• Navita K.J. Johnson

As we face the uncertainty of life with and after COVID-19, many people are experiencing anxiety, depression, PTSD, high stress, fear, anger, substance use problems, etc. There has often been a misconception that if you are a Christian, then you should not experience fear or any other emotion that contradicts your faith in God. However, I would like to dispel that myth. This myth has plagued many of our communities for generations, forcing us to view our natural propensity to feel certain emotions, especially during trying times, as 'crazy' or as if 'we're trippin'. This view has been and continues to be problematic because it supports the stigma connected to mental illness, which says, "There's something wrong with you if you become emotional, show, and/or communicate how you feel." No, it is the complete opposite! Something becomes wrong with you when you don't communicate your feelings and continue to suppress your feelings and emotions about the things that have hurt you. We are human beings first, so it is our innate, immediate reaction to have an emotional response to life circumstances. That response begins in infancy. Think about when a baby first feels a cold wipe on their bottom when they're being changed, they cry because they don't like the way it feels or, consider when a baby is hungry, he/she cries to alert someone that something is wrong. The baby's only way of communicating his/her needs is through the expression of his/her emotions. However, depending on the environment that the baby enters into, that child will soon learn if it will be acceptable to continue to communicate their emotions and feelings outwardly or, if it is safer to hold everything in. COVID-19 has forced many people to reveal feelings and emotions that they have been able to hide and suppress over the years through being workaholics, partying, being social butterflies, engaging in several activities, etc. Nevertheless, people are being forced to grapple with the terror of finally disclosing how they really feel, which for many, is fear. Last I checked on CNN there were over 140,000 people who have died from the coronavirus, which included: women, men, children, young, old, middle-aged, and the elderly. No one has been exempted from this pandemic. And as it seems, the only thing as of now that can help us are God, masks, and social distancing. Even as numbers are steadily climbing in deaths, people are being beckoned back to work and school. It is imperative that we all understand that communicating our feelings/emotions, needs, wants, and desires are so important right now. Isolation, fear of death, the actual loss of a loved one to COVID-19, or for any reason at this time, can cause someone to feel as if they are having a mental breakdown. Fear is a real feeling and an adequate response to the reality of our existence right now. But, hold on!! There is hope. Let me remind you of the words of my God:

“So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”—Isaiah 41:10

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your request to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”—Philippians 4:6-7

“Peace is what I leave with you; it is my own peace that I give you. I do not give it as the world does. Do not be worried and upset; do not be afraid.”—John 14:27

“For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.”—2 Timothy 1:7

I will honestly admit to you that I, also have had my fears during this time. I am a Christian who loves God and his son, my savior, Jesus Christ. Yet and still, I have felt fear, worry, and anxiety. However, I have communicated my feelings to my own support team, which includes my own counselor (Every great counselor, needs a counselor!) and I have used my spirituality and faith to remind me of the power of God in my life. I have meditated on the very scriptures I have listed above, as well as others. I engage in bible study and still attend virtual church on Sundays. But, I also use the coping skills that I have learned over the years and the skills that I teach to my clients to assist me in managing my fears, anxiety, etc. You do not have to choose between your spirituality and counseling. You should incorporate it all into your toolbox of mental health support. So yes, you can have faith and fear, but it’s important that you begin to take the necessary steps in learning how to communicate your true feelings and emotions and allow your faith to lead you in the healing process.

