Counseling/Pastoral Issues

How Not To Talk to People with Chronic Illness

I have three parishioners with chronic illness. I pray for them. I have anointed one of them with holy oil at their request. I have asked that God would remove this cup from them, but He has not seen fit to do so. One young parishioner who has fought this painful fight for a long time and who has provided an example of  faithfulness and perseverance is the author of this article. This is an insightful article because it resonates with most–if not all–who have been fighting chronic illness for a short or lengthy period of time, but also because it teaches us that discernment in our questions is crucial. Read these not as an opportunity to feel guilt for having asked such questions before, but as an opportunity to relate in some small way to these dear brothers and sisters who suffer this intense journey and still battle constant misunderstanding of their situation.

Now, I can’t speak for everyone who is chronically ill, but these things were said to me, as well as others I know who have suffered. I believe it’s important to speak out on this in hopes that some people can better understand how to handle such situations…15 Things not to say to someone who is chronically ill.

Responding to Sibling Sexual Abuse

Boz Tchividjian does great service here in this piece about sexual abuse among siblings.

The past few weeks has brought to the surface a painful topic that most of us would prefer to pretend doesn’t exist. Unfortunately, that is not an option. Juveniles’ account for more than one-third of those known to police to have committed sexual offenses against minors. Many of these young offenders are victimizing their own siblings. One study found that juveniles who sexually abuse siblings do so at a rate of approximately five times the rate of parent-child sexual abuse.   Because this horror is almost too much to comprehend, most adults have not stopped to consider what to do if it is discovered that one of their children is sexually abusing another child.

– Read the entire piece.

How Can I Understand? Thoughts on Counseling from Acts 8

How Can I Understand? Thoughts on Counseling from Acts 8

So Philip ran to him and heard him reading Isaiah the prophet and asked, “Do you understand what you are reading?” And he said, “How can I, unless someone guides me?” And he invited Philip to come up and sit with him.

In Acts 8, we are reminded of the familiar story of the Ethiopian Eunuch. The wealthy Ethiopian had been worshipping in Jerusalem.  Upon his return home he began to read aloud the words of the prophet Isaiah. Intrigued by them, he sought the help of someone who was capable of interpreting that text. The Ethiopian found an interpreter of Scripture, but also an interpreter of life. Philip’s interpretation was not only a Messianic interpretation, but also a fulfillment of Isaiah 52:14-15, which promised that Yahweh would sprinkle the nations. The Ethiopian was sprinkled/washed clean from his transgressions. He began to see that Messiah suffered so that he might have life.

This passage establishes in many ways the need for biblical counseling. Counselees are asking Philip’s questions. Their lives torn by a host of events have clouded their understanding of life, and sometimes even the Bible itself. It is incumbent then, for counselors, to come alongside the hurting and the needy and provide an accurate view of their lives through the lens of the Bible.

Jesus is the starting point of all healing. He is the suffering servant, who received no justice, according to Isaiah’s prophecy. The interpreter/counselor begins by pointing to Jesus. He guides the counselee to see that Jesus is the answer to his despair. But he is not simply pointing him to a concept, but to a Person. Jesus, as Person, died and suffered. Jesus, as concept, offers no hope.

Notice that Philip ran to him. Philip understood the pain and despair of the eunuch. Philip was troubled by the eunuch’s lack of knowledge. The Spirit guides us to those who are most troubled, whether rich or poor. Philip, the counselor, then asked a question.

A few observations concerning the text above:

Notice that Philip asked him a question. Counselors are in the question-asking business. A porn-addict may benefit from a stern rebuke, but the porn addict has already been rebuked by his own conscience, which is why he is seeking interpreation. A porn addict needs to probe his motivations and his justifications behind seeking his sinful habits. He needs to think through his worldview before he can see that it is deeply flawed. Questions will bring these assumptions to the surface.

Notice that the counselee needed help. Counselors cannot help those who do not wish to be helped. The counselee acknowledged that his answers, his attempts to be good, his efforts to get away from certain habits were not paying off. He realized that unless someone guides him his efforts will all be in vain.

