7 Truths About Marriage

The Truth Can Be Hard To See

Finding truth about marriage is confusing these days.  There are many things that society tries to portray about marriage and relationships that are simply not true, yet many people are buying into them.

That is why it is important the church helps teach the right things about relationships and marriage. A professional relationship coach joined the LifeSupport Podcast to talk about some if the misconceptions that are being spread around regarding marriage and what people need to know.

Leslie Vernick

Leslie knew all too much about destructive relationships from an early age.

Her mother was an alcoholic and an abuser, and her childhood was painful and scary. When Leslie was eight years old, her parents went through an ugly divorce. Even as an adult, Leslie feared her mother’s temper and did not speak to her for 15 years. Her mother was not there for her wedding or the birth of her son. The helplessness, confusion, frustration and hurt was overwhelming at times.

Eventually, Leslie learned how and went to set appropriate boundaries, how to confront and when to forbear, how to overcome evil with good and how to let go of all the negative messages in her head.

She became very passionate about helping people in difficult and destructive relationships, especially marriages. She received her Masters degree in Clinical Social Work and received post-graduate training in Biblical Counseling as well as Cognitive Therapy.

She said the secular world distorts the way we think about relationships and marriage, opposed to what the Bible teaches.

“I think we are leaving it to Hollywood to tell us what a relationship looks like,” Vernick said. “We need to help people understand that hardship in life isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Hardship is actually brought into our lives to grow us.”

7 Truths About Marriage

During the LifeSupport Podcast, Vernick addressed some perceptions of marriage and some of the issues involving marriage and the church:

  1. There is no perfect marriage: “I’ve never met anybody who’s had an ‘A-Plus’ marriage,” Vernick said. “The Bible tells us we all struggle in many ways and nobody that is married is a perfect person.” God calls us to be God-centered people, not marriage-centered people. The church has made an idol of marriage, and as wonderful as it can be, marriages have their struggles.
  2. Marrying a Christian will not solve all your problems: Just because you are marrying someone who is Godly and meets your Christian values, does not mean they can fulfill all your needs completely. That’s a myth. The only one that completes us is God and we cannot make anyone, even our spouses, an idol. Our spouses can make us happy and make us feel important, but it is important to remember they will also hurt us at times.
  3. We need to understand what marriage vows mean: A vow is a promise to help and love your spouse. It is not saying that you are giving yourself to the other person to be used or abused, but it is making a statement of commitment to each other’s welfare. We are supposed to represent Christ in our marriages.
  4. Marriage always takes work: When you buy a new home and never do any maintenance to it, it will start to deteriorate. The same goes for a marriage. The foundation is the most important part of a home, and trust is the foundation of any relationship. If there is no trust, the relationship will crumble.
  5. It is ‘OK’ to not be married: Some people feel like their churches put more value on those who are married, and shame those who are divorced. Whether you are married, single or divorced, the most important thing is your identity in Christ.
  6. Healthy marriages need healthy role models: Marriage counseling can help, but it is not the only thing that is going to have a real impact on someone who needs to change. People need positive role models, especially in the church, to be accountable to and to be there with them to show what a healthy relationship looks like in the real world.
  7. God cares about our relationships: God never wants us to be in an abusive relationship or marriage. He created marriage as a way to demonstrate the kind of relationship he wants with us, full of love and trust. The world is fallen and that means no one will be perfect in their marriage, but with the proper steps, relationships can be restored.

Leslie Vernick is a popular speaker, author and licensed clinical social worker and relationship coach. For more information, visit .


We created to help you start discussions about mental health, to help remove stigma so people can find hope and healing through God. We pray that LifeSupport helps you grow your church.

If there are other reasons you don’t share your struggles, we’d love to hear them and will treat your communication as confidential. Please email any comments to [email protected].

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Meet the AACC

Do You Know The AACC?

Do You Know The AACC?