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  • Navita K.J. Johnson

Growing up in small town Clio, Alabama, my grandmother, mother, and father instilled the importance of knowing and trusting Jesus Christ and our Father, God. Whether it was attending vacation bible school in the summers, choir rehearsals on Monday nights, bible study on Wednesday nights, Sunday school on Sunday mornings, afternoon services in the afternoon, and attending regular sangings (yes, sangings, not singings, that's the country in me) and revivals, one thing I knew for sure, even as a child, was that Jesus Christ and God was important. My father would tell me stories of his mother and her faith because I was very young when she passed away. Fortunately, I was able to watch my maternal grandmother and my mother live out theirs. Before I ever understood who Jesus or God was, as a child I was drawn in through gospel music. I could be playing with cousins or friends in church, but if someone would sing, I would immediately stop and that person, group, or choir would have my undivided attention. It's unexplainable, but I always felt a spiritual connection. Throughout my life, even from my youth, I always had a different perspective on things, my heart was always with broken people, maybe because they reminded me of myself, either way, I always wanted others to be happy (sometimes to my detriment...). I would use my voice throughout my life to encourage and help others. Although, there were definitely some challenging years throughout my life, however, I still relied on my faith to push me forward. Over ten years ago when I entered the field of counseling and begin learning about theories and modalities for counseling, I immediately began to wonder, why weren't these theories founded on biblical principle. The bible is truth and from what Proverbs 1 states, it's good "for gaining wisdom and instruction; for understanding words of insight; for receiving instruction in prudent behavior, doing what is right and just and fair; for giving prudence to those who are simple, knowledge and discretion to the young..." (v 1-4), so why were we as counselors using information that was developed by atheist and God's creation to help us heal our brokenness? I heard Bishop T.D. Jakes say in a sermon before, "If you have a Toyota and the Toyota breaks down, would you take it to Nissan? No. You would take it to the place that built the car, because they would know what was wrong and would have the tools to fix it." We are God's creation, made in his image, his chosen people, yet instead of turning to Him and his Word, to find the answers to our brokenness and healing, we have allowed the world to convince us that God's creation knows better than God, the Creator. Even his creation that did not believe in him (Sigmund Freud, known as the father of psychology, and others...). For centuries, before there was an academia known as psychology, there was Jesus Christ, God, and the bible. People who struggled with all of the mental illnesses that we face still today, relied on the undeniable healing power of God through his Word. People sought out pastors and spiritual healers and many were healed because there was no psychology. But today, even many of our pastors have been bamboozled by the advertising and current trend of mental health. So much so, that they refer God's people away from his Word, to therapist, counselors, psychologist, and psychiatrist, that uses theories based on men's view, many who are atheist and who were using cocaine when developing these theories, for the healing of God's children. No wonder so many people continue to seek the fluff of treatment. People are in need of a deeper understanding of their problems and concrete healing, and it is being proven through our high rate of suicides that simple, surface, behavioral changes is not enough. Mental health has always been a concern for people. In Mark 5; 1-20, the bible even speaks of Jesus healing a "demon-possessed" man, undoubtedly a man with mental illness. However, with the development of psychology as an academic discipline, society has watched the creation of terminology and codes that gives natural human behaviors, reactions, and some natural tendencies and experiences a categorization in the Diagnostical Statistical Manual, 5th edition (most current edition-book used by clinicians to make a diagnosis), which now causes people to believe that they have conditions that are incurable, and that their symptoms can only be managed by prescription medications that destroy their physical health and exacerbate at times their mental health to worse conditions. And this is great for pharmaceutical companies who are making billions of dollars each year, but I hear my God saying, "Woe to the shepherds who are destroying and scattering the sheep of my pasture!" (Jeremiah 23;1) As counselors, therapists, psychologists, psychiatrist, social workers, etc..., we have been called for such a time as this. Do you feel that your current strategies are truly helping to make forever-changes in the lives of your clients? Do you observe your clients still needing the same help a month or so later? Do your clients have real peace, real joy? What will you do differently to help them? We do not help others by enabling negative behaviors. We have to speak truth to our clients. Where does your truth come from Sigmund Freud, Carl Jung, etc. or God?

I was given a book over ten years ago, at the beginning of my counseling journey by Mr. Jerry Johnson, who was my mentor and owner of Directions of Recovery, Inc. He knew I was a spiritual person and I spoke with him about biblical counseling. He gave me a book one day, that he explained had been given to him, but he never had a chance to read it. The book name was, "Counseling, How to Counsel Biblically" by John MacArthur (2005). I put the book aside vowing to read it one day, but never got around to it because of my busy schedule. However, the COVID-19 epidemic provided me with the time I needed. I came across the book ten years after it was given to me and decided to read it. This book has changed my counseling perspective and I will never counsel the same again. I have always known the truth, but I am just learning that there has been so many others that have stood in this truth as well. I am not advocating against people getting the help that they need; I just happen to know a way that can help them completely heal if they are willing to do the soul-work of changing. God is not a man that he should lie! The bible has been around for centuries, changing the lives of people globally, but I don't need to look around the world, I just have to look at my own life and know without a shadow of a doubt, I will choose biblical counseling.

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  • Navita K.J. Johnson

For those of us who have been chosen to be mothers, in every capacity, we understand that it is one of the most challenging roles we can ever embark upon. The sacrifices, compromises, patience, prayer, strength, advocacy, humility, and selflessness that it takes to raise children is nothing less than heroic. The battle of David and Goliath cannot be weighed against the battle of a mother who fights against generational curses and the bondage that threatens the freedom that has been laid out in the purpose of God for her children. A mother often is warring within herself, trying to make sense of her past, present, and future, while guiding her children with every new revelation that has been revealed in her spirit. She often prays, "Lord, order my steps...lead me, help me, show me..." A wise mother understands that her own journey has been through winding roads, traveling up hills and resting, at times, in valley lows; but, she also understands that her ability to keep traveling lies within the grace and mercy of a faithful God. As mother's we often attempt to shield our children from hitting the potholes, sharp turns, and slippery roads of life. Because we have already traveled those roads, when we notice that the car is beginning to sway, we reach out to help steer the wheel straight. However, we must remember our own journey. Although we were advised to turn right, we turned left, venturing off the road we knew in an attempt to find our own way, a shortcut that would get us to our destination faster (so we thought). We had to travel those roads against everyone's advise. We needed to take our own journey because little did we know, we had praying mothers who had already prayed for our safe return before we were even able to make the drive. As mother's it can be difficult to let go and watch your children enter into a new journey of life called adulthood, but it's necessary. Remember, when you thought you were traveling on your journey alone, God used that time to draw you closer to him and to reveal himself to you. As mother's we have to remember that our children are not riding alone. There is a passenger in the car and no matter how many turns they make, he will lead them safely home. Let's pray for traveling grace.

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