Common Barriers To Seeking Biblical Counseling, Part 2
Over the next few months, the Gospel Care Center will be providing some Biblical Care and Counseling articles that we hope will be edifying to our New Covenant congregation.
Following is Part 2 of the article, Common Barriers To Seeking Biblical Counseling. Part 1 appeared in last week's blog post. It has been condensed and re-worked from an original article by Daniel L. Weiss, who is the Media and Sexuality Analyst for Focus on the Family.
These are some of the common barriers that keep people from seeking Biblical counseling.
Just as common as social stigma, there is a strain of thought among Christians that counseling is somehow contrary to God’s Word, and therefore should be avoided. They hold the Bible up and insist that everything we need for life is contained within. Although this is a proper spiritual approach, it can definitely be misapplied.
God designed us as embodied persons. He endowed us with a body and spirit. The Bible doesn’t contain up-to-date medical manuals, but few Christians would refuse a doctor’s treatment because they couldn’t locate the proper chapter and verse authorizing them to do so. A Biblical Counselor isn’t really different than that of any Christian. He or she needs to exercise discernment by filtering everything through the screen of God’s Word. In this way, a Biblical approach to Christian counseling would reject methods and theories that contradicted God’s revealed truth.
Mental and physical health are similar in this regard. As our medical knowledge progresses, we understand more clearly just how intricate and wondrous God’s design is. Unlocking the mysteries of the mind does not replace our faith in Christ, it illuminates it.
Of all the reasons to avoid counseling, this is the most understandable. Many of the problems that lead to counseling are caused by painful experiences that a person often has no interest in reliving. Some of these include:
- Sexual abuse (childhood, rape, etc.)
- Physical abuse
- Addiction (for the addict or spouse)
- Major trauma or calamity
Just the thought of diving into those painful memories is enough to keep many people from seeking help throughout their lives. Even as we acknowledge the reality of this pain, we can also offer encouragement to move forward.
Consider a gunshot wound. The bullet hits its target without warning, completely upending a person’s world. The initial reaction is shock, pain, and fear. All efforts are centered on survival. Although the bullet did not kill its target, it caused major damage. Perhaps the bleeding was stopped and the entrance wound managed to heal over. Is this person healed at this point? No. The internal damage has never been properly treated and the bullet still moves around inside, causing further damage and bleeding. If left untreated forever, the internal wound could eventually kill the person.
Emotional wounds operate in much the same way. Many of them occur instantly, such as with the death of a loved one or the discovery of marital infidelity. Pain, shock, and fear immediately set in and our efforts are bent on simply surviving another day. Yet, deep within us, the internal wound is still open, bleeding, and dangerous.
Our fear is based on the pain of reopening the entrance wound, but this focus keeps us from seeing how destructive and dangerous the internal wound is. Reopening the wound will be painful for some as they begin counseling, as will finding and extracting the bullet that caused the wound. Yet, without getting to the source of our pain, we will never fully heal. We will always carry the weight of our original wound with us, and we will notice the bleeding from time to time as the wound tells us that it still isn’t healed, that it is still harming our lives.
While less common than the other barriers, having a previous bad experience with a counselor can be one of the hardest to overcome. A person with a prior experience that has not helped, not been focused, or has led to counseling abuse (a rare, but real occurrence), is unlikely to ever return. This negative experience compounds the initial trauma or situation that led the person to seek help, and may actually serve as a prison door locking the individual into his internal pain for the rest of his life.
If you find yourself in this situation, I encourage you to try again. Whatever past experience you may have had, there are steps you can take to ensure the same thing doesn’t happen again.
Thank you for taking time to consider these barriers to Biblical counseling. Please contact our Gospel Care Center at New Covenant if we can be of assistance in any of the areas described in this 2-part series.