Christian Help

God, Counselors & Inner Healing

Divine Healing of Inner Pain

    * Is it a spiritual cop-out to use a therapist?

    * How likely is it to unknowingly grieve your divine healer by sliding into exalting an advisor, pastor or friend into a position in your life that belongs to God alone?

    * Is it sin to become dependent on a counselor or even a pastor?

    * It is being godly to refuse a psychologist’s help or could it be a manifestation of pride that displeases God?

Such questions have serious spiritual and practical implications for anyone seeking divine healing of inner pain.

As you slip into this webpage, don’t assume you know where it is heading. My goal goes beyond uncovering just one danger. To twist an observation of C. S. Lewis, the devil delights in setting multiple traps, in the hope that if we become aware of one, we will back off so far that we fall into another.

Let’s begin with the trap that one of my many trauma-survivor friends is passionate about exposing. Kathy, as I will call her, says:

    I used to be so dependent on receiving support from other people that I neglected God and what he was trying to teach me. I had gradually fallen into the sin of revering whatever therapists and doctors told me as a more important and reliable source of truth than God. When, for example, they told me I was unable do something, I didn’t attempt it – not even when I heard God whispering otherwise to me. I allowed these well-meaning people to smother God-given hopes and dreams. And when friends in Christ tried to alert me to my mistake I lashed out at them. I knew I was wrong but it felt safe and comfortable to keep going as I had been. So I ran to others who would agree that it was okay for me not to fully listen to what God was saying.

    I lied to myself, telling myself that I really was listening to God and that it was just that others couldn’t see it. What made this self-deception easier is that I actually was listening to God, but only in areas I either wanted to hear or was already doing.

    Consequently, I hurt people around me by encouraging them to do as I was doing. I wasted time that could have been spent growing closer to God. I delayed progress in my healing for a significant period because I refused to see that my reliance on doctors and counselors had reached spiritually dangerous levels. I became so hardhearted and blind in my sin of idolizing the support systems in my life that I pushed away emergency exits God offered to escape this dependency. My stubbornness forced God to help me the hard way. He suddenly removed, at essentially the same time, every single support system from my life that I had been wrongfully leaning on. I was devastated. “Why am I being persecuted like this?” I cried, “More trauma! My life is a series of trauma after trauma after trauma! God has nothing good for me because humans keep destroying what good things he provides!”

    A godly friend said I had a choice: I could either stay in the muck I had put myself in and seek out other human support systems and repeat the same mistake by getting too attached to them, or I could seize the God-given opportunity presented by the loss of the human support and use it to drive me to focus on getting to know God again. I could learn to listen to everything God says about my trauma, my pain, my life, my circumstances, and so on.

    I looked hard at my progress in healing and was forced to admit I was stuck. I could point to little things that had changed but not so much in my mindset and the direction of my life.

    So I went to work on letting God back more fully into my life. I asked him to open my heart to what he is saying and to help me not ignore his still small voice or make excuses when he shines his spotlight on places in me that need correction. I asked him to help me to rely on him and give me warning signals whenever I am heading down the wrong path again.

    God is changing and working on me in this area but it remains a struggle. There are still many times when I have to consciously pull back from people and supports around me for a while because I can hear God whispering warnings to me and I need to refocus on him. There are also times when I have to take breaks from activities such as TV watching, because they are becoming too important to me and are hindering my relationship with God and I begin to use them to ignore what he has told me I need to do.

    It has been all too easy to make support systems my idols without intending to. It is not that I should never reach out for support. When I do, though, I need to do my utmost to weigh everything against what God has to say in every aspect of my life. What/who is the first thing I run to when I am in crisis? Is my first response to difficulty to run to a human and share my experiences and (maybe) ask for prayer? Or is it to run to God with my prayers and hurts first and to others for additional support second?

    I know the devastation that I have wrought in my own life by not getting this right and I want to spare you that.

