Ideas are not enough

keepcalm

There were dozens, if not hundreds, of “ah ha” moments for me when I was going through my biblical counseling training.

One moment that stands out from the others was when my instructor said: “Change never happens in the abstract, it always occurs in the concrete, when changed thinking is put into practical action.”

Change never happens in the abstract, it always occurs in the concrete

My instructor wanted me to understand that just teaching doctrine, or discussing important concepts wasn’t enough; I needed to move a counselee (and myself!) from right thinking to right action in the form of concrete implementation.

Even in the context of a conference, it is critical to ‘do our homework’ and put what we are learning into practice as quickly as possible.

We are excited to offer an opportunity at the end of our first day to gather in facilitated small groups, and work through a case study together applying what we’ve learned.

Our 2018 Canadian Biblical Counseling Coalition conference  Let’s talk hope in suffering is fast approaching.

Why not register TODAY?
We’d love to welcome you in person March 22&23 More details about the upcoming conference.

eventbrite-button

What do you say when someone is suffering deeply?

suffering

I will never forget an experience I had many years ago. I was travelling with a co-worker on business who was also a Christian. As we travelled and spent time together he began to share with me the very painful and challenging circumstances he currently found himself in. Wanting to be helpful, I told him about a great book I’d finished recently that I’d found very helpful. I don’t remember his exact response; the gist of it was that he’d read it, and that it hadn’t helped him in the least, and that he was feeling stuck and hopeless.

I felt stupid and very inadequate, I could think of nothing to help this man. I knew there had to be answers in Christ, but I didn’t know what they were. This was many years before I discovered biblical counseling, or had been equipped with a theology for ministering to the hurting.

I felt stupid and very inadequate, I could think of nothing to help this man.

Perhaps you’ve found yourself in similar circumstances. I think most of us have found ourselves here at least once in our lives.

Equipping people to think clearly about suffering and to minister lovingly and effectively to those are hurting is something that each and every one of us will have opportunity to do at some point in our lives.

That is why we chose to make our 2018 Canadian Biblical Counseling Coalition conference theme: Let’s talk hope in suffering.

We warmly invite you to join us and renew your mind and thinking from God’s Word on this important topic and to learn and discuss some of the practical implications that go along with it.

Why not register TODAY?
We’d love to welcome you in person March 22&23 More details about the upcoming conference.

eventbrite-button

Biblical Counseling and Past Trauma

Counseling Trauma

–by Wendy Bowman and Cam Barnard

A great question from our conference. The question was general enough that we felt two different perspectives might be helpful.

Q: Can biblical counseling, without an understanding of the deep-seated effect of trauma, work to guide someone to a place of liberty in Christ?

Wendy Bowman’s Answer:

This indeed is a raw yet very real question. Does the Word of God address suffering to the depth of the horrible and life altering trauma that so many people have endured? Yes, biblical counselling can and does speak tenderly and completely to the deep and painful and dark places of trauma. To begin with, I never presume that I, as the counsellor understand fully another’s trauma, but my Jesus, who suffered so much at the hands of many, does. He not only gives us manna (living Word) daily, but Himself to journey through the deep waters of suffering.

With that, we turn to the scriptures, and go to places like Psalm 88, and find another human who, in the depths of his own suffering laments, ‘darkness is my closest friend’. His heart cry is a gift from God, being offered to the heart of a fellow struggler, a soul that we can truly resonate with. David also recorded many Psalms where he speaks of being hunted, even by a son seeking to kill him, and after his honest soul wrestling will close with, yet I will trust You oh Lord for You alone can save me, Psalm 4. How ever do they do this? In our flesh, it is indeed, impossible, but with the Spirit, all things are possible.

As I journey with one struggling under the weight of trauma, we look to the scripture to grow to know that the character of the triune God offers the stability and stamina to stand under the weight of their burdens. We might talk about the truth that God reassures us over and over that “He will never leave us or forsake us”, even when the evil of this world seems to have the upper hand, this can serve to root us in solid ground.

The character of Christ offers much to the understanding of living victorious in trauma thus, examining His responses can be helpful. We could go to places like Hebrews 5:7-8 where we hear Christ “offering loud cries and tears in prayer and supplication”, yet remained obedient in His sufferings.

When God calls me to walk with those who suffer, I will also want to communicate the essential nature of letting the body of Christ -beyond me- share the burden they carry. Again, the bible is rich with examples of not only Christ’s tender care for sufferers, but the body of believers encouraging and caring for others. Perhaps the most dramatic of all such examples is the story of the paralytic whose friends went to great length to help him in his suffering. Ed Welch’s book, Side by side develops this well.

These are just some of the ways that I believe biblical counselling not only understands and speaks to trauma, but offers a person victory.

Cam Barnard’s Answer:

What importance does a biblical counselor place on the past?

On one hand, we are keenly interested in this past event as an important part of information gathering. For someone who has experienced significant trauma in their past, we want to understand how they are thinking about the event, how it has changed their thinking about God, about their relational communities, about themselves. All this and much more is part of being diligent in information gathering and really understanding the person we are counseling to ensure that our counsel is relevant and properly applied.

