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Are you saying that counseling is not a good idea? No! I’m not saying that at all. I train individuals to do biblical counseling. But I am saying that some Christians have not thought through–in real and practical ways–what the “process of change” should look like with hurting or dysfunctional people.
Counseling is a temporary, artificial context for change. Think about this. I generally counsel people for two hours. Let’s say that I am meeting with an individual or couple one time per week. That would be two hours out of 168.
Lasting change? Not possible. And in most cases, I do not meet with a person every week because schedules make it prohibitive to have consistent weekly meetings. At best, we would meet every two weeks, though that is likely.
A person not benefiting from consistent care while doing whatever they want to do, two hours of counseling is like dipping the ocean dry with a bucket. By the time you meet with them the following week(s), their habituations will, for the most part, swallow-up whatever good your previous meeting accomplished.
From Chaos to Order
When God spoke in Genesis, He brought order out of chaos. When God first spoke to me in 1984, He spoke into my chaos, which began a process of bringing order to my life. This benefit of grace is the advantage of being a Christian. The world is out-of-order, living in chaos. Should God speak into their chaos, as He did mine, the process of reorienting by the gospel would ensue.
A person comes to counseling out of his unique chaos. The Christian counselor speaks God’s truth into his mess, and the reorientation process begins. The problem is that the counselee goes back into their daily dysfunction and the ground gained in the “order-speaking counseling session” starts to erode. It is a 166 to 2, “Chaos versus Order” formula. In most cases, though not all, chaos will win.
It is unreasonable to expect a season of counseling to be able to overcome a person’s problems all by itself. Counselees need more than a “temporary season” to help them mature in their ongoing, progressive sanctification needs. If a just man, who does not need counseling, falls seven times (Proverbs 24:16-18), what is your guarantee that a counselee will not collapse when the counseling season ceases?
Thankfully, the Lord does not leave His children in their fallenness but offers real and practical solutions for their lifelong progressive sanctification. These solutions are primarily in their families and secondarily in their local churches. What are better contexts for sin to happen than in your family and church?
If you are going to be sick, what better place to be ill than the hospital? If you are going to struggle with personal, relational, or situational issues, what better place could there be than a redemptive family and local church to help you back on the path of sanctification.
Christian counseling can serve the local church in some valuable ways. There is no doubt about this, and I am aware of the many benefits of this “partial solution,” but Christian counseling was never meant to replace the redemptive efforts of your family or the means of grace found in the local church.
Learn about the Counseling Window
Please use Christian counseling, mainly when your “primary means” are not serving you well. But never forget that a “temporary counseling” season is not a replacement for your lifelong need for change. The best advice I could ever give a couple who is struggling personally or relationally is to get their marriage in order first of all, and then find a local church for their ongoing, long-term help.
Perhaps counseling can jump-start this process, but if they don’t make changes to their family dynamic and find a disciple-making community through their local church, they will be back in counseling for another short-term “sanctification boost.”