Friday, 17 June 2016

A delightful counsellor - Psalm 119.24

Your decrees are my delight and my counsellors. 119.24

There has never been a better time to be a counsellor.  In some parts of the UK one adult in every six is on anti-depressants.  Is this because life is more stressful and there is more anxiety due to societal issues?  Is this because we are simply more willing to give out tablets to fix our problems?  Whatever the cause, the number of people in need of seeing a counsellor or psychiatrist is sky high.

It is foolish to treat depression, anxiety, or other mental distress as not being a real health problem.  You cannot just exercise your way out of depression or decide not to be anxious.  We would never tell someone with a broken arm that they just needed ‘to change their perspective.’  We would never tell someone with cancer they ‘need to make more of an effort.’  Depression and anxiety have real biological causes and there are no simple answers.  

Depression and the like are not just problems ‘out there’ in the world, they are Christian problems.  Many great saints have suffered and wrestled with great bouts of depression - for example Charles Spurgeon the ‘Prince of Preachers’ was plagued throughout his life by horrendous depression.  It is tragic that many Christians feel they have to hide their depression or mental disorders.  The church is a hospital for sick, imperfect, struggling sinners and not a museum for perfected saints.  

One big difference for Christians who wrestle with troubles in life - whether grief over a death, anxiety over work, fear over safety, or a more general depression - is that we have a perfect counsellor.  When we need hope, when we need to be reminded of the truth, when we need to recognise what is reality and what is not, we can come to the perfect word of God.  The Bible lays before us the promises of God, the real truth of our identity in Christ Jesus, the reality of our sins truly forgiven and of our past washed clean.  When we face suffering of any kind it reminds us that we have an eternal Kingdom coming soon where there is no pain or death or sorrow.  When we cannot understand why things keep happening the Bible reminds us that God is 100% sovereign and all things work together for the good of those who believe.  

I don’t believe Christians should never see psychiatrists or counsellors, and I certainly don’t think they should not take medication if it is needed; but I do believe, as the Psalmist does, that the Bible should be our first and last resource in all things.  When we make the Bible and its truths our life coach, our counsellor, we will truly delight in it.

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