On the other hand, biblical counselors don’t believe that the key to freedom and change is located somewhere in the past. Too often in other philosophies of counseling the past is revisited again and again because the counseling methodology believes that the key to the future is found buried in the past. One very real danger in this is reinforcing a mindset in the counselee that they are unique or different from everyone else in a way that puts them out of reach of God’s help and hope. We instead want to lovingly bring a counselee to understand that everyone has a past, that everyone interprets and responds to their past, and that ultimately all we experience and struggle with is ‘common to mankind’ (1 Corinthians 10:13).  

While relevant to a loving understanding of the counselee, the past doesn’t hold the answers; the Word of God empowered by the Spirit of God is what renews us and transforms us into the image of Jesus Christ for our good and God’s glory.

In short; listen carefully, love genuinely, and learn all you can while you gently refocus the counselee’s gaze upon the perfection of Jesus Christ.

Encouraged and thankful

connecting

Over the past week your Canadian Biblical Counseling Coalition board has been sharing their reflections on the conference, and hearing your feedback as well.

For use the highlights were clear and spoke directly to our vision:

  1. Many connections were made. Folks spoke with each other, shared with each other, prayed with each other, encouraged each other.
  2. For a significant portion of our attendees this was their first introduction to biblical counseling. More Canadians are now aware of the heart of biblical counseling; and based on your feedback it was a positive, challenging, and thought provoking introduction.
  3. God was present in a way that humbled us as organizers, and glorified Himself. For us, that makes it all worthwhile.

Purity of Counseling Methodology

cbcc_conferencegraphic_2016-compact

Our upcoming Gospel Conversations conference (Feb 23-24 2017) has the theme “Let’s talk purity.” As you’d expect, this theme addresses the need for sexual purity in a world that doesn’t value it. It may be less obvious that this theme also address the importance of purity of counseling.

One of the most common questions from genuine believers about Biblical Counseling is how it differs from Christian Counseling backed by psychology. There are many ways to answer this, let me give you one answer.

If we are honest, we recognize that it takes careful study and discipline to correctly interpret and apply the Scriptures in our lives. A significant percentage of those who are born again admit this is a challenge. It takes significantly greater skill to analyze and assess a mixture of truth and error, and correctly separate the two. In my experience, those who champion the inclusion of psychological elements in Christian Counseling are often unable to perform this difficult analysis and separation correctly.

A positive, unity building way to explore this with a brother or sister in Christ is to work through a case study together and identify places that psychological approaches may be different from biblical truth.

In the end, it is more fruitful and productive to focus upon what the Bible itself teaches about counseling methodology and the multitude of common-to-man problems each of us face throughout our lives.

I am taking vacation time from work and travelling over 4000km to attend our upcoming conference. I hope to meet you there and have many gospel conversations with you!

For more information and a registration link visit our conference page here:
https://biblicalcounselingcanada.ca/conference/

Counseling the very ill

2016-12-24 Counseling the Very Ill.jpg

Biblical counseling is committed to the Bible as its infallible guide to understanding the very real challenges that people face and how to address them. In my experience as a biblical counselor, I’ve found that a biblical understanding of sickness is something I regularly need to assist with. Clearly the world’s two most common perspectives are incomplete. A modern medical view might address us as nothing more than a physical, biochemical machine in need of repair. A modern spiritual view might emphasize the power of positive thinking and our ability to make ourselves well through positive energy. The Bible is clear that as human beings we have both a physical body, and a soul/spirit; and that these two parts of ourselves are deeply intertwined and influence each other. A biblical view of sickness needs to address both body and spirit; but it also needs to take God’s will and glory into account. Yes, sometimes it is God’s will to heal and make well for our good and His glory; and God welcomes us to pray for physical and spiritual restoration. Sometimes, it is God’s will to bring Him glory in the midst of our illness, and to die and be with Him in a way that brings Him glory. Over the years I have been greatly impacted by brothers and sisters I know such as Rachel Barkey who have demonstrated for me what this looks like. Let us not read too quickly past what God’s Word teaches us in several places. The folly of seeking only the physician’s help and not also seeking the Lord’s (2 Chronicles 16:12). The fact that sometimes God uses sickness to humble us and to keep us from sin (2 Corinthians 12:7-10). These examples, and many others are part of the rich and multi-faceted biblical view of illness that are part of counseling biblically.

The Heart of the Matter

the-heart-of-the-matter

When I’m first building a relationship with someone I’m counseling, it is common to hear frustration and weariness from them as they describe their challenges and circumstances.

In those early stages of counseling it is not obvious to them, or to me, what patterns of thought and belief might be compounding their challenges.

One of strengths of biblical counseling is its focus upon getting down to the level of the heart (Proverbs 20:5). I consider it a humbling privilege to assist someone in understanding and adjusting the attitudes of the heart, and I continue to be amazed at how Spirit-enabled heart change can radically transform what originally seemed to be incomprehensible challenges.

Each time I meet with a brother or sister in Christ, I am formulating heart x-ray questions to help clarify that understanding. Two questions I often begin with that can be phrased in different ways depending on the conversation, are these:
1) What do you want that you are not currently getting?
2) What are you currently getting or experiencing that you wish you weren’t?

The principle that my response to my circumstances is as important as the circumstances I find myself in is an important aspect of truly biblical counseling.
Consider, just for a moment, how differently you might counsel someone who is responding sinfully to being sinned against with a clear understanding of this truth.