I recently got into a discussion about why I don’t recommend a certain local Christian counseling center.
Don’t get me wrong; I’m a huge advocate of Christian counseling. You can read about that here, here & here. I explain in those testimonies how the 3 years of Christian counseling I sought (after having gone through close to a decade of secular counseling) were life-changing to me.
But I’ve also heard some horror stories of how poorly handled Christian counseling can scar people.
A few years ago, I heard from a friend who went to the above-mentioneds local Christian counseling center. She is someone I know fairly well who is relatively well-adjusted, but went through a challenging time and sought out some counseling. The counselor’s philosophy seemed to be that all of your issues are related to your own sin.
I can’t help but think of the man born blind who was described in the Gospel according to John, chapter 9. The basics of the story were that Jesus was walking along and he ran into a blind man. The disciples wanted to know whose sin caused this man to be blind. The guy’s sin? Maybe his parents?
Jesus’ reply? “It was neither that this man sinned, nor his parents; but it was so that the works of God might be displayed in him.”
Yet after the man is healed, people keep badgering him. How did this happen? Why did it happen? Who did it & where did He go? Finally the former blind man answered, “Listen, this what I know; I was blind, but now I can see!” You really need to read all of John 9 to get the fullness of this amazing story.
Like Jesus said: “It was neither that this man sinned, nor his parents; but it was so that the works of God might be displayed in him.”
What an awesome answer that is! And how particularly relevant it is to those dealing with life-controlling issues. We often dig and dig and dig into our lives and the lives of our family-of-origin to figure out why we are dealing with what we are dealing with. What if it’s simply so God can be glorified? That’s one reason a simple “your sin caused your issues” message is harmful and often wrong theologically.
There’s another reason. Our sinful choices often flow out of a deficit or brokenness in our hearts.
An old friend used to say sin is an attempt to meet a legitimate need in an illegitimate way. Though usually not consciously, we sometimes decide to take our needs into our own hands and meet them as we see fit. We think, “God isn’t going to meet this need, so I’m going to have to meet it myself.” We misunderstand or don’t know the fullness of who we are in Christ and who God truly is. Thus, we make broken choices out of our broken understanding.
Yes, sometimes, even as believers, we sin as an act of rebellion, but I actually think that’s pretty rare. I was making a conscious decision to rebel against God’s best for me when I entered into my last lesbian relationship. But underneath that rebellion was a broken child crying out to her heavenly father, “Are you really enough for me? Can I leave behind everything I’ve known and built my life upon for the unknown that is a relationship with You?” My girlfriend dumped me, and I decided to painstakingly, one-step-at-a-time, choose to trust God.
That’s why I think a simple “your sin caused your issues” message from a Christian counselor (or anyone) is harmful. It’s a total oversimplification. Maybe God wants to be glorified (actually, is there even a question there?). Maybe God wants us to choose to heal our brokenness rather than choose to act out of our brokenness (again, not really a “maybe”).
Check out some suggestions on how to find healing over at Freedom Fridays.