Cases in counseling

Here are five hypothetical problem situations showing how Scripture may be applied in problem-solving.

1. A couple are constantly bickering and expressing anger towards each other. The least comment is taken as an insult or an allusion to the other's failures. In the presence of others, their behaviour is definitely better, but they cannot get along with each other.

Such a situation does not develop overnight. I will investigate since when they have been behaving like this, and if a lack of forgiveness comes up, I will deal with that immediately.

I will point out the importance of settling their differences on a daily basis, and not hide their problems under the carpet. "Do not let the sun go down on your wrath..." (Ephesians 4:26). Enough is one's day anxiety. But when it is undealt with it will surely pile up until it becomes unbearable.

As for the future, I will teach them to apply such passages as Proverbs 37:8: "Cease from anger, and forsake wrath; do not fret, it only causes harm."

2. A member in church is trying to make himself look spiritual. His life in actually in shambles, undisciplined. But as soon as this is pointed out to him, he quickly says something like, "Oh, the Lord is sovereign, and is not pleased to have me grow right now."

Cases like these seem to be very common, where people misuse their theology to excuse their stunted spirituality.

I will point out to such that we are always meant to grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ, and rather than hiding behind God's sovereignty, we are to apply ourselves to the established means of grace: to prayer, to Scripture-reading, to the fellowship of the saints, to confession of our sins.

In love I will have him realize that what he says is actually a refined way of accusing God for his own failures. "A man's own folly ruins his life, yet his heart rages against the Lord" (Proverbs 19:3).

3. A series of negative events comes upon a Christian man for no apparent reason at all. But one accident keeps coming after the other; this tends to side-track him from his usual business engagements and family life. He starts to feel crushed, and depressed.

I will approach such a case with utmost sensitivity and try to explain why bad things happen to good people, and vice versa. Asaph, in Psalm 73, dealt with this gigantic problem, and saw the end of it: apparent prosperity is not to be envied, for God places the wicked in slippery places.

On the other hand, in His wisdom, He allows His people to suffer and be perplexed so that they may learn to fix their hope upon Him alone. This was the experience of many fine people of God, such as Paul, who confessed: "We are hard pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed" (2 Corinthians 4:8,9).

God knows the limits He will drive us to, and though we walk in the valley of the shadow of death, we need fear no evil (Psalms 23:4). Though we may not see or even feel His presence, He is definitely with us. Evil circumstances are an opportunity to grow in faith (James 1:2ff).

4. As much as a Christian man affirms that He desires to start witnessing regularly, his cop-out is always, "I am so shy; it's in my character. It seems that evangelism is not for me."

If Christ has received him, he should not be reserved about Him. His fear of the public and his shyness is nothing else but a lack of love for the Saviour.

Being ashamed of the gospel is non-sensical: we have the cure, and shall we then keep it for ourselves?

Again, character can change and does change. That is what sanctification is all about: putting of the old man and putting on the new man, being renewed in the image of Christ.

And the Scripture leaves us with no doubt about the potential within us, through the Holy Spirit: "For God hath not given us the spirit of fear, but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind" (2 Timothy 1:7).

This man's excuse is nothing more than that; he needs to learn to deny himself and take up the cross. If he is saved by Christ, he must be a witness for Him too.

5. A Christian man is acting like a policeman on his kids, overbearing them with too much rules and regulations.

I would point out that a good number of rules is no proof of a judicious exercise of parental discipline.

What is needed is consistency in the application of the rules, a sense of fairness (the child not being severely punished for relatively small failures), and rather than bossing them condescending to their childishness and seek to understand them. (Christ condescended to the apostles and yet retained his masterly authority over them).

A good place to start for this Christian is an exposition of Ephesians 6:4: "And ye fathers, provoke not your children to warth: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord." With this I will supplement verses from Proverbs (13:24; 22:15; 23:13,14; 29:15).