School, work, life, and ministry have left me without much time for the blog. But I am on a break from school for a little over a month and am committed to publishing some content, mostly related to biblical counseling. So, to get things going here is something I find interesting.
For my last class, I had to interview five people from my community who best represent my cognate and…OK, to make a long story short, I asked five people the same 20 open-ended questions about pastoral counseling, then analyzed the answers.
This is one of the questions.
What are your thoughts on this? Instead of till death do us part, how about for as long as this feels healthy, safe, and meaningful for both of us?
When I was teeing this one up I told everyone I saw it on Twitter (can’t remember where) and I just wanted some thoughts.
Most of the replies weren’t very surprising but one of the people said this and it actually did surprise me a little.
I don’t like it because most people don’t even know what healthy even is. Am I healthy? That’s totally subjective. To someone who views health as a number on a scale or a pant size or a shirt size rather than what lab results say. So, while I agree that a lot of people think that way these days, I don’t think people know what health really is.
That’s it. That’s the post, just something I found interesting. I will probably write about this some more soon but I am easing back into blogging, not jumping right in.
A couple days ago I had someone on Twitter ask for my thoughts on whether or not pastors should be counselors and the different kinds of counseling.
And I do have thoughts, many, many of them. Unfortunately, what I have not had much of these days is time.
So what I’ve done is ask an AI writing generator if pastors should be counselors and what follows is what it came up with. Overall, it’s not bad. Not great but not bad.
Whether or not pastors should be counselors is a matter of debate and ultimately depends on a variety of factors. Some argue that pastors, as spiritual leaders and members of their communities, are well-suited to provide counseling to individuals who are seeking help with personal and psychological problems. They may have a unique understanding of the spiritual and emotional needs of their congregants, and may be able to provide a level of support and guidance that is not available from other sources.
On the other hand, others argue that pastors may not have the necessary training and expertise to provide effective counseling. Counseling is a complex and highly specialized field, and individuals who are seeking help with psychological problems may be better served by seeking out a licensed and trained mental health professional. Pastors who do not have the appropriate training and credentials may not be able to provide the level of care and support that individuals need.
In addition, there may be legal and ethical considerations for pastors who provide counseling. In some cases, providing counseling without the appropriate training and credentials may be considered the practice of psychology without a license, which can be illegal in some states. Furthermore, pastors may not be equipped to handle the complex and sensitive issues that may arise during counseling, and may not be able to provide the necessary support and guidance to individuals who are dealing with severe mental health problems.
In general, it is important for pastors to carefully consider their qualifications and ability to provide effective counseling before offering their services in this capacity. It may be beneficial for pastors to work closely with licensed mental health professionals and to refer individuals who are seeking counseling to these professionals if they feel that they are not equipped to provide the necessary level of care.
It is not my intent to bust this pastor’s chops or rebuke him publically. In all likelihood he loves God, loves people, and is great at his job.
This, to me, is more a case of solid pastors with sound theological educations lacking the wisdom and skill to counsel those who are struggling mentally and/or emotionally.
Is anxiety a sin? Yes, absolutely, that is clear in Scripture. But there is a distiction between living in the sin of unbelief and lacking faith that God is sovereign and that everything that happens in our lives (good and bad) is in accordance with His good and perfect will and having our faith attacked in times of trouble. And that distinction is always lost in short social media posts.
1 Peter 5:7 says, “Cast all your anxieties on him, for he cares about you.”
Notice that the verse does not say that believers will never feel any anxieties at all but, instead, to cast them onto God when we do experience them.
It’s important for pastors to know that all people will struggle with anxiety every now and then and that is OK and it does not fundamentally make us a sinners who have chosen to do doubt God.
Imagine a pastor telling a sexual assault survivor who experiences anxiety around men, “Don’t worry, God’s got this, you’re only anxious because you don’t have enough faith.”
Imagine a pastor telling someone who just lost their job and has no idea how they are going to provide for their families not to make their situation worse by adding the sin of unbelief.
I am not saying Justin Bullington would ever say such things but that is, fundamentally, what his tweet is saying and it’s wrong.
While Bullington’s words are indeed true, beating people who are suffering over the head with theological truths is both unwise and unloving.
As pastors, it is our job to teach, correct, and rebuke according to Scripture. But it is also our job to put our arms around people, disciple them, and walk with them through their struggles, not to just dismissively call them sinners.
