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.

Counseling Related Questions: How Can I Stop Having Negative Thoughts? How Can I Overcome Negative Thinking?

 

Chronic negative thinking, depression, anxiety, and similar disorders are on the rise all over the world. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, 40 million adults in the U.S. are affected, which is nearly 20 percent of the population. Of that number, many are professing Christians.

Fear seems to be a root cause of many of these problems. It’s no wonder people are fearful in a world where it appears nothing is reliable. It can be quite disturbing for a person to realize almost everything in life is ultimately out of his control—from the weather to his bank account balance. All the things people rely on for their security will sooner or later fail them. But the Christian who confesses the sovereignty of an Almighty God who works all things for his good (Romans 8:28) has the antidote to negative thinking.

When a Christian’s thinking is primarily negative, anxious, or doubtful, it’s a sign of a serious lack of faith. The author of Hebrews states, “Without faith it is impossible to please God” (Hebrews 11:6), and, according to Proverbs 29:25, fear is a trap but trust in the Lord keeps a man safe. Jesus, when boating with His disciples during a terrible storm, asked them, “You of little faith, why are you so afraid?” (Matthew 8:26). Those who struggle with negative thinking should do the same thing they would do with any other sin—confess it (agree with God that negative thinking is wrong because it reveals a lack of trust) and make every effort to change the behavior.

Prayer is a key part of overcoming negativity. Jesus taught that prayer should include praise to the Father and a focus on His holiness (Matthew 6:9; see also Psalm 95:2). As we pray “with thanksgiving” (Philippians 4:6), we focus on the blessings we have received and leave no room for negative thoughts. The Holy Spirit will be faithful to help the repentant believer overcome negative thinking (Matthew 7:7–11).

Daily Bible reading, particularly studies which focus on the promises of God, are of great help in overcoming negative thinking. It’s helpful to remember that, no matter how dismal the present circumstances, Christians have been promised God’s love and victory in Christ (Romans 8:37–39; 2 Corinthians 2:14).

The Scriptures are bursting with admonitions from God to His people to overcome fear and doubt—over 350 commands to “fear not.” As a matter of fact, the one verbal encouragement Jesus gives more than any other is a call to fearless living (e.g., Matthew 6:25; 9:2; 10:28; 10:31).

The struggle against negative thinking is a battle for the mind. The apostle Paul tells believers what to think about: things that are true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent and praiseworthy (Philippians 4:8). Besides defining what thoughts should fill our minds, this text implicitly teaches that we can control what we think about. When a negative thought comes, the thinker who has the mind of Christ (1 Corinthians 2:16) has the ability to push it out of the mind and replace it with godly thoughts. This takes practice, but with persistence, it gets easier. Christians must think about what they’re thinking about and not allow their minds to have free reign. In our spiritual warfare, we’ve been given the helmet of salvation—spiritual armor for the mind.

As long as Christians live in a fearful, stressful world, negative thoughts will come. We have the option of either stamping out those thoughts or nurturing them. The good news is, negative thoughts can be replaced with positive ones, and the more that godly substitution takes place, the more peace and joy we can experience.[1]

 

 

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

Counseling Related Questions: What Is Christian Rehab? When Should a Christian Consider Going to Rehab?

 

Addiction is a serious issue with far-reaching effects. Many times a person’s behavior becomes so entrenched and so harmful that he or she needs treatment in a formal rehabilitation program to begin the process of recovery. Colloquially referred to as “rehab,” most treatment programs include detoxification, group therapy, psycho-education, introduction to outside support groups (generally 12-step programs), and individual counseling. Many treatment centers also provide psychiatric support for dual diagnoses (such as treatment for underlying depression or bipolar disorder), programs for affected family members, and training in life skills. Rehab is often thought of as an inpatient program, although outpatient rehab facilities do exist.

There are many similarities among treatment centers, but each has a unique mélange of programs and theoretical foundations. Some rehab facilities market themselves as Christian. Although specific approaches may differ, Christian rehabs generally consider God to be the primary healer in overcoming addiction, and they incorporate Christian tenets in the recovery process. Many Christian centers view addiction as primarily a spiritual problem, with biological, social, and emotional co-factors. Addiction is often linked to a desire to fill a void or to a fear of facing painful emotions. Christians understand that only God can fully satisfy and that He is able to carry our heartache (Matthew 11:28–30; 1 Peter 5:7; John 16:33). Christian rehab also views spirituality as an avenue of healing. The substance of abuse clearly cannot take God’s place; developing a person’s relationship with God will help him or her to stop using. In most Christian rehab, then, patients receive physical, psychological, and intellectual support, as well as spiritual guidance. Biblical truth becomes a key treatment tool.

