Psychological Resilience

by Donna Gibbs, LCMHCS, BCPCC


COVID-19. Riots. Sex trafficking. Racial tensions. Political divisions. These are universal stressors, resulting in an extensive rise in psychological and emotional struggles. Anxiety is as prevalent as the common cold, and substance use has never been at such an incredibly high level. Many are hurting. Schools are closed. Businesses are shut down. Deaths are memorialized in isolation. We are living in an historic time. A time that has invited untold global suffering and anguish. We are crawling wounded, and we have to learn how to get back up and start living again. Resilience is essential!

Several years ago, I began to think very deeply about the development of resilience. At that particular time, I was seeing more trauma and suffering in my clinical practice than ever before. Hour after hour, and day after day, I was introduced to beautiful people who had endured unearned, unwelcomed, and unthinkable trauma. I began to notice that there was a difference between those who suffered and got stuck, and those who moved through their suffering and came back stronger. I had no idea, during that pre-pandemic time, how vital those discoveries would be. Who knew that resilience would be a global need!

It is true that in order to have resilience, you have to have some hardship from which to bounce back. There must be some trial of life. There must be a vulnerability. Pain is an essential ingredient of resilience. Why? Because resilience is not something that you are given. Resilience is earned and developed. Consider Paul’s words, as recorded in Romans 5: 3-5, “Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance;  perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.” (New International Version) Also powerful are the words recorded in James 1: 2-4, Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.  Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” Our pain never has to end with suffering, because resilience is God’s creative idea. Resilience is His territory, therefore our hopes of bouncing back following a painful season are entirely dependent on our cooperation with the Author of our resilience!

Consider some of the ingredients that may make a person vulnerable to psychological distress: isolation, desperation, oppression, and uncertainty. Sounds like our recent global experience, doesn’t it? COVID has shut down our businesses and our schools. Interactions have been reliant on technology, absent of face-to-face contact, creating unprecedented isolation. Business closures and lay-offs have been born out of the shut-down of the economy, creating financial desperation. The unpredictability of a novel virus has created a landing place for anxiety, and sometimes crippling fear. Riots in cities, and tensions among races have both exposed, and created, oppression. The dependence on social media for meaningful relationships has invited comparisons triggering insecurities. Additionally, the toxic political climate in the world of social media has many feeling additionally disillusioned and discouraged. Many places of worship have shut down, and the meaningful social and faith supports that have sustained many individuals and families in previous challenges of life have not been readily available. Making matters worse, a rampant false theology of suffering has created a crisis of faith for many. Because we’ve been largely insulated from suffering, and able to live lives of relative comfort, we have forgotten that struggles and trials represent expected seasons of human existence (Ecclesiastes 3:1-8). Most individuals, of all ages, stages, ethnicities, and socio-economic statuses, are impacted psychologically in some manner by our current season. Most individuals are, at minimum, experiencing heightened angst. Sadly, many feel crushed by the weight of this multi-faceted and oppressive season of life, as evidenced by increased rates of substance use, domestic violence, and suicide. It’s so easy to get stuck when we are in pain. Indeed, resilience is in high demand! 

So how do we bounce back? Let’s have some practical discussion about how to move through this season of suffering and come back stronger. It’s a strategy that we all need! Let’s first be clear: resilience doesn’t require that our circumstances be entirely resolved. As believers, we know that the sufferings of life are normal, and often inescapable. Avoiding pain is not an option, and gratefully it is not a requirement for resilience. But we do want to minimize any unnecessary sufferings, and begin to develop the muscle of resilience, which increases our ability to tolerate, and adapt to, the inevitable uncertainties and discomforts of life. 

There are numerous significant aspects to developing resilience, which I cover in great detail in the book, Becoming Resilient: How to Move Through Suffering and Come Back Stronger. Due to the limitations of this article, I will cover just a few recommendations for developing resilience, and encourage you to reference the book for a more thorough overview regarding this critical topic.

It is foundational to first identify that resilience is fully dependent on our use of coping skills. Each of us use coping skills every day. Whether toxic or healthy, these coping skills in which we historically rely allow us to either numb, or effectively maneuver, the normal physical and psychological challenges and discomforts of life. Our current, and unprecedented, season of life universally demands more coping skills than may be typical of other seasons. Compounding the everyday hardships that many were facing in the months prior, the pandemic has additionally threatened psychological resilience. Many individuals around the world were struggling pre-pandemic through challenging traumas, health issues, family dynamics, work stressors, or financial strains, which were only exacerbated by our global crisis. 