“Therefore, let those who suffer according to God’s will entrust their souls to a faithful Creator while doing good.”
-1 Peter 4:19
There is nothing in Scripture that should lead a Christian to believe that they will not suffer. Fact is, we will all suffer to varying degrees, that is a certainty.
But let’s, for a second, talk about something that is often experienced as suffering but really isn’t.
Like suffering, we all experience disappointment and, if we are honest, far more often than we would like. But we need to be careful that we deal with it in a godly manner, so it does not morph into the sin of discontentment.
While it isn’t fun to be disappointed, it is natural and, in a way, good for us. Yes, you may not have got the job you interviewed for, or that promotion you were certain was coming. Or you may have put your heart, body, and soul into practice and training and still not made the team. Or you may have received the dreaded rejection letter from the school of your dreams. I could go on but I’m sure you all get it by now. The point is, these things happen, and they do sting a bit, and that is OK. In fact, they can sharpen us and make us better. Didn’t get the job, for example? Work on your interview skills, try adjusting your focus, or, maybe, enroll in a class or seek out some training that will make you more qualified next time a similar job comes along. In other words, we can use disappointment to refine us and make us better. Or, perhaps, it can motivate us to self-reflect and admit that maybe we are on the wrong path or out of step with God.
I wanted to play baseball when I was a kid. Yeah, I played in the neighborhood with the other kids (back when playing ball in the street was a thing) but I really wanted to be on a team and play for real. But no matter how many times I tried out, I never made the cut, and every single time I was crushed. Crushed, that is, until I realized that baseball was not my gift and playing on a team was not in the cards for me. My love of the game didn’t change any, but my hopes, dreams, and aspirations did. I continued to play street ball and played on several softball teams over the years but my life as a would be Major League star was over, and that was OK.
I could say the same thing about my plans to conquer the business world when I retired from the military. I worked hard to earn an MBA before I retired, crafted the perfect resume, did endless research on how to search for, find, and land the dream job. And then I searched, applied, interviewed ad nauseum and never got a call. Day after day after day I got up early, put on a suit, printed resumes, and drove all over town knocking on doors, to no avail. I did eventually land a job doing what I did not think I would be doing and am content now but it was a tough several months to be sure. Actually, it was beyond tough and now, through the lens of hindsight, and I like to think a little more wisdom, I clearly understand why.
Granted, a few months of unemployment would be understandably tough for most people but I let my disappointment slip into discontentment and I lived in that sinful state continuously until things started going my (not God’s) way.
My problem was that I did not see that God was ordering my steps and that He was sovereign over everything, including me not getting what I wanted. In a general sense I never completely lost sight of the fact that God is sovereign but, for a season, I elevated my hopes, dreams, arrogance, pride, desires, and plans over His will for me and it caused me to become angry and bitter with Him and almost everyone else in my life. I have no ability to spin it or describe it in any other way other than that I was woefully discontent with my own estate and living in self-righteousness and pride that said I knew better than God did about what was best for me. And, I was acting like I was the victim of a gross injustice.
My point in writing all of this is this.
You may indeed be disappointed with what God is doing in your life right now and that, although the pain of disappointment is real, is OK. We are, after all, imperfect. What is not OK however, is to lose sight of the fact that you are where you are, doing what you are doing, and experiencing what you are experiencing at this moment because all are perfectly in line with God’s eternal decrees.
As the verse at the beginning of this post (as well as many others) declare, you will suffer. But be careful not to let setbacks that could be ordained to refine you and point you toward God be the cause of you sliding into sinful discontentment and needless self-induced suffering that is not from God and something you were never meant to experience.
One of the concepts of biblical counseling that caught my attention early on in my studies and has kept my attention ever since is that God is already at work within everyone who is struggling and what they need is often someone to help them understand that the solution to the difficult problem the are facing is an actuality that has already been accomplished and not necessarily something that needs to be figured out and fixed. Before I began my journey into counseling I had always thought that someone with an mental health issue would sit down with someone who had specialized training and knowledge and the expert would impart wisdom, offer a diagnosis, and recommend a treatment plan and/or prescribe medication. I have come to learn that there is more to it than that.
