HOW TO OVERCOME ANXIETY AND DEPRESSION: AN INTERVIEW WITH J.P. MORELAND

How to Overcome Anxiety and Depression: An Interview with J.P. Moreland

J.P. MorelandNearly 20% of Americans suffer from mental illness—including anxiety and depression—according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, and people in church pews are not immune. Because prominent philosopher, author, and professor J.P. Moreland experienced it himself, he has now explored the spiritual and physical aspects of mental illness, and has discovered sound sources of information, treatment, and recovery.

Bible Gateway interviewed J.P. Moreland (@jpmoreland) about his book, Finding Quiet: My Story of Overcoming Anxiety and the Practices that Brought Peace(Zondervan, 2019).

Buy your copy of Finding Quiet in the Bible Gateway Store where you'll enjoy low prices every day

Please explain how you have a genetic predisposition to anxiety.

J.P. Moreland: We’re born fallen and broken people in great need. Part of the fallenness at birth includes genetic predispositions we inherit from our parents. This is a scientific fact and is part of the biblical idea that we’re fallen. My entire mother’s side of the family was plagued with anxiety and it was passed on to me and I passed it on to one of my two daughters who has more genes from me than my other daughter who has more from my wife’s side. This predisposition does not mean that I’m biologically determined to be anxious. It does mean that I have a natural inclination toward anxiety (and depression) that’s been present throughout my life. But I have the ability to do things to stand against it and minimize or get rid of it altogether. Finding Quiet contains what I’ve discovered to really work in this process.

Did you expect to be healed of anxiety when you became a Christian as a college student?

J.P. Moreland: I did, indeed, hope to be healed of my anxiety when I became a Christian. And I did make some progress. But due to a lack of knowledge, I didn’t really know how to cooperate with the Spirit to make significant progress until I had my second nervous breakdown in 2013. After that, I dedicated myself to reading all I could on anxiety/depression and Finding Quiet contains a distillation of the best helps I found.

How did your severe panic attack in 2003 set you on your healing course?

J.P. Moreland: My breakdown in 2003 motivated me to get really serious about seeking God’s healing and learning how I could co-labor with him in this process. But it wasn’t until my second breakdown in 2013 that I was desperate enough to find a way to get rid of my anxiety/depression. You won’t get rid of these horrible things by just coasting along in the Christian life. You have to be dedicated to change and, most importantly, to gain the knowledge about how to most effectively pursue change, and I gained that knowledge. It’s expressed in a practical and readable way in Finding Quiet. Many of my other books have been a bit academic and somewhat difficult to read, but Finding Quiet is not like that.

What do you mean “the Bible has a holistic, functional view of humanity”?

J.P. Moreland: The human person is a soul that contains the faculties of mind, emotion, will, spirit and so on. We also have a body. So we’re a duality of body and soul, but all aspects of us (mind, emotions, body, soul, etc.) function together as a unit. My mind can affect my emotions and vice versa, my soul’s faculties depend on my body (stomach, brain, heart muscle, etc.) to be working properly for me to think and feel good, and my soul can affect my organs (for example, my brain) positively or negatively. If I’m anxious a lot, it causes grooves in my brain that automatically trigger anxiety. It also causes my brain chemistry to be messed up. By practicing the things in Finding Quiet, I can change my brain (this is called neuroplasticity). And my brain can affect my soul. So all aspects of the human person need to be employed to get rid of anxiety/depression.

How are anxiety and depression formed habits?

J.P. Moreland: A habit is a tendency to think, feel, or act in certain ways without choosing to do so. One can have bad habits in penmanship, gold, and so forth. Character is the sum total of your habits. The body is what contains our organs (brain, stomach, etc.) and regions (our facial area, lips, chest area). When used negatively, flesh is the ingrained, habituated habits that reside in our bodies. That’s why in Romans 6, Paul says we’re to present our members (organs, regions) to God as instruments of shalom instead of instruments to sin. Finding Quiet explains in great detail what this means, how to do it, and why it’s crucial to getting rid of anxiety/depression.

What do you mean “don’t waste your suffering” and “you have a moral duty to be happy”?

J.P. Moreland: “Don’t waste you suffering” means that if we suffer, we should not only seek to get rid of it (for example, by going to the doctor), but we should also try to learn things from our suffering (for example, how much we need God day by day). Every circumstance in life is an occasion for deformation (becoming more broken, bitter, etc.) or formation (growing in the Lord). Not wasting one’s suffering means that we seek formation and reject deformation.

We “have a moral duty to be happy” is clearly taught in Scripture (though there are proper times for grieving and not being happy, for example, when a loved one dies) and is common sense. Scripture tells us we should have shalom (a sense of well-being), joy, peace, and a zest for life in the Kingdom. Further, when we’re happy in this way, the people around us at work, in our family and circle of friends, and in the church are uplifted in spirit, encouraged, and motivated to grow and serve. When we’re anxious and depressed, we tend to have a negative impact on those around us. If this is the case, we should not respond with guilt and shame. Rather, we should seek the help and knowledge we need to grow out of these things.