Poor coping skills can delay, or entirely sabotage, our recovery. Any coping skill that immediately numbs psychological discomfort also inevitably arrests development, provides a false sense of resilience, creates an additional layer of unnecessary suffering, and leaves us vulnerable to being stuck. It’s impossible to have psychological resilience in the face of additional, unnecessary suffering.

While the options of unwelcomed coping strategies are endless, so are the varieties of healthy coping strategies. For the sake of this brief article, I will introduce just a few of these preferred strategies, and recommend further exploration in the book for a more complete examination of resilience. 

Let’s start with brain health, the importance of which cannot be overestimated in the face of significant stressors and traumas. The organ most responsible for our neurological functioning, and our psychological resilience, is the brain. Therefore, in our efforts to bounce back from the stressors of this season, we cannot neglect the care of this remarkable organ. We don’t have to look far to find journals, articles or blogs focusing on  the healing power of exercise and healthy nutrition. God created the healthy foods that would provide nutritious fuel for our bodies, and He designed our bodies for movement. Exercise increases the blood flow in the brain, and therefore aids in the development of new neurological pathways. Exercise also triggers the neurotransmitters that are responsible for mental health. In the same manner, a nutritious lifestyle aids in brain health, and involves an increased intake of God-made foods, vs toxic foods that are made in factories and laden with chemicals and preservatives. Foods that increase inflammation in the body also compromise brain health, and therefore hinder psychological resilience. Adequate sleep is another vital ingredient for brain health. Our desire is the development of psychological resilience, so a very basic lifestyle that promotes physical movement, healthy nutrition, sound sleep, and overall brain health, is essential.

Psychological health is additionally dependent on the health of our internal dialogue. I like to refer to self-talk as “the most important conversation no one ever heard”. No other organ of the body is responsible for our psychological resilience, and no other organ is so heavily impacted by the health, or toxicity, of our thoughts. Our internal dialogue constructs the pathways of our brain. Destructive pathways (negative or catastrophic thoughts) keep us stuck in our suffering. Psychological resilience requires conquering destructive pathways and reconstructing new and healthier pathways in the brain; new thought patterns that are based on truth regarding the past, the present, and the future. This conquering of destructive pathways requires a very aggressive approach, and a radical intention to submitting our thoughts to Christ. Neuroplasticity, the ability of the brain to change, is evidence of the power of our Creator, and his intention for psychological resilience. Much like a stroke victim can adapt, develop new pathways, and gain back their functioning, so can someone who has been beat down by a pandemic develop new psychological pathways, and bounce forward, with a stronger functioning than ever before.

The most powerful strategy for replacing destructive thoughts requires a repetitive, and meditative focus on an eternal perspective. One of my most cherished examples in scripture, which I love remembering in times of struggle, is found in Acts 7, “But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, looked up to heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God” (v. 55). As far as I know, this is the only mention in scripture of Jesus having the posture of standing at the right hand of God. Stephen was suffering, and Jesus was brought to His feet. Isn’t that a comforting image? In our suffering, we sometimes doubt the care of God. The image of Jesus standing reminds us that He is close. That He cares. That in our pain, we have His full attention. Meditation on scriptural truths like this one gives us hope that our suffering doesn’t end with suffering; that there is an eternal story that is greater than our temporary pain. Recognition of eternal truths is a powerful springboard to psychological resilience. 

If you’ve been through a tough season of pain, I pray that you are encouraged today. You don’t have to remain stuck. You really can bounce back. You can have psychological resilience. Cooperate with God, take care of your brain, and conquer destructive thoughts by relying on His truths. Get ready to stand. It’s time to bounce back!

Donna Gibbs, Becoming Resilient: How to Move Through Suffering and Come Back Stronger (Grand Rapids: Baker Publishing Group, 2017).

Originally Published in November 2020 for the Missional University World Prayer Summit.


Donna Gibbs, LCMHCS, BCPCC

Donna Gibbs, co-owner of Summit Wellness Centers, PLLC, is author of the recent releases, Silencing Insecurity and Becoming Resilient. Donna has authored numerous other books, her blogs are frequently shared in various media outlets, and she is commonly featured on radio broadcasts across America, and occasionally internationally as well. Donna has been providing individuals and families the hope and help they need for more than twenty years as a Licensed Clinical Mental Health Counselor Supervisor and a Board-certified Professional Christian Counselor. A member of the American Association of Christian Counselors (AACC), she is a leading professional provider for Focus on the Family, Christian Care Network, r3Continuum, FINDINGbalance, and Samaritan’s Purse. 

Follow Donna’s author page at https://www.facebook.com/DonnaGibbsResilience/ for daily encouragement, the weekly blog, and updates regarding events and speaking engagements.  

