It has always amazed me how God prepares us for where He is going to lead us. Forty years ago, my knowledge regarding mental health and professional counseling was next to nothing. My take on mental illness from growing up in the Church and in a Christian family centered on a belief system that those kinds of disturbances were simply the result of sin. Just get yourself saved, stick to it—and you would be fine!
“ God prepares us for where He is going to lead us. ”
Naively buying into this, I married a man who had served in Viet Nam as a Marine and therefore had been in the thick of fighting and death. Even before that, he suffered from night terrors and had been known to break through windows and glass doors in his sleep. After Viet Nam it certainly didn’t get any better. The more tired he was, the worse these terrors were. More nights than not, I was awakened at least once by him jumping out of bed and running throughout the house in sheer terror, afraid of whatever he was dreaming about. He was also subject to periods of depression and mania, which heightened over the years—although I couldn’t put a name to any of this at the time.
“ it was too late to help my husband or save my marriage; but it did instill in me a desire to research and learn. ”
For years, my interpretation of what he was experiencing remained focused on what I had been taught. None of this helped him in the slightest. By the time I realized that his struggles were a lot more complicated than I had initially thought, and I began to investigate, it was too late to help my husband or save my marriage; but it did instill in me a desire to research and learn. I began to search for Christian counselors and Christian counseling ministries. I read books, I read articles. One of my first discoveries was that our minds need as much care as our bodies; it wasn’t just my husband that needed help but I needed to know both how to give care and receive care for myself.
“ God was using counseling materials to grow me as well as to help me serve others! ”
My pastor provided good counsel as I went through the divorce, but I still felt inadequate to meet the emotional and mental needs my seven children were experiencing. So I read more books and more articles. I worked several years at a Christian publishing company that was at that time, the publisher for Christian Education and Counseling Foundation (CCEF). I was sometimes privileged as part of my job to attend their conferences, and better yet, I had access to the books and booklets they published. God was using counseling materials to grow me as well as to help me serve others!
Then suddenly, almost overnight, I became the Executive Director of a Pregnancy Resource Center. In training for that position and in training volunteers to become peer counselors, I was taught the basics of communication and counseling. Also about that time, my Care-Net affiliated center sent me to a conference where I was introduced to the American Association of Christian Counselors (AACC). I began watching their helpful training videos regarding all kinds of mental health-related issues and then started to attend their world conferences.
“ I realized the great need in our culture for ministering to the whole person: walking beside someone as they go through a difficult circumstance while offering the hope of the Gospel. ”
As I remained on this career path, I often had to counsel clients. We had excellent resources that we depended on, and a whole new world opened up to me. I realized the great need in our culture for ministering to the whole person: walking beside someone as they go through a difficult circumstance while offering the hope of the Gospel. It is clear that the answers to all of life’s challenges are found in the saving grace of the “Wonderful Counselor,” Jesus Christ (Isaiah 9:6); yet the depths of evil and bondage that so many victims are emerging from may require a skilled and knowledgeable person to facilitate the freedom found in Christ. Christian and biblical counselors are familiar with how to lovingly direct one to the specific Scriptures necessary and provide loving care to the whole person.
“ It is clear that the answers to all of life’s challenges are found in the saving grace of the “Wonderful Counselor,” Jesus Christ (Isaiah 9:6) ”
This is the kind of care that Jesus practiced when he healed people, when he talked with Nicodemus, when he invited himself to Zacchaeus’ house for dinner, when he saved an adulterous woman from being stoned, and when he asked a Samaritan woman for a drink of water from the well. It is the kind of care that should have always been present in the Church. Thanks to organizations like CCEF and AACC, there seems to be an awakening in the Church to incorporate counseling ministry into local congregations.
“ It is the kind of care that should have always been present in the Church. ”
I’ve just returned from attending AACC’s World Conference for the fourth time. Although I don’t intend to be in a profession where I counsel anymore, I intend to write about people who have been through dark places and have experienced redemption through Jesus. I intend to write about the experiences of people suffering from mental health issues so that they may encourage others who have similar struggles.
As some of you may be aware, three months ago I moved to a new area, leaving behind some of my children and their families as well as a church family that I had been a part of for over 30 years. Among other reasons for moving to Lynchburg, VA was the fact that AACC has its headquarters here. My desire is to do some volunteer work for them so that I will still be able to attend their conferences and take advantage of their resources.
