Support Group Issues:
I am convinced that the revelation of truth is important in every area of life. Therefore, it is important to understand four major compelling natural forces at work in support groups.
1. First, there is a basic need to recognize and unload our problems. Most support groups are designed around this factor.
2. Second, we don't want to feel like we are the only ones that are having our type of problems. Again, this is usually a stated purpose within most support groups.
3. Third, if we make any success in overcoming a problem, we want others to cheer us on. Once again, this is one of the understood purposes of support groups.
4. Fourth, we desire to relate to and have empathy with others that they may receive us so that we can help them make progress in overcoming. From a counselor's view, this would be another purpose of a support group.
These purposes seem all well and good ... so what are the problems? We need to understand that those who attend support groups are generally unhealthy mentally, emotionally, physically, or spiritually. Each person is carrying a load of his own! Although he may vent some of his tensions, pressures, frustrations, failures, compulsions, and desires and get some temporal release, he is pressured to listen to all the garbage the others unload. Then the next time he picks up his load (which will happen, sooner or later), he will also pick up some of the garbage that others have unloaded. Here is the trap! Now, he will attempt to carry a double or triple load.
If someone attempts to withdraw or leave the support group, he will feel guilty and will be pressured by others to come back into the group. The support group becomes an addiction. The person can not live with it, but can't do without it. If what I am saying offends you, most likely you are already addicted to the support group. "Great peace have they which love thy law: and nothing shall offend them" (Psalm 119:165).
Someone may say, "Well, I have made some progress and want to go back to the support group to minister to others." The problem is that to minister help to a support group one must empathize with those in the group in the areas where he has some weaknesses. You may find the testimony of someone who was healed, but tired to do return to the support group to minister to others.
As a parallel, consider our correctional system. It is often said that we put people in prison for rehabilitation. The system doesn't work! Why? The group drops to the lowest factor. The thief that is put into a correctional institution, simply learns from those there how to be a better thief. The peer pressure is to be like others in the group (a worse criminal).
There is a positive support group that God has provided. It is called "the church". It will work with other support groups will not work. Why? First, Jesus is head over the church. "And hath put all things under his feet, and gave him to be the head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fulness of him that filleth all in all" (Ephesians 1:22-23). This means that the order comes from above rather than below. It also means that Jesus has an invested interest in his body. Second, the pastor, elders, and teachers are to be spiritually mature leaders. "And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ" (Ephesians 4:11-12).
Third, the spiritual leaders are accountable unto God to bring order, discipline, and teaching to the body. "Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account, that they may do it with joy, and not with grief: for that is unprofitable for you" (Hebrews 13:17). Fourth, the Bible, alone has the answer to life's problems. "All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works" (2 Timothy 3:16-17).
Fifth, the church, though not perfect, is generally in stages of growth. Therefore, the peer pressure is positive rather than negative. It is an upward, rather than a downward pyramid. "Likewise, ye younger, submit yourselves unto the elder. Yea, all of you be subject one to another, and be clothed with humility: for God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble" (I Peter 5:5). In contrast, the pyramid pressure in the world is downward. The person that leads someone into drugs was led by someone else who was even lower.
Look at this way. Put someone who is unhealthy with others who are unhealthy. What do they talk about? They think and talk about their unhealthiness. In contrast, put the same unhealthy person with others who are strong and healthy. Here, the tendency is to think and talk in a more healthy manor. This is positive peer pressure in action. The Institute of Basic Youth Conflicts has helped established a system of taking a troubled youth and putting him in a setting with two spiritually mature youth. The positive peer pressure is tremendous. "Iron sharpeneth iron; so a man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend" (Proverbs 27:17). The troubled youth, generally makes positive changes in a very short time. "A wise man will hear, and will increase learning; and a man of understanding shall attain unto wise counsels" (Proverbs 1:5).
Sixth, the church body is to be led by the Holy Spirit. There is more than people's personalities involved. The Holy Spirit can speak directly to individuals. "My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me" (John 10:27). Seventh, people in the church have the grace of God to enable them to do what is right. "There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it" ( I Corinthians 10:13).
The word "church" in the Greek means "called out assembly". The church is called out of the world, but also is an assembly. The Scripture states, "Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching" (Hebrews 10:25). One main purpose of the church is to exhort one another. Furthermore, the church is built upon a faith principle. Jesus responded to Peter's confession of faith by saying, "That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it" (Matthew 16:18). The rock was Peter's confession of faith, not his confession of failures. However, there is a place for confession of failures (James 5:16), but that is not the emphasis. The church is also to be a place to bear one another's burdens. "Bear ye one another's burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ" (Galatians 6:2). "We then that are strong ought to bear the infirmities of the weak, and not to please ourselves" (Romans 15:1). "Now we exhort you, brethren, warn them that are unruly, comfort the feebleminded, support the weak, be patient toward all men" (I Thessalonians 5:14). The church is the God ordained support group!