What is self-compassion and what does the Bible say about it?

J.P. Moreland: Self-compassion is an attitude we take toward ourselves that implies being kind and loving toward ourselves because we’re made in God’s image and, thus, have value. Since God feels this way about us, we should imitate him. We should not constantly beat ourselves up or engage in negative self-talk when we sin or fail in some way. Rather, we confess what we need to and move on by focusing on growth. And self-compassion should also focus on loving and serving others better. Narcissism is something altogether different. A narcissist is inappropriately infatuated with himself, constantly makes everything about him/her, and treats others as mere objects for his/her own pleasure and goals.

What is the Four-Step Solution?

J.P. Moreland: In Finding Quiet, there’s a lot of ideas that readers will find helpful, refreshing, and new. My book provides insight into a number of practices that most Christians, sadly, have never heard of and, thus, have never used. I also give close and practical attention to four specific practices that have been absolutely central and crucial to my own healing.

The Four Step Solution is really a set of insights and practical application of Psalm 139:23-24 and 2 Corinthians 10:5 (we’re taking every thought captive to Christ, an important verse that no one ever tells us how to obey). The Four Step Solution provides practical insight as to how to make these verses a daily reality, especially in the area of obsessive thoughts and negative, distorted, habituated self-talk.

How does expressing gratitude alleviate anxiety and depression?

J.P. Moreland: Studies have shown that if one practices the daily activity of expressing gratitude, it’ll have a strong effect on the mental health and happiness/joy. And the Bible is filled with exhortations to express gratitude to God (and, of course, others). If one gets good at this, it literally changes one’s anxious/depressive habits, and replaces a half-empty view of life to a half-full (or more!), positive attitude towards life; especially life in the Kingdom.

Why do you write that “our worldview is the most important aspect of our lives and our mental health”?

J.P. Moreland: Our worldview is the actual way we see life and the world. It contains what we actually believe and not what we say we believe or tell ourselves what we believe. It contains how we see ourselves, how we react to circumstances, how we talk to ourselves and so forth. It also includes our view of our purpose (or lack thereof) in life; why we were put here. Clearly, we need ways to grasp what our worldview really is and find ways to rid ourselves of those components that are contrary to Scripture and that produce in us negativity, anger, anxiety, depression, and so forth. Finding Quiet explains some ways to do this.

How does a routine of engaging with the Bible affect mental health?

J.P. Moreland: Engaging with the Bible on a regular basis is critical for gaining and retaining mental health. But we have to be careful here in what we mean by “engage.” While regular Bible reading is good, there’s a deeper way to engage with the Bible. In an appendix to Finding Quiet, I list several verses that are deeply helpful for getting rid of anxiety and depression. I suggest that a person pick 4-5 favorites (or favorites not on the list), memorize them, and spend daily a period of quiet (start with 10 minutes), relax, set aside for a moment your problems and responsibilities, and embrace one or two of your favorites by starting with repeating them to yourself, then praying them to and with God, and invite God to move the verse(s) down to you heart and feelings as well as retaining them in your mind. This is real engagement.

What is a favorite Bible passage of yours and why?

J.P. Moreland: One of my favorite verses is Psalm 46:10 which in the NASB (and using the marginal reading) says, “Let go, relax, and know I am God.” To bring out the sense of the Hebrew and context, in Finding Quiet I paraphrase this verse as follows: “Let go of your life and all that is troubling you for a while, concentrate on relaxing in the present moment, and experience me as God.” Obviously, reciting and practicing this several times a day is really helpful.

Is there anything else you’d like to say?

J.P. Moreland: I pray that if you or someone you know is facing anxiety/depression, Finding Quiet will be of real help to you.


Finding Quiet is published by HarperCollins Christian Publishing, Inc., the parent company of Bible Gateway.


Bio: J.P. Moreland is one of the leading evangelical thinkers of our day. He is distinguished professor of philosophy at Talbot School of Theology and director of Eidos Christian Center. With degrees in philosophy, theology, and chemistry, Dr. Moreland has taught theology and philosophy at several schools throughout the USA. He has authored or coauthored many books, including Philosophical Foundations for a Christian WorldviewChristianity and the Nature of ScienceScaling the Secular CityDoes God Exist?The Lost Virtue of HappinessBody & Soul, and Love Your God with All Your Mind. He is coeditor of Jesus Under Fire: Modern Scholarship Reinvents the Historical Jesus. His work appears in publications such as Christianity TodayFaith and PhilosophyPhilosophia ChristiPhilosophy and Phenomenological Research, and The American Philosophical Quarterly. Dr. Moreland served with Campus Crusade for ten years, planted two churches, and has spoken on over 200 college campuses and in hundreds of churches.