Emotions in Body

by Ashleigh Beason Herrington, LCMHCA


This past week my husband and I drove to the beach for a much needed vacation. Before we left we got the oil changed in his car, made sure the tires didn’t have any leaks, and filled the tank with gas. Thankfully, we made it there and back without any trouble at all. The good news is that if we did have car trouble, the dashboard in the car would have told us there was a problem long before we recognized it ourselves. 

And while there are so many parallels to how our bodies function and how cars function, we don’t have a dashboard on our forehead that lights up when we’re wrestling with anxiety or depression (that could get interesting). There are, however, indicators that we can pay attention to that help us recognize and manage stress before we do real damage to ourselves. 

When you receive bad news, how do you know that you’re sad?

When you’re betrayed by a close friend, how do you know that you’re angry?

When you have a big test coming up, how do you know that you’re anxious?

You feel it in your body

Maybe your head hurts or you feel tension in your shoulders, neck, or arms. Maybe your chest feels tight or you feel a pit in your stomach. This is our body’s way of communicating to us that something is going on that we need to address. 

And on top of personal stress, there are tons of stressors to address from this year alone: the pandemic, quarantining at home alone, cancelling or rescheduling major life events, job losses, financial hardship, the racial injustice in our country, and not to mention it’s an election year. All of these things can cause us to experience overwhelming amounts of stress. 

Oftentimes when we are stressed, we choose to ignore the warning signs or suppress them altogether because we either don’t want to feel them or don’t have time to feel them. We don’t do this with our cars (or at least hopefully we don’t) so why would we do this with our bodies, which are much more valuable and precious to God? 

Emotions are like going through a tunnel–we have to let ourselves go through them in order to see the light at the end. Unfortunately, most of us get stuck in the tunnel of our own emotions.

Typically, what happens is you come home from a stressful day at work to more stress at home and then go to sleep and do it all over again the next day, but you never actually deal with your stress. We have to move through the tunnel of our emotions to deal with and process them in a healthy way. 

We all need a regular rhythm to process the things in life that weigh us down. It could be as simple as setting aside time to journal what your day or week has been like. Maybe it’s time at the gym with your headphones in or going for a walk after work with your spouse or a close friend. It could be drawing or painting something meaningful, seeing a counselor, or even giving yourself space to cry and feel your emotions. The beauty is that although we all need a rhythm for processing stress in a healthy way, it can look different from person to person. 

We can’t always control our stressors but we can control how we carry stress. If listening to your body or moving through stress in a healthy way is new to you, it might take time to see progress but acknowledging even the smallest of victories can be impactful. Like the dashboard in a car, your body is speaking to you and will tell you if you’re carrying stress.  It’s vital that we learn to listen to what our bodies are communicating to us.


Ashleigh Beason Herrington, LCMHCA

Beyond Blame

by Kevin Wimbish, LMFT


“Criticism,” “accusation,” “attack,” “censure,” “charge,” “complaint,” “disapproval,” “disfavor,” “disparagement,” “implication,” “opposition,” “reproach,” “slur,” tirade.”

These are just some of the words from www.thesauras.com if one searches for synonyms for the word “blame.”  

As I contemplated this blog post, initially I was planning to write about some macro issues that I see in our culture.  Ways that we seem to be becoming something that is increasingly grieving my heart.

However, upon hearing a recent sermon from our Pastor, Bruce Frank, of Biltmore Church (https://www.biltmorechurch.com/sermon/authenticity-must-be-hypocrisy/), I believe the Holy Spirit convicted me to consider myself first.  Upon further thought, I think if maybe we all did this, we could get somewhere.  Somewhere more positive.  Somewhere more helpful.  Somewhere beyond blame.

“Why do you look at the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?  Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ and behold, the log is in your own eye?  You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.” (Matthew 7:3-5, New American Standard Bible)

What if in conflict in my relationships, I looked at my own issue(s) first?

When something triggers us to anger, what if we paused, took a couple of slow, deep breaths, and considered “what is my log?”  

I wonder how many marital conflicts may become more loving if that happened, as opposed to creating more pain?

I wonder how many interactions we would have with our children that would not leave damaging, but life-giving words?

I wonder how many offices, churches, cities, states, countries would benefit from being willing to look inward before looking outward?

I wonder if our nation may begin to heal, instead of seeming to tear itself apart.  

The Scripture does not say to never address anything with the other person.  I believe that if we take the time to deeply consider our “log,” it brings a sense of humility, a sense of humanness to the equation.  I think it helps to see more objectively without our own “win/ lose” mentalities taking over and being able to find better solutions. Then, from that posture, we are then able to address the concern with the other person, in a way that empathizes with what it means to be human, to struggle, to make mistakes, to sin, and still know that we are no better, and still address the issue.  We’re all in the same boat.  I don’t mean the “boat” talked about pertaining to the situation with COVID.  I mean the “boat,” of being humans, of being fallible, of often simply being a mess, and seeing that “we’re all just trying to make it,” as my old friend Terence used to say.

