In our first article in this series, we began reflecting on the question, ‘Where do we turn when our soul hurts?’ Here in part 2, we want to explore the last option offered, specifically whether direct and personal counseling from God Himself, aided by godly men and through His Word, is sufficient for comfort and our growth in godliness.
You Must Be Born Again
This brings us to a necessary division: from now on I am writing only to regenerated Christians. Jesus emphatically declared that unless one is ‘born again’ he cannot either see or enter the Kingdom of God (Jn.3:3, 5). The verb ‘cannot’ denotes a universal inability to achieve the Kingdom of God, apart from the single condition. There is no such thing as being a little bit pregnant: a woman is with child or she is not. Likewise, you have received eternal life or you have not.
Paul notes we all were ‘dead in our sins’ (Eph.2:1, 5). Dead means dead; it is not hyperbole. He goes on to note that ‘He has made us alive together with Christ’ (v.5). Neither understanding nor experiencing eternal life is possible to unbelievers. They find it foolish and offensive.
Personal Counsel from the Personal God
The Bible speaks to direct those made alive by the supernatural action of God alone. It reveals that the one true God is alive and that He is personal—indeed more than personal. He is super-Personal. He is the template of personhood from which each of us is a finite copy. We communicate because He communicates. From the creation of Adam and Eve we have been communicators. That capacity has not been lost, just debilitated.
Personal and direct guidance was inherent in God’s original plan because in His goodness as a Father He never intended His children to grow up orphans. He forms us and grows us through relationship with Himself. He planned to raise us. Adam was the ‘son of God’; God was his Father. He began counseling with His created son almost immediately. During those first days when only the Creator and the man were present in the Garden, God said that all was “very good” (Gen 1:31), and immediately began to shepherd His newly formed children (Gen. 2:16ff). The commands, the promises, the warnings and the intimate counsel of the Father were shaping Adam and Eve before sin entered the world! This is an essential observation, since it demonstrates historically that our need for counsel is intrinsic to our very humanity and not just a necessary correction to sin in our present fallen state.
“Our need for counsel is intrinsic to our very humanity and not just a necessary correction to sin in our present fallen state.
God designed and invented counseling as integral to His eternal plan, settled in the perfect wisdom of His mind from before the foundation of the world (Prov. 8:1-36). Counseling is a key means by which God relates to us and gives us dignity. Counseling is neither new nor was it the invention of unbelievers. Secular counselors have merely filled the gap left by church neglect over the past 150 years.
Guidance through His Word and for His Glory
God’s written Word is exhaled from Him (2 Tim. 3:16)—it is His breath and His voice. God’s direct counsel is more essential than ever due to our sin. We never outgrow our need for the presence of our Father. His supernatural act of regeneration makes this possible and inevitable.
Being in Christ makes us completely dependent from start to finish on the unmerited favor of God—the outflowing of His grace alone into our inner being (Eph. 3:16). This means that He alone, in His Word alone, by His Son alone through our trust in Him alone gives appropriate credit to Yahweh alone for the power and guidance and results. This way thus ascribes solely to Him all of the glory.
This is the gospel method. If man were able to heal his soul himself on his own terms, then he would have something to boast about (Rom. 4:2). But we are not allowed to boast, except in the Lord (Rom 3:27). The straight and narrow path of humility and trusting Christ leads to life. He alone, alive, present to our souls, is the way, truth and the life (Jn. 14:6). The proud, broad path of trusting in ourselves leads to death (Mt. 7:13).
“Being in Christ makes us completely dependent from start to finish on the unmerited favor of God—the outflowing of His grace alone into our inner being.
Yes, God has made us dependent on Him for the eternal life he has bestowed. We are to feed on Him in the Word; we are to cast our cares on Him, for He cares for us; and doing this is an action, not a passive emotion. This is the obedience of our faith (Rom. 1:5; 16:26). Evil has directly or indirectly led to all the anguish and pain we suffer. Many of our wounds are self-inflicted. Some are not. All are evil that God has allowed, and which He alone can heal.
Many churches in the last century or so have soft-pedaled the idea of sin and evil. If counseling is to lead from evil into righteousness, then we must renew our historical understanding of both from God’s Word. If God is guiding us, then this is the only direction He will sanction.
The historical reality of the fall of Adam, and of the consequences of God’s curse upon all generations, including ours, must be our next subject.