Guiding someone is a form of life interpretation. The counselor needs to take the counselees’ assumptions about the world and dissect them, so that the counselee can see the context surrounding his sins. He may be oblivious to his own environment. He may not know that the culture he is imbibing is causing a greater urge to immerse himself in those sins. He needs guidance to see that his interpretation is flawed.

Finally, notice that the eunuch invites the counselor to come and sit by him. This is not always the case. The work of the Spirit, of course, was already humbling the eunuch. His worship experience had already softened his own mind to seek wisdom. In some cases, the counselor needs to make aware to the counselee that he needs help and guidance. At times pride will keep the individual from seeking any help. He is certain that his lack of knowledge of the text and of his own life is not a problem and that in time he will learn to deal with it. This is where community life becomes crucial to the individual. If sins are simply seen as separated acts from the community, then they bear no weight on anyone else besides the individual. If, however, sins are communal by nature, then making known to the addicted man that he needs guidance becomes a necessary component of community life. The hurting has little hope of finding a right interpretation if he has no one willing to point out his need of one.

The eunuch was baptized. Philip’s interpretation offered him a perspective that changed him and caused him to act upon it. Counselors offer interpretation that will change the course of action of the counselee. Counselors, by God’s grace, will offer a message of hope. Jesus is that hope. The One who received no justice offers justice in the sight of God to those who humble themselves and seek his guidance. Jesus sat with us and offered us an interpretation of our lives that made us whole.

The Failure of Silence in the Church


I believe this monumental failure on the part of the Christian community is a consequence of its failure to understand and embrace the gospel. The gospel tells us that it is Christ’s perfection, Christ’s obedience, Christ’s holiness, Christ’s selflessness (the list could go on and on and on) that reconcile dark and depraved sinners such as you and me with a perfect, sovereign, and loving God. Put another way, it is the “good works” of Jesus, not us, that draw us into the arms of our Heavenly Father. The consequence of fully grasping and embracing this indescribable truth is that we discover that our identity is not in ourselves and what we do, but in Christ and what He has done. Therefore, when we seek to control and protect the institution, we display that we have failed to understand the very fundamentals of the gospel. This control and protectionism is often carried out under the guise of “protecting the integrity of the gospel,” when it reality it is nothing more than protecting the identity and reputation of the institution.

Perhaps the most common method of such protectionism is secrecy and silence. An institutional-centered church will do all it can to silence those who expose sin in order to protect its “reputation within the community.” A Gospel-centered church will embrace light and be transparent about sin. It will also lovingly embrace those wounded by sin, regardless of what others may think or say, understanding that its identity and reputation is in Christ alone.

by Basyle “Boz” Tchividjian, Founder and Executive Director

Godly Response to Abuse in the Christian Environment (GRACE)

 

Responding to Bob Jones University’s Response to G.R.A.C.E

Bob Jones University has been in the spot-light in these past several months. After hiring and firing and hiring again G.R.A.C.E, Bob Jones found itself in the middle of a firestorm. The multitude of responses came immediately from local pastors in Greenville, SC to well-known figures in the media. BJU finally offered the green light, so that GRACE would finish its report.

The report released on December 11, 2014, offered 300 pages of meticulous accounts and recommendations for the well-known fundamentalist university.  The recommendations were specific. The university asked for 90 days to respond to the report. The response came recently through BJU’s president, Steve Pettit. You can read the entire transcript here. a

Though some were pleased with the university’s response, those who were directly affected by the poor and irresponsible counsel given to victims of sexual abuse and those who understand that abused victims need more than theological propositions to heal from the profound belittling of one’s humanity that occurs in sexual abuse, found President Pettit’s response to be a disgraceful attempt to rescue the reputation of BJU. Rather than reaching out compassionately to those who were damaged by the university’s dangerous counsel, BJU’s response proved that there is no inherent interest in following GRACE’s detailed recommendations. There was no attempt to offer a systemic undoing of the university’s overarching counseling narrative.

