why is this? I don't know. It seems too easy to say social media has contributed to it, but it has contributed to it.

I don't think there's any question. I have observed that with my very own eyes with my grandchildren. When they have been bad on social media and gone to places they shouldn't and their phones are taken away, they are different kinds of kids. We have different kinds of conversations with them. So certainly social media is part of it.

What else is part of it? Here's the nice thing with being a Christian. We don't have to know all the reasons for it to be able to be helpful for our children. I think the important thing at this point is how can we create a context in our home where children can speak openly?

That's the challenge. If our children are accustomed to being rebuked quickly or corrected quickly, it doesn't take many of those occasions for a child to say, well, there's certain things you're not allowed to talk about here and so we don't talk about these things. How can we as parents and how can we as churches create a place where people can speak from their hearts? That's been one of our themes together, that we're trying to do what we can to imitate the nature of the kingdom of heaven. And the kingdom of heaven is who is the real you and speak it. That's not the totality of it, but that's certainly essential to the kingdom of heaven.

How can we have our homes where we invite those kinds of things? I mean, you're getting obviously into the kingdom of heaven if we could live it out in our homes or in our society would be fully known, fully loved? Is that sort of like I'm not going to be afraid to hide myself, but as I do, I'm going to feel grace.

And my own sense of what we can do as parents is to speak of things that are difficult in our own lives. One of the things in the New Testament that's obvious is we're sinners. And so you have the Lord's Prayer. Well, we ask forgiveness.

It's the kind of thing we do consistently. And we ask forgiveness and we forgive others. Well, as a father, my kids didn't have to be with me that long to see my own sin, to simply confess my sin.

It could have been something with my wife that the kids overheard. Kids, I'm so sorry, this is what I did and this is the wrongness of it and it's the wrongness that you observe, but it's before God and before him and him alone. Would you pray for me?

Now, something in this scenario like that might not work in our homes, but could you imagine moving towards something like that? Could you imagine speaking about your anxieties in the course of a day and going to a passage of scripture? Let's pray this scripture for, could you pray it for me? And by the way, we all struggle with these things, so I'll pray for all of us.

That is one of the things. We know that there are things our children struggle with that they feel like they have no venue for them except with their own peers. How can we create an environment in our homes where children speak openly?

That's the beginning of it. I remember when our kids were little, I think a lot of parents have done this. We'd ask that question, what was really, what was a good part of your day?

And then what were some of the hard things today? But I remember with boys, and I remember saying you have to attach a feeling word with it. And that was like, oh, it was like pulling teeth with these teenage boys at times. But I think our kids want to be able to share what's going on and they don't need us to judge it. Man, as soon as we judge something about it, out, they're out.

And yet it's really hard not to do that. I can remember, I've said this before, but our son was talking about this one boy at school and I said, oh, is that that bad kid that smokes pot all the time? And he said, is he bad because he smokes pot, mom? You know, and I was so convicted, you know, does that make him a bad kid? And it was like, Jesus just smoked me, you know? I want to go give your son a hug. And I remember saying to him, like, oh, you're so right.

That's such a wrong judgment for me to make. Like, thank you for teaching me, you know? And so I think our conversations are really important. And I like that you said, like, and we have to model and confess our own frailty and wrongness and misjudgments and even our own things that we're struggling with. Like, I should have said to the boys and I didn't, I didn't share what a lot of times what my hard things were that day.

And I wish I would have. I mean, that creates a safe, a feeling of safety in the home if mom or dad's going to share it. But, you know, Ed, if you've got a daughter or a son that maybe shows signs or says some things that make you think, man, they're really struggling with suicidal thoughts or the shame they're carrying is much heavier than I've been able to see before, what do you do as a parent?

Probably the natural way through would be you call up somebody who seems to have some wisdom about that, perhaps has gone through things like that with the real children. We call Ed Welch is who we call. That's who we call. And some people will call me, but I will call other people as well. It's just the nature of the body of Christ that we rely on each other, that we have the spirit and the spirit typically works through other people. So if we have no idea what to say, we say, Lord, help. Then we get on their phones and we look for help. And obviously you can go on the Internet and you can find things that are Christian and non-Christian that can be helpful in the way we continue those conversations.