At her lowest point, Kathy ended up with more faith in the assertions and advice of highly trained experts than in God. This reminds me of what I have written in a webpage I call A Christian Perspective on the Use of Medicine and Doctors. Permit me to quote a relevant part:

    I was once reading in Scripture about how the godly King Asa trusted in a political alliance for the security of his country, rather than trusting in the Lord. Although the link is far from obvious, the thought came to me that this king’s misplaced trust – doing what made good, human sense, rather than go out on a limb with God – parallels our tendency to trust medical experts for healing rather than the Lord. To my surprise, I continued reading to discover that just a couple of verses later it says that Asa made this exact mistake! He had diseased feet and trusted his doctors instead of the Lord (2 Chronicles 16:1-12). Long after I had forgotten all about this, I re-read the passage and exactly the same thing happened – first thinking how Asa trusting a political alliance is like us trusting a doctor and then discovering that Asa actually made the mistake of trusting in doctors. Only then did I remember the previous occasion I had read that passage. Both times, I felt there is nothing intrinsically wrong with using doctors, but that where we place our faith determines the ceiling of what we can expect. If we place our faith in doctors (and of course the same applies to alternative medicine) we become subject to their errors and limited knowledge. If we place our faith in God, however, even if we were to use a doctor (provided this use is not an indication that we have lost faith in God), we then have every right to expect God to over-ride the doctor’s errors.

Kathy’s experience reminds me of another Old Testament lesson. God told Moses to craft a bronze serpent so that whoever looked upon it would be healed of snake bite (Numbers 21:8-9). That was God’s method; the way he chose to heal. Nevertheless, Hezekiah later had to honor God by smashing “into pieces the bronze snake Moses had made, for up to that time the Israelites had been burning incense to it” (2 Kings 18:4). The Bible records such events for the tragic reason that we, too, are in danger of making a mistake of the same magnitude. God often chooses to use people to assist inner healing, but we can end up breaking God’s heart by giving these people a place in our lives that belongs to God alone.

Another of my trauma-surviving friend adds:

    I have been searching my heart and asking the Lord to show me any sin in me. In doing so, I have to confess that I am in some ways like Kathy, and yet the opposite.

    Counselors or pastors never assumed a role in my esteem that belongs to God alone; fear did. Fear controlled me, driving me to not connect with people. “What they don’t know they can’t use against me,” has been my motto based on very real, highly traumatizing experiences.

    My whole life has revolved around fear and trying to be tougher than it. Yet, now I can look back and see that I was co-dependent on fear. Fear, rather than God, was my guide. If I felt no fear I would do it; if fear sent alarms blaring in my mind, I wouldn’t do it. Making fear my god seems so foolish to me, now, but my mind had been so paralyzed by fear that I thought my survival depended upon doing whatever fear dictated.

    I have always refused to consult a counselor, a pastor or virtually any human help. To do so would be admitting to myself and at least one other person that I not only have a mental problem, but one that I’m too dumb to fix. There is no shame in being unable to repair a modern car engine or in needing a surgeon’s help to operate on myself but to seek some do-gooder’s help to deal with my own inner issues seemed too shameful. Moreover, the thought of seeing a counselor felt to me like paying someone to pretend to be my friend. My self-esteem had already been mutilated and my loneliness was devastating enough without adding that humiliation.

    Having been betrayed in my childhood by a counselor, plus being repeatedly told that psychologists are of the devil, I ended up with an almost suicidal stubbornness about rejecting professional help. I presume what saved me, however, is that despite it all, I remained open to God using people to help me. In fact, I kept pleading with God to send anyone who would believe in me. I promised – and God knew I meant it – that with such support I would endure whatever pain and perseverance it took to fully heal.

    I shudder to think what would have happened had not God in his mercy gone to the extreme of sending into my life someone who became my trusted, devoted friend – someone I never paid and yet had the exceptional skills of a highly qualified counselor/therapist. Otherwise, my fear, pride and hang-ups about seeing a counselor would have kept my life decimated.

