Counseling as a professional practice developed in the Western world in the 1800s. However, asking for guidance and advice from others for personal problems is an age-old practice.
The stigma of seeking counseling is associated with cultural understandings of mental health, individual and relational. Stigma is a negative self and/or societal assessment associated with shame in admitting difficulty in addressing or the inability to solve one’s own problems.
I’m writing this article to affirm the wisdom of seeking counseling and the courage necessary to engage in the couples counseling process from a biblical perspective.
Everyone is made for relationship and everyone messes up their relationships.
The Bible affirms that it is not good for any of us to be alone (Genesis 2:18), and describes God’s basis for creating man and woman in His image to be for oneness, partnership, intimacy, and permanent commitment (Genesis 2:24-25).Whether we marry or not, we are created for relationship with others. As great is our capacity to love, give, and serve is our capacity to be selfish, to use, and to hurt one another. That we are all sinners, rebels against God’s ways, and breakers of His law, is self-evident, universal, and undeniable when we are honest with ourselves (Romans 3:23).
Every marriage is one crazy proposition.
Can two broken creatures trying to grow together and be unified, intimate, and emotionally safe succeed without outside help, support, and encouragement?
“Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh. And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed.” – Genesis 2:24-25
Marriage is a fragile, audacious relationship, fraught with daily challenges throughout the span of life. Isolation can intensify problems. Patterns can become entrenched. Feelings are interpreted as truth. Our own narratives are unquestioned and our choices justified.
Everyone needs grace, hope, and support to succeed.
If loving for a lifetime, forging unity, and being a blessing within and beyond one’s own household is the purpose of marriage, how does one succeed?
“Unless the LORD builds the house, those who build it labor in vain.” – Psalm 127:1
Even Solomon, considered in his day as the wisest man on earth, acknowledged the need for God to help the builders of the house. Grace is undeserved favor, akin to forgiveness, the cancelling of moral debts. If all sin, then all need forgiveness and grace.
The accumulation of sin in relationship drains hope from the relationship. “Those who hope in the LORD will never be put to shame” (Psalm 25:3). Those who wait upon, trust in, and rely on God and His ways experience hope in their troubles.
“Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. For each will have to bear his own load” (Galatians 6:2, 5). The apostle Paul implores Jesus’ disciples to help to support and bear one another’s burdens and to carry one’s own load.
The difference between a ‘burden’ and a ‘load’ is in their weight and the strength required to bear each. A burden is a weight that cannot be carried alone and requires the assistance of others. A load is one’s own responsibility, which can be carried without the help of others. In the context of Galatians 6, one’s load is one’s responsibility to think soberly, realistically, and honestly about oneself. Reaching out for help when one has exceeded their own limits is commendable, wise, and worthy of respect.
Everything that happens in our marriage can be used for good and blessing.
Every marriage is meant to be a blessing. In Abram and Sarai’s marriage, God restored His original purpose vested in Adam and Eve to be a blessing to creation and to all peoples. Marriage is meant to benefit more than each partner, and more than any children raised in a household, but to be an instrument of God’s goodness to the nations (Genesis 12:3). The ultimate outcome of one’s life is promised to be good for those who respond in love to the God who is love and who calls unto His purposes (Romans 8:28).
For those who have called on Jesus for forgiveness, life, and redemption, there is hope for a better marriage, for increasing intimacy, and for becoming a blessing. Christian couples counseling can support these purposes by offering a safe place to understand how we mess up our relationships, acquire the tools to make amends and to love better, experience the support to sustain, and the encouragement to follow Jesus’ ways to be a blessing to one another and to others. God uses counseling, paired with community support and prayer to repair, restore, heal, and equip a couple in need.
To many, neediness is shameful and to be avoided because in their experience, neediness is exploited or ignored. To God, there is no shame in reaching out to Him and His people to live in His ways. He can heal the wounds that cause us to live less than we were made to live. He can heal the shame that causes us to resist His help. He can free us from captivity to our sins, fears, and despair, to grow together and become a blessing. If God is giving you the courage to seek His help in couples counseling, I urge you to contact one of my colleagues or me.
“Conversation,” courtesy of mrhayata, Flickr Creative Commons (2.0 CC); “Peace,” courtesy of Jennie-O, Flickr Creative Commons (CC 2.0)