Jesus promised that in this life, we all will have trouble (John 16:33). Your trouble may be an addiction—to alcohol, drugs, pornography, shopping. It may be depression— loss or disappointment has left you in a dark and hopeless place. It could be anger— at your spouse, child, God, or even yourself. Marriage is always difficult, and often disappointing! We can’t avoid trouble, and it shouldn’t be resisted (James 1:2-4)). It is God’s process for growth and change. God has given us three resources for personal transformation: his Word (the Bible), his Spirit (God himself lives within us to empower us), and his people (other Christians whom God uses to help us grow and change). Day in, day out, for the rest of our lives, God uses these three resources as we worship with other believers, hear God’s Word preached, study it ourselves and in small groups, apply it in the power of the Holy Spirit, as “iron sharpens iron” we all help each other, slowly but surely, become transformed into the image of Christ. This is the “general stream” of discipleship. But every now and then there’s a rock in the river—an obstacle in the Christian life which has the power to get us stuck. In these situations God uses those same three resources, but they are applied in a “focused”, rather than a “general”, way. Biblical counseling is just “focused” discipleship.
You may have tried therapy—perhaps even for years. You may even have tried Christian counseling and been disappointed—remember, not all “Christian” counseling is actually biblical. You may have chosen to try medications—or to avoid them altogether. Will biblical counseling help you? In most situations, the answer is “yes”. Biblical counseling is built upon the conviction that the Bible is sufficient for addressing every personal, inter-personal, and spiritual problem (Psalm 19:7-14). The Bible contains principles which relate to every non-organic human problem (for “organic”, bodily problems, we see a physician), and even when we do have a physical (organic) difficulty, the Bible gives us hope and help so that we can experience joy—even if our problem never goes away. The Bible is Christ-centered. Jesus Christ is the “Wonderful Counselor” and the “Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6). So biblical counseling is ultimately not about therapy, teachings, or a generic god—it points us to Jesus Christ and helps us know him so we can become more like him.
Growth and change is not automatic; it will not happen without work. In 1 Timothy 4:7, the Greek word rendered “discipline” is gumnaz, from which we get our word, “gymnasium”. What will biblical counseling be like? It will help you understand God’s purposes for your life—and to re-orient your goals. It will help you identify areas where your desires —be they for love, acceptance, success, peace, power, pleasure, meaning, comfort, control, freedom, happiness, or respect—have grown into demands. Does biblical counseling talk about sin? Yes—but that’s not all bad! If our desires have grown into sinful demands, that is a good thing to find out! Not all of our problems are due to our own sin, but wherever we’ve contributed to our difficulties, we want to know. Sin has a solution, and God will graciously give it to you! Biblical counseling will not “fix” you, me, or any of us. As long as we’re in this fallen world we all will continue to suffer and struggle with sin. But receiving biblical counsel can be a helpful step in your journey toward Christlikeness.
Many people ask, “But shouldn’t I go to a ‘professional’?” For the suffering of this life, Christ is Who we need (Colossians 1:9—2:23), and he equips believers to counsel one another (Romans 15:13-14). Sure, some people have greater gifts and abilities than others do—but the Bible teaches that believers who allow their minds to be shaped by the truths of Scripture are able to counsel one another. (Of course, it is better when believers also get training in helping others carefully apply the Bible for life-change.) One last question—one that I hope is unnecessary at this point—but I’ll go ahead and ask it: “Isn’t counseling just for those with severe problems?!” Absolutely not! The Bible presents counseling one another as a normal part of the Christian life. It’s just focused discipleship.
Application / Challenge
- Get fully engaged in the general stream of discipleship, making use of the three resources God has given us for growth and change: his Word, his Spirit, and his people.
- Please consider joining the group of TCCers who will be attending this fall’s Counseling and Discipleship Training conference. Go to tcc.org and click on “counseling” in the header.
- Finally, if you feel at all “stuck” in your Christian life, if you’re ready for a marriage “tune-up”, if there’s some habit you’d like focused help in changing—please let TCC’s Biblical Counseling Ministry help you. Just write to email@example.com. At TCC, counseling is absolutely free!