How the "Medicalization" of Life Teaches Us About Change

I am reading a fascinating book right now. It's called Pursuing Health in an Anxious Age, and it's written by a doctor named Bob Cutillo.

In a recent chapter I read, he wrote about a cultural phenomenon known as "medicalization." Here's how he defines it: "The simplest definition of medicalization is when previously nonmedical problems become defined (and ultimately treated) as medical problems."

Sometimes this is good, he argues. Like for childbirth. He explains: "Childbirth, for example, has historically been a nonmedical experience and still is for many. Yet the use of the medical principles of hygiene and sterility has prevented numerous infections at this crucial moment of life, showing how a judicious application of medicalization to a common condition can produce broad benefit."

But there are other cases of medicalization that, arguably, aren't so good. Like depression. Or ADHD. Suddenly, things that historically have not been physical problems to be treated by doctors and medicine now are.

When this happens, Cutillo writes: "The number of people taking daily medication skyrockets, with greater risk of side effects from the treatment used to solve the medicalized problem. All of this explodes the need for professional care, whether to prescribe pills, offer therapy, or deal with the side effects of treatment."

But there's more. Our cultural medicalization hasn't just changed how we treat people in the health care system. It's changed how we view and understand people (and ourselves) as individuals.

Cutillo says this: "Much of human difference is no longer absorbed within a broader social context but stands apart as undesirable and stigmitizable characteristics of the individual. Individuals struggle to fit or belong based on the new categories of normal and abnormal. The label of 'abnormal' or 'diseased' changes self-perception, with new identities formed that are heavily defined by the medical diagnosis."

What Medicalization Teaches Us About Engaging with Cultural Change
We live in a rapidly changing world, where social, psychological, and technological advances are making serious impacts on our lives. That's what Cutillo reminded me of through his explanation of medicalization.

It is deeply vital for Christians to engage with emerging cultural shifts and movements in a Christ-focused way - whether we're talking medicine, the arts, technology, education, economics, or politics.

This means approaching them with a biblical framework and an analytical eye. It means not being too slow or too fast to embrace change. It means lining everything up against God's Word and recognizing it as the supreme standard. Then it means acting in a way consistent with truth - even if we're unpopular. Rather, especially if we're unpopular.

It does not mean hiding from the culture or burying our heads in the proverbial sand. It means standing for what we believe is right in the time and place God has us in. He has put us here for a reason. He is not surprised by the moves and shakes of culture. And He wants us to obey, follow, love, and trust Him in this day and age.

No matter what culture says.


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What Our Cultural Love of Long Romances Says About Us

Last night as Mom and I were watching the Blue Jays/Yankees game, a beautiful elderly couple in matching red Jays jerseys came up on the screen. The announcers were wishing them a happy 76th wedding anniversary (and a happy 96th birthday to the husband!) and thanking them for watching for so long.

This morning I stumbled across an article about another beautiful couple, 91- and 93-year-old Bill and Doris Barr from Winnipeg, Manitoba. They've been married for 66 years. Doris was diagnosed with Alzheimer's almost twenty years ago and Bill has been her primary caretaker for the bulk of those years. Just five years ago she moved into a care home, but Bill visits her almost every day, eating lunch with her, feeding her, telling her about news in the family, and singing to her.

He said, "When the minister said, 'For better or for worse, or rich or for poor, in sickness and in health,' I meant it. And she meant it."

I love these stories desperately. And I'm not alone. We have a cultural love of the long-term romance. We delight in seeing elderly couples displaying affection, holding hands, still together after so many years.

And I believe a reason we love that so much is because we feel its elusiveness. 

Bill and Doris' granddaughter Lianne Pereux stated this outright: "It's hard to believe that 66 years, people can be together and still be as in love [on] the day they got married as 66 years later. It's really hard to imagine that and, for me, they've always been role models."

We live in a culture where faithfulness has been replaced by fickleness. Long-term romances are fascinating to us in a science project sort of way. It's lovely ... but weird. How did they do it? What was the formula? Because we want it too. Divorce and crumbling relationships surround us yet unfailingly make us sad (need I say Brangelina?). We crave a better way.

I think our love of these relationships echoes a deeper cry in our hearts for everlasting faithfulness. We want someone who will never, ever let us down or disappoint us.

I believe these relationships echo a longing for a relationship with our Creator.

We want to be seen, to be known, and to be loved unceasingly forever. Christians have that in the unwavering covenant love of God. He will never divorce us, never die, never leave us. He is always there to protect, care, forgive, and love -- perfectly.

The longest, most faithful marriage relationship on earth is only a flickering image of our relationship with God. Even the best marriage is between two sinners and so marred with sin. Not so with God. "His love never fails, it never gives up. It never runs out on me." It is eternally faithful.

