BCC Staff: In today’s post and in our next post Jeremy Lelek unpacks the radical perspective Scriptures offers to counselees whose struggles require radical change in their lives.
Have you ever sat with someone struggling with extreme issues; problems that would likely garner such diagnoses as Posttraumatic Stress Disorder, Borderline Personality Disorder, or Pedophilia from a psychiatrist or psychologist? If you have had the opportunity to work with individuals struggling at such a severe level, then you likely know the process of counseling can be challenging, even confusing.
For individuals wrestling with such chronic issues, the hope of change can often feel profoundly out of reach. Take for example, a man struggling with what is known in our society as pedophilia. I have worked with many such individuals, and the intensity of the battle in which they are daily besieged is something difficult for me to accurately understand. Gaining perspective on the labyrinth of lies, deceit, insecurities, evil ambitions, and sexual lusts that drive such a darkened heart is a task (for me at least) that is only possible through the discernment of the Holy Spirit as understood through His Word. Couple the struggle itself with counsel this person has often been given by psychotherapists and psychiatrists, and the confusion is often magnified a hundredfold. It is not unusual for such men to attribute their struggle to a disease or their own childhood sexual trauma.
This is what they have been told. While I want to comprehend their conceptualization of the issue as a means of wisely entering their world of ideas, I am also given the task to love them and to assist them in making sense of their problem from the vantage point of Scripture. Yet, what I seek to do most of all (and this is indicative of the two tasks I mention in the previous sentence), is to expose such people to the unending, all-powerful, heart transforming, life-altering, sin-destroying, incomprehensibly loving, eternally committed person of Jesus Christ! As I embark upon what I hope will be a redemptive journey with counselees such as this, I want them to understand that our “bottom-line,” our crucial deciding factor in the process, is ultimately Christ alone!
In building this framework, I will often take counselees to Titus 2:11-14:
For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works.
If he or she has any hope of change, it is found in this passage!
God’s Grace Is Present
First, the good news for such people is that God’s grace is present and visible (assuming the one struggling is a believer in Jesus Christ). Obviously, discussing their faith in Jesus, what it means, and how it is relevant in their daily lives, will be significant. We cannot fall prey to foolish assumptions about a person’s salvation. We must guard against forgone conclusions that simply because the person says he or she is a Christian that this is actually the case. We also must protect them from our own proud judgments that simply because they wrestle with chronic sin that they must not possess genuine faith. Being patient, and prayerfully talking through this issue is of utmost importance.
Now, assuming genuine faith is present, the good news of God’s grace in the battle must be proclaimed. For example, people with intense habitual sin patterns (especially those of a sexual nature) often fail to appreciate God’s grace in the process because all of their previous efforts towards “victory” have failed. They have resigned themselves to the despairing lie that change is not possible. Such desolation of hope is a prime opportunity to remind them of the gospel.
Maybe the person has forgotten or has never realized, but as a believer, he or she has already experienced the greatest transformational miracle evidenced in the Bible. The apostle Paul had to remind the saints of Ephesus, “And you were dead in your trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience” (Ephesians 2:1-2). He continues later, “But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved” (Ephesians 2:4-5). This is “God’s grace appearing,” and it was an event over which the person had absolutely NO control. Having people recall this truth brings them face to face with the reality that God has already radically changed them (with no need of their assistance), and He continues to sovereignly reign over their hearts as they are divinely conformed to His image.
A Radical Truth for Weary Counselees: “God has already brought me from death to life. I was powerless, yet He raised me from the dead! If, in His love, He so radically transformed my heart, how much more is He able to change me in and through my current struggle! He was faithful in my salvation; He will be faithful in my sanctification!”