But you see what I'm saying? It's not so much I have no idea what to do, the professional has to deal with this. Well, my experience, the professional, the professional is if the parents aren't going to be able to help, a lot of times the professional isn't going to be able to help. That just made a lot of parents worry right there. It's, Lord seems to specialize in using ordinary people who don't feel like they have a lot to give, but they love and they pray and they want to know their kids. So if you don't know what to say, you get help. And then you try the help that you've been given. It might be a particular question.

It depends on the school. It might be talking to a teacher at school or principal at school. It might be asking somebody at school, what are the kinds of things we should be asking of our children? It might be to say to our children, we know that there are things in your heart that are so, so important. And we know that there are things in your heart that are really, really hard.

And hopeless. And we know it's hard for you to say those things. What can we do that would invite you to be able to speak those things? What have we done that has made it hard to speak of these things?

What can we do that would make it easier to speak those things? Now, imagine how something like that would be for us to engage that kind of conversation with our children. That seems in some ways like a next step to getting at the good stuff, the important stuff. But we are doing the good stuff. We are saying, here is a place where we love you and we're going to grow in how we love you.

We desperately desire to do that together. To identify that's the kind of home that we want you to be part of that is moving into the shame or the guilt or the hopelessness. For them to see the spark of life, the life of Christ ultimately in our home, it will give them some kind of hope.

So, it's not just a step, it's actually a treatment as well. And Ed, I think the thing for us as parents to remember is our kids' friends are needing this from us too. I know that at our table, at our island, I'd have so many teenagers sitting in my house and I'd be asking them, tell me what's going on, how are you doing? And some of the things that came out were heartbreaking. And so for me, it was sometimes easier for me to not be as emotional with our kids' friends than with my kids.

But I can remember crying with them, I can remember laying my hands on them and praying over them, giving them scripture and asking, like, just read the scripture, tell Jesus everything you're thinking and hoping and your fears, all of it. Tell him everything. And then I would say, and thank you for telling me. And this one boy, I've shared a little of this before, but he was a track runner, so gifted. And he'd get so anxious before these track meets and I'd give him this little stone, this little rock, and I'd put scripture on it. And years later, maybe 15 years later, he came up to me and he said, hey, Mrs. Wilson. And he pulls out that rock and the scripture is basically worn out. And he said, this got me through every track meet.

And then he played college football. He goes, I hold this in my pocket still, which was amazing. I thought it was nothing. And yet for him, it was a lifeline to Jesus. What a beautiful story, isn't it?

That's a precious story. Yet it's a small thing. It's a small thing.

Invitations to speak. What you demonstrated is compassion, where compassion is, I am affected by you. I am different as a result of what you've just shared. Which for a young woman or man who feels utterly isolated and utterly alone and distant from love, for them to hear such a thing, it's a small thing. But it is this intrusion of hope and opportunities to pray for a child that would have never had otherwise. That's a beautiful story. Yeah, it's beautiful that it's, you've said it earlier, it's God and it's also people.

You know, you have both. I remember, I don't know what book, but Max Lucado years ago, I shared it in a sermon where he said this tornado was hitting this Texas town and this little five-year-old boy runs into his daddy's bedroom and grabs his leg. And they're standing looking out the window and the dad's trying to comfort the five-year-old son and says, hey, you can go back to bed. God's here. He's got you.

You're safe. And the boy looks up at his dad and doesn't let go of his leg and says, yeah, I know that dad, but right now I need someone with skin on. And I'll never forget that illustration because that's true. We know the father and we can pour out our hearts, but there's times where like Anne was the father to Joe in that situation, right? It's like that's what we can be in our home, our wife, our kids, people, they incarnate the love of the father often to us. And that kind of story is exactly what we should expect. The church is called the household of God.

As Paul gets the knack of it, some of his later letters, that's what he says, that it's the household of God. We together are a household and those are the best of stories when parenting is shared by other people who love the child. Maybe just one important point that you're identifying in this, that we can be quick to fix a person.