For further information on how to choose a church please see: Appendix
H in my book on "How
To Destroy The Evil Tree".
I would like to share with you a terrifying time in my life... a hard time emotionally and spiritually. But now that the crisis is over- I want to share what I learned about myself and my God.
For seven months I was absolutely symptom free of Bipolar Disorder. There was no great depression and there was no abnormal highs - I was balanced and had peace of mind. I was not taking any medication and no need to see a Therapist or Psychiatrist. I was HEALED. I was able to get back into ministry for I knew that I would be as healthy tomorrow as I was today. I could make plans for the future. I had a future!
Now I had founded and chaired a Secular Bipolar Support Group for over a year. This group meets weekly and we had become quite bonded through our common denominator of Bipolar Disorder. I remember when I was first healed and went back to the group - I was overwhelmed with how "sick" they were. I was amazed that I could really have been that sick. I tried to continue to lead the group - although they were a bit uncomfortable with my occasional talk about my "healing". As time went by I found myself trying hard to identify with the group - it was the only way I knew that I could even keep coming to the group. I knew I could not be an effective leader if I came before them as a Healthy person - the group was a peer group - Bipolars for Bipolars. Yet I was no longer Bipolar. I found myself trying to remember what it was like - trying to dig up my old feelings so that I could identify with them. This all happened very innocently as I longed to be a good friend and a good leader to my bipolar friends. However the scripture says, "as a man thinketh, so is he." The more and more I thought about my own illness- the more I became ill. I started to experience depression again. I panicked inside. Oh NO - what is happening? Did God un-heal me? Then I began to question God. Then I began to blame God. And before long- I acted and thought like a Bipolar. I finally admitted that I was once again - cursed with Bipolar Disorder.
In the meantime- I am begging God to reveal to me what was going on. I received silence. I angrily E-mailed the counselor in Texas and he simply responded for me to "walk in your healing". I was LIVID when he talked to me like that. The Bipolar Support Group witnessed my lack of healing which did not help them to believe in God and I kept telling them - I could not explain what has happened. I told them that I was not mad at God for healing me for only seven months (LIE). It was the best seven months ever. He gave me a taste of Heaven and He definitely had showed me His power - so I was not mad at Him. I trusted Him with my life. Yet inside I was soooooo disappointed in God. I wanted HIM to get the glory through my healing - I wanted to continue shouting from the rooftops about His immense love and power. Now what ever could I say about Him? I continued to seek God on this issue. I continued to beg God to reveal to me what was going on?
Then the day came when God quietly and privately revealed to me what had happened. He told me that HE had not given me back my mental illness- but that I had WANTED it back. I kept thinking about the old days and the old feelings. I wanted so much to identify with my bipolar friends that I was giving too much thought trying to relive my old sick days - until HE allowed me to experience it fully again. He spoke to me so lovingly and so plainly. I could clearly see what I had done. I had thought on my sick days so I became sick. "What a man thinketh- so is he." We become what we think about. God had said that clearly in HIS Word. I am no exception to His rule. Upon this revelation I repented and restored my relationship with Him. I knew that I would have to make a change in the bipolar Support Group however. As difficult as it was- I told the group the very next meeting that I needed to back out of the group. Of course I tried to explain this to the group- but they were unable to understand and advised me not to throw away their phone numbers for this "high" will undoubtedly end and I would need them again. I was sooooo sad to see that my actions had stolen the Glory of God away from my initial healing in the eyes of my friends. They no longer believed in the power of God that they had seen upon my healing. Oh my heart aches for them - yet for now- I know I need to be away from hearing about the 'good ole days' of my sickness- I need to "walk in my Healing".
May I add that God blessed this hard step of pulling
away from a great group of people that I had bonded with. Since my healing
the Lord has gifted and called my husband and I into a Biblical Counseling
Ministry. We have witnessed the Love and Power of God and have a
great desire to lead hurting people to the Great Healer through a walk
through the Bible and loving and trusting the Savior in a more deep and
personal way. People have called us on the phone or showed up at our door
in desperation- hearing about my healing- and coming to see if we could
help them. We are not certified, or educationally qualified - but God has
brought hurting people to us and we simply lead them to God. WE sure don't
guarantee everyone will be perfectly healed of their mental illnesses -
we don't know the will of God for every person - but we have witnessed
some real miracles in our little office. We are awed and humbled to see
God work through simple people like us. We know it is GOD for there is
nothing special about us except we are HIS children and willing to be HIS
vessels. Upon my decision to break ties with my past illness- (leaving
the support group) God blessed us and immediately gave us two more beautiful
couples in need of knowing the touch of God. WE serve an AWESOME God.
He is the God of Miracles. He is the God of the Second Chance. HE is GOD