Then we can “try to make it” together.  

I don’t think it’s going to work with pointing fingers “out there.”  The problem with us all is “in here,” first. I think any honest view of human history will support that notion.


Kevin Wimbish, LMFT

Damage Control: How to Avoid Wrecking Your Life

by Donna Gibbs, LCMHCS, BCPCC


One of my colleagues only reads books that are from deceased authors. We joke with him about this preference, and his reply is always,“Authors who are alive still have the chance to mess up”. Ouch! That’s true, isn’t it?  All of us can name someone we have admired who later disappointed us. Their music, their writings, their company, their ministry was forever tainted by their implosion. It’s not that God can’t forgive. It’s that we can’t forget, and reputations are forever contaminated by a fall. Truth is, we too can “mess up”. As long as we still have breath, we still have the option of wrecking our lives.

Sounds encouraging so far, doesn’t it?

I’ve done a lot of damage control over the years. All too often, my role has been crisis intervention when a life, marriage, family, or ministry has been unnecessarily wrecked. A controversial social media post. A DUI. An affair. A financial scandal. A mental health crash. Greater people than me have solicited destruction into their lives, without ever intending to have sent an invitation. Anyone can self-destruct. No one is immune. In fact, our sinful nature is naturally bent towards an implosion. But, I’ve learned some of my most treasured and humbling lessons from some fabulous people who suffered a collapse that they never intended. The reality that anyone can fall keeps me on my toes. I’ve seen the unnecessary suffering, born out of a crisis that never had to be created. 

 I will share a few tips that hopefully can prevent an unnecessarily destructive season in your life. 

I recently read a simple, but powerful book, How to Ruin Your Life. The author sums up three vulnerabilities that can lead to destruction: isolation, boredom, and pride. I would add to those three the vulnerabilities of comparison and despair.

This discussion is so important right now because COVID has created a season that leaves all of us inevitably more vulnerable. Why? Think about the presence of isolation. (We’ve been ordered to stay home!) The presence of boredom. (There is only so much to do within the same set of walls.) The heightened use of social media triggering comparisons (particularly in the absence of face to face interactions). The political divisions and heightened tensions, (leading to pride and arrogance or despair and hopelessness). The last 6 months have fertilized the very vulnerabilities that can lead to an implosion. 

If you’re like the average person, you are having days in which you struggle. You have some discouragement. You have some anxiety. Some days you just want to escape this crazy whirlwind called 2020. I get it! But I also know that part of maturing, and preventing a destructive collapse, is learning to tolerate the discomforts and uncertainties of life. It’s learning to pause when we realize we are vulnerable, and learning to look far enough ahead of our decisions to discern their benefit (or their danger). 

Isolation, boredom, comparison, pride, despair – they all require a coping skill. In fact, we use coping skills every day of our lives. The average person needs more coping skills right now than they might have needed at this time last year. (This fact is why substance use has increased in the last 6 months.) We are in a particularly vulnerable time and space, and our prevention of self-imposed ruin is dependent on the coping skills that we utilize to manage our inevitable vulnerabilities. 

If you’re concerned about wrecking your life, and you can see present dangers, I encourage you to pause. Maybe others have sounded a warning, but you don’t see a problem. Consider this blog your “check engine light”. It won’t hurt to pull over and inspect your situation, rather than continuing to race ahead. 

How do you inspect your situation? Take an objective peek at your coping skills. Are they helpful? Or are they causing you to spiral? Take inventory of your mental state. Are you hurting so badly that you have lost your care regarding potential consequences? Do you just want an escape? Are you responding impulsively? Are you having a difficult time regulating your emotions? Are you stable enough to make life-altering decisions? Consider your recent pattern of decisions (and the future-focused decisions you are pondering). Are you dabbling with disaster? Are you on the brink of a decision that will create permanent ramifications? Are you ok with those potential ramifications? Can you in good conscience recommend others take the same path you are considering?

If you are concerned about wrecking your life, know that there is still time for damage control! Speak with a trusted friend. Call a pastor. Consult with a counselor. You have the freedom to implode. But you also have the freedom to prevent a crisis. You have the freedom to protect your testimony and your reputation. You have the freedom to save your marriage or your ministry. If your check-engine light is indicating potential danger, it may be time for a U-turn!

If you’re struggling, we’d be honored to help you re-route, to help you prevent a crisis, or to help you rebuild the ruins. There is nothing too big for God to manage or redeem, and we’re here to join you in the journey!