What follows are the testimonies of three such people who felt betrayed by BJU’s response and understood the response to be nothing more than beautifying the dead:

Almost two years ago, BJU asked people like me to take an online survey.  They told us that they wished to learn about the experiences of those whom, during their time at BJU, received counseling for sexual abuse.  BJU told us that they wanted hear our stories to assist them in evaluating their counseling program.  And almost two years ago, I went online and took that survey.  Then I was asked to travel and meet with some people who wanted to discuss my experiences in greater depth.  So I went and met a team of 4 people.  Four strangers.  And I told those four strangers my very darkest secrets; memories that I had tried very hard to forget.  It shredded my soul to revisit those parts of my life.  But I believed I was doing something helpful. I was helping BJU to evaluate and improve their counseling program. The counseling that misapplied scripture and shamed me.  The counseling that sent me back to my abuser to make sure he knew he needed God’s forgiveness.  Interviewing with GRACE was a painful experience from start to finish.  But I had no regrets.  I felt that what I was doing was important.

I read the GRACE report, and was proud of the work they had done.  They compiled our stories.  Many voices, from different generations.  Yet our voices echoed each other.  Our stories were similar.  Some so similar, that I wasn’t sure if I was reading my own words or someone else’s.   And those stories clearly showed that BJU did need to make changes.  And I believed that the University would listen to us.  When many others didn’t, and when cynicism abounded, I still believed.

Then, the apology.  An apology from a person who was not guilty of anything other than being the president of BJU on March 10, 2015.  He, personally, had no reason to apologize.  He read his scripted statement.  Told me that they had listened; that they were sorry that we had been hurt.  That we didn’t receive adequate “comfort and guidance.” Please forgive them.  And I continued to believe that the cynics were wrong.  But as I continued to listen, I slowly began to grasp that I was the one who had been fooled.  According to him, BJU had already put in place changes.  They were already doing things the right way.  They had their lawyers go over everything; all of their files and papers and notes, and everything was ship-shape.

BUT, they want to meet with me.  They want to hear my story personally.  They want me to call them and share my experience.  Why would I do this?  They asked me to meet with GRACE and share my experience.  And I did.  At a very great price, I did what they asked.  And they have said that they did everything according to Biblical standards, and in compliance with all laws.  What would be the point of meeting with them?  I’ve told my story already.

Now I sit and watch from the sidelines – the armchair commentary.  Every kind of opinion.  Some, upholding that the University can do no wrong.  An attitude of complete and total idolatry.  Others, that the University can do no right.  An attitude of anger and revenge.  And I feel lost in the middle of it all.  On the one side, I feel scorn.  On the other I feel pity.  It’s said I must be a tool of Satan to destroy God’s school.  It’s insinuated that I must be a needy desperate soul whose entire life has been derailed by the trauma I suffered.  I’ve been called brave.  I’ve been called bitter.  I’ve been accused of being in such poor spiritual condition that I have no right to instruct BJU on any spiritual matters.  Some nod along, some shake their heads.  The cynics still tell me I should have known; they knew how it would turn out and I’m foolish for not seeing it too. It’s easy to try to “paint me by numbers;” to determine what kind of person I must be.  Because I’m faceless.  I’m nameless.  My story, detailed in the GRACE report, is easily torn apart and dissected.  Each side for their own purposes and motives.  My story, pieced together with the stories of others; resulting in opinions, and more opinions, and even more opinions.

And today, one day after BJU’s response, I can only think of one word to describe my current feelings.  Regretful.  I wish I had never taken the survey.  I am told that “they” are sorry, but not by the ones who have something for which they should be sorry.  I’m patted on the hand and assured that they are doing better.  Which I suppose should please me, except that I’m told they were already working their way there long ago. They were already getting it right.  Without me.  My voice, just one among many, wasn’t needed after all.  And both the scorn and the pity, they have tugged at me.  Scorn coming from ones who don’t realize that they know me.  From critics who don’t realize, while they look down on me, that they sat at dinner with me many years ago.  They were my friends.  And now they assume the worst of me.  Pity coming from people who mean nothing to me, who assume I need it because it benefits them.  I am a useful tool in a vendetta that has nothing to do with me.