People Need to be Unstuck
Part of the process, as I had understood it, was a diagnosis of a psychological deficiency. While there certainly are psychological deficiencies of varying severities, modern psychopathology has been flawed by deficiency language which is quite unlike the empowering language of Scripture. This deficiency language has created a world of description that only understands through what is wrong, broken, absent, or insufficient. While clinical diagnoses do certainly have their place, the categories and illnesses were not developed to empower counselees but to offer criteria for describing a deficiency. Although labels serve their purpose as descriptors and it would be unwise to simply do away with them, I have never been fond of their use because, used improperly, they can define a person making it hard for them to be seen beyond their label. I read about a counselor who thought of the damage labels can do one day in his office when he overheard a fellow counselor say “my PTSD cancelled on me.” Although I cannot remember where I heard that, it did make me think of the power labels, even the best intentioned or meaningful labels, can have on people. Allen Kollar wrote in Solution Focused Pastoral Counseling that he heard another counselor speak of “a hypothetical day in the future when DMS-20 will come on the market with only category: STUCK! At that time the goal of the counselor will be to simply help individuals get “unstuck.”” It seems like modern psychology, which is derived from purely secular medicine is focused on deficiencies rather than biblical solutions that empower the counselee.
Realizing a paradigm shift is necessary, Allen Kollar notes in the article, Staying Solution Focused in Brief pastoral Counseling that “the driving force of change is primarily in the revision of constructs or the way we make sense of things. Shifting the focus on solutions rather than problems represents one such revision.” Not only has pastoral counseling shifted its own focus, it is unique among differing counseling disciplines, as explained in Understanding Pastoral Counseling. “What make the field of pastoral counseling unique is that counselors draw upon their theological education to understand their own spirituality, and the spirituality of those they counsel. Their theological education, including its ongoing process of spiritual formation, makes pastoral counseling different from other mental health professionals.” And it is these differences that have resonated the most with me and that make me excited about continuing my pastoral counseling journey.
I had gone into the field of study thinking that I would emerge on the other side as a pastor with a little bit more counseling training. While that is true, pastoral counselors are more equipped to deal with the variety of issues they may face during counseling sessions, they do not have to deviate too far from their calling as ministers in order to help people in what is commonly a secular thought dominated field. It is encouraging to know that the Gospel is preached in pastoral counseling and that the same affirming language we find in the Bible is used to treat those who may be struggling but just need to be unstuck. Counseling is effective but the truth is that “He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds” (Psalms 147:3). As a pastor I know that God heals and I am looking forward to sharing this truth with those I counsel in the future without focusing on deficiency language while encouraging counselees to look forward to healing rather than letting them be defined by their current problem.
Kollar, Charles Allen Solution Focused Pastoral Counseling: An Effective Short-Term Approach for Getting People Back on Track, Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2011
Kollar, Charles Allen, Staying Solution Focused in Brief pastoral Counseling, The Journal of pastoral care, 03/1999, Volume 53, Issue 1
Maynard, Elizabeth A. and Snodgrass, Jill, Understanding Pastoral Counseling, New York, Springer Publishing Co, 2015
Charles Allen Kollar, Solution Focused Pastoral Counseling: 23
I would not go so far as to say this is absolutely conclusive as science is always evolving. But it does support what I, and many biblical counselors, have long believed. And that is that Scripture is sufficient for counseling and Jesus, not medication, is the cure for mental health disorders.
The results of this study will be hard to accept for many Christians and nearly impossible for natural men who have to find secular solutions to all the world’s problems because the opposite is unthinkable.
I have a doctor friend who told me about a patient he had years ago who told him she was going to sue him for malpractice because of an incorrect and unprofessional diagnosis.
She weighed north of 250 lbs and sought treatment for persistent knee pain. After a thorough physical exam, X-ray, MRI…he concluded there was no physiological damage/abnormality to her knees that could be causing the pain so he suggested losing some weight and increasing her level of physical activity. This, of course, was insulting to his patient who simply wanted a pill, not a lifestyle change.
Same thing goes for the chronically depressed. Why change? Why look inward? Why repent of our sins and give our lives to God when we can ‘numb our pain’ with medication?
Anyway, I am hopeful this study leads to some meaningful change in mental health care.
If there is one thing that is certain in the life of a Christian it is that we will all endure suffering of one kind or another, the Bible not only speaks of troubles that go back to the Old Testament, it also guarantees them for us. James writes that we are to “consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds…” (James 1:2). Granted the second part of the verse is where most of the teaching on how we should endure suffering comes from but the first part implies that it will be there. Since it can be known with certainty that we will suffer even as believers, it’s important for a well-equipped biblical counselor to understand how the Bible speaks on the matter. Or, more specifically, we should be aware of the biblical perspective on crises intervention. Because, as it’s s true that we will all face struggles, it’s also true that biblical counselors will be called to intervene when lives are impacted by the unthinkable.