They shall build up the ancient ruins;

they shall raise up the former devastations;

they shall repair the ruined cities,

the devastations of many generations.

Isaiah 61:4, ESV

Geiger, Eric. How to Ruin Your Life: And Starting Over When You Do. B & H Publishing Group, Nashville, 2018. 


Donna Gibbs, LCMHCS, BCPCC

Donna Gibbs, co-owner of Summit Wellness Centers, PLLC, is author of the recent releases, Silencing Insecurity and Becoming Resilient. Donna has authored numerous other books, her blogs are frequently shared in various media outlets, and she is commonly featured on radio broadcasts across America, and occasionally internationally as well. Donna has been providing individuals and families the hope and help they need for more than twenty years as a Licensed Clinical Mental Health Counselor Supervisor and a Board-certified Professional Christian Counselor. A member of the American Association of Christian Counselors (AACC), she is a leading professional provider for Focus on the Family, Christian Care Network, r3Continuum, FINDINGbalance, and Samaritan’s Purse. 

Follow Donna’s author page at https://www.facebook.com/DonnaGibbsResilience/ for daily encouragement, the weekly blog, and updates regarding events and speaking engagements.  

Walking Wounded

by Lori Heagney, LCMHC

Our brain has a way of grounding every facet of a traumatic event: it’s buried in our senses-smell, vision, touch, taste, and sound. I recall September 11, 2001 with all of these senses. I was holding my coffee, watching the television in the group room at the psychiatric hospital I worked at when I witnessed the 2nd plane crash into the tower. Oblivious and sleepy patients nodded in their chairs, and I remembered the concern I felt for the confusion and paranoia that would ensue when they awoke to hear the news. I recall the panic as I hugged my coworker when she shared that this meant she would not see her military husband for an indefinite time period as he was on a ship that instead of coming toward home, had turned back to the Middle East to defend our country. These are memories I will never forget.

I hear so many speak of remembering exactly where there where on 9-11 and the impact it had on them. I believe this can serve as a compassion-link for us to understand those who have experienced trauma. Trauma harms the brain and leaves a lasting impact like a head injury. It requires time as well as treatment to heal. If you are one of the walking wounded, please reach out and ask for help. Our brains were made to heal and healing is possible. If you are one of the fortunate who has not experienced the impact of lasting trauma, please be patient with those who have, showing love and concern to these individuals. Show them Jesus instead of impatience and an attitude that they should “just get over it”.

We all were impacted by that tragic day, 19 years ago and experience a level of anxiety because of it. Let this shared experience help us grow in compassion for the walking wounded among us and point them toward healing.


Lori Heagney, LCMHC

Exhaustion

by Ashleigh Beason Herrington, LCMHCA

Exhaustion, a word I have heard so much lately. With students navigating virtual classes, teachers learning new methods on the fly, and parents wondering how they are going to balance their kids doing school at home, none are out of its reach. No one would have thought this pandemic would last as long as it has and affected us so intensely. And while a positive perspective can help, it isn’t if the glass half empty or half full but how long can we hold the glass. We are all exhausted and tired of holding the glass. 

Exhaustion can make you feel overwhelmed and drained emotionally, mentally, physically, and spiritually. It can easily cause stress, irritability towards others, low motivation, lack of focus, easily fatigued, sleeping issues, destructive coping skills, and a sense of purposelessness.

While some of us approached this season as a “this is a marathon not a sprint” mentality, no one knew it would last this long with no real end in sight. The exhaustion we feel comes from trying to predict a seemingly uncertain future, a lack of structure to our day, limited opportunities for meaningful connection with loved ones, or maybe the amount of news or media we consume in a day. 

So how do we recover and avoid places of exhaustion? 

We create a trellis for our souls. 

According to Webster’s Dictionary a trellis is “a framework of light wooden or metal bars, chiefly used as a support for fruit trees or climbing plants” in a garden. The idea is that we (like plants) are always growing and changing. But when there is no order or structure to support growth, our lives quickly begin to bear the fruit of exhaustion. What structure do you need in your life that will produce life-giving fruit (love, joy, peace, patience, etc.?). Here are some rhythms we can implement in our lives to fight back exhaustion and bear the fruit of the Spirit. 

1. Practicing the Sabbath. The Sabbath is a day of rest, but is more about what you do than what you do not do. It is not just a nap after church but a day spent intentionally with the Lord. This doesn’t mean you have to read your Bible all day or visit a monastery (although you could do that if you’d like), but it means we engage in things that stir up our affections for God. What fills you up? Do those things. What drains you? Avoid those things.

