Life Reviews

Good Mood Bad Mood Review

Charles D. Hodges, M.D. Good Mood, Bad Mood: Help and Hope for Depression and Bipolar DisorderWapwallopen, Pennsylvania: Shepherd Press, 2013. 192 pp. $13.95.

Americans are being diagnosed with depression and bipolar disorder at a breakneck pace. In this provocative, clarifying, and Christ-centered book, Dr. Charles Hodges attempts to peel back the layers of common solutions to depression, and offers a compelling, biblical alternative.

Dr. Hodges has been practicing medicine for nearly forty years and has witnessed the changing landscape of depression/bipolar in the Western medical community. If you want the lowdown in a word, this is a good book. Dr. Hodges has done his homework, both medically and biblically. He’s not just throwing out pithy Bible verses, and he’s not just citing Christian doctors to prove his point. He explains some key Scriptures about the darkness of life. He also provides quite a bit of medical research to get to the bottom of a serious problem in modern medicine when it comes to diagnosing and treating depression.

Dr. Hodges summarizes the history of depression, including how it has been is diagnosed and is normally treated. Depression is always a subjective diagnosis, and research has shown that there is no proof that “chemical imbalances” cause depression. In fact, “There has never been a peer-reviewed, published journal article that proves that a serotonin deficiency is the cause of any mental disorder” (45). The current medications (like Prozac, et al.) simply create an abnormal state that patients prefer to the symptoms of depression. Dr. Hodges also examines a number of recent studies that showed placebos were just as effective, if not more, than antidepressants in depressed persons (48-49). The case for a disease-model of depression has, in reality, zero evidence.

So what is going on with all these people who are depressed? Dr. Hodges argues that they are experiencing extreme sadness. This sadness is no different than what people have been experiencing for thousands of years. When someone is labeled “depressed” or as having “bipolar” by a medical professional, they are given license to play the victim (112). “The biggest problem with labeling is that we quit looking for an answer. Once we have the label, we have the answer” (154). Dr. Hodges points us away from label-based medicine and counseling, and works toward building a gospel-centered framework for sadness. The good news is that Jesus cares deeply for those who are sad.

Dr. Hodges proposes that, at bottom, a depressed person has been denied something (e.g. health, wealth, friends, etc.) they wanted. In other words, they have been worshiping an idol, not God. Nearly all cases of diagnosed depression occur because of loss–sometimes small, sometimes extreme. Loss is a normal part of life. The important thing to focus on is how will we respond to it. Dr. Hodges argues that this sadness is a gift of God given to drive us further into the gospel of grace (chs. 6-7). In other words, sadness drives us to repentance and trust (two sides of the same coin). This is the major theme in the latter half of the book. When we can learn to repent and live by grace instead of labels, we will be thankful for the sadness in our life (ch. 10). In a way, this book is a “theology of sadness” from the perspective of a doctor-theologian.

While Dr. Hodges understands depression to be a form of severe sadness than can only be solved with the gospel, he has a helpful appendix that explains how several diseases can affect a person’s mood.

The book is confident in its conclusions, yet gentle in its approach. Just like a good doctor. It is far from technical. I have no medical training or background, yet did not find myself lost at any point. At the same time, it is not simplistic or elemental. Doctors will have to wrestle with this book’s solution to the most common mental disorders of our day. Finally, doctors, pastors, counselors, parents, depressed persons, and friends of depressed persons will be helped by this book. I trust that if you read it, you will find it illuminating, convicting, encouraging, hopeful, and freeing. And if you know someone who is depressed, share the ideas from this book with them. They will not be disappointed.


Welcome, Bailey Noel

Bailey Noel Pruch. 6 pounds, 13 ounces and 21 inches long. Praise Jesus, through whom everyone is made, for this beautiful creation.


Wrestling with an Angel

Greg Lucas writes on a blog that I was introduced to today.  Greg has a son, Jake, with severe disabilities and now, after 17 years, Jake is out of the home, receiving greater care as he tries to prepare for independent living.

Greg’s passion for Christ, holiness, and living they atypical American life is convicting.  God has used Jake’s life to push Greg in this direction.

A recent birthday letter to from Greg to Jake especially gripped my heart:

Then, just after your first birthday, you got sick and had to spend a lot of time in the hospital. Your mom and I were young and scared and didn’t know what to do when you stopped breathing and had seizures. We spent that entire year in hospitals and doctors offices trying to figure out what was causing you to be so sick. No one could give us any answers. No one could help you get better. We cried a lot that year. It was one of the most difficult times of my life.

