This article first appeared on the Biblical Counseling Coalition blog as one of a six part mini series on Biblical Counseling and Women’s Issues.
We Counsel Out of Our Theology
Most biblical counselors I know are very familiar with the hysterical YouTube video, “Stop It” by Bob Newhart. It has been shown at conferences and in training programs (including mine) to make a point and to infuse a little levity into learning about difficult issues. I was reminded of this video when listening to a lecture recently when the speaker told the audience the pathway to change was, “Just stop it!” While I find the video clip to be funny, it is not a counseling methodology I would endorse.
As biblical counselors, we counsel out of our theology not secular psychology. We believe we need a power greater than ourselves with wisdom beyond what we humanly possess to navigate the trials of life. Our paradigm opposes the secular perspective which promotes the theory that mankind has enough goodness and wisdom within himself individually or collectively to overcome problems.
Our counseling model is centered on the changes a person will undergo when he or she meets the Wonderful Counselor (Isaiah 9:6), The Lord Jesus Christ who is the only One who can truly change hearts and lives. He does this through the Scriptures which address the needs of real people in real ways.
Christ at the Center
One of my favorites is the letter of Paul to the Ephesians. I use this wonderful epistle to dismantle many of the secular arguments a counselee brings into our counseling relationship, beginning with the necessity of having faith in God to effect true and lasting change. While secular counseling places man in the center of the picture, biblical counseling insists that Christ must be in the center of every call for change. He must be in the center of the heart.
Because relationships are at the crux of much of the counseling a people-helper does, an effective biblical counselor can develop their practical theology of counseling from the common to man issues found in Ephesians 4-6:9. For example, in Ephesians 5 we find keys to understanding the marriage relationship. The counselee learns marriage is intended to picture the relationship of Christ and His Church. It is one of subordination and submission to the Father in every aspect of relating to one another.
In Ephesians 4, Paul addresses the common problems of anger, bitterness, and unforgiveness that are in their advanced stages presently identified as mental illnesses. The epistle labels them as sin. The Lord demands repentance from sin (“Stop it!”) and commands personal humility, forgiveness, and reconciliation between people (“Start it!”) to exemplify what Christ has done for each Christian by His death, burial, and resurrection.
The Word and Women
The Word pays special attention to the privileged and special role of women. We are submissive servants, first to God and then to our husbands. This enables us to lean on the Scriptures as our ultimate authority and to refuse to sin or participate in ungodliness if our husbands should ask. Our lives are built around God and our biological and church families. As servant-leaders with an eye to the Word of God, we bring up successive generations of women teaching them to be “subject to your own husbands” (1 Peter 3:1-2) and “to love their husbands, to love their children, to be sensible, pure, workers at home, kind, being subject to their own husbands, so that the word of God will not be dishonored” (Titus 2:4-5).
This is in direct opposition to what is promoted in most modern cultures. Women are taught to be their own authority and chart a course for their lives that maximizes independence and refutes biblical submission, which is often considered to be abusive and cruel by those who do not understand it is first submission to a loving and holy God.
The pursuit of peace is what drives many people to seek the help of a therapist or counselor. They seek to find internal peace through external means. But for the Christian there is a better way. Psalm 131, which emphasizes humility of the heart as the starting point, instructs us to quiet our noisy souls and seek out the promises of God. This brings us hope in the present and hope for the future.
Seeking comfort in times of sorrow and heartbreak is another reason people seek counseling. We seek the means to cope with what has assailed us. The best that secular methods can produce are coping mechanisms designed to meet the feeling orientation of those who suffer. In the Scriptures (Philippians 1, 2; 1, 2 Peter; and Romans 12), the sufferer is encouraged to obey the commands to forgive those who have caused them such pain and to transfer the recompense for those actions into the capable hands of our loving God who will avenge the wrongs done to His children.
The influence of psychology has largely removed the need for personal responsibility for sin, and our counselees come with the expectation of “venting” and “exploring their feelings” as their greatest need. We go beyond examining and legitimizing the feelings of the counselee. Biblical counselors want to help their counselees change at the heart level for the glory of God. It is clear that we operate out of what lurks in the heart and that our thoughts, beliefs, and desires (ruling motivations) determine the actions we take. It is the goal of the biblical counselor to show them Christ is their biggest need and that all things flow from that relationship.
We are actively involved in the lives of those entrusted to us. We, like God, promote real and lasting change at the heart level. We teach, rebuke, correct, and train our counselees in righteousness to the glory of God. This counsel is theological and practical. When followed faithfully, change is lasting and hope is created and sustained. This far surpasses the results gained by those well-meaning counselors whose methodology hinges on “Stop it!”
Join the Conversation
Have you received both “Stop it!” and biblical counseling? Which did you find more helpful and hope giving?