We can be quick to rebuke a person. And those things are not necessarily wrong, but there's a time for them. I think what we're identifying here is to know the child, to know the child and to not skip compassion, to be moved by the things that are on the child's heart. If the child is really struggling with a kind of depression and thinking life would be better over rather than continuing, there are hard things in that child's heart. We want to stick with knowing that child until we are moved by the child. And then perhaps the question would be, all right, sweetie, what can we do next? What can we do to help? It's not a matter of having all the answers. It's the more ordinary features of love that are going to be part of the rescue.

They're going to be central to the rescue of our children. You've said before, it's in some ways simple to have the conversation. I grew up in a home where there was a trauma, my dad leaving, and then my little brother dies within several months after. And I moved from one state to another. And my mom, now a single mom trying to keep this family together, basically said we don't talk ever about Craig's death, the divorce. My sister came home from high school and the priest walks out of the house and said, your brother's just died. And my sister said, you know, we never talked about it after I walked in the house. So you talk about trauma in a family that never discussed any of that stuff. I did not know I carry that into my teenage years and into my adulthood.

How does a family process that kind of trauma? You write about it a little bit in your book, you know. So how would you help us understand where do we go? Is it talking as well or is there more to it?

I'd be interested in asking you that question because you certainly have thought about it. It's at least knowing this, that the culture we grew up in was not the culture as God called it to be. And what he's doing is something that is different and new and good.

Again, I know I've said it before, but it's the litmus test for me of scripture. It's got to sound good. It's got to sound good. If it doesn't sound good, then we're not on it. Even if we're talking about sin, it should sound really good because to deal with our sin is one of the ways we grow closer to Jesus. So it's good. It's discarding these little features of death that tend to hang on us.

So what is this new culture? It seems like what we've been saying is speak about these things, speak about these things, and don't you dare try to minimize it. Don't you dare try to minimize it. It's a typical way people deal with suffering. There are people who have it worse than me. But again, the sort of the diabolic feature of minimizing is that we never talk to Jesus about it because it's not that big a deal.

I should be able to handle this myself. We don't handle anything by ourselves. We're dependent creatures by definition. We are dependent on the Lord and we are also interdependent on each other. That's simply the way that the Lord has made us. So indeed for us to speak, to know the compassion of Christ for you, and then to see what doors that opens, to see that Christ himself is the one who is moved by these things.

Then what? Then it opens scripture to all kinds of things. It moves the scripture to perhaps your own guilt, where inevitably if things like that happened when you were that young, you were going to feel responsible for it in some way.

So what are the things that you believe that you did wrong that somehow was part of that? Those are the things we bring to the Lord. Yeah, I love how you, every question we've asked you, there's a blend of the psychiatric and the expertise and the study and the knowledge of almost the science of the soul. And yet you always bring God and the spiritual and the scripture together.

That isn't often done that I've seen. Explain what that journey has been like for you. I think just identifying the journey is most important, where here we are, we're struggling with whatever it might be, suicidal thoughts, trauma from the past.

What do we do with that? Well, what we're trying to do as Christians is say, I don't know what to do with that, but I do know that we have a God who knows us inside and out. We do have a God who never minimizes anything. Trauma is about death. Death has come close to us. And it was literal death for you. Sometimes it can be sort of the deathly acts of people who are doing shameful and disgraceful things against us.

But it's death all the same. We know he is life. Okay, now the question is, how do we get there? How do we get from being utterly overwhelmed by this particular struggle to, I'll use Paul's phrase, somehow, Paul said, I'm determined to know nothing but Christ and him crucified. Somehow that is the summary of God's self-understanding in the way he communicates to us. So I think a lot of times it's simply, are we asking the right question? Are we saying, okay, Lord, what do you say? And if we don't know what he says, well, what do you think scripture says? We keep asking around until people can open the doors of scripture so scripture comes alive for us. So I'm not really answering your question. I'm saying that the question is so important. How do we get from the struggles of life that seem compartmentalized and unrelated to Christ?

