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Biblical CBT vs Worldly CBT

As we are currently in mental health awareness week, I thought I would republish this old post about CBT. If you are suffering from depression, or supporting someone with it, you might also want to pick up a copy of The Pastor With A Thorn In His Side here. You can read my story, along with that of 6 other people who suffer from depression, and find some useful information on how to help and what to avoid too.

If you have ever been anywhere near a diagnosis for depression, and certain other mental health issues, you will have come across Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT). The thrust of CBT is to try and check your thought life against what you know to be true. It is important for those who are depressed because whilst we are ill our feelings are not our friends, they frequently lie to us. The only way to make sure we are acting sensibly is to fact check our feelings – which are fleeting and mercurial – against solid, unmoveable facts that we know.

The idea is a good one. Unfortunately, when I first became ill with depression and CBT was suggested, the ‘facts’ that were suggested to me as my feelings lied to me proved not to be facts at all. They were really opinions, or ideas, dressed up as facts that were open to a fair degree of interpretation. It was only when a Christian psychiatrist decided that the Bible was a better, immovable and unchanging thing that I was less likely to quibble with, that CBT began to help. He also took the pressure off by assuring me that, whilst it may not make me feel any better, it would certainly help me to act better (or, rather, not act irrationally according to my faulty feelings).

With that in mind, let me share with you some of the lies my feelings told me, the world’s suggestions to address them and the Biblical truths that helped me:

Lie: I am worthless and valueless
World: You are worth it just because
Bible: ‘God created mankind in his own image’ (Gen 1:27); ‘Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father… Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows.’ (Mat 10:29, 31)

Lie: Everybody would be better off without me
World: But you’ve got so much to offer
Bible: The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” And the head cannot say to the feet, “I don’t need you!” On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable… If one part suffers, every part suffers with it.’ (1Co 12:21f, 26b)

Lie: Everybody hates me
World: I’m sure that isn’t true. I like you.
Bible: ‘God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us’ (Rom 5:8); ‘See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are.’ (1Jo 3:1)

Lie: I can’t cope
World: You can do it!
Bible: ‘For it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.’ (Php 2:13)

Lie: Happiness isn’t possible for me
World: Distract yourself; follow your dreams and you’ll be happy
Bible: ‘May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.’ (Rom 15:13, my emphasis added)

Lie: You’re broken and unfixable
World: Accept yourself
Bible:He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.’ (Psa 147:3)

Lie: There’s no hope
World: Where there’s life, there’s hope
Bible:For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.’ (2Co 4:17f)