    After much heart-searching, I am forced to conclude that healing comes from obedience and that the will of God is the safest place of all. Now, before I do anything, I am going to ask myself, how is my choice going to honor God? Even if I sometimes struggle with the decision, I have already committed myself to choosing God and his ways. While I yearn to honor God, he will keep moving me toward healing, breaking the lies that have crippled me and bringing about his will in my life. This is the safest way to live.

Inner Healing

God’s Mysterious Ways

Whenever the God of infinite intelligence acts, expect to be mystified. A common mistake when guessing how the Almighty will move is to presume it will be stunningly quick and dramatic, and when it isn’t, we are left scratching our heads.

“It is the glory of God to conceal a matter,” says Proverbs 25:2. “Truly you are a God who hides himself,” adds Isaiah 45:15.

Imagine special forces who slip behind enemy lines. Disguised as ordinary people doing seemingly ordinary things, they accomplish exploits that cleverly remain undetected. Similarly, God frequently does things under people’s noses that they totally miss because to them it seems too slow or “normal” to be God. Even the most significant spiritual events in human history – when the eternal Son of God walked this planet – were totally missed by the world’s greatest theologians and spiritual leaders, despite speaking with him face to face.

We will look at two aspects of God’s astounding ability to hide himself. Each of these is of critical importance not only to those seeking inner healing but to all who wish to enjoy and interact with God.

1. Moved by his great love for us, God delights in doing things slowly

To grasp an aspect of this, permit me to cite what I have written elsewhere:

    Miracles glorify God. Displays of divine power draw attention to the Almighty and win him immense praise. If our Lord were into ego trips, such attempts to wow us would be commonplace. But our Lord is never egotistical, nor superficial. Instead, he is the ultimate in sacrificial love and wisdom. He seeks to exalt not himself but us. Like a wise parent who lovingly gives his children vegetables when they want nothing but candy, he will even risk breaking his own heart by exposing himself to the wrath of his darlings by doing things we do not realize are ultimately in our highest interest.

    For example, when God miraculously delivers from temptation – a heavy smoker instantly losing all desire to smoke, a porn addict never again tempted to lust, a junkie suffering no withdrawal symptoms, and so on – God is glorified and the recipients of the miracle are denied the opportunity to win glory for themselves. In contrast, if he lets us battle temptation, his name is blackened whenever we lose, and when we win we bring ourselves eternal honor. Such battles build Christlike character like nothing else can achieve. Until our appetite for Godliness matures, however, most of us would rather be spoilt brats than Christlike. We crave a soft life, but that is not how anyone becomes a spiritual champion. In the short-term we might prefer to be lazy, but the King’s goal is to make his children regal.

When God’s love compels him to do what is ultimately in our best interest, the healing might seem so agonizingly slow and unspectacular, and require so much human cooperation, that it takes significant faith to believe God is actually behind it. If God did it all himself, however, we would lose the opportunity to grow in faith and to deepen our walk with God, to build Christlike character and to win eternal glory.

2. God confirms in his Word that he prefers to work through people

Again, this is best explained by quoting from what I have written elsewhere:

    God alone thoroughly understands us and has answers to the most complex matters we could ever face. In theory, we need no one but God to resolve our inner turmoil and meet our every need. In practice, however, the Lord has purposely arranged it so that we need the help of other people. As he says of fellow Christians:

      1 Corinthians 12:21-22 The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” And the head cannot say to the feet, “I don’t need you!” On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable . . .

    Christ is always the Head – the Source – but because of his great love for his spiritual body, he often deliberately limits himself by choosing to meet certain needs within someone only through another Christian. Consider how in the following, healing is made contingent upon seeking human help (elders) and upon confessing sins not to God but to other Christians:

      James 5:14,16 Is any one of you sick? He should call the elders of the church to pray over him . . . Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. . . . (Emphasis mine)

    If we consider ourselves too superior or “spiritual” to seek human help – a Christian counselor, perhaps – our pride could be cutting ourselves off from divine help and the peace that results.

      Note who it is that God guides:

        Psalm 25:9 He guides the humble in what is right and teaches them his way.

