(This post was originally written in July 2005, well over a year and a half before I left my pharma sales career and began graduate school to become a Christian counselor.)
Our Wednesday morning group is studying the book of Esther. If you recall, Ahasuerus (AKA Xerxes) was having a rowdy night with the boys and commanded Queen Vashti to appear before them. She declined. (Any number of reasons can be inferred- among them 1.) she knew that to do so might entail being subjected to lewd and lascivious behavior given their then current state of inebriation or ,2.) she was pregnant perhaps with Artaxerxes, the son who would succeed his father and just didn’t feel like it.) Anyway, having been rejected in so public a manner in front of his ‘boys’, Ahas now had a problem-how to cover his embarrassment and save face. So he asked for their advice. Among them only Memucan’s reply is written. Memucan, perhaps considering his own emotions at the prospect of such rejection and fearing that he might face similar behavior in his own wife if she found out, tells the king to get rid of Vashti. Catastrophizing the consequences of what should have been just a small tiff between husband and wife and probably without all the reasons for the defiance as part of the thought process, he says that all the women of the kingdom will defy their husbands and have no respect for them because of Queen Vashti’s behavior. He counsels Ahas to sign a decree on the spot and be done with such defiance, which Ahas promptly does (though he later seems to regret the irrevocable decision which sets up the scenario for Esther to become part of the King’s household.)
It occurs to me that in today’s society we need to be very careful about the counsel we get and give. Those giving advice may be acting out of their own emotions and prejudices, fearful that they, too, may have to deal with what you’re dealing with and testing out their own planned responses and consequences by having you run the play first. Certainly, I have seen some women friends overreact to their friends’ complaints of marital difficulties, advising them to dump their husbands immediately when they make mistakes and act boorishly. I have never thought that was particularly godly counsel for Christian people to offer, although I do acknowledge that there are times (as in the case of physical violence and perhaps also in cases of unrepentant adultery) when such counsel might be appropriate, at least until the abuser/adulterer has gotten counseling and proven that he’s reformed.
One young woman I know announced to me a few months ago that she knows that God is calling her into the field of Christian counseling. It happened at a retreat that she attended with friends. It caught her (and me) by surprise since her degree and work experience is in marketing and advertising. She said she had spent a lot of time in prayer over the issue since the retreat and asked God why, out of the blue, He is giving her a whole new direction in life. It was very clear, she said, when she felt His reply in her heart. She has been a devoted Bible student for several years and God has begun to show her things in the Word that pertain to principles for living and relationships. He has been preparing her for His call. God is making a move in the field of counseling, at least for His people, away from the psychology-based models of the last couple of generations and toward a Biblical model that is His perfect plan. The June 2005 issue of Psychology Today has a big article entitled “With God As My Shrink” that talks about this trend that is gaining momentum among counseling professionals and the additional trend toward lay led caring ministries like Stephen Ministries.
I participated for several years in an online discussion group for people who have experience with or interest in psychosis and its relationship to spirituality. Most of the participants were mental health professionals who were all for spirituality being incorporated into the mental health treatment models. But they were adamantly resistant to the Biblical worldview presentation of that spirituality in the counseling process. They criticized me for being “intolerant”, “exclusionary”, “hurtful”, “narrow”, etc. because of my insistence that mainline Christianity offers a rational, reasonable, articulate, and successful therapeutic model, if used as directed. Somehow I get the distinct impression that what I was telling them for those several years is finally being borne out in the practice of the profession.
Be careful, however, in choosing a “Christian” counselor. A counselor who professes to be Christian is not the same as receiving Biblical Christian counseling from one who is truly a student of the Holy Spirit and obedient to God’s Word and will.
My friend began eagerly investigating the counseling curriculums at a number of colleges so that she could get licensed in counseling. She has some very specific and demanding expectations about the kind of curriculum it should be- decidedly Christian. I think God’s already qualified her with the most essential equipping- a solidly Biblical worldview and attentiveness to His voice through His Word. It doesn’t really matter which school she goes to now for the secular certification.
P.S. 7:15am after I posted this I went to my morning on line devotionals and what to my wondering eyes should appear but this link to a crosswalk.com article on choosing a Christian counselor!