Hey Rick, I have a wife who is relentless in her attempt to change her husband. Her husband, on the other hand, is passive and not proactive in leading his family.
This tension has created a lot of on-going conflict in their home. The wife does not want to come to counseling, but the husband does. She has struggled with depression, which is somewhat tied to her husband’s passivity.
Do you have any good resources for a situation like this? – Thank you!
I’m not sure of a resource that could help them, other than some very good marriage books. And there are many excellent marriage books out there. For example,
- When Sinners Say, “I Do” – Dave Harvey
- Love That Lasts – Garry & Betsy Ricucci
Resources are overrated
Okay, let me make a public confession. In my opinion our Christian culture has become too “resource centric” when it comes to problem solving through self-help books. Seemingly everyday I get an email asking for a resource for this problem, that problem, ad nausea.
I’m not saying that we should throw out all of our resources with the bath water. I’m saying we need to put the brakes on our rush for resources. Because of God’s common grace to us through the last few centuries, we have the ability to produce and consume resources like never before.
I counseled a pastor once upon a time who spent several hours a day reading books and was also hiding a porn and masturbation addiction.
The plethora of resources has put us in a “resource coma,” to the point where it is as though we can’t function unless there is a resource for our experience. We crave for someone to relate to us and have become hard to please unless someone has written a book about our problem.
Christian counselors and disciplers have also fallen prey to this “I can’t help them because I have not had their experience” argument. Yes, there is “some” merit in an equitable experience, but it is not biblically necessary or warranted.
I counseled another pastor once upon a time who had been in a sinful battle with his wife for over twenty years. He had read twice as many good books as I have and he reads Greek to boot.
The proverbial needle in the haystack
One of the common themes that I run into with people in trouble is that they tend to be well-schooled in the popular books that are wafting through Christendom, but are elementary when it comes to practically applying the Bible to their lives.
Of making many books there is no end, and much study is a weariness of the flesh. – Ecclesiastes 12:12
It does not have to be this way.
It is as though there is a big secret for overcoming problems. It is like looking for a needle in a haystack. The truth is, God did not complicate our on-going struggles with sin. He explains to us,
- Who we are
- What we have done
- What we need to do
- How we can change
I counseled a woman once upon a time who refused for many years to forgive her husband.
I said in yesterday’s article,
I usually assume that most of the people I counsel know what to do. They have a morality. They typically know right from wrong. That is not unusual. For example, they know that they should be nice to their spouse. Who doesn’t know to be nice? My children know to be nice to others. Being nice is part of our moral wiring. Even unregenerate people know how to be nice. They understand the differences between right and wrong.
Do you really need a book to be nice? Really?
I counseled a man once upon a time who felt justified in verbally abusing his son.
The Gospel is what you really need
My experience has been, regarding counseling situations that I have described in this article, is that books are filler information until an individual decides to authentically live out the Gospel in his/her life.
The husband, in the case study above, needs to come to grips with the Gospel. He has to decide if he is going to treat his wife the way the Savior treats him. I am assuming he is a Christian. If he is not a Christian, then he still needs to come to grips with the Gospel, in that he needs to be regenerated.
However, if he is regenerated, he does not need to read a book. He needs to be called to Christlikeness.
Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you. – Ephesians 4:32
I suspect he is angry at his wife, in part, because she is a nag. However, that is not an excuse for his passivity. He still has to decide if he is going to love his wife the way Christ loves him:
But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. – Romans 5:8
As pertaining to his laziness, here are two very clear articles on how to apply the Gospel to laziness:
- A proactive plan to pursue others…according to the Gospel
- The Gospel and Responsibility: hope for the lazy man
We need more Gospel Engineers
Paul was a Gospel Engineer. This is what I am in training to be. The singular theme of everything I write is the Gospel.
- If you want help, I will turn you on to the Gospel.
- If you’re looking for an answer, then I will point you to the Gospel.
- If you want to know how change takes place, then let me tell you about the Gospel.
Quite honestly, if a self help book, resource, booklet, or song does not direct me to the Gospel, then I ignore it. Only the Gospel is transformative. I’m too old to spend my time pursuing anything other than the main thing that pleases God.
- And a voice came from heaven, You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased. – Mark 1:11
- For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. – 1 Corinthians 2:2
- He must increase, but I must decrease. – John 3:30
Christianity needs more Gospel Engineers than Resource Generators. Sadly, most of the Christian counseling movements, the true technicians regarding sanctification, do not hold, practice, or teach a high view of the Gospel.
Happiness or holiness?
It is just as sad to me that many of the Christians that I counsel are not interested in the Gospel. Too many times they are looking for a fix so they can have a better life, marriage, or children. The Bible does not promise these things as though it is an absolute given. The Bible calls us to holiness rather than personal happiness.
Unfortunately, too many of our resources point people to solutions to their problems rather than a Savior. And if the solution does not work, they go to the next book or the next counselor.
In Mark, there was a young man who came to Jesus looking for help. Jesus told him that if he sold his possessions he would find all he was looking for and more. The young man did not like the Savior’s counsel. He was not willing to get rid of the things that made him happy.
The final line of his life read like this:
Disheartened by the saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions. – Mark 10:22
Interestingly enough, the Savior did not retract His Gospel-centered counsel. He stood firm as the disheartened man walked away.