      No wonder the Bible is filled with such scriptures as:

        James 4:10 Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.

      Seeking God is obviously of extreme importance in obtaining the divine wisdom exalted in the book of Proverbs, and living in this wisdom is sure to increase one’s peace. It would be a critical mistake, however, to overlook the importance this inspired book gives to seeking human help and advice:

        Proverbs 12:15 The way of a fool seems right to him, but a wise man listens to advice.

        Proverbs 15:22 Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed.

        Proverbs 19:20 Listen to advice and accept instruction, and in the end you will be wise.

        Proverbs 20:18 Make plans by seeking advice . . .

      Consider carefully the implications of these Scriptures:

        Matthew 11:25  . . . I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children . . .

        1 Corinthians 1:19-21,26-29 For it is written: “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise; the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate.” Where is the wise man? Where is the scholar? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe. . . .
        Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things – and the things that are not – to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him.

      Intelligence, learning and theological knowledge, instead of making us superior and independent, can actually contribute to arrogance that blocks one’s ability to receive spiritual revelation. Though few of its victims realize it, this blockage renders those who think themselves highly capable more dependent than ever on people they are tempted to look down upon.

      From early childhood, men, in particular, are trained to pride themselves in their independence and to treat asking for help as humiliating weakness. Countering this brainwashing is not easy, but renewing our mind and dying to self needs to include an extensive revision of such worldly thinking.

    God typically works through people, not because the Omnipotent Lord of perfection has the slightest deficiency, but because he loves people so much that he longs to give them the thrilling and undeserved privilege of working with God in tasks of divine significance. Like the proudest father, he wants his children to grow up to be like him. Achieving this takes much practice and time spent with our divine Daddy and, despite our childish mistakes that spoil divine perfection, this interaction with God thrills him. It is how to give a priceless gift to the God who has everything. Every time we seek the help of someone God wants to use, we delight God by our humility and by allowing that person the matchless privilege of acting in union with Almighty God in achieving something of eternal value.

    For more about God’s preference to work though people rather than act as a loner, see A Divine Partnership in the links at the end of this page.

    Just as leprous Naaman had to humble himself by dipping in the dirty Jordan before God acted, so for us to receive God’s inner healing we might have to humble ourselves by seeking human counsel (2 Kings 5:10-14).

    So it is the norm for God to cleverly hide himself by doing things slowly, requiring us to contribute and by working in partnership with people rather than acting as a loner. This is done to inspire us to grow in humility, perseverance and spiritual sensitivity. In 2 Chronicles 35:20-24 we read of godly King Josiah who ended up dying because of refusing to heed what God told him by the mouth of a pagan king. We have to be so in tune with God that we can discern when he is speaking to us even through people we would presume to be God’s enemies.

    God’s heart – his love, integrity, grace, faithfulness, holiness and so on – always remain gloriously and steadfastly predictable. His methods, on the other hand, are dynamic, creative and surprising. In Jesus’ earthly ministry, for example, no one could ever predict what means he would use to heal. He might rebuke the illness, lay hands on the person, spit on the person, tell him to show himself to priests, heal from a distance, smear mud on the person and tell him to wash, use the edge of his clothing, or some other means. Likewise, you cannot know for sure who God will use to heal you or whether he will do it without a human. One reason for God’s extreme unpredictability is to keep us sensitively looking to him and not losing this intimacy by devoting ourselves to formulas or people.

    How we react to our every relationship – from the darling of our heart to our most bitter enemy – is of critical importance to God and to our healing. We need a sensitivity to the Spirit and a delicate balance between giving each human relationship too much or too little weight. Whether it be financial or spiritual advisors, therapists or doctors, friends or revered pastors, we can grieve God not only by not consulting them but also by trusting them too much.

    Inner Healing

    Related Pages

    Courage to Heal from Inner Pain

    The Use of Medicine and Doctors: A Christian Perspective

    A Divine Partnership

    Personalized support
    Grantley Morris:

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