 2. Practicing gratitude. Right now it feels like so many things have been taken away. And while it is important to acknowledge the losses of this season, it is equally important to look for the ways God has been faithful in this season as well. Make a list of moments you are thankful for — the moon shining bright in the midst of a dark night, a small smile and laughter from a close friend, watching bubbles as you are doing the mundane of task of washing dishes. Find beauty in the ordinary because it is ever before us even in the hard times. 

3. Practicing soul-care. When is the last time you slowed down long enough to evaluate your life? Who are you becoming? How have you been living?  What emotions have you been experiencing most lately? While emotions don’t always communicate the reality of things, they do communicate how your body is responding to what is happening in your life.  Practicing soul-care can look like journaling daily, having meaningful conversations with a friend, seeing a counselor, or doing something that gives you life. 

Moving out of a place of exhaustion takes time. This is a process of daily adjusting our expectations. Give grace to yourself and to others as we are all trying to figure this out together.

The best life-giving rhythm is turning to Jesus, who is not exhausted, overwhelmed, or stressed. He carried the full weight of suffering of this broken world and he offers rest to those who would follow him.  I pray the words of Jesus below would provide you with rest for your souls as you follow him. 

Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” Jesus in Matthew 11:28-30 (English Standard Version)


Ashleigh Beason Herrington, LCMHCA

Control

by Kevin Wimbish, LMFT


“In Christ alone my hope is found,

He is my light, my strength, my song;

This Cornerstone, this solid Ground,

Firm through the fiercest drought and storm.

What heights of love, what depths of peace,

When fears are stilled, when strivings cease!

My Comforter, my All in All,

Here in the love of Christ I stand.”**


“On Christ the solid Rock I stand

All other ground is sinking sand

All other ground is sinking sand

When darkness veils His lovely face

I rest on His unchanging grace

in every  high and stormy gale

my anchor holds within the veil”***


Achieve.  Make it happen.  Accomplish.  It’s up to you.  You can dream it, you can do it.

I love inspiration.  I appreciate motivation.  There have been multiple seasons in my life in which listening to motivational talks, etc… helped me keep going.

And, I think, we as people, I know I do, like to think that we are in control.  We like to think that if we just keep doing the right thing and if we work hard enough, things will work out as we wish.  If you’re reading this, and have as many grey hairs in your head as I do in my beard (I don’t have much to work with up top:) , you may have encountered enough blows from life to see otherwise. 

One thing I have realized during this season ( I’m not even sure what to call it, but mass disorientation seems fitting), is that control, to a significant extent, is an illusion.  I have often approached life and unfortunately, sometimes my faith, as a math equation.  A + B = C.  What happens when it doesn’t?  

If a year ago, you would have told me:

That the NBA would cancel its season,

Colleges would not have any students on their campuses,

My son would have one week of track and it would immediately stop,

My kids would be trying to do school at our house, my wife would be teaching via the computer,

I would see my daughter wearing a mask in public,

Millions of people would immediately stop working,

I would not be allowed to go to the gym,

Arrows would tell me where to walk in stores,

For the same consideration some would be terrified to leave their homes while others would think it was a hoax.

There would have been a portion of a major American city without police control for multiple weeks,

………………….  I could keep going…..

I would have thought you were describing a dystopic movie, not America.

Yet, this is reality right now.  

If we focus on all of the above, or even some of it, it can easily lead to anxiety and even despair.  

However, if we focus on what we know to be true, Who we know to be true, The Solid Rock, and keep our gaze fixed on Him, we can get through this.  We will get through this.

“On Christ, the solid rock, I stand;

all other ground is sinking sand,

all other ground is sinking sand.”***


Kevin Wimbish, LMFT

The Missing Essential: Empathy

By Donna Gibbs, LCMHCS

My dad makes a mean chess pie. It’s incredible. In fact, it’s such an amazing pie that it was featured in Our State Magazine a few years back with a full-page picture of my dad’s handsome face, and a story about his incredible pie. Of course, they included the recipe, with all of the essential ingredients, and even a few recommendations regarding non-essential add-ons. My first experiment with cooking as a young tween involved cooking this pie. I gathered my ingredients together, skillfully followed the directions (so I thought), and pulled out of the oven what looked like a masterpiece of perfection. Later, when I decided to taste my work of art, I was shocked when my taste buds encountered the truth. It was awful! (I can’t emphasize the word “awful” enough!) What I soon discovered is that these ingredients were carefully planned, and each ingredient truly was essential. Odd as it may be, this pie contains vinegar. Because of the sugar, you would never notice. But without the sugar… well, you can imagine the shockingly bitter disappointment of that vinegary taste! Sugar is an essential ingredient in a pie, especially a pie that contains vinegar!