The American Association of Christian Counselors (AACC) is an organization that is committed to assisting Christian counselors, the entire “community of care,” licensed professionals, pastors, and lay church members with little or no formal training.  Members of the AACC include both licensed mental health professionals as well as ministry leaders, and caring church members with little or no formal training. It is the AACC’s intention to equip clinical, pastoral, and lay care-givers with biblical truth and psychosocial insights that minister to hurting persons and helps them move to personal wholeness, interpersonal competence, mental stability, and spiritual maturity.

Partners For Referral

Many Christian mental health professions are member of the AACC.  These are professionals who live in our communities and who can be a valuable asset as referral partners for people in your congregation struggling with mental health issues.  Many of the mental health professionals who serve as advisors to us at LifeSupport are AACC members.  The AACC website provides a Find A Counselor feature listing professionals based on location.

Read more on understanding roles and partnerships in our Overview of Mental Health Ministry

Resource Partners

We are pleased that the AACC recognizes LifeSupport as an official AACC Resource Partner.  The AACC provides opportunities for us to share LifeSupport resources with new churches and ministry leaders from all over the United States and world. We’ve seen firsthand that the leadership and staff of the AACC reflect Christ.  We have confidence to affiliate with the AACC in part because of the guardrails they profess in their Vision and Values as presented on the AACC website.

AACC Vision and Values

“The vision of AACC has two critical dimensions. First, we want to serve the worldwide Christian church by helping it become more mature in Christ, while taking on His heart of love and sacrificial care. Secondly, we want to be serving, educating, and equipping 100,000 professional clinicians, pastoral counselors, and lay helpers in the near future.

We are committed to helping the church equip God’s people to love and care for each other in the same spirit that Christ loves and cares for us. We recognize Christian counseling as a unique and case-based form of Christian discipleship, assisting the church in its call to bring believers to maturity in the lifelong process of sanctification- of growing to maturity in Christ.

We recognize that some are gifted to do so in the context of a clinical, professional and/or pastoral manner. We also believe that selected lay people are gifted to care for others and that they need the appropriate training and mentoring to do so. We believe that the ‘seat’ of helping ministry in the church is supported—must be supported—by three strong legs. These legs are the pastor, the lay helper, and the clinical professional, and it is to these three roles that AACC is dedicated to serve.

“So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.” Ephesians 4:11-13 NIV

Core Values

“In all of my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” Philippians 1:4-6 NIV

OUR SOURCE: We are committed to honor Jesus Christ and glorify God, remaining flexible and responsive to the Holy Spirit in all that He has called us to be and do.

OUR STRENGTH: We are committed to Biblical truths, and to clinical excellence and unity in the delivery of all our resources, services, training and benefits.

OUR SERVICE: We are committed to effectively and competently serve the community of care worldwide—both our membership and the church at large—with excellence and timeliness, and by over-delivery on our promises.

OUR STAFF: We are committed to value and invest in our people as partners in our mission to help others effectively provide Christ-centered counseling and soul-care for hurting people.

OUR STEWARDSHIP: We are committed to profitably steward the resources God gives to us in order to continue serving the needs of hurting people.”

Stay Tuned!

Our relationship with the AACC presents opportunities to provide you with more mental health resource options.  Stay tuned as these are developed.

We invite you to explore all of the benefits of AACC membership and the resources they offer at

Do You Know The AACC? Read More »

self perception

Perceptions Are Everything

Table of Contents

Self Perception

Self-perception can trap us in harmful behavior.  Our past experiences create deeply held beliefs about ourselves.  These beliefs can create barriers to changed behavior because our experiences are fundamental to our perceptions of “truth” in the world.

“It’s impossible to live right if you believe wrong.”

I can’t remember who said this quote, but I remember the quote because it so succinctly captured what I was seeing in the traumatized kids I work with, what I was learning in my neuroscience studies, and the truth in Scripture I had memorized; “Be not conformed to the world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is the good, acceptable, and perfect will of God” (Rom. 12:1-2).

How Do We Come To Believe What We Do?

