Pastor Brad Hoefs

Pastor | Author | Speaker | Hope Coach | Mental Health Advocate

Why Loved Ones Need Support Too by Renae Blum

Why Loved Ones Need Support Too by Renae Blum

It wasn’t until Nebraska parents Rob and Sharon* attended their first Fresh Hope group that they realized how desperately they needed to be there. Their oldest daughter, a college-age adult, had struggled with anxiety and depression since childhood, and been hospitalized several times.

“It rocks your world, when your child is sick like that,” Sharon said. “You’re just floundering around, not knowing how you’re supposed to feel, what you’re supposed to do. You go to work, and it’s like an escape, because it’s something normal.”

Attending that first Fresh Hope meeting, Rob and Sharon were stunned to read the loved ones’ section of the tenets.

“I went through and realized I could relate to every sentence,” Rob said. “I’ve felt like a victim. I’ve pushed too hard. I’ve bailed out at times – like, ‘She’s going to have to deal with this herself; I’m too tired.’”

After attending Fresh Hope for several months, and interacting with the facilitators and other members, he says he gained insight and knowledge about one of the darkest and most confusing times of his life.

“I realized that I’d been doing some things that were pretty damaging for the relationship, meaning well. I just didn’t know,” Rob said.

He gained something else as well – hope.

“You go there and realize you’re not alone. That as helpless and hopeless as it may seem, someone else has been through it too. The ‘hope’ component is pretty big,” Rob said.

Sharon said she didn’t know at first that loved ones were welcomed and encouraged to attend. At her first Fresh Hope meeting, she watched as parents and spouses around the table shared personal stories.

“Listening to them, it was like, ‘YES! I’m not weird!’” she laughed. “You go through this feeling like you can’t talk about it with anyone besides your spouse. And then you come to Fresh Hope, and suddenly there’s a room full of people who want to listen and who understand every word you say. It’s an awesome thing, and totally unique.”

Rob added that one unexpected benefit he’s gained from Fresh Hope is the ability to reach out to other struggling parents.

“It becomes clear pretty quickly that I know what they’re going through, and am a safe person to tell bad things to,” Rob said. “They can shock me with the things they say, but I’m not going to assume they’re a bad parent. Because I’ve been there. The circumstances are different, but I can sympathize, and I can listen.”

Sharon turns to him. “Maybe that’s why you’ve gone through the things you have,” she said. “It’s like that verse: ‘He comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort…’”

“‘…those who are in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God,’” Rob said, smiling as he helped her finish the verse.**

“It’s been such a blessing to our family,” Sharon said. “I hope that wherever our daughter lives, she’ll have a Fresh Hope group to go to. I’m so glad she connected with one.”

*Names changed.
**2 Corinthians 1:4

A Pastor’s Prayer on this World Bipolar Day 2017: Hope and Healing for All Who Suffer

A Pastor’s Prayer on this World Bipolar Day 2017: Hope and Healing for All Who Suffer

Please note:. This prayer comes from a Christian pastor’s heart and is not intended to offend or trigger anyone. If you find matters of faith offensive I encourage you to ignore this post. If you are a person of faith or consider yourself spiritual, I hope you will find it helpful.

