Common Issues in Biblical Counseling, Part One
Do you have problems that seem too great to bear? Do you wonder if there is a way out of your circumstances? In our humanness, we all yearn for a life free from trials and when we are confronted with the loss of a loved one, unemployment, or poor health, we are wrecked. When trouble comes our way, feelings surface and many times our rapid-response exhibits no evidence of knowing Christ in the day-to-day reality of our lives. In the midst of adversity, the average Christian waffles from faith to doubt. Trouble uproots weak faith.
With the heavy weight we sometimes have upon us in suffering tragedy or disappointment, it’s possible to feel like giving up on life, the church, or even God himself. When emotions run high, we have a tendency to forget that our feelings are not always indicators of facts. Actions and reactions based solely on emotions can be problematic. Christians are to honor the God of the Scriptures in all things and when trouble comes our way, we are called to glorify God by living out his directives.
Rightly walking out our salvation requires we stand firm. Contrary to what you might be feeling, no one’s problems are unique (1 Corinthians 10:13). A life fully lived is never lived completely without trouble. God has not removed trouble from this present world, but He has given believers all that is necessary to handle trouble successfully. Sufficiency of God’s Word coupled with the work of the Spirit uniquely empowers believers in the dark times of difficulty. If we do not stand firm in faith, we will not stand at all (Isaiah 7:9).
Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.
The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Jas 1:2–4). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.
For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.
The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Ro 8:18). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.
Trials come in the form of trouble or affliction. They can be general suffering or specifically caused by being a Christian. Suffering itself comes for many reasons: as a result of personal sin and failure, due to other people’s sin and failure, from forces outside of our control, or as a result of a person’s faith. The Bible tells us that there is both deserved and undeserved suffering and it describes why suffering is a part of life.
- Suffering occurs when we sin or act foolishly (1 Pet. 4:15).
- Suffering is part of following Jesus (1 Pet. 2:21).
- Suffering leads us to growth (2 Corinthians 12:9-10).
- Suffering equips us to help others (2 Corinthians 1:3-5).
a bruised reed he will not break, and a faintly burning wick he will not quench; he will faithfully bring forth justice.
The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Is 42:3). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.
“If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours.
The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Jn 15:18–20). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.
Let’s look at portraits of suffering:
• Janet bit the inside of her cheek to fight back tears. Her friend chatted blithely on about their family going to the church picnic next week, and Janet nodded woodenly and smiled. Inside she was in such pain. She knew her family wouldn’t be going to the picnic. No one could understand what it was like for her to continue to live in the marriage that she had committed to ten years ago. Her husband wasn’t a believer, and the day-to-day pain of loving and respecting her husband when he did not return her love and commitment was so very difficult.
• Bob just couldn’t get through the pain. The death of his eldest son in a car accident had caused a hole in his heart that no one could fill. He couldn’t even seem to function with his other children or his wife because the pain was so fresh every morning and the suffering so intense. If only their last conversation had not been an argument.
• Mark and Jill lost everything in the recent flooding on the Mississippi River. Their house was destroyed, and few of the objects inside were even salvageable. They have the clothes on their backs, a few books, a family Bible, and two cots at the local Salvation Army.
 Clinton, T., & Hawkins, R. (2009). The Quick-Reference Guide to Biblical Counseling: Personal and Emotional Issues (p. 247). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.
Not taking a biblical attitude toward trials leads to an attitude problem. Responding with whys, self-pity, anger, and bitter complaints focuses on self and not God. Although lament and complaint have some things in common, biblically they cannot be mistaken for each other (Philippians 2:14). Go here to learn more about lament. Unlike complaint, lament in worship honors God (Psalm 22).
For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing.
The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (2 Ti 4:6–8). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.
Focusing on your problems only leads to further problems. Certainly the apostle Paul was an exceptional Christian, and he would be an example for us to follow when trouble comes. No one has experienced greater pain and suffering yet lived with such dedication to the Lord’s work. Paul dealt with imprisonment but continued to proclaim Christ fearlessly. His focus did not change. In times of adversity, we can gain from reflecting on God’s mercies in the lives of faithful people.
The former proclaim Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely but thinking to afflict me in my imprisonment. What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed, and in that I rejoice.
The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Php 1:17–18). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.
“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account.
The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Mt 5:10–11). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.
Trials are something all people must deal with. Dietrich Bonhoeffer wisely said “A Christian is someone who shares the sufferings of God in the world.” The Bible teaches that creation itself suffers and will one day be redeemed. So, what would be our right attitude when trials comes our way? Focus first on God’s Word, knowing that as Christians we not only endure difficult times but flourish on the other side of life’s problems (2 Cor. 4:1, Gen. 50:20). Second, pray and meditate on the attributes of God. Trust His gracious hand is at work in bringing good out of troublesome circumstances, great or small.
For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience. Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.
The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Ro 8:22–28). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.
While we have no reason to welcome or rejoice in trouble itself, surely we can find that in the results we have much to be thankful for. Counselor Jay Adams wisely wrote “If you truly believe God is in the trouble and is doing something through it, your attention will be drawn away from the trouble itself and those aspects that would lead to resentment or self-pity. Instead, your deepest concern will be to find God at work.” When a believer chooses to handle trouble well, she has opportunity to exalt Christ most clearly to unbelievers in the witness of her life and in her testimony of God’s goodness.
No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.
The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (1 Co 10:13). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.
How might we apply God’s examples and instructions in the Bible to our own trouble? Consider these six steps:
- Know that trouble doesn’t just happen to people.
- Trust God and seek his lessons by reflecting on the Scriptures.
- Spend time in prayer, casting your cares on our unchanging Savior.
- Find encouragement in worshipping faithfully with a body of believers.
- Allow God to help you endure by seeking his actions (where you see his hand at work) and slowly moving forward through the pain.
- Get support from those who might help you walk through your trials, follow up with you, and help you take any needed action.
Remember, when trouble comes your way, you have an opportunity to trust a sovereign God. Remind yourself that you are a child of the One True King. Turn to Him. Obey Him. Trust Him. He is completely trustworthy to remain with you in your suffering and in the end, will bring us to glory. God is faithful.
Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed.
The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (1 Pe 4:12–13). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.
For further study:
Acts 28:17-31, James 1:2-12