I can’t say, exactly, what Dr. Pettit could have said yesterday that would make me feel satisfied.  I’ve struggled to come up with the “right answer.”  I’m not writing this to figure all of those answers out. I’m weary of trying to figure it out.  I’m writing this to say – I wish I had never taken the survey.  I wish I had never interviewed.  My voice has been heard, but not valued.  If they didn’t truly want to hear it, why did they ask for it in the first place?  I’m quite certain I would have been better off had I never been involved.  But I wanted it to mean something. And, ultimately, it didn’t.  An extravagant waste.

–Anonymous

 

I believe that Steve Pettit’s apology was basically a non-apology because only external things have been changed.  The heart of the problem is the way they SEE people and how they SEE themselves, and that has not changed.  I don’t know how they can say with a straight face that they want victims to come to talk to them and that they want the university to be a place of solace when they continue to offend by holding onto their pride and refusing to submit to deep change at the level of the heart.

I am heartbroken over their stance, but I still have hope. My hope is in Christ, not an institution of flawed people.  I think the GRACE report has exposed their condition, so the report was not in vain from that standpoint.

–Kristi Wetzel

 

“Over the years, we have had a number of students come to BJU who had experienced sexual abuse prior to their association with BJU. Many of these victims reached out to our faculty and staff for help and were lovingly served and comforted. However, there were some who came to us and did not experience the loving and comforting environment they deserved in their time of need.”b

But he doesn’t mention what we received instead.  In my case I received blame from Jim Berg for my problems of flashbacks and dissociation. I was told the reason I had the problems I did was because I wasn’t thinking on things that are lovely.  I was at fault for not appropriately applying Phillipians 4:8.  He told me I was choosing to dwell on the past and think about those things and that’s why I was there like I was in a TV show that was playing.  I didn’t have the word for flashback and Jim Berg never told me there was a word for what I was describing to him about what was happening to me.  At the time he was counseling me I also described to him my experiences in leaving his office after counseling and “waking up” somewhere way on the back side of campus.  There is a word for that too, “dissociation”.

I really want to write out a well reasoned response to how BJU has responded to the GRACE report. I don’t know that I can. I am still reeling from their claim that their counseling is not the problem and they don’t intend to change it. How in the world can they have read the GRACE report and come to that conclusion?

I filled out the questionnaire and later interviewed with GRACE. It took me almost two years to get back to a place of stability. Right now I am reeling and am still basically in shock, even though I expected them to do nothing substantial or to truly own up to the damage their counseling causes. Maybe way down deep I did have hope for change. Maybe that’s why this hurts so much.

When Steve Pettit said, “I know many of you are saying to yourselves that what I’ve said about our discipline culture and counseling response isn’t a fair reflection of BJU as a whole. I know it’s not. But we have to own this problem, and we have to have the courage to deal with it in the right way for God’s glory.” They aren’t owning the problem. The counseling at BJU is woven throughout the entire school. The things said to me in private counseling by Jim Berg were also said in chapel and also appeared in his book Changed Into His Image. This is the same counsel that caused me such incredible harm. And they are keeping it. They aren’t following the recommendations to remove all of Jim Berg’s, Walter Fremont’s and Bob Wood’s counseling material and books.

I’m out of words, I’m left with shaking and sweating hands. Just this attempt to corral my thoughts that are flying a thousand directions, in order to express my reaction, is emotionally exhausting and I’ve even found myself sobbing uncontrollably.

