Blessings Restored is the title of a book I’ve been pecking away at for the past two years, and it is pretty much complete. It is a workbook based on a book that I published in 2005, The Unwelcome Blessing. The sub-title of that book is: “A Christian Therapist on Depression and Coping.”
I’ve printed out six copies of the draft at Office Depot on 3-holed paper and put them in binders. I’ll lend copies out to folks for review and feedback. The feedback will likely lead to a few additions and modifications. The workbook now runs about 110 pages. I think the most original thing I’ve done in this book is to recast coping with a mood disorder into a 12-step format.
On the surface it may seem like an addiction and a mood disorder are very different. However, I believe that the underlying cause for addictions is either depression or anxiety that is not being dealt with as such, and that the sufferer is in a sense self-medicating their pain with addictive behavior–drugs, alcohol, gambling, over-eating, over-spending, etc.
In my four decades as a professional counselor I’ve had plenty of experience with depression and addictions–both as a clinician and as a sufferer. More recently, I’ve been part of two Celebrate Recovery (CR) programs for the past four years. CR has eight principles based on the 12-steps of AA, but unlike most 12-step programs it is totally Christ-centered, and CR addresses more than just addictions. It seeks to work with all “hurts, habits and hangups.” In Blessings Restored about half of the 12-steps remain the same, but some are quite different. For example my Step-5 is: “We choose to rejoice in every circumstance, to pray unceasingly and to give thanks extravagantly.” This is based on Paul’s dictum in 1st Thes. 5.
Like I said, I’ve been pecking away on this project for over two years now. At one point I was thinking I might finish it last summer–then I was thinking this past December, but I’ve been lollygaggin’ around and I’ve gone six or eight weeks at a stretch and not written a word. My motivation comes and goes. Overall, I’ve been disappointed in the response to the books I’ve already published. There are only about 500 copies of my “bestseller” The Unwelcome Blessing in circulation and I’ve probably given away 100 of them. But sometimes I get nice feedback and that makes it all worthwhile–sometimes someone will say that it was the right book at the right time–a real gift from the Holy Spirit–and then my spirits pick up and I peck away some more. And then there was a very sad story in the news a few weeks ago that gave me a clearer sense of urgency about my message, Matthew Warren, Rick Warren’s 27-year old son committed suicide. This boy had been clinically depressed for many years and in spite of tons of prayers and the best treatment money could buy, it wasn’t enough to save him.
That sad news hit close to home as in some tangential way I feel a part of the Saddleback family. Two summers ago I was there for the Celebrate Recovery Summit and Rev. Rick spoke to us twice. I get his blogs and weekly updates. He’s certainly a charismatic and likeable person–and so relentlessly upbeat without being a pollyanna that it almost defies logic that his son could be so depressed. But clinical depression has a logic all of its own and a very real biological basis. No one would be surprised if diabetes ran in Rick or his wife’s family and if Matthew had inherited that illness–and so it is with clinical depression and bipolar illness.
I think I have a pretty good idea of how Matthew felt. Part of my testimony goes like this: “There aren’t many months when at some point the thought doesn’t occur to me to put a gun in my mouth and blow my head off. Now, I don’t do that because living with depression has shown me that it has a purpose–but the thought still crosses my mind.” To those who have never experienced it, it is difficult to explain–but the depths of depression has a component of psychic pain that is felt almost like physical pain.
And since the writing of this blog a year ago myself, and many I know, were again touched by suicide. Isaac Hunter, the pastor son of Dr. Joel Hunter, committed suicide in December. Like his father he was the pastor of a Orlando area megachurch. I don’t know what went on in Isaac’s life the few days before he ended it, but I do know that over 90% of suicides are the result of the ongoing, seemingly unsolvable pain of clinical depression.
I’d like to think that when my workbook is published it will minister to some struggling souls like Matthew Warren and Isaac Hunter. Maybe it’ll save a life or two, but even if it doesn’t do that, it will at least help some understand their illness and help them cope better–and a few may overcome their depression or bipolar illness altogether. Though, in the midst of suffering it may not seem so, we Believers trust in a kind and loving Father and in Revelation 21, the Apostle John reassures us that: “He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain for the old order of things has passed away.”
In the end, everything will be restored, and Matthew Warren and Isaac Hunter will meet the lives saved by their stories.