Both the Bible and society speak against addiction, but this does not make Christians immune from the struggle. In Christ we are set free from sin (Romans 6:6–11; 8:2; John 8:36). However, we must also make an effort to live in that freedom. Paul talks about the Christian’s struggle against sin in Romans 7. In Ephesians 4:22–24 Paul writes, “You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.” There is no shame in requesting help in putting off the old self. Not only do Christians have the power of the Holy Spirit to help them in overcoming addiction, they have the Body of Christ, which is designed to be a support system. Christians should be good stewards of the resources available to them. Most individual churches are not equipped to handle the complexities of addiction. But many Christian treatment facilities exist to function as the Body of Christ to an addict.

If a Christian finds himself ruled by an addiction, he may want to consider entering a rehab program. A Christian rehab program has the benefits of recognizing the true Healer and of addressing the spiritual heart of addiction issues. However, it should be mentioned that some “Christian” rehabs do not follow current medical and psychological standards in providing addiction treatment. Some may also have faulty theological beliefs. Some non-Christian rehabs offer poor programs or have faulty theoretical stances, as well. Before entering into any rehab program, it behooves a potential patient (or family member) to fully vet it. Ensure that the program addresses each aspect of addiction (spiritual, physical, psychological, and social), that competent medical staff is available, and that patients are treated with care and respect. Most rehabs have copies of their treatment plans available for the asking.

If you or someone you know is trapped in an addiction, you may want to consider possible treatment plans. A counselor, psychiatrist, or medical doctor in your area may be able to direct you to a facility. You might also consider using christianrehabs.com in your search.[1]

 

 

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

Counseling Related Questions: What Does the Bible Say about a Person Who Is a Sociopath / Psychopath?

 

The terms sociopath and psychopath do not appear in the Bible. However, the Bible does mention behaviors that are characteristic of those that today are described by the nearly synonymous terms sociopathic and psychopathic.

In today’s criminal and psychological literature, a sociopath or psychopath is identified as one who is characterized by extreme self-centeredness and immaturity, shallow emotions (including reduced fear, a lack of empathy and remorse, low tolerance for stress, and little response to positive motivations), cold-heartedness, superficial charm, irresponsibility, impulsivity, criminality, a parasitic lifestyle and a desire to manipulate others. A psychopath is one who compulsively performs criminally selfish acts with no apparent conscience or concern about the welfare of his victims.

The Bible identifies such sociopathic and psychopathic behavior as among the severest moral and spiritual effects of man’s fall into sin. Jesus described such sins as arising from evil hearts (Mark 7:20–23). The apostle Paul identified godlessness as the root of such a deadly heart (Romans 1:28–32). The sociopathic heart produces the worst characteristics of sinful man’s nature (Romans 8:5–8), the worst effects of both genetic and environmental moral degradation. Early in human history, God wiped out all but eight people because of such universally incorrigible behavior (Genesis 6:5–13). Deuteronomy 21:18–21 prescribes for the Old Testament nation of Israel the legal consequence of such behavior: execution by stoning. Apparently, such behavior was considered by God to be so disruptive and damaging to the family and to society, so contrary to the character of the people that bore His name and supposedly reflected His image, as to be intolerable.

The New Testament does not offer specifics on civic dealing with these serious problems. Its teachings about morality and immorality of every kind, and its hopeful appeals and invitations to repentance, conversion, and transformed life in Christ, certainly apply to a psychopath as to any sinner. Paul, describing conduct that included sociopathic characteristics, wrote to one congregation of believers in Jesus Christ, “Such were some of you” (1 Corinthians 6:9–11, emphasis added). God is able to rescue and restore to righteousness the most corrupt heart. See Ephesians 4:24; Colossians 3:1–17; Romans 7; Romans 8:1–17 and 28–30.[1]

 

 

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

Counseling Related Questions: What Does the Bible Say about Controlling Your Temper?

 

Many people struggle with a quick or fiery temper. Although society often encourages people to express themselves and not hold back, God’s Word teaches that giving in to one’s temper is a sin.