–Anonymous

  1. You can watch the video here  (back)
  2. Quotation from Steve Pettit  (back)

The Abuse of Introspection

Some people dwell so much on their sinfulness that they find themselves constantly bombarding their status with doubt. Am I really a Christian? Am I worthy? These questions are not atypical of those who grow up in environments where internalized Christianity is emphasized. There is a healthy form of self-examination and Paul informs Pastors (II Corinthians 13:5) to encourage parishioners to examine themselves. At the same time, there is a difference between self-examination and introspection that is not often considered.

It is worth mentioning that God cares about our hearts. Out of it can flow the waters of destruction or waters of peace (Ps. 42). The repentant psalmist cries that God would create in him a clean heart, and that God would restore the joy of his salvation. Here again it is important to notice that this salvation has a face, a joyful one.

Martyn-Lloyd Jones wrote that a depressed Christian is not a good apologetic for Christianity. Whether there are physiological components at the root of this depression or not, it is still not a good presentation of the Christian faith. Depression is a form of despising God’s gifts and goodness. All of us are prone to it, and all of us must fight it. Schmemann once wrote that “Of all accusations against Christians, the most terrible one was uttered by Nietzsche when he said that Christians had no joy.” Joy is not forced, rather it is the natural outflow of a heart saturated with grace.

But aren’t we all sinners in need of repentance? While Simul Iustus et Peccator is true, we can over-stress the clarity of our sinfulness. I am aware of pastors who declare with great boldness the sinfulness of men without declaring with great boldness the sublime fact of the justification of men through the act of the ascended Messiah. This latter part seems to be missing in our day. The doctrine of total depravity has had the effect of depriving many Christians from a life of common joy lived in the presence of the One who has become our joy. While stressing man’s condition as sinful is important, an over-use of this hermeneutical tactic can lead men and women to live lives of doubt and insecurity.

While we invest time in our spiritual journeys to reflect and examine our lives, and to see if there are any wicked way in our thoughts and actions, we must invest an even greater time nourishing the spiritual magnitude of our status before God. When we live our lives in a constant environment of self-mortification we will mortify not only our flesh, but also our joy.

Martyn Lloyd-Jones writes in his insightful Spiritual Depression: Its Causes and Cures that “we cross the line from self-examination to introspection when, in a sense, we do nothing but examine ourselves, and when such self-examination becomes the main and chief end in our life (17).” When the chief end of man becomes self-examination there will always be a temptation to morbidity and spiritual depression. By constantly “putting our souls on a plate and dissecting it” we are showing the world a severe level of insecurity in our union with the reigning and risen Lord.

There are vast implications for all of this. Two examples will suffice to make this point:

First, introspective people–as I hinted earlier–rarely find time for others’ needs.  They have the immensity of their own depraved heart to occupy themselves. I have seen this played out throughout the years and, in fact, I speak from experience. When one delves deeply routinely into the many conspiracies of the heart he will sink in them. The heart is deceitful above all things, even deceiving us to think we only need to dwell in it.  The pastor may encourage his people to examine whether they are loving, desiring, and pursuing God as they should. But if this is the theme of his preaching and pastoral ministry he is building a congregation of morbid purists. This is why–I argue–there is legitimacy to those who call us to look to Jesus (Heb. 12:2). But generally when some call us to look to Jesus, they are in fact calling us to look back to our hearts to see whether we are looking to Jesus. Again, this is problematic and only exacerbating the problem. We do not look to Jesus as a lucky-charm, rather we look to Jesus because we reflect his glory and righteousness. Those who are united to Jesus become like Jesus. Those who worship Jesus become like Jesus. We look to Jesus, so that we move from self-examination to living out our faith with joy, peace, and abundant satisfaction (Ps. 16:11).

Ultimately, introspection is deadly. It is not surprising, then, to see those who walk about with defeatist spirits sporting their defeatist introspective theology.

Secondly, this motif plays out in the Eucharistic life of a church. At this point, I criticize even my own Reformed tradition. Though strongly committed to Reformed truth I am also aware that instead of producing joyful Christians, our tradition produces an army of introspective experts.

