Christelle Withers-Mayne is a psychologist with over twenty years experience in
rural psychology. She works with adults and young people who are struggling with
issues like stress, depression, relationships, workplace conflict and mental
illness. Throughout her career, she has been researching, writing and teaching
Biblical psychology. Chris is married to Andrew, a farmer. They live on a
property in southeast
with their three children.
This book is for my children, Caleb, Jacinta and
Bethany who have given me many opportunities to develop the skills in this book.
Parenthood might not always be easy but you have made it all worthwhile.
It is also for the many people who have taught and
encouraged me during the years that I have been researching, writing and
polishing this manuscript. However, a special thanks must go to Mark, Andrew and
Julie Nicholls who did the artwork and Kathy Masters who proofread and critiqued
Chapter One ~Part
Why Dig Anyway?
I first met Tania as a forty-year-old ex-prostitute
suffering severe depression. She was a veteran of several failed suicide
attempts. After the most recent one, she decided that she wasn’t meant to take
her life because, after so much practice, her last attempt should not have
failed. I agreed. I also figured that with such a sense of humour in the midst
of her depression, she had a good chance of sorting out the mess her life had
childhood, Tania had been teased and rejected by many of her peers because of a
foot deformity that left her with an uneven gait and prevented her from joining
in games like skipping. At home, she felt inferior to her sister and brother.
Whether it was true or not, she felt that her family favoured her siblings and
never really expected her to amount to much. So she set about proving them
right. It didn’t take long and it didn’t take much effort to gain a
reputation as a troublemaker at high school. After all, she had just the right
attitude to show disrespect for authority, disregard for education and disdain
for mainstream society values. Her parents got to know the principal quite well
through many hours spent discussing their daughter’s misdemeanours.
a teenager, Tania listened to her school friends talk about their boyfriends and
dates. Since no boy had shown any interest in her, she decided that she was
unattractive to the opposite sex. However, she discovered that men would
overlook her disability for the sake of sex. So much so, that, by her
mid-twenties she was earning a considerable amount of money as a prostitute.
a few years, however, her income began to drop and Tania found the men preferred
the younger girls. At thirty, she began to wonder if a different kind of life
might be possible for her. She sensed the futility of her lifestyle and, as she
entered a new decade of life, a desire to change took root. She began thinking
in terms of becoming respectable, settling down, maybe even proving her parents
wrong. She went to college and got a job as an administrative assistant. More
and more, Tania felt she was getting her life under control except in the area
of men. Unwittingly, she had drifted into a pattern of short-term relationships
which were unfulfilling, but which seemed her only option.
free of the destructive relationship she was in at the time was relatively easy.
She moved interstate. But, as you probably know, you can move away from other
people but you can’t move away from yourself. Tania quickly realized that she
had packed up her problems and brought them with her. So she decided to have a
child. A child would not judge her by her appearance. A child of her own would
love her unconditionally. Caring for a child would keep her occupied physically
and emotionally so that seeking acceptance in casual sexual relationships would
no longer be necessary.
she became pregnant, Tania began to clean up her lifestyle. She wanted only the
best for her child. With determination, she stopped drinking, smoking and using
marijuana. She also began to live a celibate lifestyle because all the men she
seemed to attract depressed her. Some were abusive as well.
her daughter was born, Tania even stopped swearing because she didn’t want her
daughter exposed to coarse language. Then she began to attend church because, in
that environment, she believed her daughter would be surrounded by people of
higher moral values than her previous companions had held. Religion wasn’t for
her though. As a troubled young girl, she had been badly disillusioned by the
church and by Christians who had treated her as badly as the rest of the world.