The Bible has a lot to say about the importance of controlling one’s temper. It calls a person who easily loses his temper a “fool” (Proverbs 29:11; Ecclesiastes 7:9) and describes someone who cannot control himself as a “city whose walls are broken down” (Proverbs 25:28). A person with a hot temper is often at odds with those around him, becoming easily offended and lashing out in anger for even the smallest slight (Proverbs 15:18a). As children of God, we are called to love others (John 13:35; Ephesians 4:2, 31–32) and to be at peace (James 1:19; Proverbs 19:11; James 3:17–18). “Love covers a multitude of sins” (1 Peter 4:8). A person who maintains a calm, even temper is quicker to forgive and better able to live peaceably with others (Proverbs 15:1, 8b; 12:16; 19:11).

With the Holy Spirit in our lives, we will show the fruit of His work inside us. Some of the fruits of the Spirit are peace, patience, and self-control (Galatians 5:22–23)—these are essential to controlling the tendency to lose our temper. In fact, the Greek word translated “patience” (“longsuffering” in the KJV) carries the idea of “long-burning,” as in having a long fuse. As we grow in Christ, we should continue to deal appropriately with anger (no short fuses!) and react with love and patience (Colossians 3:8).

We may often feel justified in losing our temper, particularly when someone has hurt or offended us. But we are instructed to forgive (Matthew 5:44; 6:12; 18:21–22), not yield to anger or seek vengeance. It is ultimately God’s prerogative to punish evildoers (Deuteronomy 32:35; Romans 12:19). For an example of this forgiveness, we need only look to Jesus. When He was hanging on the cross, crucified for sins He did not commit, He did not release His wrath on the perpetrators. Instead, He asked God the Father to forgive them (Luke 23:34).

It’s important to note that anger is a valid emotion and is not always sinful. God allows for “righteous anger,” which is anger with the proper focus, the proper motivation, the proper control, the proper duration, and the proper result. Our problem is that our temper is often motivated by selfishness and directed toward other people instead of toward sin. That’s why God tells us to “let all bitterness and indignation and wrath (passion, rage, bad temper) and resentment (anger, animosity) … be banished from you” (Ephesians 4:31, AMP). With God’s help, we can keep our temper in check.[1]

 

 

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

Counseling Related Questions: What Does the Bible Say about Conflict Resolution?

 

Conflict resolution in the body of Christ is crucial for several reasons. Avoidance of conflict, with no effort to resolve it, postpones a proper response and exacerbates the problem because conflicts that are allowed to fester unaddressed will always increase and have negative effects on relationships within the body. The goal of conflict resolution is unity, and unity in the church poses a threat to the devil who will use every opportunity to take advantage of unresolved issues, especially those involving anger, bitterness, self-pity and envy. These emotions are the basis for most church conflicts. Scripture tells us that we’re to “let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from [us], along with all malice” (Ephesians 4:31). Failure to do this results in division in the body of Christ and grief to the Holy Spirit. We’re also told that we’re not to allow a “root of bitterness” to spring up among us, leading to trouble and defilement (Hebrews 12:15). Clearly, a biblical method of conflict resolution is needed.

Although the verses cited in the first paragraph are the two places that expressly deal with conflict resolution, every letter in the New Testament contains at least one command to believers to live at peace with one another. We are repeatedly instructed to love one another (John 13:34; Romans 12:10), to live in peace and harmony with one another (Romans 15:5; Hebrews 12:14), to settle our differences among ourselves (2 Corinthians 13:11), to be patient, kind and tenderhearted toward one another (1 Corinthians 13:4), to consider others before ourselves (Philippians 2:3), to bear one another’s burdens (Ephesians 4:2), and to rejoice in the truth (1 Corinthians 13:6). Conflict is the antithesis of Christian behavior as outlined in Scripture.

There are times when, despite all efforts to reconcile, sin issues prevent us from resolving conflict in the church. There are two places in the New Testament that clearly and unambiguously address conflict resolution where sin is involved. In Matthew 18:15–17, Jesus gives the steps for dealing with a sinning brother. According to this passage, in the event of conflict involving overt sin, we are to address it one-on-one first, then if still unresolved it should be taken to a small group, and finally before the whole church if the problem still remains.

