Category Archives: Counseling Related Questions

Counseling Related Questions: What Does the Bible Say about Coping/Dealing with a Terminal Illness?

 

It certainly can be difficult to accept some of the sorrowful twists and turns that life brings our way. And there are few things that can stir the human soul more than the news of a terminal illness diagnosis. First of all, know that Jesus cares. Our Savior wept when His beloved friend Lazarus died (John 11:35), and His heart was touched by the sorrow of Jairus’ family (Luke 8:41–42).

Jesus not only cares; He is at hand to help His children. Our God is an “ever-present help in trouble” (Psalm 46:1). The Holy Spirit, the Comforter of our hearts, dwells with us, and He will never leave (John 14:16).

Jesus told us in this world we would have troubles (John 16:33), and absolutely no one is spared (Romans 5:12). Yet coping with any degree of suffering becomes easier when we understand God’s overall design to redeem our fallen world. We may not be guaranteed physical health in this life, but those who trust in God are promised spiritual security for all eternity (John 10:27–28). Nothing can touch the soul.

It is good to remember that not everything bad that happens to us is a direct result of our sin. Having a terminal illness is not proof of God’s judgment on an individual. Recall the time Jesus and His disciples came upon a man who had been blind since birth. They asked Jesus, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” Jesus responded, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned. But this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life” (John 9:2–3, emphasis added). Likewise, Job’s three friends were certain that his calamity resulted from sin in his life. Like Christ’s disciples, they were very wrong.

We may never understand the reasons for our particular trials this side of eternity, but one thing is clear—for those who love God, trials work for them, not against them (Romans 8:28). Moreover, God will give the strength to endure any trial (Philippians 4:13).

Our earthly life is a “mist” at best, and that’s why God has set eternity in our hearts (Ecclesiastes 3:11). God’s plan for His children includes their death, which is “precious in the sight of the LORD” (Psalm 116:15).

Ultimately, God’s will for us is to glorify Him and to grow spiritually. He wants us to trust and depend on Him. How we react to our trials, including the trial of terminal illness, reveals exactly what our faith is like. Scripture teaches us to offer our bodies as living sacrifices (Romans 12:1). In fact, “dying to self” is a requirement for those who seek to follow Jesus Christ (Luke 14:27). This means we completely subordinate our desires to those of our Lord. Like Christ at Gethsemane, “my” will needs to become “Thy” will.

The writer of Hebrews exhorts us to consider the suffering our Savior endured so that we ourselves do not grow weary and lose heart in our own trials. It was “for the joy set before Him” that Christ was able to endure the suffering of the cross. This “joy,” for Christ, was in obeying His Father’s will (Psalm 40:8), reconciling His Father with His creation, and being exalted to the right hand of the throne of God. Likewise, our own trials can be made more bearable when we consider the “joy” set before us. Our joy may come in understanding it is through testing that God transforms us into the likeness of His Son (Job 23:10; Romans 8:29). What we see as pain and discomfort and uncertainty our sovereign Father—who ordains or allows every event during our time on earth—sees as transformation. Our suffering is never meaningless. God uses suffering to change us, to minister to others, and, ultimately, to bring glory to His name.

Paul reminds us that our earthly troubles, which last only a short time, pale in comparison to our eternal glory (2 Corinthians 4:17–18). Commenting on these verses, one theologian stated, “God will never be a debtor to anyone. Any sacrifice we make or hardship we endure for His sake and by His Spirit, He will amply reward out of all proportion to what we suffered.”

If you have been diagnosed with a terminal illness, we would humbly offer this advice: make sure that you are a true child of God, having trusted Jesus as your Savior (Romans 10:9–10). Then, as Hezekiah was told, “put your house in order” (Isaiah 38:1); that is, make sure your will is ready and other important arrangements have been made. Use the remaining time God gives you to grow spiritually and minister to others. Continue to rely on the power of God for day-to-day strength, and, as the Lord gives grace, thank Him for your “thorn in the flesh” (2 Corinthians 12:7–10). Finally, take comfort in Jesus’ promise of eternal life and peace. “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid” (John 14:27).[1]

 

[1] Got Questions Ministries. (2010). Got Questions? Bible Questions Answered. Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

Counseling Related Questions: How Can a Christian Overcome Social Anxiety?

 

Anxiety disorders are the most common mental disorders in the U.S., with social anxiety disorders being number one among them. People who experience any type of anxiety may feel like they cannot control it, and indeed there are types that are triggered by physical conditions. But the fact that cognitive therapy is usually the best treatment for this type of disorder reveals the battle is most often in the mind. The Bible teaches that Christians can control how they think and what they think about because God has given us the Holy Spirit to teach such things (John 14:26–27). Most people never consider the fact that they can control their thoughts to a great degree. But with practice, prayer, and help from God, the battle can be totally overcome or at the very least controlled so that the anxiety is manageable (see Philippians 4:7). We know God’s plan for His children does not include a life of fear (2 Timothy 1:7).

