The Lost Value in Biblical Counseling
I recently had a conversation with some friends about why people don’t see pastors, and biblical counselors in general, as valid individuals to go to when having problems with things like anxiety, depression and addictions. In my experience, it seems like pastors are the David in the bible among his brothers…the last to be thought of when it comes to going to battle. They are the caboose of the train, merely being asked to pray. Pastors are informed that someone is having a problem with depression at the same time they are informed that the counselee has already been seeing a psychiatrist for weeks or months and are on medicine for it.
Don't misunderstand me. This isn’t an attempt to make anyone feel guilty for not going to a biblical counselor, nor is it to pit the bible against medicine. After all, as Heath Lambert points out in this video, we are both a body and a soul. Therefore, if there is a physical condition then we should see a medical doctor, and if there is a counseling related issue, we should see a counselor. Sometimes, however, the problem is some kind of mixture, so to take a holistic approach (body and soul) requires to seek help from both.
The Bible and Hope
The point in bringing this up isn’t out of jealousy, but really a curiosity with an intention to help by discovering the disconnect in this sort of logic. My overarching question in finding the disconnect between the bible and counseling is this: “How do we develop a culture where biblical counseling is both valued and longed for?” One of my close friends helped me by pointing out that the missing link is a lack of hope that the bible offers hope to these sorts of issues. Simply put, we often don’t believe the bible addresses our problems with sufficient hope. I’m not sure if people realize that much of the same things that people struggle with today are actually things people in the bible struggled with as well…and they were helped. The bible addresses many of the problems that we find ourselves in today and offers hope. Consider David on one point.
At times, David felt so low and experienced so much pain that it felt as if his bones had been broken (Psalm 51:8). Once he wrote that it felt like the Lord had a big “heavy hand” that was pressing him down (depressed) and that his “strength was dried up as by the heat of summer” (Psalm 32:4). Can anyone dealing with depression resonate? But David clearly experienced healing throughout his life by God’s word.
“The law of the LORD is perfect, reviving the soul; the testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple;” (Psalm 19:7)
The Bible’s Claim of Sufficiency
The reality that God has chosen to communicate through His word a message of hope to those who need it brings confidence that God really is concerned with the problems that we experience. In fact, the entire bible is dedicated to showing off God’s initiative in helping us with our greatest problem - sin. So, God has communicated with us, and in communicating with us, “has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness” (2 Peter 1:3). In other words, God has spoken with sufficient knowledge on how to take on anything (“all things”) that we may face in living a godly life. One other passage that shows this idea is 2 Timothy 3:16-17.
“All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” (2 Timothy 3:16-17)
For our purpose, highlight two important words in your mind from that text. Those words are “profitable” and “complete.” “Scripture,” or all of the bible, is profitable for something. It is beneficial for something. Its purpose in being given is to accomplish something. What’s it to accomplish? It is to make us “complete.” The idea is that we are to be perfect for a specific task, which we see from this verse, is to be complete for “every good work.” Now, that word “complete” is interesting because it first implies that we are currently incomplete. This means that we are not perfect for every good work. This means that there will be things in life that come our way that we will handle badly, and will repeatedly handle them badly until the word of God makes us “complete.” We will not handle stress well and will therefore be anxious. We will not handle sad circumstances well and will therefore sink into depression. We will not seek joy in Jesus perfectly and will therefore submit to false gods in the form of addictions.
Again, this doesn’t negate that sometimes there are physical, organic issues at play as well. However, these truths certainly give room, I think even a great deal of room, for the need of the word of God. More specifically, it creates room for biblical counseling.