The other passage where this is addressed explicitly is Luke 17. In verses 3–4, Jesus says, “Pay attention to yourselves! If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him, and if he sins against you seven times in the day, and turns to you seven times, saying, ‘I repent,’ you must forgive him.” An essential part of conflict resolution, according to this passage, is forgiveness. Any kind of disciplinary procedure should always have restoration of the sinning person as the ultimate goal.

The reason conflict resolution is so difficult is that we’re hesitant to place ourselves in uncomfortable situations. We’re also frequently unwilling to humble ourselves enough to admit that we might be wrong or to do what it might take to make amends if we are wrong. Those who do this best are often those who would prefer not to talk to others about their sin, but will do so out of obedience to God. If the matter is relatively minor, it may be that the best thing to do is to overlook the offense (Proverbs 19:11). If it cannot be overlooked, one must pursue reconciliation. This is such an important issue to God that peace with Him and peace with others are inextricably entwined. We cannot know peace with God unless we are at peace with one another, and we cannot truly know peace with others unless we are at peace with God.[1]

 


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

Counseling Related Questions: What Does the Bible Say about Compulsive Hoarding?

 

Compulsive hoarding is a form of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, or OCD, and falls into the category of anxiety disorders. Hoarding is not a physiological disease. It is characterized by the compulsive, chronic acquiring of large amounts of things and an inability to discard them. Research suggests that hoarders have problems in decision-making areas of the brain. Acquiring items is how hoarders deal with anxiety and provide themselves temporary relief from uneasy thoughts.

As the hoard accumulates, the hoarder is too overwhelmed to reverse the damage, and the problem escalates into extreme proportions. The hoard starts to replace human relationships, as the person seems to choose the stuff over his loved ones. Hoarders usually feel isolated, depressed, and misunderstood by others—others who want them to throw away their hoards. The objects become a part of the hoarder’s identity and how he sees himself. That is why he feels personally attacked if someone wants to get rid of the hoard.

A hoarder needs to learn how to make healthy decisions that will lead to resisting the urge for more buying/acquiring, disposing of unneeded items, and putting things in a regular place. The best treatment plan for believers is to work with a biblical counselor to gain insight into their own personal values, how they process emotions, and how to walk more closely with Jesus. Working with a professional organizer to practice making better decisions regarding possessions can also be helpful.

From a biblical point of view, hoarding is a result of human nature and our fallen state. It is in all of us to want things and to grow attached to them. We all want more than we need or what others have. The possibility of needing an item in the future is a common reason not to discard it. Other reasons people hoard things are a fear of being wasteful, a fondness for a specific type of object (collections), or a desire for prestige of some kind—a keeping up with the Joneses, perhaps. Hoarders need discernment to distinguish between what is valuable and what is junk, trash, or spoiled. They also need discernment to appraise an item’s value rather than see all items as equally valuable. Although a hoarder goes to extremes, we all have the same problem of grasping material things too tightly.

The Bible explains that we are living in a cursed world that is dying due to sin (Genesis 3:17–24). That means we have weakness in our minds, bodies, and spirits. Hoarding is human nature run amok. We naturally trust in things rather than in God, so it is normal for us to look for security in the material world. Following Jesus means placing our trust in God instead of false treasures (Matthew 6:19–21). In a lapse of faith, the Israelites stored manna rather than trust God for His daily provision. Their hoarding was to no avail; the Lord made the extra manna spoil (Exodus 16).

The underlying cause of hoarding is our human tendency to want things and our inability to discern what is truly valuable. Jesus is the most precious treasure we can possess, and His followers should value what He values. Trusting in Him means we no longer have to rely on ourselves in a hopeless effort to meet our needs or satisfy our souls. Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty” (John 6:35).[1]

 


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

Counseling Related Questions: What Does the Bible Say about Bipolar Disorder / Manic Depression?

 

Note: as with many psychological issues, there are often both a physical and spiritual aspect of manic depression / bipolar disorder. While we believe psychologists often miss the true spiritual nature of the sickness, we strongly encourage anyone suffering with a mental illness to seek medical attention and counseling.

Answer: Bipolar Disorder, or BD, (formerly known as Manic Depressive Disorder) is a mental illness classified as a mood disorder. There are several forms of the disorder, some being more severe, and others emphasizing either the mania or the depression side of the disorder. In general, the disorder is characterized by extreme highs and lows in mood which affect emotions, thoughts, and behaviors. The manic episodes are what make this mood disorder different from other forms of depression. Mania can include any of the following symptoms: a feeling of inflated self-importance, grandiose thinking, hyper speech, racing thoughts, increased energy level, risky behaviors, and wildly unrealistic judgment. The manic depressive is easily agitated or angered when these fantastic views inevitably meet reality. Thus, a manic episode is typically followed by an explosion of anger and a plunge into depression and despair.