To gain understanding on the biblical perspective of biblical counseling, one has to look no further than the ministry of Jesus Christ himself. If we look at His earthly ministry, it is evident that His goal was effecting change in those He encountered so they could go on to live an abundant life. His care for people is demonstrated in His words recorded in the Gospel of Luke. “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed” (Luke 4:18).
Jesus the Counselor
In his book, Crisis and Trauma Counseling, Dr. H. Norman Wright writes this of Jesus’ ministry. “One important observation we can make about Jesus’ approach to counseling is that his work with people was a process. He did not see them for a few minutes during an appointment and then forget about them. He spent time helping them work through life’s difficulties in an in depth manner. He saw people’s potential and hopes, despite their problems.” He is indeed savior but in Isiah’s prophesy about his coming He is also called wonderful counselor (Isiah 9:6). On this, Charles Spurgeon wrote.
“It was by a counsellor that this world was ruined. Did not Satan mask himself in the serpent, and counsel the woman with exceeding craftiness, that she should take unto herself of the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, in the hope that thereby she should be as God? Was it not that evil counsel which provoked our mother to rebel against her Maker, and did it not as the effect of sin, bring death into this world with all its train of woe? Ah! beloved, it was meet that the world should have a Counsellor to restore it, if it had a Counsellor to destroy it.”
Interesting point that counsel provoked our mother to rebel. Interesting further that a counselor was sent to restore us. And if we all are to be restored in the name of Christ, we all need counselors but not as the world typically defines the term.
The Ministry of Counseling
When most people think of counseling, they likely think of a credentialed expert who helps clients in his or her office. While the Bible has much to say about counseling, it never declares that the ultimate responsibility for this task is to be conducted by a few trained professionals. In fact, we can read in the Proverbs that counseling is an essential aspect of true Christian friendship. “Faithful are the wounds of a friend, but the kisses of an enemy are excessive. Ointment and incense make the heart rejoice, likewise the sweetness of one’s friend from sincere counsel” (Proverbs 27:6). In his book, How To Be A People Helper, Gary Collins suggests that counseling is part of the disciple making process and Bob Deffenbaugh, pastor/teacher and elder at Community Bible Chapel in Richardson, Texas noted that counseling is closely related to the ministry of edification and the process of sanctification (Ephesians 4:11-13) and that it encompasses many of the New Testament commands which refer people to minister to one another. In another New Testament commandment, we are told to “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations…” (Matthew 28:19). For many, this means we are to share our faith. But if we look at the example Jesus modeled for us, the goal is more than simply passing along a message. “From the evangelic records it appears that Jesus began at a very early period of His ministry to gather round Him a company of disciples, with a view to the preparation of an agency for carrying on the divine kingdom.” In other words, we are to make disciples who will live with purpose and intentionality. And disciples learn to do this in relationship.
Counseling as a Relationship
But, often, there is no relationship beyond the superficial between counselor and client. I can vouch for this thinking from my own personal experience with counseling. Years ago my 21 year old brother committed suicide and no one had any idea he had been struggling in any way. The shock and disbelief at what had happened combined with the feelings of guilt that there was something I could have done differently began to take a toll on my life, work, and marriage and I needed help which I mistakenly thought would come from medication and the requisite quick conversation with a doctor who could prescribe me what I needed. But, instead, I was referred by my primary care doctor to a counselor who wanted to do nothing but talk to me. I have no doubt she wanted to help me but I saw the sessions as professional, clinical, and impersonal. And I saw myself as a patient and nothing more. It could be that I was not happy about being in counseling in the first place because my problem would have worked itself out eventually but, looking back on it through the lens of what I know now, there was no personal relationship at all and that aspect is essential.
In her book, Introduction to Pastoral Counseling, Loren Townsend explains the unique relationship that exists between a client and a pastoral counselor. In the relationship, “pastoral counselors act as agents of transformation by forming therapeutic relationships that help people change or cope with things that cannot change.” In a chapter in the book appropriately titled Forming Transformative Relationships, the importance of relationship is stated by a counselor named Denise who defines pastoral counseling as a “transformative relationship.” In the same chapter, another counselor describes pastoral counseling as a “special kind of relationship.” Further, Townsend referred to research that claimed 30 percent of clients felt known when their therapist felt with them or truly understood what they were feeling or experiencing. Overall, it seems that tend to respond positively to counselors if they believe they understand them and their struggle. In order for counseling to be maximally effective there must be a relational aspect that does not typically exist between a client and someone who is providing care. In short, Townsend suggests that the counselor and counselee are co-pilgrims on a spiritual journey that leads to heling.