 Whether they are beliefs about God, yourself, or the world in general; you might be surprised to learn how much of your beliefs are based on your experiences rather than on any teaching you received. What we are taught will only be regarded as true to the extent that it is compatible with our reality or our own experience. It looks something like this:

For example, let’s say one day your mother is taking you for a walk in your stroller. Out of the blue the neighbor’s giant boxer jumps up on your stroller, barks, and tries to lick your face. Your body is designed to pick up all the accompanying sensations; the sound of the barking dog, the sight of it’s teeth showing, the feel of the tongue on your body, etc.  What happens next is the key. In a process that is still not fully understood, our mind makes meaning out of this experience. Almost instantaneously your brain determines if this experience is pleasurable or threatening and releases the corresponding neurotransmitters; adrenaline for threat and dopamine for pleasure.  How we understand our experience becomes our perception. If our perception is “Dogs are mean and scary”, we will feel fear.  The next time we encounter a dog, we will probably try to avoid it. We might even say we hate dogs. People with dogs will not encourage their dogs to engage with us, and we will persist in our perception that dogs are mean.

On the other hand, if your perception was, “The doggy wants to play with me”, “Dogs are fun”, you will feel happy. The next time you encounter a dog you will attempt to pet it and play with it. It probably will play with you. This will further your perception that dogs are fun.

In short, our experiences create our perceptions which largely determine our behaviors. Our behaviors often create self-fulfilling feed-back loops that deepen our perceptions. What we think is profoundly important. Our thoughts impact what neurotransmitters get released and thus, our very brain chemistry. Our thoughts also determine our emotions. For example, it is neurologically impossible to think you are worthless and feel happy. Likewise, you cannot believe you are safe and loved and feel fear. And the vast majority of time our behaviors are driven by our emotions, whether we are aware of them or not. When was the last time you intentionally reached out to someone in whose presence you feel afraid? Or when did you lose your temper with someone to whom you feel great compassion?

Behavior is the Symptom

This is the problem with trying to bring about transformation in yourself or others by primarily focusing on behaviors. Behaviors are not the problem, but rather the symptoms of the problem. The root problem is our thinking. We often say that Jesus is really after our hearts and we see this in his many encounters with people. When we say that, we don’t mean that Jesus is trying to deal with a person’s physical heart and address their clogged arteries. Rather, we understand that He wants to get to the crux of the matter and deal with the core issue. The woman at the well, the woman caught in adultery, the tax collectors, the prodigal son; all had major sin behaviors. But when they encountered Jesus His concern seemed to be first and foremost that they knew and believed that He was the Son of God. Then He wanted them to experience and understand that as such He knew them, He knew everything about them and everything they were doing. And in spite of that, He loved and valued them, had the authority to forgive them, and the power to heal them. Then He invited them into a relationship with Him and a new way to live based on these truths. He was challenging their core perceptions of themselves, the world, and God.

Transforming the Mind

The Hebrew word for “heart” (Lev) is what we call the “mind” or “the will”.  And this is why Scripture implores us to transform our minds. A huge misconception prevails in the church when we equate the “will” with behaviors instead of with the mind. This leads to beliefs that we can simply flip a switch, grit our teeth, try harder, and change our behaviors. I have not found that theory to be helpful in my own life or in any life of the many orphans, traumatized kids, or counseling clients I have seen over the last 30 years. When we understand that our “will” is actually connected to our minds, we get a lot more serious about transforming our minds.

The Lord tells us in Matthew 6:22-23; “The lamp of the body is the eye; if therefore your eye is clear, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If therefore, the light that is in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!” Again, Jesus is not concerned with our blue or brown eyes and whether or not we have cataracts, but rather with what we see. That is, our perception or understanding of reality. If our perception of ourself, the world, and God is based on truth, then our whole body will be full of light. Our very neurotransmitters and brain chemistry will be impacted. Our emotions will be able to find the peace that passes understanding (Phil. 4:6-8). Our will, our choices, our ability to love others will increase as we are rooted and grounded in the love of Christ for us and filled up to all fullness (Ephes. 3:16-19). We will be like cups so full of His love for us that we won’t need to act out of a desperation to get our own needs met. When our deepest needs are met by Him and His love, then we will be able to give to others out of our abundance and overflow.

But if what we see, our perception, is not based on truth, Scripture tells us the whole body will be full of darkness. Neuroscience supports this. People with perceptions of worthlessness and powerlessness are flooded with stress hormones that impact their emotions, physical health, behaviors, and relationships.

