5 books to help with common struggles and mental health

June 5, 2019

May was dedicated to mental health awareness, which got me thinking about resources that I find helpful as a counselor. It’s important to be equipped when struggling with anything relating to mental health. In my experience, there are a handful of issues that commonly surface with my clientele—or that I have struggled with. The resources I will highlight are beneficial to anyone who struggles in the areas of anxiety, boundaries, codependence, marriage, or trauma/abuse.

Each of these resources has practical material that is easy to read, and can breathe life back into deflated circumstances. Some of them are secular, but with minimal sifting, you can glean the wisdom that lines up with God’s Word. All of these books present healthy counsel for our mental health needs.

1. Boundaries by Henry Cloud and John Townsend: This book is full of scriptural references that parallel the truth of caring for ourselves in the ways we commit to or refuse interaction in our everyday lives and relationships. Many of us struggle between feeling selfish or healthy, depending on what our response is to others’ demands or requests. This book points out what areas of life are susceptible to this unhealthiness, but also how to begin making healthy decisions (i.e., relatives/family, work, spouse, self). It will benefit our emotional health when we can prioritize our time, energy, and responsibilities, which will enable us to better serve the Lord and his people.

2. Created for Connection by Sue Johnson and Kenneth Sanderfer: Sue Johnson is famous in couples therapy. She has pioneered the model of “emotionally-focused therapy” (EFT), which draws on the concepts of how we all have and need a sense of connecting in relationships that are important to us. Kenneth Sanderfer further presents these truths by applying the biblical foundation behind these elements. This book helps couples who to need to know what it looks like to connect emotionally—which is not measured by mere communication. This book will help you recognize the types of dialogues and cyclical patterns that are unhealthy in marriage, how to break out from those, and how to form healthy connection.

3. Facing Codependence by Pia Mellody: This may not be as popular to select from my list, but this issue affects far more of us that we realize. As a former professor and mentor of mine says, “hurt people, hurt people.” I propose that most of us struggle with codependency more than we realize. Pia Mellody writes vulnerably about how the unhealthy patterns we suffer from in childhood form maladaptive life patterns into adulthood. She says we will often rationalize our unhealthy thoughts and behaviors in extreme because we desperately want to normalize what we have had to do to survive in this world. Unfortunately, it can be very difficult for us to recognize this on our own. I have used this book to reflect on my own unhealthiness in order to make room for healthy growth in my relationships (i.e., self, spouse, kids, friends, and family).

4. On the Threshold of Hope by Diane Mandt Langberg: I love anything that Diane Langberg writes. She has depth of knowledge in its fullest: biblical, clinical, and experiential. Trauma (primarily understood as sexual abuse in this book) impacts us in unhealthy ways that will alter how we see ourselves and others. The language used in this book is comforting and enlightening, demonstrating how there can be a way to transform a “victim” into being a “survivor” in life. Recovery from abuse or trauma will take its time and great efforts, but Langberg writes with compassion and patience that will embolden the reader to face the trauma in a capacity that God makes possible.

5. The DBT Skills Workbook for Anxiety by Alexander L. Chapman, Kim L. Gratz, Matthew T. Tull: Although this is a secular workbook, the vast majority of its content is helpful. It provides the reader/user with clinical knowledge about anxiety’s interaction with our emotional and physiological being, as well as application and workbook exercises. This allows the reader to do something with their anxiety by learning how to interact with it, and adjust toward healthy patterns for managing future anxieties. Although we all experience anxiety on different levels, we do not need to suffer in the emotional distress. This is a great resource that anyone can use in their daily routine and not have to be restricted to the counselor’s office.

It is important that we take care of our holistic health and God-created bodies. This includes our physical, spiritual, intellectual, and emotional aspects. To not prioritize our health in any of these areas is a direct way of not caring for ourselves. Let’s become great stewards of what God has given us in our mental health—for our good and his glory!

Jesse Masson

Jesse Masson has been counseling since 2012 and lives in Kansas City with his wife and three children. In 2020, he started Connected Counseling LLC, a Christian counseling practice that offers professional in-office and teletherapy sessions. Jesse regards himself as a “broken healer” who desires to bring healthy change in … Read More

Article 12: The Future of AI

We affirm that AI will continue to be developed in ways that we cannot currently imagine or understand, including AI that will far surpass many human abilities. God alone has the power to create life, and no future advancements in AI will usurp Him as the Creator of life. The church has a unique role in proclaiming human dignity for all and calling for the humane use of AI in all aspects of society.