Intervening in Crisis
One of the things I have learned in the years following the death of my brother is that the tragedy might have been avoided altogether if he would have had someone in his life who noticed what was going on and was willing and able to step in and walk with him through the difficulty. In their book, The Quick Reference Guide to Biblical Counseling, Drs. Tim Clinton and Ron Hawkins remind readers who have been called to intervene in someone’s most needy of times and that is that we are to bear each other’s burdens in a way that will fulfill the law of Christ (Galatians 6:2). Further, they note “You have truly come to know the “God is our merciful Father and the source of all comfort. He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us” (2 Corinthians 1:3-4). And if you consistently deliver this comfort and care with integrity, you are a trustworthy servant in whom God delights and blesses in all you do.”
Even though Christians are all called to counsel, it is important to note, especially if we step into someone’s crisis, that we have to say the right things, at the right time, and in the right way. In his book, Dr. Wright quotes Proverbs 25:20 which reads: “Singing songs to someone who is sad is like taking away his coat on a cold day or poring vinegar on soda.” A good example of saying the wrong thing is from the book of Job. Job had more difficulties than most people will ever experience and friends that stepped in to help him. But instead of providing helpful counsel he needed, they accused him of being guilty of sin when the scriptural account made it clear that Job was righteous and just. We need to speak and we need to help but we need to speak the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15) if we are to help as Jesus intends us to.
As Dr. Robert Kelleman explains in the book, Equipping Biblical Counselors, counseling is all over the Bible. “It’s in Ephesians 4:11; Ephesians 5:19; Colossians 3:16; Romans 15:14; Hebrews 3:12-13; Hebrews 10:24-25; Philippians 1:9-11; 1 Thessalonians 2:8; 2 Timothy 2:2; Matthew 22:34-40. God’s end goal is for every member to be a disciple-maker who speaks and lives gospel truth in love to help every member grow in content, character, competence, and community.”
Christ Stepped Into Crisis
As Kellemen noted, counseling is everywhere in the Bible and he is correct. But the clearest and best example of intervening in Crisis is that of Jesus himself. In, The Ministry of Counseling, Bob Deffinbaugh wrote that “Counsel in the Old Testament. Essentially one Hebrew word (more accurately one root) is employed for counsel in the Old Testament, esah. It refers to a carefully considered plan or purpose, whether of God (Isaiah 28:29), or of man (Isaiah 8:10). While man’s counsels are subject to the will of God (Isaiah 19:3; cf. Proverbs 16:9).” When God created the world and humanity He had a plan for everything and that plan included man using his free will to act in rebellion to the command of God and send the world into a crisis will endure until Jesus returns. So, while He did come as Messiah and savior, He also intervened in the enduring crisis Adam and Eve created for us and provided the solution.
While Jesus is thought of more as savior rather than counselor and while the Bible does not specifically say we are to be called counselors, it does specifically mention several aspects of counseling and all of them imply that includes crisis intervention when necessary. Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep (Romans 12:15). And concerning you, my brethren, I myself also am convinced that you yourselves are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge, and able also to admonish one another (Colossians 3:16). And we urge you, brethren, admonish the unruly, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with all men. See that no one repays another with evil for evil, but always seek after that which is good for one another and for all men (1 Thessalonians 5:14-15). All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work (2 Timothy 3:16-17) and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more, as you see the day drawing near (Hebrews 10:24-25).