As I think about those sweet Jays fans and the beautiful Barr couple, I am happy to see their faithfulness. But I am also sad to see the effects of sin on their love stories. Yet I am hopeful as I think about what these relationships point to -- the soul-satisfying, unbreakable, endlessly faithful love the God of the universe has for me.

Photo courtesy of Chilanga Cement and Flickr Creative Commons.


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Your Saturday Smile: Adele Dentist Edition

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Growing in Grace: September 2016

Don't Be Ashamed of Your Quiet, Small Life - Truth: "Don’t be ashamed of your quiet, small life; instead use that life to glorify God by loving others, helping the oppressed and using your mundane, ordinary faithfulness to speak truth."

How to Comfort the Grieving: Click the "Like" Button - Here's an intriguing piece. I've learned people grieve in different ways (often ways that are different from me), so this is an interesting article.

Millennials Don't Need Your "Cool" - No. No, we don't.

3 Lessons from Netflix's Adaption of 'The Little Prince' - While the book was so much better (in my opinion), I did enjoy the movie. Here are some reflections on it.

The Life They Never Expected: Andrew and Rachel Wilson on Raising Special-Needs Kids - An interview on "what role lament plays in their parenting, how churches can better serve parents of children with special needs, how having a child with special needs can challenge a marriage, and more."

Saved People Love to Sing - It's true. They do. But why?

If God is Sovereign, Why Pray? - R.C. Sproul answers.

Belgium Has Euthanized a Teenager - No words.

10 Tips on Writing - Excellent. Absolutely excellent. "It’s all really up to you, but you already knew that and knew everything else you need to know somewhere underneath the noise and the bustle and the anxiety and the outside instructions, including these ones."

True Woman Conference Livestream - If you're a woman, you may want to check out the True Woman conference livestream. It starts tonight, goes tomorrow, and finishes on Saturday morning. I'll be watching from my grandparents' house as I dog-sit. It looks really good.

Save Your Soul: Stop Writing - A fascinating read for all writers, especially those of us who publish a lot on the internet.

I Have an Email List! - If you are interested in receiving email updates from me (about my writing, with random encouragement, with free resources, and other such stuff), you can sign up for those here. I'm also giving away a 5-part email series of recommended resources for teens. So, if you're interested, sign up!

More Shameless Self-Promotion: You can pre-order my book from Amazon now! Visit either or


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6 Reflections from Reading the Minor Prophets

Note: I've changed the publication schedule for Instead of new posts every Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday, you can expect new content Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays. 

Yesterday I finished reading through the minor prophets again. It has been incredible. I say that without sarcasm or bluster or fakeness. I honestly have never enjoyed them so much or benefited from them so richly as this time through. Every single book, from Hosea to Malachi, has taught me something new or filled me with hope or quietly brought me to tears.

Here are 6 reflections I made from reading the minor prophets.

1. God's justice demands the punishment of sin (Zeph. 3:5). It is spelled out as clear as day - God hates sin. And His justice requires that He deal with it. No matter who is doing the sinning (whether it's pagan nations and their violence or His own people and their impure sacrifices), God cares about righteousness.

2. Restoration is the hope of God's people (Zeph. 3:15). One day God is going to make all things new. He will bring permanent peace and lasting joy and wipe away every tear and fear for good. Sin and injustice will be eradicated. He'll restore our sin-sick world and sin-stained hearts. That is the ultimate source of our daily hope.

3. Christians sin and need repentance (Amos 7:2). In the minor prophets, you hear about God's people doing horrible things. They were apathetic in the face of suffering and injustice. They were proponents of debtor's slavery. They worshiped idols. Their religious leaders were corrupt, selfish, and manipulative. They distrusted and disbelieved God's promises. And they desperately needed to repent - which is why the prophets came along.

4. God's mercy goes on and on (Micah 7:19). Yet God would have been totally just in wiping them out without sending any prophets. He didn't need to show mercy. He didn't need to show grace. Yet He did - and He does.

5. God is totally sovereign (Mal. 1:14). Over His people, over the nations, over history, over evil, over war, over everything, God is sovereign. He is ruler and controller.

6. God protects His people (Zech. 9:15). That doesn't mean He never punishes them, but it does mean that as their Shepherd, He lovingly protects them. He is faithful, even when His people aren't. His covenant love is unbreakable.

Your Saturday Smile: Introvert Edition

For all my introverts out there.

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My Book Cover (+ the Meaning Behind It)

I am beyond delighted to share with you the cover of my upcoming book, This Changes Everything (releasing April 30, 2017), and a bit of the meaning behind it.

The designers at Crossway were an absolute joy to work with. The principal designers of this cover that I interacted with were Josh Dennis and Micah Lanier, both fantastically creative and kind people. I met Josh briefly in June when I visited Crossway's offices and have emailed with both of them.