A Woman Of Valor

 

ruth

Ruth: A Woman of Character

“I’ve been told all about what you have done for your mother-in-law since the death of your husband—how you left your father and mother and your homeland and came to live with a people you did not know before. May the Lord repay you for what you have done.” — Ruth 2:11,12

Share our newest quiz, Which Woman of Valor Are You?, to celebrate all women of valor.

Sometimes, you can tell a lot about people just by watching them interact with others and studying their body language. It’s evident from the Bible account that others knew a lot about Ruth’s character just by watching her.

After arriving in Bethlehem, widowed and with no means of providing for herself and Naomi, her mother-in-law, Ruth went out into the fields to pick up the leftover grain — a practice known as gleaning. This was an Israelite law that provided a way for the poor and needy, like Ruth and Naomi, to feed themselves.

As Ruth was gleaning, the owner of the field, whose name was Boaz, stopped by to check on the harvesters. He noticed Ruth and asked the workers, “Who is that young woman?” The workers replied, “She is the young woman from Moab who came back with Naomi. She asked this morning if she could gather the grain behind the harvesters, and she’s been hard at work ever since. She’s not stopped except for a few minutes.”

Impressed by this hard worker, Boaz told Ruth that she could glean in his fields as long as she wanted. Then, he invited her to eat with the harvesters. Not only that, but Boaz told his workers not to bother her, but to drop even more grain for her to gather.

Ruth was overwhelmed, and asked Boaz, “Why are you so kind to me? I’m just a foreigner.” And Boaz said, “Yes, I know. But I have heard all about you. I have heard about the kindness and love that you have shown to Naomi since the death of your husband and her son. I have heard that you left your family and have come here to live among strangers.”

How Ruth cared for Naomi was obviously the talk of Bethlehem! Even though she was a stranger among them, the people knew she was kind, loving, and a compassionate woman — just by watching her actions! Her reputation had spread so that when the harvesters told Boaz who was in his fields, he had already heard about her.

Ruth’s life exhibited admirable qualities. She was hardworking, loving, kind, and faithful. She had gained a reputation for these qualities but only because she exhibited them consistently. Wherever she went, Ruth’s character remained unchanged.

What do your actions say about your reputation? Remember, a good reputation is something we earn when we consistently live out those qualities we believe in.

Hebrew Word of the Day

Hebrew Word Transliteration English Meaning
אופי Ophi character

Click here to listen…

 

 

 

 

 

More Fun, 4 Biggest City Parks in the U.S

The United States has about 100 parks occupying land area greater than 1,000 acres (for comparison, New York’s Central Park is 840 acres). The largest city parks in the country are actually state parks as well. The topper on this list – no surprise, in Alaska – occupies hundreds of thousands of acres, which is far and away the largest city park in the country (and, in fact, the world). Including that one, here aere the four biggest city parks in the U.S.

Honolulu Watershed Forest Reserve

Credit: E.J.Johnson Photography/Shutterstock

Located on the northeastern side of Honolulu, Hawaii, the city’s Watershed Forest Reserve is 9,951 acres of trails, featuring some of the best nature in the urban environment (and mirroring much of what the rest of Hawaii is known for). It’s home to the Nu’uanu Reservoir and waterfalls, including the famous Manoa Falls. The park has one of the most famous 1.8 miles of trail in Hawaii, known as the Pu’u Pia Trail. You’ll also be able to get some great views of Mt. Olympus from the reserve.

Trinity River Project

Credit: Roschetzky Photography/Shutterstock

The Trinity River Project in Dallas, Texas, began in the early 2000s with the intention of redeveloping the city’s centerpiece river. Today, it occupies an area of about 10,000 acres, 6,000 of which are part of the adjacent Great Trinity Forest, which is the largest urban bottomland forest in the world. With bike trails and walking trails galore, a bridge crossing the river – the Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge – was completed in 2012.

Franklin Mountains State Park

Credit: Piotr Kalinowski Photos/Shutterstock

Located in El Paso, Texas, it’s known as the largest urban park in the continental U.S., occupying nearly 25,000 acres of land. It’s popular among bicyclists (including mountain biking), hikers, picnickers and those looking for a scenic drive. The park, with its boundaries entirely within El Paso, also borders New Mexico at its northern edge. Franklin Mountains was established as a park in 1987, and was named after Benjamin Coons Franklin, who bought a ranch there in 1849.

Chugach State Park

Credit: Susan R. Serna/Shutterstock

Now for the really big one. Located almost entirely within the municipality of Anchorage, Alaska, Chugach State Park is technically the largest city park in the United States. It’s a popular site for hunting and fishing, as well as other recreation along Eklutna Lake and Eagle River. And even though it’s in the city, it is Alaska – meaning contact with bears is not terribly uncommon. Although incredibly rare, hikers have been mauled and even killed by bears in the park. Mostly, it just features gorgeous vistas throughout its nearly half-million acres of land. The park was established in 1970 in an effort to protect the Chugach Mountains and all geographical features on the land.