This is seen most clearly in the Reformed liturgy. Some churches justify their monthly or quarterly communion by stating that the congregation needs a week or more to examine themselves for the day (usually Sunday evening) of the Lord’s Supper. But what kind of vision are we perpetuating for our people? That the Lord’s Supper depends on our worthiness? That the Supper demands an environment of perfected introspection? That the Supper and somberness are part of the same context?

It is my contention that until we are able to undo the decisively introspective evangelical culture we are going to provide ammunition to non-Christians. We must recover a healthy self-examination, but also a redemptive display of over-abundant joy.

Dear Sister: Response on Forgiveness

Dear sister,a

You have stated that the common view of forgiveness indicates that you are supposed to forgive the man who harmed you physically, psychologically, and perpetually as you go about your day. Though you are no longer under his control–thanks be to God–you still suffer the immense pain and agony by re-living those moments every time–or almost every time–someone uses certain language, when someone jokes about abuse, when someone sounds like an abuser, and when someone trivializes that abuse. So, you are told, suck it up! Live with it! Move on and forgive him.

My responses to these requests are meant to be brief, but to the point. Forgiveness is not a dispensing machine. An abuser cannot simply press a button and demand that you act accordingly. So, principle number one is that if the abuser demands forgiveness from you and acts as if he deserves it, tell him that you are a human being and that you will not be treated like a machine. Forgiveness, if you wish to be theological, is covenantal.

Forgiveness is complex at this level. Not all relationships are created equal. At the very least, this conversation between victim and abuser can only be initiated if said abuser has changed his ways, proven that he has suffered the consequences of his actions, has placed himself in a community where his sins are known, and if the case involves sexual abuse, that he not be working near any children. If those conditions are met, then by all means begin the conversation if you are prepared. But though he may be ready to proceed and though the conditions are met, make sure that you are surrounded by a safe community, with a pastor (s) that understand the severity of the damage done and have agreed to walk with you through this process.

Dismiss any comment from counselors who make you feel guilty for suffering such abuse. Better yet, run away from them.  You may think you have found an advocate, but you really are dealing with someone with little capacity to understand the depths of human pain. I pray you will find a voice of reason in a sea of miserable counsel.

Yours truly,

Uri Brito

  1. These names will remain anonymous  (back)

10,000 Moments

Our tendency is sometimes to think that the essence of our existence is composed of that one decision, one fundamental answer to a question that changed everything. And indeed that one moment may have changed much of your life. But here is the reality as we enter this New Year: the most important and life-changing decisions happen in the ordinary, day-to-day moments of our lives.

The Christian faith does not rest simply in the big, dramatic moments of change. The fact of the matter is this: the transforming work of grace operates in 10,000 little moments more than it does in a series of two or three life-altering events.

Paul Tripp puts it this way:

          The character and quality of your life won’t be defined by two or three life-changing moments. No, the character and quality of your life will be defined by the       10,000 little decisions, desires, words, and  actions you make every day.

What an important reality as we begin this year!

Your future or your life or your narrative is not going to be defined by that one great event; it is going to be defined by 10,000 little events. These are what shape you. And on this day of corporate worship we come together to begin several little events. We come to confess our sins. We come to celebrate the God who forgives us. We come to eat and drink together as a community of grace in a year—that by God’s goodness—will fill our hearts by 10,000 moments of love and peace and joy in Christ Jesus, our Lord.

5 Lessons I Learned During My Family’s Sickness

It began sometime on the 21st of December. Then it continued through Christmas and ended on December 31st. We were able to open up gifts on the 25th, but soon thereafter the lethargy crept in and the next few days felt like the apocalypse had descended in our home. A normal, two-parent home needed to work overtime to keep up with the needs. And the needs were so many. While we had one in our arms another cried for help. We served and served and served only to wake up the following day to sad little faces desperately feeling the discomfort of this fallen world. Their once energetic dispositions gave in to the nauseating sensations. We couldn’t do a thing. We were surrounded by good counselors and we did what every parent did. The doctor said that it just had to run its course. Child after child went through the cycle. They were sick and tired. And that is not just a metaphor. So, we persevered. And on the other side of that miserable week I stop now to consider what I learned from it. Many parents reminded me that they had gone through this with their own kids and large families like mine cannot escape it. Crisis meet opportunity. Opportunity for what? To consider lessons learned when all your children are sick through the most festive week of the year.

