Biblical counselors should not model after secular psychologists that dig into the past, often beyond reality. Their clients may be left not knowing who they really are, confusing the past and present. We want to avoid that black hole, but do we miss seeing the heart issues by not digging enough to find sinful thought or behavioral patterns that expose the roots?
The Presenting Issues
The presenting issues are often symptoms or even a series of symptoms hiding the real problem and the root sin that lies at its base. Presentation problems show themselves in emotions and behaviors, but even they are not the root issue. It is not what a person does or says, but rather why they do what they do or say what they say, that exposes root sins.
Only after we understand root issues can we help the whole person by teaching, rebuking, correcting, encouraging, and training them in righteousness(2Tim 3:16-17). Purification, self-control and other spiritual disciplines lead to repentance and maturity (Gal 5:22-23).
Examples of Root Issues
What is seen as a difficult or tragic loss in reality may be a misplaced love that is out of focus. We grieve our misplaced loves. An example is a lost job that causes so much pain that a person in total despair doesn’t see how he can go on living. Even though he had been very successful in his career he now sees himself as a failure.
Augustine was on the mark when he suggested that the human moral problem lay not so much in loving, or even in the objects of love (the job) but in the manner in which the person attaches themselves and his expectations to the outcome (1Tim 6:10). It’s not a sin to love your job and even grieve it’s loss, but to love it more than to love and trust God for your security and future is to love “out of focus;” to love the wrong object above the right.
Seeing the Past Through God’s Eyes
Dr.Steve Viars’ book encourages us to put the past into biblical categories to help counselees face challenges with strength and confidence. It helps us to handle trials, bring about repentance, generate humility, or bring about forgiveness (Titus 2:11-14).
The world often sees the past from a negative perspective, while Scripture provides a perspective of the past through God’s eyes, which can be a great aid to growth and maturity. In the case of the lost job, his despair was the result of his father, now deceased, always telling him he was a failure and would never amount to anything.
By understanding God’s love as comprehensive beyond comparison to anything earthly (Rom 8:37-39), his love for God began to grow greater than love for job or for his father’s approval. This enabled him to get past the pain he suffered for years and was able to put the loss of his job in a healthy reality (1Jn 4:16-19).
Some questions the past must answer:
Is the past one of guilt? If guilty, then sin against God and others requires repentance and forgiveness (Mt 5:23-24)
If the past shame comes from another’s sin against you, then the question is how you are responding:
- Did I respond properly and have I forgiven that person who sinned against me? (Gen 50:20; Eph 4:32)
- Am I moving forward in my love for God and others? (Mt 22:37-40; 1Jn 4:7-11)
- Am I stuck in old sinful responses or am I living in peace? (Rom 12:9-21; Mt 6:14-15)
Note: This resource originally appeared on the Biblical Counseling Center and is used with permission.