The behaviors and mood swings are the primary indicators for diagnosing manic depression, as there is no organic or physical evidence of a chemical imbalance that causes this disorder. The research simply identifies areas of brain activity, not the precise neurochemical reactions to indicate a causal relationship to the symptoms (the brain activity could be a result of the disorder rather than a cause). Furthermore, medicine that targets brain chemistry is not an exact science. Medicine can reduce manic depressive symptoms for some, but not all patients.

The Bible does not use the term bipolar or manic. These are man-made terms used to describe behavior patterns and characteristics. The science of mental illness is a way to study and diagnose problems rather than find solutions for them. On the other hand, the Bible does provide answers to issues related to Bipolar Disorder; for example, a manic episode includes a prideful view of self, a strong desire to gratify wants, and uncontrolled, destructive anger. These are natural desires we are all born with, but we respond differently to them depending on our DNA, environment, and spiritual condition. These factors all play a role in how Bipolar Disorder can develop and take hold in a person’s life. Having Bipolar Disorder is not a sin, but blaming sin on BD is inappropriate. It is we who make sinful choices due to our sinful nature.

In summary, Bipolar Disorder is a type of human frailty that is ultimately caused by our sinful heart condition. BD does not determine a person’s identity, nor is it a life sentence that cannot be overcome. The answer to surmounting BD lies in the spiritual reality we face. We need salvation through Jesus Christ. Salvation sets the captive free from the chains of sin (Proverbs 5:22; Romans 6:6, 14). Without Jesus there is no hope of a redemptive work in our hearts to overcome human weakness.

The gospel is the first need of someone who suffers from BD. A relationship with Jesus is the first step and the only way to true, lasting healing. For those who are walking through this trial, the biblical advice is to examine what part they need to own and know how to respond biblically to temptation.

Having a diagnosis of Bipolar Disorder will indicate an area of struggle, particularly with anger and pride (self-importance, selfish desires). A Christian who is dying to self and following Jesus must face these weak areas like he would any other temptation through the help of the Holy Spirit (Romans 13:12–14; Ephesians 6:10–18). Discipling, biblical counsel, support from Christian friends, and personal Bible study are essential tools for spiritual growth and victory over habitual sin. Medication and psychiatric/psychological counseling can be helpful, as long as it is done in conjunction with spiritual guidance. Otherwise, such counseling is nothing more than a band-aid for BD’s symptoms and could potentially cause more harm if it keeps a person from seeing his greatest need is Jesus. Those who place their trust in Jesus will experience the hope that does not disappoint (Romans 5:1–5).[1]

 


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

Counseling Related Questions: What Does the Bible Say about Anxiety?

 

The Bible has a lot to say about anxiety, but the word itself may not be found all that often. In the English Standard Version, it is used 8 times. In the New International Version, it is found 7 times. The King James Version does not use the word at all. Synonyms like trouble, heaviness, distress, and cares are used in its place.

The specific causes of anxiety are probably more than can be enumerated, but a few examples from the Bible point to some general causes. In Genesis 32, Jacob is returning home after many years away. One of the reasons he had left home was to escape the anger of his brother, Esau, from whom Jacob had stolen the birthright and blessing from their father. Now, as Jacob nears his homeland, he hears that Esau is coming to meet him with 400 men. Jacob is immediately anxious, expecting a horrible battle with his brother. In this case, the anxiety is caused by a broken relationship and a guilty conscience.

In 1 Samuel 1, Hannah is distressed because she was unable to conceive children and she was being taunted by Peninnah, her husband’s other wife. Her distress is caused by unfulfilled desires and the harassment of a rival.

In Esther 4, the Jewish people are anxious because of a royal decree allowing them to be massacred. Queen Esther is anxious because she was planning to risk her life on behalf of her people. Fear of death and the unknown is a key element of anxiety.

Not all anxiety is sinful. In 1 Corinthians 7:32, Paul states that an unmarried man is “anxious” about pleasing the Lord, while a married man is “anxious” about pleasing his wife (ESV). In this case, the anxiety isn’t a sinful fear but a deep, proper concern.