Lord, on this World Bipolar Day  we come before You and pray…

  • For those who daily struggle with their illness, attempting to live with the excruciating emotional pain: give to them the continued daily courage and strength to push through another day, so that day by day they may come to a place of wellness in their lives.
  • For those who need the courage to face their diagnosis and take personal charge of their journey to wellness: we ask that you would empower them to begin that journey. Give to them not only courage but also a desire to move forward in their lives. Help them to understand that their diagnosis is not “the end” but rather a new beginning and healing for the past.
  • For those who cannot forgive themselves for the messes that their illness, along with their choices, has caused in their lives and the lives of those they love and care about: give to them the ability to stop rehearsing the past over and over. Lord, may they experience your forgiveness, that it might empower them to forgive themselves.
  • For those who are experiencing wellness and are in a “good-spot” in their lives: give to them continued days, weeks, and years of the joy of living well with a renewed sense of purpose and hope.
  • For those who have lost loved ones to mental illness: surround them with Your presence and hope. May they find peace in the midst of the loss and confusion. May they sense Your loving arms wrapped around them.
  • For those who are lonely and have no support system: we ask that you would bring people into their lives who will befriend them. Give to them someone who will listen and understand, someone who is safe, someone who will encourage, someone who never gives up on them, someone who loves them in spite of the daily challenges of their mental health.
  • For those who are held hostage by anger towards You, Lord, and/or others: we ask for you to release them from the chains of their anger. Lord, allow the bitterness and unforgiveness towards those who have hurt them begin to melt away. Help them to know that holding to anger is truly like drinking poison and expecting the one we are angry with to die.
  • For those who have been marginalized and put down; made to feel “less-than”: we ask for justice to prevail. May they know how deeply You love them and that no one is less-than. Lord, send someone into their lives today who will be an encourager and surround them with Your purpose for their lives.
  • For those who have been hurt and even abused by churches and/or clergy: we ask for you to bring healing. Lord, expose the leaders who are toxic and are or have hurt people in Your name. Help those who have been hurt to be able to separate You from those who have spiritually abused them “in Your name”.
  • Lord, we ask for breakthroughs in mental health care! Give researchers creativity and insight for new treatments for mental illnesses. Allow funding to flow freely for these cutting-edge projects that will give break-through in the treatment of those of us with a mental illness.
  • For the broken system, Lord, we ask for you to give creativeness and new ways of thinking. Give to the decision makers the courage to do what is right. Expose where professional territorialism is holding back the process. Hasten the changes for the sake of those who are suffering with mental illness this very day.
  • For those who feel like giving up today, who are teetering on the brink of giving in to the daily torture of emotional pain: hold them, Lord. Touch them with your presence and hope. Cause them to reach out to someone.
  • For those who treat those with mental health challenges and are advocates for mental health: we simply thank You, Lord. Refresh them in their daily work.
  • For those who are homeless due to having a mental illness: we ask for Your wings of protection and shelter. May they find a safe place that allows them to begin a journey towards wellness.
  • For those who are self-medicating their mental illness: we ask for breakthrough in their lives. Break the hold of the alcohol and drugs that are being used to mask the mental illness.
  • For those who are being mistreated and abused by their “care-givers”: we ask for you to expose the situation. Bring help for those who are not able to help themselves.
  • For the spouses, partners, friends, and family who deeply love and daily care for someone with a mental illness: we thank You, Lord. Refresh and renew them. As they pour themselves out for the ones they love, we ask that You pour new life into them.
  • For the veterans who have experienced the devastation of war: we ask for Your peace. We thank You for their service, but we ask that You allow us to “be there” for these men and women in meaningful ways as they daily deal with the trauma of war. Lord, we ask You to break through the PTSD and bring healing for these who have given their service.
  • For all those who have suffered trauma in their lives: we ask for Your healing. Allow them to sense Your deep love for them. Bring healing and to their minds.
  • For those who feel hopeless, with no hope or future: enable them to see, sense, and know that You have a great spiritual purpose for them.
  • Lord, break down the walls of stigma regarding mental health issues.


For those of you, who like me have a mental illness, I offer you these words:

 The Lord loves you. He is with you. He is for you. He’s on your side. He has a great plan and future for your life. In spite of how you might feel or what others might tell you, you are ofgreat value to Him. He has heard each of your tears as liquid prayers to Him. His promise to you is that He will work all things out together for your good. May He bring you His peace in the midst of your situation this very day.

#worldbipolarday #bipolar #mentalillness #hope #FreshHope

I have bipolar disorder but

How I Dealt With My Persistent Fears & Anxieties by Stan

How I Dealt With My Persistent Fears & Anxieties by Stan

I have struggled with fear, anxiety, and stress for over 20 years.

During this time, I have talked to various professionals in the counseling fields, read many books, and researched many ways on how to overcome my personal fears. Here are some suggestions I can provide for people who struggle with fear and anxiety on a regular basis.

The first thing I did was to talk to various counselors since they knew how to deal with fear and anxiety. Whenever I talked to these counselors, I would always bring a notebook and take notes so I would not forget the advice that was given to me. In addition, I read many books and articles on how to deal with fear and anxiety. Talking to the professionals was very helpful to some extent, however I had to take it upon myself to learn as much as I could so I could effectively deal with my personal fears.


By getting help I learned many techniques on how to deal with my fears.

One of my favorite techniques was learning how to manage my negative thoughts. Whenever I would get a negative and fearful thought, I would challenge that thought with positive statements and realistic thinking. I also made it a habit to focus on the facts of my current situation and not on my negative thoughts.

For example, when I went Penn State and I was always afraid that I wouldn’t pass my difficult classes. There were times my fearful thoughts got the best of me especially during finals. These fearful thoughts who race through my head and I would get very anxious. As a result, I began to manage my negative thoughts by reading positive statements from books and newspaper articles. I also gave myself a lot of pep talks before exam time so I would feel better. I also said a lot of prayers which helped me in those situations and I took it one day at a time. It was tough, however I was able to manage my negative thoughts and pass my exams and classes.


Learning how to deal with my fears.

As I learned how to deal with my fears, I made it a habit of surrounding myself with supportive people who understood what I was going through. During some of my anxious times, one of my good friends gave me a hard time and was not very supportive. I tried to explain my situation to him, but he would not listen. One day I got mad and told him to leave me alone if he was to continue getting on my case. He later apologized and was more understanding. I learned that hanging out with unsupportive friends or family members made my worrying worse and that it is best to deal with people who willing to support you with your anxieties and fears.

There were many times I felt like giving up because my fears and anxieties were so powerful and I didn’t know what to do. I worried about what would happen and that just made my fears that must stronger. In order to get out of this vicious cycle I realized that I had educate myself on the various techniques on how to deal with my fears. There was no other way and I also had to be very persistent in finding ways that helped my situation. I learned that giving up would only make matters worse in the long run. With a lot of practice I became very good at dealing with my fears. I realized that the answers to my problems were out there, however it was up to me to find those techniques that managed my fears and anxieties. If you struggle with fear and anxiety there is hope.