How can we say, no, no, no, no. We have a God who, he cares about hairs on heads. And if he cares about hairs on heads, then he certainly cares about these kinds of things. If he speaks life and compassion and comfort, he certainly speaks life and compassion and comfort to these things.

I have no idea how he does it, but that's where I'm going to head. And then perhaps if we don't have anybody who's walking with us, we become that important woman who says, Lord, you got to give me something here. You have to break through because here's the struggle that I have. I don't even hear what you're saying. It seems like you're playing hard to get.

I know that's not the case. You have to speak through your people, through your word, directly through your speak. You got to do it. So again, it's not answering your question. It's saying that the question, how do we get from our daily struggle to the person of Jesus? That is our shared question.

It's our shared privilege. And it's this hopeful question because we know that he is the God who will speak. He will speak exactly what we need in our hearts. We can be sure of that.

Yeah. I love Psalm 34, the Lord is close to the brokenhearted and he saves those. Listen to this phrase, crushed in spirit, devastated, traumatic. He's close.

He will save. It's a good word. And sometimes what we're left with is, Lord, I know that's in scripture. It doesn't seem like it's relevant to me because you're not speaking to me.

But where else can I turn? There's no other words of life, so I'm going to keep at it. So what are your thoughts of sitting with Dr. Ed Welch? He was sort of like a counselor for us and everybody that listened. Sometimes I just get sad that we're listening and gleaning and learning so much at this stage of life. I'm like, oh, I wish we would have heard this when our kids were younger. Well, the good thing is our listeners are younger.

That's true. And they're getting to hear it when we wish we would have heard it. But the good news is they're hearing it and they get to apply stuff we never got to apply when we were in our 20s and 30s and 40s. I hope as a listener you'll send these out to even your kids or friends who are struggling with this because these are issues that every family is facing. Yeah, and I'll say thank you because there's quite a few Family Life Today listeners that give financially to make this happen. And so you're letting other families benefit from people like Ed Welch.

I mean, I'll just say this. When he said create an environment in your home where your wife, your spouse, your kids feel like they're invited to pour out their honest, vulnerable thoughts and feelings and struggles and trauma and shame, that was worth everything just to say. I felt like he did that with us. It's like he felt so heard and seen and invited into a conversation, not just with him, but with Jesus.

So that was beautiful. I'm Shelby Abbott, and you've been listening to Ed Welch on Family Life Today with David Ann Wilson. You know, this has been such an important conversation, and Ed has written a book called I Have a Psychiatric Diagnosis, What Does the Bible Say? So you can ask a Christian counselor by picking up this book. It guides readers into listening to God and finding out that God actually cares and has compassion for those who are struggling in painful ways.

You can find a copy at familylifetoday.com. And attention, parents, that's me. All this month, when you partner financially with Family Life, we have two special surprises for you. You can help shape your kids' character, build relationships and nurture identity in them with a fun game called Ferret Flush. It's a game that brings connection with your kids in a fun and playful way, but teaches them as well.

So in addition to that, you're going to get the Art of Parenting video series with sessions that help you deal with common obstacles in raising your children. You can give online at familylifetoday.com and get both of those resources. Or you can call at 800-358-6329. Again, that number is 800, F as in family, L as in life, and then the word today. And if you like, you can also send us a donation by mail.

Our address is Family Life, 100 Lakehart Drive, Orlando, Florida, 32832. And do you know someone who could use the insights shared in today's conversation? I certainly do. Well, we'd greatly appreciate it if you could share this podcast episode wherever you listen to your podcasts. You can also take a moment to leave us a review, and that would help others to find and enjoy family life today. Now, coming up next week, David Thomas is going to be with David Ann Wilson talking about raising emotionally healthy boys. That's next week. On behalf of David Ann Wilson, I'm Shelby Abbott. We'll see you back next time for another edition of Family Life Today. Family Life Today is a donor supported production of Family Life, a crew ministry helping you pursue the relationships that matter most.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-08-04 06:50:23 / 2023-08-04 07:00:47 / 10

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