Probably the best-known passage on anxiety comes from the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 6. Our Lord warns us against being anxious about the various cares of this life. For the child of God, even necessities like food and clothing are nothing to worry about. Using examples from God’s creation, Jesus teaches that our Heavenly Father knows our needs and cares about them. If God takes care of simple things like grass, flowers, and birds, won’t He also care for people who are created in His image? Rather than worry over things we cannot control, we should “seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things [the necessities of life] will be added to you” (verse 33). Putting God first is a cure for anxiety.

Many times, anxiety or concern is a result of sin, and the cure is to deal with the sin. Psalm 32:1–5 says that the person whose sin is forgiven is blessed, and the heavy weight of guilt is taken away when sins are confessed. Is a broken relationship creating anxiety? Try to make peace (2 Corinthians 13:11). Is fear of the unknown leading to anxiety? Turn the situation over to the God who knows everything and is in control of it all (Psalm 68:20). Are overwhelming circumstances causing anxiety? Have faith in God. When the disciples became distressed in a storm, Jesus first rebuked their lack of faith, then rebuked the wind and the waves (Matthew 8:23–27). As long as we are with Jesus, there is nothing to fear.

We can count on the Lord to provide for our needs, protect us from evil, guide us, and keep our souls secure for eternity. We may not be able to prevent anxious thoughts from entering our minds, but we can practice the right response. Philippians 4:6, 7 instructs us to “not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”[1]


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

Counseling Related Questions: What Does the Bible Say about Abuse?

 

The word abuse has taken many meanings over time. Immediately, most assume abuse involves anger or some form of physical violence. This is a simplistic and often misleading view of abuse. Anger is an emotion God gave us to alert us to problems. Righteous anger is not sinful and should not be associated with abuse. Anger mishandled can certainly lead to a sinful, abusive response, but it is a sinful heart, not the emotion of anger, that is the root cause of abuse.

The word abuse is used to describe the mistreatment or misuse of virtually anything. We speak of abuse of trust, drugs, institutions, and objects. These forms of abuse are sinful for the same reason that abuse directed at people is sinful. Such mistreatment is motivated by selfishness and results in damage and destruction. People abuse others for a variety of reasons, but selfishness underlies all abuse. We tend to lash out when things do not go our way.

Some abuse can be subtle. Emotional abuse can be difficult to detect because, on the surface, there is no observable evidence of the abuse, but that doesn’t mean the effects are any less painful or destructive. Examples of emotional abuse include verbal attacks, criticism, favoritism, manipulation, deceit, threats, and withheld expressions of love.

Anyone can be an abuser, regardless of age, gender, ethnicity, or background. Victims of abuse can be ensnared in a cycle that is very difficult to break. Children have no responsibility for abuse suffered in childhood but often carry its effects into adulthood by repeating the patterns. Children need to be protected from abuse. Abusive parents are cursing their children rather than blessing them as they ought (Psalm 112:2; Proverbs 20:7).

The Bible regards abuse as sin because we are called to love one another (John 13:34). Abuse disregards others and is the opposite of this command. An abuser desires to satisfy his natural selfishness regardless of the consequences to himself or others. Several passages in the Bible strongly condemn taking advantage of or abusing others (Exodus 22:22; Isaiah 10:2; 1 Thessalonians 4:6).

Everyone is guilty of abuse at some level, because everyone falls short of God’s command to love others sacrificially. Only the love of Jesus in us can truly love others; therefore, real love only exists in those who have accepted Jesus as their savior (Romans 8:10).

Only Jesus can heal the wounds left by abuse (Psalm 147:3). Sadly, many hurting people are waiting for the abuser to come repair the damage he caused. While it is good for the abuser to take responsibility and make amends to those he hurt, it is Jesus who grants peace to those in pain. He is neither unaware nor apathetic to those who suffer, especially children (Mark 10:14–16). That should give us pause, knowing we are accountable for the suffering we cause to others. The Lord Jesus cares for His followers and has laid down His life to demonstrate His love for them (1 Peter 5:7). He will most assuredly comfort, vindicate, and heal them (John 10:11–15).

Believers need to own their abuse of others in order to break the cycle while receiving help to recover from past hurts. A safe place to do that is in pastoral or biblical counseling or in a small group of believers where people can help bear one another’s burdens (Galatians 6:1–10). The Lord will enable us to do what He called us to do, which is love one another as He loves us.[1]

 


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