Understanding Your Self Perception

It is important to understand that most of our perceptions are subconscious. Our core perceptions or beliefs have been hard wired into us by the time we are three years old. Am I loved and valued? Is the world safe and predictable? Are people basically good and trustworthy? Do I have the power or ability to get my needs met? Is God a good, kind, faithful God? The most important things we believe become like the hard drive of our brain that is installed way before we develop conscious memory. These become the narratives on which we build our lives. This seems a bit unfair! If our minds and perceptions are formed from our experiences and we have been unfortunate enough to have had negative, abusive, or neglectful experiences, what are we to do?

Some Practical Tips

  1. Do an inventory. “Behold, Thou does desire truth in the innermost being. In the hidden part Thou will make me know wisdom.” (Ps. 51:6)
    • “Search me O God and know my heart; Try me and tell me my anxious thoughts.”  (Ps. 139:23)  “The spirit of man is the lamp of the Lord, Searching all the innermost parts of his being.” (Prov. 20:27)
    • Journal. What do you really think about yourself? Are you valued? Loved? Worthy? Able to be forgiven? Have a purpose for your life? Belong somewhere? What do you really think about God?  Is He good? Kind? Faithful? Predictable?        Available? Interested in you? What do you really think about the world?  Are you safe in it? Do you have the ability, know-how to get your needs met? What do you really think about relationships?  People can/cannot be trusted?  You can/cannot really be loved? They are unpredictable? Worth/not worth sacrificing for?
    • Pay attention to your body. Take 5 minutes in the morning, afternoon, and before bed to just tune in to your body. Are you tense or relaxed?  Is your heart rate elevated?  Do you have headaches? Knots in your stomach? Knots in your neck? This will tune you in to your emotions.  Do you feel peaceful? Happy? Anxious? Depressed? This helps you verify if you have understood your perceptions in “b” above correctly. Your perceptions and emotions should correspond. Your body will tell you the truth. If you think you feel secure and loved and purposeful your muscles will be relaxed. If you are aware you think you are powerless and incapable of receiving love your muscles will be tight, heart rate elevated, etc. If you have clearly identified your core perceptions go to #2.  If you have not repeat steps “a” and “b”.
  2. Get In Scripture
    • Study the Psalms or Bible characters to whom you can relate. What were their struggles in perceptions? How did God change them? 
    • Find Bible Study Guides to help you study certain characters like David, Gideon, Habbakuk,  Jonah, Ruth, Peter or Paul.
    • Wrestle with God as you seek to align your perceptions with the truths in His word.
  3. Ask the Lord to meet you on the way
    • The Lord delights for us to taste and see that He is good, that He loves us, that He is for us. He knows that our perceptions are based on our experiences. He designed us that way. He knows that we cannot believe something we are taught if it does not line up with our reality. He longs  to meet us and give us corrective experiences. Ask Him. “We have not because we ask not.” (James 4:2)  
    • Ask Him to open your eyes to what He is already showing you and ears to what He is saying to you. 
  4. Pray for new experiences with safe people to correct your false perceptions
    • Take slow, deliberate steps as you enter unchartered waters; learn how to discern who are safe people you can trust (if this is hard for you ask a trusted friend, pastor, or counselor).  
    • Ask the Lord for a mentor someone who can help walk this journey with you who is further down the road as a Jesus follower and in knowledge of truth especially in areas of our identity in Christ.
  5. Seek a counselor – Get the help you need.

Remember,  “It’s impossible to live right if you believe wrong.”

Self Perception Resources:

Check out Melinda’s previous LifeSupport article, Perfect Love Casts Out Fear

Melinda A. Cathey M.A.

