A Glimpse at Biblical Counseling . . .

In my last year studying psychology at Auburn, I had to meet with my research methods prof to receive feedback for a major project. He commended me on a project well-done and told me he was interested in having me do research under him. He went on to ask about my future plans in psychology {since everyone knows a psych degree is good for absolutely NOTHING unless you get another degree}. When I told him I was planning to get married and go to seminary with my husband to {hopefully} study biblical counseling, he looked at me like I was absolutely insane. I remember that it didn’t bother me too much, though. I felt sure about our call to ministry. I also had not a clue what biblical counseling really was and how it differed from “Christian counseling” and other counseling methodologies. I didn’t understand what an essential ministry of the church biblical counseling is.

Biblical counseling is distinguished from every other approach to counseling {secular or Christian} by its firm belief that Scripture alone is sufficient to help people with their counseling problems. This one is a nonnegotiable truth for biblical counselors and a nonnegotiable fallacy for everyone else. Heath Lambert, The Biblical Counseling Movement After Adams.

Skeptical? I was too. But after several years of study {and many, many, many pages of reading}, I’m a strong advocate for biblical counseling. It’s not that I believe secular psychology is completely useless {there are many things we can learn from it}, but I do believe it is an ineffective system in terms of helping people really change. There are so many things I would love to share about why I’m a strong advocate of BC, but this post is already obnoxiously long {as my posts often are…sorry!}. I am going to include some excerpts from a forward written by David Powlison in Heath Lambert’s book The Biblical Counseling Movement After Adams. Powlison’s words provide a helpful glimpse into what biblical counseling is all about {especially for those who have never heard of it}.

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The people of God have a huge stake in the issues captured by our word counseling. 

What problems impel or compel a person to seek counseling? The answer is simple, though the problems are complex. Emotions play in darkly minor keys: anxious, embittered, guilty, despairing, ashamed. Actions run in self-destructive ruts of compulsion and addiction. Thoughts proliferate internal chaos, obsessing fruitlessly. Sufferings hammer a person until the experience is unspeakable. . .

Such life-disabling problems are complex intensifications of the utterly ordinary. The human condition intrudes brokenness into everyone and everything. Things go askew inside all of us. We live for the good gifts, not the good Giver. Our instincts run to self-serving, even with the best of conscious intentions. We invest life energies into vanities and reap confusions. We addict ourselves to follies and reap pain. Relationships disappoint, and fragment, and alienate, and isolate. Others hurt you and you hurt them. We find ourselves without resources to face suffering and feel crushed and overwhelmed. 

So why should the people of God care about these things that impel and compel people to seek counseling help? Because as ordinary people, these troubles and struggles are our own. And as God’s people, in particular, such waywardness and woe is exactly what our Bible is about. This is what Jesus comes to do something about. This is what church and ministry are intended to tackle.

Or is it?

Are the Bible, Jesus, church, and ministry about counseling problems? Or is our faith preoccupied with a religiously toned set of beliefs, activities, places, and experiences? Do counseling problems belong mainly to secular, mental-health professionals?

Make no mistake: According to the Scriptures, Christian faith and life are occupied with all the gritty, grimy, sad, or slimy things that make for human misery. Jesus came to start making right all that has gone wrong.  And we are his living body, put here on earth to keep making right whatever has gone wrong.

And never forget: we are part of what is wrong. . . One and all, we need the give-and-take of wise counsel. . . In fact, we need Genesis 1 through Revelation 22 and the well-honed practical wisdom of brothers and sisters, both past and present, who have taken this God to heart.

We ought to be good at counseling, the very best at both receiving and giving. No one else’s explanation of human misery goes as wide and long or as high and deep as the Christian explanation. . . Think about this. Other counseling models never notice that actual persons are made and sustained by God and are accountable to God, searched out and weighed moment by moment. They never mention that actual persons are sinful by instinct and choice; that we suffer within a context of meaningfulness; that Jesus Christ entered our plight; that we are redeemable and transformable by intimate mercy and power. Every other supposed explanation and answer looks shriveled and juxtaposed with the breadth, length, height and depth of the love of Christ. . .

We each need to hear–some of us for the first time–that the church has a unique and significant counseling calling. The Lord interprets personal struggles and situational troubles through a very different set of eyes from how other counseling models see things. He engages us with a very different set of intentions from how other counseling methods proceed. We, as his children, are meant to counsel according to how he sees and proceeds. The fruition of that vision may seem far off. Your church currently may be doing a poor job of counseling, or counseling through deviant eyes, or abdicating the task entirely. But as you come to realize that the Wonderful Counselor intends to form his people into, well, into pretty good counselors–and getting better all the time–it makes you stop and think. 

Until we know that something might exist, we can’t envision participating. Participation becomes a possibility when something rises above the horizon. I hope that you hear the call. ———-David Powlison

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