Essential is a word that has been thrown out a lot lately. We’ve focused throughout the COVID season on essential employees, and have rightfully given great honor to those who serve in positions that we can’t live without.


But we’re in times of great turmoil and conflict, and we are still missing an essential ingredient.


That missing essential ingredient is empathy.


Wikipedia defines empathy as “the capacity to understand or feel what another person is experiencing from within their frame of reference, that is, the capacity to place oneself in another’s position.”


The word empathize is appropriately a verb. Empathy requires intention, action, and effort. It is not a passive experience. Honestly, sometimes empathy is also a very uncomfortable effort that may feel more like an unwelcomed stretch, or a kick in the gut.

In short, sometimes it is hard to welcome empathy. Sometimes we just don’t want to expend the energy or experience the discomfort that is required to immerse ourselves into the differing perspective and experiences of another person. But empathy is essential, nonetheless.


Healthy relationships are impossible without empathy.


Marriage relationships.


Parenting relationships.


Church relationships.


Community relationships.

When families are in conflict, churches are in conflict, or communities are in conflict, it is often because we are without empathy. The absence of this essential ingredient creates a form of sociopathology. Whenever we have a personal point of pain (our story), we tend to turn inward. We rehash our hurts, and we focus primarily on our own perspective. We rehearse and review our thoughts in the internal dialogue of our minds. We each have an internal narrative that is tainted by our own experiences and opinions. From that narrative, we talk, inflating our own opinions and giving additional weight to our own experiences, but we’re not listening well to the experiences of others. This repetition of care regarding primarily ourselves and our view of the world numbs us from the ability to have compassion or remorse towards others who view life differently.


This approach, devoid of empathy, leaves a vinegary-bitter taste in the mouth.


Right now, our country is in a storm. Bitterness will be our demise. We will not survive this storm without empathy.


One of the essential ingredients of counseling is empathy. If I cannot fully immerse myself into the hurts, emotions, and thoughts of another person, then I am fully crippled to help facilitate the journey to healing. Yes, this empathetic immersion requires a sacrifice. For me, it has been the sacrifice of decades of exposure to secondary trauma. I won’t pretend to suggest that the sacrifice is easy. It isn’t for me, and it won’t be easy for you.


But we have a Savior who sacrificed everything for our healing, because genuine healing demands a sacrifice!


Yes, genuine empathy is a sacrifice, but it changes everything. Genuine empathy removes the assumption of ill-will that is destroying our marriages, churches, and communities. It displays our shared humanity, it personalizes a position, and it fosters unity. The results of empathy are worth the sacrifice!


But how do we add this essential ingredient?


The solution is simple.


Speak less. Listen more.


Frankly, we live life as if we had two mouths and one ear.


But God created us with two ears and one mouth.


And, sometimes we’re only bending one ear…at best.


Moving forward, let’s commit to living marriage, family, church, and community with two ears and one mouth. Today, let’s listen doubly more than we talk. Let’s ask questions. Not about opinions, but about life stories. “What’s your story?” is a powerful start. Because strong, gut-deep opinions are most often born out of a personal story.


And every story matters.


Every person’s story is waiting to be told.


And heard.


To clarify, empathy doesn’t require that you’ve experienced the same story. Empathy only requires that you be willing to actively and intentionally imagine what it would be like to live with that story. To fully immerse yourself in that imagined reality. I often assign couples a “Typical Day” exercise in which they are to intentionally seek to imagine life from the perspective of their mate for a 24-hour period, from the time their feet hit the floor until their head meets the pillow that night. They are to imagine the fears, responsibilities, stressors, hopes, interactions, challenges, and vulnerabilities. The fruit of an exercise like this? When you allow yourself to be immersed in another person’s story, understanding and appreciation are fertilized.


Sorrow is born.


Bridges are built.


Walls are shattered.


Healing begins.


I wrote a book about resilience a few years ago. The topic is a passion of mine. Many of us are praying for resilience in our country. We’ve had a long, hard, and confusing season. Perhaps the same is true of your marriage. Or your church.  I am here to say that without empathy we will not have resilience. Gratefully, resilience doesn’t always mean that we bounce back… some things won’t be the same and don’t need to be the same. Resilience often means that we bounce forward, growing stronger through suffering. Our country needs resilience. Perhaps your marriage needs resilience. Let empathy fan the flame!


With the help of Jesus, who modeled empathy so beautifully, we will shine brightly in a divided country. We will place the blocks on the foundation for healing, one conversation at a time!


Romans 12:15 New International Version (NIV)
“Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.”


Philippians 2:3-4 New International Version (NIV)
“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves,  not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.”