Co-Founder, The Harbor, St. Petersburg, Russia Consultant/Educator for Trauma Informed Care
Melinda lived in St. Petersburg from 1992 -2002 with her husband, Mark, and their three children. Prior to their time in Russia, Melinda received her MA in Counseling Psychology from Trinity International University in 1985 and practiced individual, family, and marriage counseling in a variety of settings: community health, church, private practice. While in Russia, she co-founded The Harbor with Alex Krutov in 2001 and served as its Executive Director until 2015.  The Harbor was the first transitional care program of its kind in St. Petersburg and the second in Russia. Most recently, Melinda completed TBRI (Trust Based Relational Intervention) Educator Training in 2015 under the study of the late Dr. Karyn Purvis at TCU in Dallas, TX. She now trains and consults on trauma informed therapy and The Harbor model of residential care with those working with orphans or foster kids in any capacity. Her training of TBRI principles has been enthusiastically received in Russia, Ukraine, Mexico, Bolivia, and the U.S.

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Biblical Counseling

Crisis Biblical Counseling by Karen McMahon


Why I Do Crisis Biblical Counseling - A Personal Philosophy

Crisis biblical counseling sounds complicated and intimidating, but it’s just a way to respond with biblical help when trauma happens in life.

When a tragedy strikes, life as we know it abruptly changes. We immediately seek to make sense of what has happened yet likely can’t focus and feel overwhelmed. Our minds replay the event over and over searching to come to terms with it all. In crisis, we can become overwhelmed, confused, distorted, even grasping for air as we feel out-of-control. One minute we are flooded with emotions the next minute we are numb. Question after question filters through our minds… “This can’t be happening?” “Will this pain ever go away?” “How can I go on?” “What will I do now?” Heartbreaking pain rips open a new world to a sufferer; a world that seems to be spinning out of control.

The Word of God is Sufficient and Essential for Counseling

The church is where biblical counseling shines. It is in the context of a loving community that God provides the ideal environment for the care of souls. Biblical Counseling is built on the premise that God’s divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness (2 Pet 1:3) and has practical help for life’s problems (2 Tim 3:16-17).  The One who created our soul is sufficient to comfort and encourage our soul. God uses his people, indwelt by the Holy Spirit, to minister his Word, to walk compassionately, sensitively, patiently and prayerfully with others. To enter their pain and help bring practical wisdom to bear in a functional way (1 Thess 2:8). Because sin permeates the fallen world; our own sin, the sin of others, or the effects of sin on the world, biblical counseling in the church body is not optional. Our love for God is fleshed out by our love for others (1 John 3:10,18) and we should all desire to carefully minister to those in pain in their highest highs and lowest lows.

Counseling is a Community Endeavor

It is definitely not God’s plan for the church to be a place where an isolated counselor in confidence and secrecy is the only one helping struggling believers. Seeking help from other Christ followers is one reason God put us in the body of Christ (1 Cor 12:25-26). In his wisdom God has chosen to do his work—through the church. In community we find help from other godly men and women who live and speak truth to one another (Eph 4:15-16). Because we will naturally seek our own desire when left alone (Prov 18:1) and can be taken captive through philosophy and empty deceit according to the tradition of men and not Christ (Col 2:8), every believer to some degree, is expected to be biblically loving others and promoting the maturity and health of the body.

We Must Know Our Own Heart

My personal philosophy of crisis counseling begins with knowing my own heart. As a staff Director of Discipleship Counseling at my church, I count it a privilege to counsel individuals with God’s infallible Word. Not only am I able to watch God’s powerful Word change a heart but his truth always brings transformation to my own walk. I have suffered, I am suffering, I will suffer. I have asked many of the same questions my counselees ask; “Where is God?” “Is it my fault?” “Did God cause this to happen?” “Lord why didn’t you stop this?” I too have felt the isolation and the pain that no one really understands what I am going through.

It doesn’t matter if a sufferer needs help because of their own sin, the sin of others, Satan, God, or because we live in a fallen world; as a fellow sinner and sufferer, we are all called to compassionately minister to them and help them see that God’s Word has answers.

