Southern Seminary’s Counsel the Word addresses depression and Bible’s comfort

Communications Staff — May 4, 2016

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Heath Lambert, executive director of the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors (ACBC) and associate pastor at First Baptist Church of Jacksonville, Florida.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (SBTS) — The Bible provides comfort and hope for people in the pit of despair, said speakers at the Counsel the Word conference at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, April 26-27.

“When you say, ‘You need something more than the Bible,’ that actually makes a statement about the character of God,” said Heath Lambert, executive director of the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors (ACBC) and associate pastor at First Baptist Church of Jacksonville, Florida. “God finished the Bible in about 90 A.D. and he has not been waiting for the last 2,000 years for really smart unbelievers in the 20th century to come up with something that would really help. … He gave us those things because that’s what we need for our trouble.”

During his two sessions, Lambert focused on the importance of ministers preaching the Word and the sufficiency of the Bible to comfort depressed persons. The theme of the two-day conference was “How Long, O Lord? Depression and Hope in a Complex World.”

“Comfort comes to people in pain from the Word of God and no place else when we know that a good God is using his superior wisdom and his superior power to bring about a superior good,” said Lambert, who also serves as assistant professor of biblical counseling at Southern.

Only through the ministering of the Word do people learn that God remains good in the midst of suffering, and through that the Christian understands the purpose of pain is for the glory of God because of his love for them, he said.

“Love is not when God takes action to make us immediately feel good and take away our pain,” Lambert said. “God’s love is seen when he sends us through a trial and he leads us to love him more and know him more and he does whatever it takes to help us love Jesus more than we love the comforts of this life.”

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Jeremy Pierre, dean of students at Southern and director of the Ph.D. program in Biblical Counseling at Southern.

Jeremy Pierre, dean of students at Southern, spoke about the power of the imagination to “expand our vision beyond what we can see.”

“The ideal reality that people were made for is to be in the direct presence of God. Depression occurs because we don’t quite live in that reality. The Christian imagination reaches towards that experience in the present difficulties of life,” said Pierre, who also serves as an associate professor of biblical counseling and directs the Ph.D. program in Biblical Counseling at Southern Seminary.

Using Job as an example of a person in the pit of despair, Pierre offered 10 statements describing imagination and suffering, including how God gave imagination as an aid to worship and when imagination shaped by Scripture is “activated” by suffering.

Depression stems from the understanding that this world falls short of God’s design, which brings about hope through the imagination of something better. Faith uses imagination in order to stir Christians to worship God, he said.

“All he could see were crumbled houses, dead children, destroyed crops, oozing skin, compassionless friends, a hard wife. These were the things Job was taking in with his five senses. But God spoke to him of things that went beyond that, things that were not immediate and present to him,” Pierre said.

“God was stirring the imagination of Job with faith. Faith sort of takes over our imagination and uses it for the glory of God.”

Additional main session speakers included Edward T. Welch, counselor and faculty member at Christian Counseling & Educational Foundation (CCEF), who encouraged pastors to remind hurting people that life and hope are found in Jesus; and Stuart Scott, professor of biblical counseling in the graduate school at The Master’s College in Santa Clarita, California, who presented seven biblical truths to counsel people from despair to hope. Breakout session topics included prayer strategies, psychiatric medication, common mistakes, and how the church can care for depressed members.

Audio and video from the Counsel the Word event will soon be available online at sbts.edu/resources.

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