Vashti, Xerxes and The “All My Friends” Method of Counseling

(This was written by me in July 2005, a year and a half before I went back to graduate school for counseling.  When I did, I chose a social services curriculum and to go a biblical route instead of a licensed mental health counseling route because of what I understood of the state licensing board’s limitation on use of faith in mental health counseling and prohibitions against evangelism and “first use” of faith directives. )


“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 glances or behavior given their then current state of inebriation or ,2.) perhaps she was pregnant with Artaxerxes, the son who would succeed his father and just didn’t feel like it.  3.) maybe it was God’s perfect ordained will in order to set the stage for the changes that would occur later.   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’s clear that God had prepared a redemptive plan,  since I doubt that shaming and shunning a wife was his perfect plan and knowing that Ahas was going to go with the conventional wisdom and questionable peer counsel in that case with Queen Vashti as well as with other later decisions. “  


My addendum today in 2017:

It occurs to me that just as in the case reported in Esther, 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 react to their friends’ complaints of marital difficulties by advising them to dump their husbands immediately when they make mistakes or act boorishly.  In some cases they had already been through such circumstances.  In other cases they were projecting their own defenses and responses into to a friend’s circumstances.  In still other cases, they were just offering a culturally-formulated and propagated view based on the “self-interest based ethic” so common in our society.  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.


In 2003-2005 I was invited to participate in an online discussion group for people who had 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.  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 at that time had 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.  One could also include activities like Celebrate Recovery, DivorceCare, GriefShare, and other Christian groups.   Somehow I get the distinct impression that what I had been telling them for those two years has been increasingly being borne out in the practice of the counseling profession.

Be careful, however, in choosing even 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 and who has the ability to offer helpful proven techniques for solving problems that meet current evidence-based practices among Christian practitioners.