In previous years when I attended Christian counseling events, I chose workshops that were related to my work. However, at this year’s conference, I chose workshops that related to areas I hope to write about. Counselors, pastors and lay leaders working in counseling ministry also need refreshment and time to re-energize and regroup. I needed that badly this year, with beginning a new season of life.
“ all of our spirits need counsel and encouragement, and I thank God for the organizations that have stepped up to the plate to do that for the Church body. ”
Through the ministry of the conference events, God accomplished all of those things for me. Worshipping with 7,000 people is a magnificent experience. Listening to the Word of God being preached and the testimonies of so many—it brought home to me clearly that all of our spirits need counsel and encouragement, and I thank God for the organizations that have stepped up to the plate to do that for the Church body.
“ Seek Christ first as you consider how to move forward. ”
I decided not to choose only one ministry to focus on this month, so I am going to provide information and links to several, but certainly not all. After reading the pastor’s story at the beginning of this month and the interview with Fred Jacoby later, my prayer is that you will pursue this mental health issue as it may apply to you or your loved ones, or even begin a counseling ministry in your church. Seek Christ first as you consider how to move forward. Seek out the books recommended by these groups. Do not be ashamed to ask for counseling help, but always look for biblical/Christian counselors, psychologists, psychiatrists, recovery centers, etc.
“ Do not be ashamed to ask for counseling help, but always look for biblical/Christian counselors, psychologists, psychiatrists, recovery centers, etc. ”
Some counseling groups identify themselves as “biblical” counselors. Fred Jacoby, Director of Foundations Christian Counseling in Brodheadsville, PA, defines biblical counseling “as the process where the Bible, God’s Word, is related individually to a person or persons who are struggling under the weight of personal sin and/or the difficulties with suffering, so that he or she might genuinely change in the inner person to be pleasing to God."
Other professional counselors may use the word “Christian”; but it is important to determine before you visit if their goal resonates with the definition above. Ask your pastor/church to give you referrals, and if they are unable, please encourage them to consider providing a list of referrals for the congregation as soon as possible. Keep in mind that the wisdom of good counsel originates with God. “Nevertheless, I am continually with you; you hold my right hand. You guide me with your counsel” (Psalm 73:24).
Christian Counseling and Education Foundation Their website says “Christian growth catches fire where life and Scripture meet. We change when, in the midst of our day-to-day joys, sorrows, sufferings, and sins, we encounter Jesus Christ through his Word and find his grace and mercy for our time of need. We help others change when, in the midst of their day-to-day joys, sorrows, sufferings, and sins, we point them to Jesus Christ through his Word to find grace and mercy for their time of need.”
American Association of Christian Counselors lists two of its five core values as follows: “We are committed to honor Jesus Christ and glorify God, remaining flexible and responsive to the Holy Spirit in all that He has called us to be and do. We are committed to Biblical truths, and to clinical excellence and unity in the delivery of all our resources, services, training and benefits.”
Biblical Counseling Coalition The mission statement found on their website states: “The BCC exists to multiply the ministry of the biblical counseling movement by strengthening churches, para-church organizations, and educational institutions through promoting unity and excellence in biblical counseling. Our mission is to foster collaborative relationships and to provide robust, relevant biblical resources that equip the Body of Christ to change lives with Christ’s changeless truth through the personal ministry of the Word. All that we do flows from our calling to empower the biblical counseling movement to equip people to love God and one another in Christ-centered ways. We pursue this purpose by organizing our thinking around one central question: ‘What does it mean to counsel in the grace and truth of Christ?’”
Association of Biblical Counselors Describing their overview, their website says: “ABC exists to encourage, equip and enrich all believers everywhere to live and counsel the Word, applying the Gospel to the whole experience of life. ABC seeks to encourage a robust biblical worldview of people and their problems while promoting Scripture as the supreme source wherein healing truth may be found.”
International Association for Biblical Counselors Their homepage begins: “The International Association of Biblical Counselors consists of men and women committed to serious reliance on Scripture as sufficient and authoritative, and devoted to helping God’s people apply His truth to their personal lives in practical ways.”
And don't forget to check out from the previous post, Fred Jacoby's first book, The Black and White Thinking Christian: Moving Beyond the “All or Nothing” to Become Like Christ. Fred shares, "In The Black-and-White Thinking Christian, I aim to provide a biblical understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of being a black-and-white thinker, help them in relationships with others, and apply grace and humility to become more like Christ. This book is an introduction to a personality model I have been developing that is based on being created in the image of God."
Order your copy by clicking on the image below!
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