We deny that AI will make us more or less human, or that AI will ever obtain a coequal level of worth, dignity, or value to image-bearers. Future advancements in AI will not ultimately fulfill our longings for a perfect world. While we are not able to comprehend or know the future, we do not fear what is to come because we know that God is omniscient and that nothing we create will be able to thwart His redemptive plan for creation or to supplant humanity as His image-bearers.

Genesis 1; Isaiah 42:8; Romans 1:20-21; 5:2; Ephesians 1:4-6; 2 Timothy 1:7-9; Revelation 5:9-10

Article 11: Public Policy

We affirm that the fundamental purposes of government are to protect human beings from harm, punish those who do evil, uphold civil liberties, and to commend those who do good. The public has a role in shaping and crafting policies concerning the use of AI in society, and these decisions should not be left to those who develop these technologies or to governments to set norms.

We deny that AI should be used by governments, corporations, or any entity to infringe upon God-given human rights. AI, even in a highly advanced state, should never be delegated the governing authority that has been granted by an all-sovereign God to human beings alone. 

Romans 13:1-7; Acts 10:35; 1 Peter 2:13-14

Article 10: War

We affirm that the use of AI in warfare should be governed by love of neighbor and the principles of just war. The use of AI may mitigate the loss of human life, provide greater protection of non-combatants, and inform better policymaking. Any lethal action conducted or substantially enabled by AI must employ 5 human oversight or review. All defense-related AI applications, such as underlying data and decision-making processes, must be subject to continual review by legitimate authorities. When these systems are deployed, human agents bear full moral responsibility for any actions taken by the system.

We deny that human agency or moral culpability in war can be delegated to AI. No nation or group has the right to use AI to carry out genocide, terrorism, torture, or other war crimes.

Genesis 4:10; Isaiah 1:16-17; Psalm 37:28; Matthew 5:44; 22:37-39; Romans 13:4

Article 9: Security

We affirm that AI has legitimate applications in policing, intelligence, surveillance, investigation, and other uses supporting the government’s responsibility to respect human rights, to protect and preserve human life, and to pursue justice in a flourishing society.

We deny that AI should be employed for safety and security applications in ways that seek to dehumanize, depersonalize, or harm our fellow human beings. We condemn the use of AI to suppress free expression or other basic human rights granted by God to all human beings.

Romans 13:1-7; 1 Peter 2:13-14

Article 8: Data & Privacy

We affirm that privacy and personal property are intertwined individual rights and choices that should not be violated by governments, corporations, nation-states, and other groups, even in the pursuit of the common good. While God knows all things, it is neither wise nor obligatory to have every detail of one’s life open to society.

We deny the manipulative and coercive uses of data and AI in ways that are inconsistent with the love of God and love of neighbor. Data collection practices should conform to ethical guidelines that uphold the dignity of all people. We further deny that consent, even informed consent, although requisite, is the only necessary ethical standard for the collection, manipulation, or exploitation of personal data—individually or in the aggregate. AI should not be employed in ways that distort truth through the use of generative applications. Data should not be mishandled, misused, or abused for sinful purposes to reinforce bias, strengthen the powerful, or demean the weak.

Exodus 20:15, Psalm 147:5; Isaiah 40:13-14; Matthew 10:16 Galatians 6:2; Hebrews 4:12-13; 1 John 1:7 

Article 7: Work

We affirm that work is part of God’s plan for human beings participating in the cultivation and stewardship of creation. The divine pattern is one of labor and rest in healthy proportion to each other. Our view of work should not be confined to commercial activity; it must also include the many ways that human beings serve each other through their efforts. AI can be used in ways that aid our work or allow us to make fuller use of our gifts. The church has a Spirit-empowered responsibility to help care for those who lose jobs and to encourage individuals, communities, employers, and governments to find ways to invest in the development of human beings and continue making vocational contributions to our lives together.

We deny that human worth and dignity is reducible to an individual’s economic contributions to society alone. Humanity should not use AI and other technological innovations as a reason to move toward lives of pure leisure even if greater social wealth creates such possibilities.