It Is NOT About Fixing Them

Minimizing suffering is not biblical, nor is it about fixing the sufferer, helping them get over it, or giving them coping skills (God’s goal is much more glorious). Scripture tells us why there is so much sorrow (Rom 5:12) and prepares us for suffering. Evil is real and destructive and the effects of sin is everywhere. Suffering is written into every one of our life stories as a means of sanctification, a catalyst that God uses (Rom 8:28-29), but when pain invades our own life truth can become distorted. Knowing that pain and heartache will come in the normal course of this fallen world (2 Tim 3:12), we need to be prepared personally as well as help others suffer with faith in Christ, by the power of the Spirit, for the glory of God.

I believe strongly that crisis counseling be sensitive to the weakness of another, seeking to understand, patient, long suffering, Christ focused not problem solving, directive and dependent on prayer. It must be motivated by love and concern (Acts 20:31) to present another complete in Christ (Col 1:28).

Ministering Truth

My own counseling care starts with an ongoing love for and working knowledge of the Scriptures. I will not be able to minister God’s Word if I don’t know Truth and actively apply it to my own life. If I am not walking in submission to the Holy Spirit I cannot seek to help others and if I’m neglecting the study of the Word I will give my own opinion instead of God’s opinion. It is Scripture that knows our heart, knows how we change, provides comfort, and gives us the power to suffer well.

My counseling care must be sensitive, compassionate and directive. Understanding a struggler’s life story, worldview, shaping influences, thinking, and the impact their pain is having on their daily life helps me better understand what they are going through.  We weep and mourn with them, we are patient with them and we are faithful to Scripture knowing God’s Word is sufficient, speaking to every human struggle, bringing conviction and hope.

Always Truth in Love

Truth must always be blended with love and grace.  The greatest change someone needs is to trust Christ enough and respond biblically in the midst of pain and loss… but this can be hard when in the depths of despair. It is with empathy and compassion we help another know that they are not left alone. Not physically, because the body of Christ surrounds and ministers to them in significant ways. Not spiritually, because God is in it, God will see them through it, and God will finish what He began.

Hope in Sorrow

Our hearts are revealed in crisis which is why biblical crisis care goes beyond behavior to the heart that has its own desires, wants, will and affections (Heb 4:12). A sufferer’s pain must never be minimized or ignored but the lens of Scripture has to be the functional foundation that their pain is seen through. Wise biblical counseling sensitivity guides and directs a particular person with a particular struggle so that their pain is understood in light of who God is, who they are, and who Christ is.

Without a doubt, helping someone in crisis to think and respond biblically (reframing and reorienting their worldview) will take time. It is not a “one size fits all.” There may be many aspects of God that are unbalanced; God’s goodness and the evil that is happening to them. God’s love and the pain they are in. God’s purposes and the suffering they are experiencing. God’s faithfulness and the dreams they have lost, are just few. Understanding and interpreting difficulties through the lens of Scripture has to be ministered at a pace that is appropriate for the situation for that person.

God Uses the Body of Christ

God’s community is a counseling community. We need each other. God intended for each person in the body to be helped by the body (Ro 12:15). This means that everyone cares (or counsels) on some level. Seeking input from others who are close to the sufferer and including a mentor or advocate is very important. I believe if someone is in a small group their first avenue of help should be their small group (or leader) but if they need more help than the group can provide, their group should be involved in caring at some level even if the sufferer seeks out a pastoral care through a biblical counselor in their church.

Love Endures for the Long Haul

Crisis counseling can be messy. It will take time…lots of time, compassion, love and patience. Getting into the darkest moments of someone’s life where suffering is deep and painful is not for the timid, but God is the agent of comfort and change and we are his vessels used for his glory. All of us are suffering under the effects of the fall but our risen Savior enables us to experience hope and great joy in the midst of sorrow. God is infinitely bigger than any pain anyone of us may face but there are times we need another to help bear that heavy burden and point us back to Christ. That is why I do crisis counseling.

About the Author

Karen McMahon  is the Director of Discipleship Counseling at First Evangelical Free Church in Maplewood, Minnesota, is a founding Regional Board member of the Biblical Counseling Alliance, and is a certified biblical counselor with the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors (ACBC). She has a MA in Theological Studies and a MA in Biblical Counseling

More on the Value of Relationship For Mental Health

Refer to our article entitled, Perfect Love Casts Out Fear by Melinda A. Cathey.

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