1 Peter 3:8 New International Version (NIV)
“Finally, all of you, be like-minded, be sympathetic, love one another, be compassionate and humble.”


Ephesians 5:1-2 New International Version (NIV)
“Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children  and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.”

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Empathy


Donna Gibbs, LCHMCS

Donna Gibbs, co-owner of Summit Wellness Centers, PLLC, is author of the recent releases, Silencing Insecurity and Becoming Resilient. Donna has authored numerous other books, her blogs are frequently shared in various media outlets, and she is commonly featured on radio broadcasts across America, and occasionally internationally as well. Donna has been providing individuals and families the hope and help they need for more than twenty years as a Licensed Clinical Mental Health Counselor Supervisor and a Board-certified Professional Christian Counselor. A member of the American Association of Christian Counselors (AACC), she is a leading professional provider for Focus on the Family, Christian Care Network, r3Continuum, FINDINGbalance, and Samaritan’s Purse. 

Follow Donna’s author page at https://www.facebook.com/DonnaGibbsResilience/ for daily encouragement, the weekly blog, and updates regarding events and speaking engagements.  

Prayer in the Pandemic

by Jess Hatton, MA, LCMHC

“First I thank God through Jesus Christ for all of you, because your faith is proclaimed in all the world. For God is my witness, whom I serve with my spirit in the gospel of his Son, that without ceasing I mention you always in my prayers, asking that somehow by God’s will I may now at last succeed in coming to you.” (Romans 1:8-10, English Standard Version)

“Let love be genuine, Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality.” Romans 12:9-13

Over the past few weeks I’ve been reading through Romans. I’ve been struck by numerous points as I’ve read, but one of the things I’ve been most convicted of is prayer for my fellow believers as well as unbelievers. Paul, writing to the Roman church and in its complexity it is Paul’s most comprehensive books on the salvation of Jesus Christ. It is so focused on the Gospel in fact that the long used evangelism tool The Roman Road is derived from verses throughout the book. Since he is so focused on the saving power of the gospel to both Jews and Gentiles it makes sense why prayer is so important. But, myself, I like many others I’ve talked to struggle with prayer. Matt Chandler hypothesized in a recent message to The Village Church that perhaps one of the main  reasons that we in the western church don’t pray is because “we view prayer as passive”. He went on to ask “Is our unfruitfulness proportionate to our un-prayerfulness?” (excuse me a moment while I take a deep breath from that punch in the gut). The truth of that hurts. 

I’m sure my time in the pandemic has been like many of your own, filled with a combination of chaos and beauty. And as a mom of three littles I’ve tried  hard to emphasize loving people in the NOW despite being confined to our home. But as we have struggled to minister to people outside of our home, and to share the gospel with those who are lost, it somehow became about what we were doing, instead of what and for whom we were praying. My point: even in our limited abilities and situations we have unlimited access to the Father through Jesus Christ. Let us not also miss the fact that Paul is writing to the church in Rome from Corinth. He is not present with them to minister in person. This means that we never have to leave home to pray for those who are hurting, who are lost. Prayer is the front line of battle and is far from being passive! How much more power the church would have if believers would pray! Prayer calls upon the Holy Spirit to move and act. Here are just a few points from the above scriptures. 

  1. Paul always thanks God for the church and his fellow believers. Romans 1:8
  2. He prays without ceasing. Romans 1:9
  3. He asks humbly for the ability to minster in person. 1:10
  4. He calls the church to do everything in love and to pray constantly. 

Jess Hatton, MA, LCMHC

I See You

By Kevin Wimbish, LMFT

Julie and I were walking outside recently.  A lady walked towards us on the other side of the road.  She stuck out both of her hands and said “six feet, six feet!”  I was struck by how abrupt and fearful was the response.

I understand safety.  I understand being healthy.  I try to eat healthfully.  I exercise.  I believe these things are important.  

And.

We’ve all experienced a lot of changes, quickly.  

Fear.  

Confusion.  

Floods of information.  

Different perspectives.  Different narratives.  

Job changes.  Job loses.  

Telehealth.  Remote working.  Remote teaching.  Remote learning.  

Financial changes.  

Take out.  

National Guidance.  State Guidance.  County Guidance.  Lack of Guidance.

Six feet.  Store aisle arrows.  Masks.  Toilet Paper.  

It has, and will, infiltrate our psyches.  

With all of this, so much, so quickly,  I hope we can see One Another again.  I hope we can see one another not only as potential carriers, but as Humans.  Not only as potential infections, but as Image-Bearers of God.  

“So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.” (Genesis 1: 27, English Standard Version)

“Just as we borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the man of heaven.” (I Corinthians 15: 49)


Kevin Wimbish, LMFT