Genesis 1:27; 2:5; 2:15; Isaiah 65:21-24; Romans 12:6-8; Ephesians 4:11-16

Article 6: Sexuality

We affirm the goodness of God’s design for human sexuality which prescribes the sexual union to be an exclusive relationship between a man and a woman in the lifelong covenant of marriage.

We deny that the pursuit of sexual pleasure is a justification for the development or use of AI, and we condemn the objectification of humans that results from employing AI for sexual purposes. AI should not intrude upon or substitute for the biblical expression of sexuality between a husband and wife according to God’s design for human marriage.

Genesis 1:26-29; 2:18-25; Matthew 5:27-30; 1 Thess 4:3-4

Article 5: Bias

We affirm that, as a tool created by humans, AI will be inherently subject to bias and that these biases must be accounted for, minimized, or removed through continual human oversight and discretion. AI should be designed and used in such ways that treat all human beings as having equal worth and dignity. AI should be utilized as a tool to identify and eliminate bias inherent in human decision-making.

We deny that AI should be designed or used in ways that violate the fundamental principle of human dignity for all people. Neither should AI be used in ways that reinforce or further any ideology or agenda, seeking to subjugate human autonomy under the power of the state.

Micah 6:8; John 13:34; Galatians 3:28-29; 5:13-14; Philippians 2:3-4; Romans 12:10

Article 4: Medicine

We affirm that AI-related advances in medical technologies are expressions of God’s common grace through and for people created in His image and that these advances will increase our capacity to provide enhanced medical diagnostics and therapeutic interventions as we seek to care for all people. These advances should be guided by basic principles of medical ethics, including beneficence, non-maleficence, autonomy, and justice, which are all consistent with the biblical principle of loving our neighbor.

We deny that death and disease—effects of the Fall—can ultimately be eradicated apart from Jesus Christ. Utilitarian applications regarding healthcare distribution should not override the dignity of human life. Fur- 3 thermore, we reject the materialist and consequentialist worldview that understands medical applications of AI as a means of improving, changing, or completing human beings.

Matthew 5:45; John 11:25-26; 1 Corinthians 15:55-57; Galatians 6:2; Philippians 2:4

Article 3: Relationship of AI & Humanity

We affirm the use of AI to inform and aid human reasoning and moral decision-making because it is a tool that excels at processing data and making determinations, which often mimics or exceeds human ability. While AI excels in data-based computation, technology is incapable of possessing the capacity for moral agency or responsibility.

We deny that humans can or should cede our moral accountability or responsibilities to any form of AI that will ever be created. Only humanity will be judged by God on the basis of our actions and that of the tools we create. While technology can be created with a moral use in view, it is not a moral agent. Humans alone bear the responsibility for moral decision making.

Romans 2:6-8; Galatians 5:19-21; 2 Peter 1:5-8; 1 John 2:1

Article 2: AI as Technology

We affirm that the development of AI is a demonstration of the unique creative abilities of human beings. When AI is employed in accordance with God’s moral will, it is an example of man’s obedience to the divine command to steward creation and to honor Him. We believe in innovation for the glory of God, the sake of human flourishing, and the love of neighbor. While we acknowledge the reality of the Fall and its consequences on human nature and human innovation, technology can be used in society to uphold human dignity. As a part of our God-given creative nature, human beings should develop and harness technology in ways that lead to greater flourishing and the alleviation of human suffering.

We deny that the use of AI is morally neutral. It is not worthy of man’s hope, worship, or love. Since the Lord Jesus alone can atone for sin and reconcile humanity to its Creator, technology such as AI cannot fulfill humanity’s ultimate needs. We further deny the goodness and benefit of any application of AI that devalues or degrades the dignity and worth of another human being. 

Genesis 2:25; Exodus 20:3; 31:1-11; Proverbs 16:4; Matthew 22:37-40; Romans 3:23

Article 1: Image of God

We affirm that God created each human being in His image with intrinsic and equal worth, dignity, and moral agency, distinct from all creation, and that humanity’s creativity is intended to reflect God’s creative pattern.

We deny that any part of creation, including any form of technology, should ever be used to usurp or subvert the dominion and stewardship which has been entrusted solely to humanity by God; nor should technology be assigned a level of human identity, worth, dignity, or moral agency.

Genesis 1:26-28; 5:1-2; Isaiah 43:6-7; Jeremiah 1:5; John 13:34; Colossians 1:16; 3:10; Ephesians 4:24