Here they are:

First, I am grateful to have a wife next to me in this battle. And what a great warrior she is. It was like a tag-team. We knew each other’s strengths and we knew what each could tolerate and couldn’t. It was an amazing thing to watch.

Second, I learned that children pray through their pain and sickness. They become aware that something is not right and they know that Someone needs to act on their behalf. Through these many days we learned to rely on something beyond medication, shots, herbs, or whatever it may be. We learned to trust God.

Third, I learned that entertainment is made for such a time as this. Thank God for chromecast. For Bible stories. For Netflix. Yes, we can blame everything on television, but in times like this, it can be a real life-saver and it can provide husband and wife some additional restoration before the next battle.

Fourth, I learned that children are an amazing gift from God and how honored I am to serve them through this time.

Finally–and this was a realization we considered throughout and will help us consider it more deeply in the future–suffering together is redemptive. Suffering ought never to happen alone. My children needed us, but by needing us we redeemed each other in the process. They were not afraid to ask us for our help. At no time did we make them feel like they were a burden to us. Of course, we wished and prayed fervently that all this would go away, but we were being redeemed before our very eyes. They were the least of these and we clothed them and gave them water to drink.

We awoke on this new year refreshed. The windows were opened and they were smiling again. We were redeemed. They redeemed us. Yes. Their sickness made us whole.

Everybody Needs Counseling

I sat to counsel someone recently. And he stated the obvious to me: “If everyone,” he said, “really thought about it they would be sitting right here.” The truth was pure and simple. It was refreshing to hear it. We all need counseling. I need counseling. You need counseling. We may need professional counseling from trained individuals, or we may need a shoulder to cry from our neighbor. God has given us two or three friends in a lifetime to fulfill that role. It is a powerful role. I am grateful if you have that function in someone’s life or if someone has that role in yours.

If that is the case, and if the biblical record affirms the “one-anothers” again and again, what keeps us from seeking counseling? Basically, pride. What Augustine referred to as the first and last sin to overcome man. We are too big to need others or the counsel of others. Most of us will rather endure the pain of day-to-day by ourselves than open ourselves to others. This is remarkably inhuman. God created us to need others, to depend on others, to serve others, to be faithful to others, to submit to others, to be humbled by others, to confess our sins to others. In short, God created us to never face anything alone. Yet, again and again, many do. Many prefer to do it this way. They prefer to suffer the agony of pain in the high of self-absorption.

The individual I met recently was very aware of his need. His self-awareness made him an easy person to counsel. His attentiveness and lack of need to defend himself or his own actions made him an easy target for the Spirit of God to work. His life is finding redemption. It is a slow process, but that’s ok, because in counseling this person sees that his sins were many, so time is the least of worries, rather the individual wants to know that he is re-structuring his thinking after the thoughts of God. He doesn’t want to miss a point. He wants to hear every angle and every perspective. It matters to him. His assumption that he needs counseling is the key to his success.

New Year Resolutions

If 2015 is going to be successful, and I pray it is, seek counseling. If your marriage is in trouble, abandon your pride and seek help from a pastor or a qualified Christian counselor in the area. If your pornography problem has been knocking at your door daily or consistently and you no longer fear opening the door, seek counseling. Seek confession and help. If relational problems are overwhelming, seek reconciliation. Do not allow this new year to become another year of self-absorbtion, self-pity, and self-help. Seek and you shall find.

Make your new year’s resolution to be a resolution of repentance; repentance for believing the lie that you can self-medicate your problems without others; repentance for trusting your expertise and your sophisticated ability to justify before a court of your imagination your sins and to continue in them. Here’s the honest truth: you and I need counseling.