You can remain hopeful by depending on God to manage your fears and anxieties. Using the help of God can be very effective in managing your fears. God is stronger than your fears and anxieties. The most important thing is to pray and talk to God. Talk to God as if you were talking to a friend. Read the Bible and pray hard. Be persistent and be open in the avenues that God may provide to you in solving your problem. It is not always easy, however God is in control and he will help you if you ask Him.

A Special Interview with Amy Simpson, Author of Troubled Minds

A Special Interview with Amy Simpson, Author of Troubled Minds

This special edition of Fresh Hope Today is for Christian pastors and church leaders as host Pastor Brad interviews speaker and author, Amy Simpson.  Amy is the author of the award winning book Troubled Minds.

This podcast focuses on educating Christian church leaders about the mental health crisis and what each congregation might consider doing in order to help those effected by the crisis within their church and communities.

Specific ideas are laid out for what pastors and church leaders can do within their congregation to address this ever-pressing issue in our society today.  Plus, creative approaches to ministering to those who suffer from a mental health challenge and to the loved ones of those who suffers are given.  (We encourage you to share this podcast with your pastor and the leaders of your church.)

Click on the icon below to listen to the podcast.

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After listening to this podcast we encourage you to email us at with a comment or question that we will share on our next podcast.

If you are listening to this podcast on iTunes, we encourage you to leave a comment regarding the podcast. Or you can leave a voice message for us on the site:

Pastor Brad Hoefs, host of Fresh Hope for Mental Health, is the founder of Fresh Hope Ministries, a network of Christian mental health support groups for those who have a diagnosis and their loved ones. In other words, Fresh Hope is a Christian mental health support group.

Brad was diagnosed with bipolar disorder in 1995. He is a weekly blogger for  (Bipolar Magazine). He is also a certified peer specialist and has been doing pastoral counseling since 1985. Brad is also the author of Fresh Hope: Living Well in Spite of a Mental Health Diagnosis, which is available on Amazon or at:

If you are interested in more information about Fresh Hope go to or email or call 402.932.3089.

To donate to Fresh Hope go to:

For a complete list of where Fresh Hope groups are presently meeting go to and click on “find a group.” Or you may attain an online group of meeting of Fresh Hope by going to

If you are interested in starting a Fresh Hope group within your faith community contact Julie at

Fresh Hope for Mental Health is a production of Fresh Hope Ministries.

Fresh Hope Ministries is a non-profit ministry.

The copyrights of this program belong to Fresh Hope Ministries and may not be duplicated without written permission.

All of the podcasts of Fresh Hope Today as well as numerous other videos are all available on our YouTube channel: Fresh Hope Network

Fresh Hope for Mental Health is on Facebook at

#BradHoefs #AmySimpson #FreshHope #hope4MentalHealth #hope #mentalhealth #mentalillness

Think About What You Think About

Think About What You Think About

Think about what you think about.  Weird suggestion, huh?  But….have you ever done it?  Have you ever paid attention to what goes through your head?  Have you ever stopped and listened to yourself?

For some reason, I woke up one morning with that question on my mind.  I laid in bed thinking about the question and trying to answer it.  These were my thoughts:  ‘Why do I want to even get up today?  I don’t have anything to contribute.  I’m not happy about the way I look.  I’m fat and nothing I put on makes me look decent.  I try to be a good person and positive, but I fail 15 minutes after I get to work.  No one can see God in me.  How can they?  My mouth opens up and before I know it my thoughts are out in the open and I can’t take them back.’  The thoughts running through my head alone could depress me enough on a good day.  And that is interesting, because I think these thoughts often, whether I’m in a depressed state or not.

My pastor once said in a sermon that we have 50,000 thoughts per day, and 85% of them are negative.  I have also heard for every negative comment you say or hear it takes 7 positive ones to cancel that one out.

So now, think about what I said.  I counted them and there were 8 negative things I thought before I even got out of bed in less than a 5 minute period.  So it would take 56 positive thoughts just to cancel out those 8 negative thoughts from those first 5 minutes of the morning.  Now, how many of us really tell ourselves positive things?  Do you answer yourself with something positive when you say or think something negative?  I tried it one morning.  It was pretty difficult!

It took me years of therapy to be able to hear positive things from people.  It took more time to be able to say something nice about myself.  But you know what?  God doesn’t make junk!!!!  We all are ‘beautifully and wonderfully made’ (Psalm 139:14 NIV).  There are qualities about each of us no one else has.  If this is something difficult for you to do, I understand.  But I challenge you to look in the mirror each morning and say at least one positive thing about yourself.  But you have to say it out loud.  Then when a negative thought comes across your mind, repeat the positive thing you said to yourself earlier in the day.  Start small.  Start simple.  For example, ‘I have pretty eyes’; ‘my hair looks good today’; ‘I am a kind person’……

Each of us is important and is worth positive thoughts and words!!!!!



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