A Conversation on Biblical Counseling (Part One)

This is a lightly edited transcript of the second video of A Conversation on Biblical Counseling (Part One).

Click here to watch all three videos from Part One.

So How Does the Gospel Speak into Counseling?

Sarah: Would either of you mind sharing what your personal journey towards being involved in the area of mental health has been so far and how do you see God views our bodies, hearts, brains, mood, souls, and all of that together? It’s a big question.

Meng: Wow. Yeah. For me personally, we can't discuss mental health issues without touching on the Gospel because I find that as I pastor, as I talk to people about their mental health or about their situation, whatever they're going through in life, I find that the Gospel or even just biblical truth, gives a rationale for what they're going through.

If I were to start with a story of the creation and how it ought to be, and then I  explain the fall, and the reason why they’re suffering now, give an explanation of sin and brokenness and corruption that we face now. And how going through difficult situations in our lives [realtes to] mental health. And then finally how we are redeemed from all these through Christ and how Christ has come to justify us from our sin and brokenness and redeem us and give us a hope for the future.

No other religion gives us this rationale and this understanding from the beginning of creation to the end, from Genesis to Revelation. And it excites me when I talked to an unbeliever. What CCEF has taught, we are able to contextualize it here in our Malaysian environment, where there is just a mix of religions.

Understand that no other religion gives you such a comprehensive view of mankind from the beginning to the end. [This explanation helps] and they are able to rationalize why they're going through what they're going through. And that helps a lot, I think, in counseling.

Mario: And if I could just add to that... I think, honestly, when I first heard the term ‘biblical counseling’, it's an intimidating term because when you try to look at it on the surface, you ask yourself, what does it mean? What does biblical counseling do?

Does it involve meeting someone's suffering with a smattering of Bible verses, you know, just tell them, read this and you’ll feel better about yourself and it will be fine tomorrow? 

I think it starts with us having to ask the question, why do people seek counseling in the first place, right? And I think it's because we go through difficulties, we go through suffering, we know that something's wrong. Something's not the way it should be. And people want to see change. People want to see something happen.

And I'm not trying to say anything negative about other models or other methods, because I think that there is a lot of wisdom in professional models of counseling and therapy, certainly. So much research has been done over the years to bring it to where it is today, but ultimately it doesn't meet people's basic need for a Savior.

And I think that's where biblical counseling comes in. We meet people, we listen to their stories. We don't try to find a solution, but at least we point them somewhere. We shift their gaze to the only thing that really makes sense. And that's the biblical narrative - God's plan to redeem us from our sins. And I think that's been something very powerful for me to reflect upon.

Sarah: Because Mario, you started your career in health areas, right? Where you focused on psychology or mental health in the earlier days before coming to CDPC?

Mario: Yeah. I actually studied Psychology for the vast majority of my education. So I hold a degree and a masters in Psychology, but never got the opportunity to practice. I came back to Malaysia at a time where psychology was relatively unknown. And so I went into healthcare management.

My company looked after hospitals, but really those were the things that I struggled to come to terms with in reading secular psychology, that every model or every therapeutic system wants to offer hope. But if hope is not grounded in the knowledge of Jesus Christ as the one who saves us from our sins, then where is its foundation? And what is it pointing to? I think these are questions that I struggled to deal with, even as I studied psychology.

Sarah: And I just want to bring up a one point that you said, and if you remember the exact words, I think you said something like, why people come to counseling is because they realize that something's wrong. They realize that they want I [something], is that what you said?

Mario: Yeah.

Sarah: Okay. Because it reminded me of my own journey at the end of 2016, when I was back in the US and struggling. It was winter. I had not been in a winter and I was thinking, this heaviness, this discouragement, this lack of motivation, it must just be seasonal affective disorder. It must be because of the winter here in Minnesota.

And it took me five to six months before I was willing to listen to friends and others who said, Sarah, maybe you should go see a counselor. And this is someone who's studying biblical counseling already, myself, you know, I didn't want to solve it myself. I wanna take enough vitamin D. I wanted to get the heat lamp to make me have light, sunlight that I was missing from Malaysia, you know, all of these other ways.

And so I just want to highlight that as an expert, that it really sometimes goes against our innate human self-sufficiency and even maybe, cultural context to admit that you need help, right? And yet it's in that owning up that I find  something that I haven't figured out here.

I would like someone else to walk alongside me that God can use and that God can work through. And that, I think, is also something that will be beautiful. We'll talk about this later. But if more of the body of Christ, as lay persons, can understand that they don't have to become counselors, but can still help walk along others. And the ‘one anothering’, that will just improves the health as his bride.

Mario: And if I could just add to that, I think that's one of the things that makes me so passionate about counseling. I realize this about our lives as Christians that we were not created to exist in isolation, a man on his own island, but rather we've been tremendously blessed with people, with communities.

And I think counseling is one of those things that naturally comes about when you have a community that cares for one another, because if you think about it, what is counseling? It's not a scenario where I plant myself as a subject matter expert, and somebody comes in with problems and I fix it or solve problems.

I don't think I can realistically do that. But I think couneling is simply being in a position where I can ask another person, "How are you, what are the things on your mind? What are the things in your hearts? And as a brother in Christ, how can I pray for you?" I think those are very powerful questions as we are privileged to journey alongside one another.

Yeah. Mario, you’re right. We're not here to solve the problems, but really just to acknowledge that the Holy Spirit's working in everyone's life and what we’re doing is just pointing them to the evidences of God's grace in their lives and say "Hey, you know, the Spirit's doing something. And as you tell me this, I think the Spirit's doing this, and we can rejoice together, isn't it?"  We can celebrate together what God's doing. I think that's very powerful.

Topics addressed in A Conversation on Biblical Counseling (Part One)

1. A Conversation on What Biblical Counseling is and Who It Is For
2. So How Does the Gospel Speak into Counseling?
3. Addressing the Stigma of Shame in the Body of Christ: How a Healthy Faith Community can be Open and Vulnerable with One Another to Disarm Shame in a Broken System

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