Then, just as we were about to give up, we found someone who could help. He picked us up off the floor of our hopelessness, held us up with His strong arms, wiped away our tears with His gentle hands, and healed your seizures with His mighty power. He changed our lives forever. His name is Jesus, and you know Him well—for it was you that introduced us to Him


Abortion and Artemis: The Damning Desire of Lust for Wealth

FoxNews reports that a Planned Parenthood worker in Texas quit after seeing an ultrasound of a baby being aborted.  Here’s a snippet:

Abby Johnson, 29, used to escort women from their cars to the clinic in the eight years she volunteered and worked for Planned Parenthood in Bryan, Texas. But she says she knew it was time to leave after she watched a fetus “crumple” as it was vacuumed out of a patient’s uterus in September.

The most intriguing part of this article was when Johnson described the driving force behind the clinic’s abortions:

“Every meeting that we had was, ‘We don’t have enough money, we don’t have enough money — we’ve got to keep these abortions coming’…It’s a very lucrative business and that’s why they want to increase numbers.”

Immediately, Acts 19:21-41 came to my mind.  Paul had been preaching the gospel in Ephesus, and he was preaching against the goddess Artemis, the Greek deity of hunting and fertility, who later became associated with wealth and prosperity.

Some Ephesians were angry at Paul, who “persuaded and turned away a great many people, saying that gods made with hands are not god” (v. 26).  What was the driving force of their anger at Paul and zeal for this goddess?  Verses 24-25 tell us the answer:

For a man named Demetrius, a silversmith, who made silver shrines of Artemis, brought no little business to the craftsmen.  These he gathered together, with the workmen in similar trades, and said, “Men, you know that from this business we have our wealth.”

Just like the Ephesian silversmiths, the Planned Parenthood workers acquired their wealth from a god (i.e. abortion) they made with their own hands.  In a word, they were greedy. Greed and abortion, like Artemis, are idols.  And when the idol of greed is threatened, the result is either repentance  toward Jesus or rage, chaos, hatred, and only more idolatry and greed.

The lust for wealth is a damning desire.  Truly “those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction” (1 Tim. 6:9).

Ministry Theology

Leading on Empty Review

Leading on Empty, by Wayne Cordeiro, pastor of New Hope Christian Fellowship in Honolulu, is a book about ministry burnout.  It chronicles Cordeiro’s journey through burnout and what he learned on the roach to recovery

For the most part, the book is helpful.  The book gave me some road markers to watch for in the future.  Two of the more helpful chapters were on depression.  It was scary to read actually, because I’d be willing to bet that most people would be lying if they said they didn’t experience most of the symptoms at varying times throughout a normal year!

One of the underlying themes of the book was simply to have our priorities in order.  This seems easy enough, but how often do we forget our priorities?  Cordeiro asks the reader to do an exercise to narrow down the essentials of life.  He says to list what the most important five percent of your life is.  This could be anything.  He lists things like his relationship with Jesus, his wife and kids, and pleasing God with his ministry.  “We won’t be held accountable for how much we have done,” he writes, “but for how much we have done of what He has asked us to do” (p. 79).

Later, he asks the reader to write down a handful of things that drains you and fuels you — whatever they are.  He says, “Your soul is like a battery that discharges each time you give life away, and it needs to be recharged regularly” (p. 88).  I found this helpful to re-discover what I really enjoy doing.

The only criticism I have is that the book can sometimes have a self-helpish feel.  Cordeiro says that it isn’t a self-help book, but at times he’ll write something like this: “Your greatest source of motivation is finding untapped potential yet within you.  You see, your future is not what lies ahead of you.  It’s what lies within you” (p. 205).  Out of context, that looks like a Joel Osteen sermon quote.  In the larger context of the book, the reader will know that Cordeiro believes that the gospel is our only healing power — that a vibrant, growing relationship with Jesus is our only hope.  However, sometimes he fails to go far enough in being absolutely clear that this is what he means.  As a Christian reading a Christian book, I know what he means.  But will it be absolutely evident to other Christians?  I don’t know.  Our potential is within us, yes, but it’s in us only by God’s power.  Outside of the gospel we have no real potential.