Break the Stigma

More than 60 International emotional health and wellness professionals have converged on the Loma Linda University campus in California, October 12-15, to lead out in presentations and workshops for a multidisciplinary, multicultural conference to advance a biblical framework for achieving emotional wholeness. An escalating number of people in today's fast-paced, high-stress society--both inside and outside the church--are seeking life-coping skills and emotional healing from mental health professionals, and Seventh-day Adventist health organizations, with their emphasis on whole-person care, are recognizing the need for a stronger focus on this issue. The extra edge of Adventist emotional health and wellness practices, however, is a biblically based foundation. The focus of the LLU Emotional Health and Wellness Conference is to explore the role of these Bible principles. Adventist Review features editor Sandra Blackmer is on site covering the four-day event.

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llan Handysides, director of GC Health Ministries, opened the Emotional Health and Wellness Conference on Wednesday by noting that Jesus Christ, as God’s active creative agent, is central to the understanding of a biblical worldview.

“This viewpoint is unacceptable to many,” he said, but “the purpose of this conference is not to debate a biblical perspective, but to present it and to explain it. The biblical viewpoint makes God, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit—the three-in-one God—central to all life and creation. . . . The belief that we are a result of creationary processes distinguishes our worldview from that of those who see themselves as a result of a random, undirected, evolutionary process.”

Those thoughts set the tone for the professional gathering, continuing through to the Sabbath messages.
The first speaker Sabbath morning, theologian and businessman E. Edward Zinke, gave his personal testimony on how he moved from an intellectual emphasis on humanism to that of seeing the Bible alone as the lens through which the natural world can be understood.

“I grew up trying to rationalize God and to make Him fit into the moral sensibilities of my society—a god that would fit within the limits of human and natural reasoning. I was lost in the maze of human intellectualism,” Zinke said.

A discussion with one of his professors, during which he was described as “a good scholastic theologian”—one who approaches God in an intellectual way—triggered the beginning of a paradigm shift in Zinke’s thinking. He then began to reexamine his philosophies and his heart.

“It was the rebirth of my worldview, seeing things based on God’s Word rather than humanistic thinking. . . . [I discovered that] it’s not the Word of God that’s the patient; it is I who is the patient. We don’t place God on the operating table; I need to go on the operating table,” he said. “If we open our hearts and lives to the Holy Spirit, it will transform our lives and our thinking as well.”
GC general vice president Lowell Cooper in his central Sabbath message described God’s mission as the restoration of all that was part of His original creation. He also noted that while on earth, Christ’s care for humanity was His chief concern.

“The Christian life is one of service as well as belief,” Cooper said. “It should follow the pattern of God. Our mission is for the total restoring and renewing of a fallen world. . . . Emotional health and wellness are essential to God’s plan.” Cooper listed seven points church members should incorporate into their mission:
  1. Articulate the gospel message with grace and not guilt when teaching, preaching, and writing.
  2. Break the stigma of mental illness. “People know how to relate to a broken leg but not to a broken spirit,” he said. “We need to feel free to talk about emotional health issues.”
  3.  Rethink the philosophy of suffering. The belief that people suffer because of a lack of faith “is a fallacy,” Cooper said. “How many people in the Bible went through times that left them battered and bruised and held together by duct tape? But they learned that God will bring us through.”
  4. Learn to forgive. Forgiveness and healing are one.
  5. As a faith community, embrace others and their brokenness. “We are called to be a community,” he said.
  6. Pray. “Sometimes the promise to pray for someone is a way to escape a complicated situation,” Cooper said. “But sometimes a person needs ‘prayer and potatoes’—or prayer plus action.”
  7. Live a balanced life. The principles of healthful living have been given to us by God as a gift.
“What we have learned this week is that there are evidenced-based principles that promote health,” Cooper said. “Let us share these with the world. We should be a church that is so focused on the health of the people that no one is left behind.”

Learn more about the Emotional Health and Wellness Conference—A Biblical Worldview in Practice.

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