As they created the concept for the cover and worked on graphics and design, they graciously kept me in the loop and invited feedback. (My feedback was usually something like: "I love this! This is amazing! You're my best friends!")

What I love especially about this cover is the meaning packed into it. All of the icons/graphics represent individual chapters. The fingerprint is Chapter 1: Our Identity. The bar at the top with the cross, star, garden, and space is Chapter 2: Our Story. The head made up of different pieces is Chapter 3: Our Community (and notice how identity and community point to each other).

The man fleeing from the city is Chapter 4: Our Sin (and props to anyone who gets that reference without actually reading my chapter!). Chapter 5: Our Disciplines is also represented by the "gospel bar" at the top and the notebook-like lines. The music notes connect to Chapter 6: Our Growth. The hour glass with the man chilling in it are for Chapter 7: Our Time. And the shaking hands represent Chapter 8: Our Relationships.

Here's the blurb Crossway wrote about the book:

"The teen years have been hijacked—by fashion, music, movies, and games; by the pressures of school, peers, and society; and by superficial expectations set by the world. But there is something more glorious than all these influences that has the power to change the life of a teenager: the gospel. Written by a teenager for teenagers, This Changes Everything is a deeply theological yet practical and accessible book on how the gospel radically transforms every aspect of the teen years, including pursuing relationships, managing time, combating personal sin, and cultivating healthy habits. In a culture awash with low expectations for young people, this book exhorts teenagers to embrace a gospel-centered perspective on their lives and pursue wholehearted devotion to Christ now."

Writing a book is hard, but it's also a lot of fun - a lot. It's a privilege and an honor to work with Crossway on this project, and I'm so excited to share it with you! 

As always, friends, I appreciate your prayers as I walk through this process.


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Why Zephaniah Is One of the Happiest Books in the Bible

Today I'm reading Zephaniah for the third time in three days.

It wasn't planned. I've just been so overwhelmingly encouraged by it, I want to keep reading it. Yes, there are some horrible, sad, and scary things in this book. After all, the majority of it is about God's fierce judgment, on both the pagan nations and His own people.

But there's a bigger picture to the book. The last half of the third (and final) chapter makes that clear. God will save His people. He will restore them, because He loves them. He will forgive their sin and do whatever it takes to make things right. The imagery in chapter 3 is so beautiful and joyful. God will rescue His people. He will rejoice over us. He will actually sing over us! We will no longer fear evil.

This is the passage that has been making me so happy this week:

“For at that time I will change the speech of the peoples to a pure speech, that all of them may call upon the name of the LORD and serve him with one accord. From beyond the rivers of Cush my worshipers, the daughter of my dispersed ones, shall bring my offering. 

'On that day you shall not be put to shame because of the deeds by which you have rebelled against me; for then I will remove from your midst your proudly exultant ones, and you shall no longer be haughty in my holy mountain. 

But I will leave in your midst a people humble and lowly. 

They shall seek refuge in the name of the LORD, those who are left in Israel; they shall do no injustice and speak no lies, nor shall there be found in their mouth a deceitful tongue. 

For they shall graze and lie down, and none shall make them afraid.'

Sing aloud, O daughter of Zion; shout, O Israel! Rejoice and exult with all your heart, O daughter of Jerusalem! 

The LORD has taken away the judgments against you; he has cleared away your enemies. The King of Israel, the LORD, is in your midst; you shall never again fear evil. 

On that day it shall be said to Jerusalem: 'Fear not, O Zion; let not your hands grow weak. 

The LORD your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing. 

I will gather those of you who mourn for the festival, so that you will no longer suffer reproach. 

Behold, at that time I will deal with all your oppressors. And I will save the lame and gather the outcast, and I will change their shame into praise and renown in all the earth. 

At that time I will bring you in, at the time when I gather you together; for I will make you renowned and praised among all the peoples of the earth, when I restore your fortunes before your eyes,' says the LORD" (Zephaniah 3:9-20 ESV).

My 3 Biggest Fears as a Teenager

I'm on The Gospel Coalition today writing about a vulnerable and interesting subject - fear.

"The teen years can be scary. Adolescents stand on the cusp of adulthood and face a flood of newness—new feelings, new experiences, new relationships, new responsibilities, new decisions, a whole new stage of life. It’s overwhelming, like we’re standing at the edge of a cliff, told to jump but unfamiliar with what’s below.

And we’re afraid.

As a teen just now crossing into the threshold of adulthood, I’m all too familiar with the fears of adolescence. All that instability, confusion, and decision-making can be stressful and even painful. I’ve laid awake at night because of a melting pot of fears bubbling in my mind, poisoning my peace. 

Above all, there were three fears that have screamed the loudest and lasted the longest: fear of the future, fear of failure, and fear of both intimacy and loneliness."

Your Saturday Smile: Breakfast Edition

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