Instead of a living faith that held meaning for her, she had found in the church
only pressure to conform and rejection when she refused.
the external changes Tania made were evidence of her willpower and
resourcefulness but, unfortunately, they had not touched her emotional
condition. So she sought help to deal with her internal pain, her feelings of
inadequacy and the hatred and distrust of men that had developed over the years
of allowing herself to be used and abused.
many others, Tania turned to psychology for that help, not the church. And
without knowing it, but under God’s leading I’m sure, she came to see a
church was an interesting choice, considering Tania’s past experiences, but
the journey of faith is not always logical. God was drawing her to himself and,
in a church family that loved and accepted her, she began to see that a
relationship with Jesus was between herself and God, not the church. She also
began to accept that she had spiritual needs that psychology alone could not
Tania’s story is not finished but she is more at peace
now than she has ever been and God is working in her life. She has opened
herself up to the possibility of far deeper personal healing and growth than she
could have attained had she been content with the increase in self-understanding
and acceptance that psychology could give.
your life to God will change you. It will change your lifestyle, your attitudes,
the way you feel about things, and it will smooth some of the rough edges off
your character. People like Tania consult psychologists and counsellors to try
to make these changes because they recognize that unhealthy behaviour, attitudes
and emotions can stand between them and inner peace.
can help but there are deeper levels of psychological well-being that can only
be reached when we are enjoying a close relationship with God. That’s because
counselling doesn’t touch the spiritual aspects of our psychological problems.
Only God can do that.
The process of experiencing God in our lives is really
quite simple but it has profound implications for the way we live. Whoever
believes in Jesus has eternal life. That’s our starting point. And the words
that point us in the direction we should go in our life as a follower of Jesus
are these: “If you love me, you will obey what I command” and “Love the
Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind
and with all your strength [and] love your neighbour as yourself.”
commitment God requires of us is a total offering of our mental, physical and
spiritual energies. Micah sums up God’s requirements thus: We are “to act
justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with [our] God.”
we live that way, there will be benefits – real life, everyday, practical
benefits. Life to the full, or an abundant life, is how Jesus put it. He came to
show us how we can live a life of purpose, inner peace, satisfaction, fulfilling
relationships – a life that meets our psychological and spiritual needs.
through the Old Testament it is easy to gain the impression that we will be
cursed if we disobey God, and have health, wealth and happiness if we obey him
enough. But I doubt that the abundant life has anything much to do with our
physical comfort. I often wonder how I would explain my possessions, or my good
health, to a Christian dying of starvation in central Africa or eking out an
existence in the slums of
. I’ve decided that the idea that good Christians should be rich and
trouble-free is basically wishful thinking. Real life isn’t so simple.
was following God and enjoying his blessings as a nation, there were still poor
and sick people in the land. Obeying God’s commands is not an insurance policy
against personal disease or misfortune. Neither can we bribe God into giving us
what we want in exchange for our devotion as though we think that godliness is a
means to financial gain. The world remains imperfect because of the presence of
sin. Christians suffer because they live in the world, not necessarily because
they haven’t obeyed God well enough or prayed the right prayers.
the positive side, we can each expect to enjoy the life God gives us to the full
within the confines of our own unique circumstances. We can also hope to find
answers to the battles we face when we are committed to God. But it would be
unrealistic to hold God to such promises as, “I will take away sickness from
among you, and none will miscarry or be barren.” This promise was specific to
the Israelites facing a lengthy campaign to conquer the land God had promised to
give them. If they obeyed him fully in this task, he would provide the physical
health needed to be successful. It serves as an illustration of the way God
sometimes works, not an entitlement for our own lives.
references to health and wealth as rewards for obedience to God are relatively
few compared to the other benefits that are promised. God is more concerned
about our psychological and spiritual well-being than the size of our bank
balance, the number of times we visit the doctor, or how long we live.
fact, wealth may be one of the greatest enemies of our emotional health. It
deceives us into thinking that working longer hours to afford a richer lifestyle
is better for our children than spending time with them. It makes us worry about
how to get more of it and how to keep ahead of business competitors, or the rich
may know families in which money led to divisions as the children squabbled over
a parent’s will. A well-meaning but clearly misinformed man came to Jesus once
and demanded, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.”
Jesus’ reply was surprisingly blunt. “Man,” he said, “who appointed me a
judge or an arbiter between you? Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds
of greed; a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his
few can resist a love affair with money once they start to accumulate some and
enjoy its rewards. The need for money becomes addictive and it seems that
whoever loves money never has enough.
problem isn’t money itself, but our attitude towards it. That’s why Jesus
told us, “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and
rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves
treasures in heaven.” These treasures are the rewards of having a relationship
with God – things like a sense of meaning and purpose in life, loving
relationships, peace of mind and strength to cope with life. These other rewards
have far more potential to enhance our lives than health or wealth could ever