Counseling Vs. Christianity
In order for the Body of Christ to walk in the victory afforded them through the Cross, it is imperative that they understand the harmonious relationship between psychology, counseling, and Scripture.
In the summer of 2018, Seth Welch and Tatiana Fusari made headlines after refusing medical treatment for their dying ten-month-old daughter because of their religious beliefs. The couple’s decision not to seek help resulted in the child’s death as well as a homicide conviction and jail time for Seth and Tatiana. This news evoked outrage and disbelief across the country as people struggled to understand the couple’s refusal to accept help.
It is easy to understand the anger that people felt as this story began to unfold. The moment these two became parents, they assumed responsibility for a life; something that is not to be taken lightly. There were resources available to them that they could have made use of in order to care for this life, yet they chose not to take advantage of them. Most would agree, whether Christian or non-Christian, that it does not make sense for someone to refuse help when it is made available to them.
Of the Christians who would have agreed with this couple had they sought help for a physical ailment, how many of them would have supported a fellow Christian’s decision to seek help for a mental, emotional, or spiritual ailment? Unfortunately, many well-intentioned and even Spirit-filled believers are often judgmental of those who struggle in the areas of mental and emotional health.
Each of us have been entrusted with the care of at least one life: our own. God showed us the value He placed on our lives when He sent His only Son into a broken world to die on a cross and then to be raised to life again, so that He might offer us redemption. Knowing the challenges that we would face in this life, however, He didn’t stop there. God made other tools and resources available to us, to help us along our journey. He gifted doctors with unfathomable intellect and sharp minds. He uses psychologists to explain the truths that He Himself set into motion. He fashioned counselors to be an extension of His love for people that are hurting. Why would we refuse to use any of these tools?
In order for a body to function properly, that body must utilize all of its parts. An ear is unable to walk and a foot unable to hear. Neither of these parts is less than the other and it is not in error that neither part can do everything on its own. The parts were designed to work together for a common purpose and as they make use of each other, they bring to life the very design that God intended for them all along. The Body of Christ is no different. In 1 Corinthians 12, we can see that this is God’s design for us. In the Body of Christ, I have a part, you have a part, and our neighbor has a part. Every joint has its own supply and it is only when all of those joints, or people, are able to work together that the Body will function at full capacity.
Much of the stigma surrounding mental health can be traced back to a lack of understanding in the Church. The Cambridge Dictionary defines psychology as the scientific study of how the mind works and how it influences behavior. Psychology then is simply a scientific area of study comparable to other scientific areas of study such as anatomy, biology, or physiology. There are certain elements that must exist within any science. These elements are observations, hypotheses, testing of the hypotheses, analyzing the data found, and then a conclusion. This is known as the scientific method. Once a conclusion has been reached, replication is attempted while certain variables are altered, in order to see if the results are similar. The scientific method has been used to test numerous psychological principles and theories, but there are still many naysayers. For some reason, psychology is the only area of science that Christians oppose so strongly.
In 2014 I began counseling with Pastor Julian of Agape Faith Church. One of the first things he asked me to do was to go home and make two lists. The first was a list of what I did not like about myself, followed by at least one Bible verse per item, showing what the Word of God says about that item. The second thing he had me do was to make a list of the things that I did like about myself.
At first, I didn’t understand the reason I was being asked to make these lists. The reason I had contacted him for an appointment had very little to do with what I did or did not like about myself. At the time, I didn’t realize that the way I viewed myself was the root of many of the issues that I was dealing with. The next several months were spent uncovering the negative views I held of myself, discovering where they originated, and dispelling each one through Scripture. For the first time, someone was able to show me who I truly am.
In a message entitled “Peace in my Pocket,” Pastor Carl Lentz addressed this concept. Lentz stated, “You can’t lose your peace because you can’t lose Jesus. If you lose your peace, then that means that Jesus has left you.” Lentz went on to tell a story about the iPhone he had recently purchased. Only a few short days after purchasing such an expensive new phone, he found that it no longer worked properly and he took it to his local Apple store. As Lentz spoke with the store employee, he found out that his phone was able to do a lot more than he realized. Lentz was blown away at the abilities he had at his fingertips. He went on to make a powerful statement. He said that he would have never been aware of what his phone was capable of if he hadn’t had someone to help him access it.
Hosea 4:6 tells us that people are destroyed from lack of knowledge. We do not have to look far to see that there are people in our world who are being destroyed physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually every day. If we were to live our lives the way that God designed us to live them, this would not be the case. Some people have a knowledge that pertains to electronic devices, like the man at the Apple store. Others possess an understanding of the human mind and have a knowledge of the psychological and spiritual principles that are accessible to us. These are all gifts to the Body and they are all beneficial. We must be good stewards of the lives and gifts that we have been given and use them in conjunction with one another. When so much knowledge is at our fingertips, we must make every effort to attain it so that we will not perish and all of our being will flourish as it should.
The Word of God tells us in Isaiah 26:3 that we are able to remain in perfect peace and we know from Philippians 4:7 that there is an attainable peace that surpasses our understanding. Because of our humanity, there are times in life that we simply need someone to point us back toward that peace.
May is Mental Health Awareness Month and the statistics are staggering. The Church can no longer afford to remain ignorant nor silent. Whenever we are exposed to a greater truth, we are responsible for our response to it. We cannot gain knowledge and fail to act on it. This should serve as a challenge to the Body of Christ. With the understanding we’ve gained and the tools we’ve acquired, it is now the responsibility of the Church to rise and to fulfill her call.
We have been given the ministry of reconciliation and we carry peace with us everywhere we go. As Christians, our job is not to give others peace through the solving of their problems, but instead to point them toward the One that is peace. True peace is not a place, it is a Person. That person is Jesus.
By: Ashley Terwilliger