Social anxiety (SA) is an unreasonable fear of being in public situations. Often, the sufferer of social anxiety disorder believes other people are examining him with a critical and judgmental eye. Sufferers are extremely self-conscious and are in perpetual fear of embarrassing themselves. Because those with social anxiety are usually perfectionists, a helpful thing to learn from Scripture is that no one is perfect, except for Jesus Christ (1 Peter 2:22). Western culture has bombarded people with the false idea that perfection can be attained if you look a certain way, own a certain thing, or have a certain career. The Bible tells us none of these things matter to God; He looks at the heart (1 Samuel 16:7). Those suffering from SA should realize they are not perfect—and neither is anyone else (Romans 3:23).

The principle of sowing and reaping is found throughout the Bible and is active in our everyday lives (Galatians 6:7; Proverbs 11:18). Jesus said, “Judge not, and you will not be judged; condemn not, and you will not be condemned; forgive, and you will be forgiven” (Luke 6:37). To the social anxiety sufferer, it appears everyone else seeks to judge him. This is often because he himself has a critical eye and has spent too much energy judging others. Because the social anxiety sufferer is so critical of himself and others, he assumes others have the same thinking. When we sow a forgiving, loving, merciful attitude toward others, we will also reap the same (Luke 6:38).

Many social anxiety sufferers have been victimized in the past by some sort of trauma or an overbearing, critical parent. However, it’s important to guard ourselves against repeating the same mistakes (Romans 7:15). Often, we develop attitudes without realizing it, and we must rely on the Holy Spirit, asking Him to produce His fruit in our lives (Galatians 5:22–23).

For those who struggle with social anxiety and extreme shyness, we encourage a biblical view of self. As believers, we are loved (Romans 5:8), we are accepted (Ephesians 1:6), and we are not condemned (Romans 8:1). Being secure in Christ, we have the freedom to reach out to others and love our neighbors as ourselves (Mark 12:33).[1]

 

[1] Got Questions Ministries. (2010). Got Questions? Bible Questions Answered. Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

Counseling Related Questions: Is Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) Compatible with the Christian Faith?

 

Neuro-linguistic programming is most often characterized as a form of psychotherapy that can be used to modify behavior patterns and treat problems such as phobias, depression, learning disorders, and the like. It has also been classified as a quasi-religion belonging to the New Age or Human Potential Movements. However, NLP can also be covert, and it is the hidden nature of this technique that leads to disquieting applications.

Specifically, NLP is a form of vocal and gestural hypnotism that is used by some public speakers—politicians, for example. In such a context, NLP is used to psychologically manipulate the listener without his or her knowledge. Most likely, some form of neuro-linguistic programming has been used on people throughout history. NLP leverages factors such as tone of voice, vocal modulation, pacing, leading, and anchoring to implant a suggestion directly into the subconscious, bypassing the critical thinking factors of the conscious mind. Some speakers use a teleprompter rather than written notes or memorization, because such technology can help cue the user’s speech patterns, timing, hand gestures, etc., in addition to the content.

The “effectiveness” and “success” of NLP comes from the practitioner’s ability to implant suggestions directly into the recipient’s subconscious mind. The subconscious does not make value or truth-claim judgments on its own; it relies upon the critical and logical thought of the conscious mind to reject false or inappropriate ideas or suggestions. A person will believe the ideas thus passed into the subconscious so strongly that he or she will experience cognitive dissonance if the ideas are questioned, causing anger, fear, or even violence.

This type of hypnosis, covert or not, is incompatible with the Christian faith. We don’t need hypnosis or any kind of pseudoscientific behavioral modifications. Our behavior is modified progressively as we become sanctified in Christ. In addition, Christians ought to carefully compare the things we hear and see with the truth of God’s Word. We are told in 2 Corinthians 10:4–5, “The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” Our thoughts are thus seen as something we need to conquer with spiritual weapons.

At all times, Christians ought to protect themselves by thinking about “whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable …” (Philippians 4:8). Believers are to rely upon God for all things, including behavioral modification.[1]

 

[1] Got Questions Ministries. (2010). Got Questions? Bible Questions Answered. Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

Counseling Related Questions: What Is Conversion/Reparative Therapy, and Is It Biblical?

 

Conversion therapy, also known as reparative therapy, is a blanket term used to describe various methods to “cure” people of homosexuality. In the past century, various psychiatrists, Christian and non-Christian, have proposed techniques for “converting” a homosexual into a heterosexual. In recent years, the psychiatric community has begun to strongly oppose conversion therapy, declaring it to be psychologically and emotionally harmful. Even some Christian groups that formerly advocated Bible-focused methods of conversion/reparative therapy have abandoned the efforts. Is conversion therapy biblical?

The Bible clearly declares homosexuality to be a sin (Romans 1:26–27; 1 Corinthians 6:9) and that any sin can, with God’s help, be overcome (Romans 6:17–18; 1 Corinthians 6:11; James 4:7–8). However, the Bible does not give a specific methodology for overcoming any particular sin. There is no 5-step process for gaining victory over lying. There is no 11-step program for defeating an addiction to pornography or sexual immorality. There is no silver bullet. There is no magic potion.