Christ Offered us a Different Solution
It is commonly understood that the process of counseling is that the diagnosis and treatment of a psychological deficiency is the intended outcome. While psychological deficiencies of differing severities certainly do exist and are diagnosable, modern psychopathology seems as though it has been influenced by deficiency language which is contrary to the empowering language we read in Scripture. This deficiency language is spoken in a world of seems only to only understand by identifying what is wrong, broken, absent, or insufficient. While clinical diagnoses have value for the mental health provider as well as the client, the categories and illnesses were not developed to empower counselees but to offer criteria for describing a deficiency. Although labels are beneficial descriptors we should not discontinue using, caution should be taken to ensure they are not used improperly, because it is difficult to imagine people as existing outside the labels that are placed on them. I once read an account of a clinician who was reminded of the damage labels can do when he heard a colleague say that his afternoon OCD had rescheduled at the last minute. I am uncertain as to who said that but, since that time, it has served as a constant reminder of the power labels, especially those that define a deficiency. In the book, Solution Focused Pastoral Counseling Allen Kollar wrote that he overheard colleague speak of “a hypothetical day in the future when DMS-20 will come on the market with only category: STUCK! At that time the goal of the counselor will be to simply help individuals get “unstuck.”” Modern psychology has its roots in secular medicine that is singularly focused on natural solutions and deficiencies while largely ignoring biblical solutions that empower those who are suffering.
Understanding that this does not align itself with what Scripture teaches, Allen Kollar writes in, Staying Solution Focused in Brief pastoral Counseling “the driving force of change is primarily in the revision of constructs or the way we make sense of things. Shifting the focus on solutions rather than problems represents one such revision.” Further, in Understanding Pastoral Counseling, we read. “What make the field of pastoral counseling unique is that counselors draw upon their theological education to understand their own spirituality, and the spirituality of those they counsel. Their theological education, including its ongoing process of spiritual formation, makes pastoral counseling different from other mental health professionals.” While the study of theology will never take you directly to passages that command believers to intervene in crisis, a well-formed and theologically sound Christian world view where we are to imitate Jesus and grow to become increasingly more like him most certainly will.
One of the most remarkable things about the Christian faith is that the author and finisher of our faith, our creator, and our savior is not a god who exists mere in an otherworldly dimension or a god that cannot relate to us on a personal lever or be known. Our God stepped down from Heaven, became one of us, lived a sinless life, and then died for us to save us. The message of the Gospel is widely known but, what most people do not think about is that when Jesus did what He did, He not only redeemed us but He intervened for us and walked with us in the mess mankind created for itself. As Floyd rightly noted, “Disasters that are large in scope, intense, and of certain or extended duration tend to have the most devastating impact on a community and its residents.”
The Bible has much to say about creation, The Law, History, genealogy, the complicated relationship of God to His people, the coming of the promised Messiah, as well as how it all will come to an end. But it also calls us to counsel, a point that has been summed up by Bob Kelleman. “Christ-centered, church based, comprehensive, and compassionate biblical counseling depends upon the Holy Spirit to relate God’s Word to suffering and sin by speaking and living God’s truth in love to equip people to love God and one another (Matthew 22:35-40).” And the best way we can demonstrate that as believers is to be willing to intervene in the crises of those we are in fellowship with, as Jesus did.
Clinton, Tim and Hawkins, Ron, Biblical Counseling, 2009, Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books
Collins, Gary, How to Be a People Helper, 1976, Santa Ana: Vision House Publishers
As I progress further in my counseling education I have been thinking more and more about the sufficiency of Scripture in counseling. Pastors, of course, rely on Scripture when helping people navigate their struggles. But should counselors rely on Scripture as much?
Human beings are mostly unconscious. Mostly distracted in their own mind. Mostly repeating things they themselves have been told without awareness of how it will impact another person. If we practice acceptance of this. We can navigate the world with grace. We can see other people’s behavior for what it is: a reflection of how they feel about themselves. We can choose a response in alignment with the highest self, not the knee jerk ego reaction.
A quick thought on the purpose of Christian counseling…
The goal of Christian counseling should not be to make clients happy but to promote Christian maturity (both spiritual and psychological) and to free people to better worship and serve God by helping them to become more like the Lord. It is common to think of the relationship of a client and a counselor as one that consists mostly of the counselor imparting wisdom and knowledge to the client in an effort to help the client who is struggling in some way. While that is true, to a degree, there is more to Christian counseling than simply an expert helping a client. A significant difference between Christian counseling and secular therapy is that the competent Christian counselor, yielding to an active, holy, and merciful God (1 Corinthians 1:18), meets the client at his or her point of need (diverging and becoming all things to all people (1 Corinthians 9:19) and connects with the client to create a working alliance. This is not to say there are no elements of that present in secular counseling, but it seems as though Christian is an intensive form of case-based discipleship with the goal of spiritual maturity more so than anything else.
Clinton, Tim and Hawkins. 2011. The Popular Encyclopedia of Christian Counseling: An Indispensable Tool For Helping People With Their Problems. Eugene, OR: Harvest House Publishers