So, conversion therapy cannot be said to be explicitly biblically based. What has been done to some homosexuals in the name of conversion therapy is absolutely unbiblical. Electro-shock therapy, nausea-inducing drugs, exposure to heterosexual pornography—such things contradict what the Bible teaches about how to help someone overcome temptation. If a particular method of conversion therapy is devoid of biblical truth, it is nothing but junk psychology.

But a rejection of the specific methods used in conversion/reparative therapy is not the same thing as surrendering to the idea that homosexuality cannot be overcome. There are literally thousands of individuals who have achieved lasting victory over homosexual tendencies and temptations through faith in Jesus Christ. Far more important than testimonials is the biblical teaching that sin can be overcome. To say that faith in Jesus Christ, a commitment to obeying God’s Word, and a reliance on the power of the Holy Spirit cannot produce victory over sin is an affront to the love and power of God.

Sins, including homosexuality, can be overcome. Paul reminded the believers in Corinth that, before they received Christ, some of them were homosexuals, “but you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God” (1 Corinthians 6:11). Their homosexuality was a sin of the past, abandoned by the grace of God. Only when we are new creations in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17) can our sin natures be defeated. Only when we truly experience conversion to Christ can any true reparative process begin (Romans 12:1–2).[1]

 

[1] Got Questions Ministries. (2010). Got Questions? Bible Questions Answered. Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

Counseling Related Questions: Can God Break the Cycle of Generational Sin?

 

The Lord created families as a beautiful extension of His image. Sadly, in our fallen world we are born in a natural sinful state and can only be redeemed by our Creator. Our natural state is selfish at best and pathological at its worst. Dysfunction comes naturally to us. That is why salvation through Jesus is the key to breaking generational sin. Jesus offers us forgiveness, cleansing of sin, and real, unconditional love (1 John 1:9). Jesus gives His followers the power to love like He does, a love that is filled with grace and compassion. He is our example for how to love rather than loving ourselves or pleasures (John 13:34).

Jeremiah 32:18 says that the consequences of sin from one generation are visited on the next generations. Sin’s destructive consequences hurt the person committing the sin as well as those around him. Each generation has the choice to let their natural inclination repeat the cycle or to find a better way. People often want to break negative cycles but do not know how because the way of thinking they were raised with has confused them. In addition, breaking the cycle can divide families when a person decides to follow Jesus instead of family traditions (see Luke 12:51–53). Some family members will choose Christ and be rejected by their relatives for doing so.

Even without adversity from family members, it can be very difficult to recognize and break sinful patterns in families. The truth is that without Jesus no one can break the grip of sin. In fact, without Jesus humans do not see or comprehend the depth of man’s depravity. Therefore, salvation is the first step to breaking the cycle of generational sin. Then as the new generation begins a family must seek to follow the biblical model for marriage, parenting, and living in order to replace the old, destructive ways. Ephesians 5:21 summarizes God’s instruction for how family members ought to treat one another: “Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.” God instructs family members to honor and love one another, caring for each other’s needs as they care for their own. When family members submit to God’s command, the consequence is peace and fulfillment through loving relationships as God intended.

God created a perfect family system, but sin has damaged it. Our only way to have a family that bears fruit is to follow Christ. Instead of a cycle of pain, the generation that chooses to follow Jesus sows blessing for the generations to come. They will actually begin a cycle of blessing rather than dysfunction. God’s principle is that we reap what we sow (Galatians 6:7–9). Parents who invest their lives in loving and training their children will see adult children who thrive and walk with Christ (Proverbs 22:6). Children who are loved and valued will honor their parents. But sowing seeds of instant gratification and irresponsibility will reap a harvest of heartache.

Wounds from past hurts can be difficult to overcome. Some believers struggle with generational sin, especially if they are the first generation to follow Christ. It is difficult to honor those who have wounded us and to sacrifice our desires for the good of our children. Often, the old thinking patterns and beliefs cloud judgment. The weapon against being fooled by our natural pride and selfish point of view is the Bible. The Bible transforms our thinking. Knowing facts from the Bible is not the same as surrendering to the truths of the Bible. Victory comes through seeking a relationship with Jesus and examining ourselves to confess areas that need redeeming.

Jesus tells His followers to deny self and live for Him (Matthew 16:24–25). This means we will no longer live for what pleases us, but for what pleases Jesus. Jesus gives wisdom to those who follow Him so that they can make choices to obey in everything (Luke 1:17; James 1:5; 3:17). When we follow Christ, everything will eventually work in our favor and for our good (Romans 8:28). As a result of our relationship with Christ, we can now act like sons and daughters of God (Romans 12:2; 2 Corinthians 6:17–18). Our true family is the body of Christ, and God is a Heavenly Father to His children. Our choice to follow Christ is the greatest gift we can give to future generations.[1]

 

 

[1] Got Questions Ministries. (2010). Got Questions? Bible Questions Answered. Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.