“Why art thou cast down, O my soul? and why art thou disquieted within me? hope in God: for I shall yet praise him, who is the health of my countenance, and my God.” Psalm 43:5
In the verse above, the word ‘disquieted’ means to be anxious, uneasy, restless or dissatisfied.
The difficult part of being a Christian is that a soul in distress can be as much a sign of something wrong as it is a sign of something right. Doing work every day that is not in line with your personal values is hard. Working for someone who operates with a different theoretical and theological perspective is both frustrating and discouraging. I cry a lot. Do I believe this was the right place at the right time? Absolutely. I’ve learned a lot of things that will help me in the future; very practical things. I’ve worked with some amazing people and made good- very good- new friends. My clients break my heart and make me laugh, sometimes in the same sentence. They are precious, precious people, to me and to their Father God. (Even if they don’t yet know Him as Father.)
I read somewhere this week that we do discipleship backwards. That in the early days of the church, discipleship was a process whereby people came to believe. That through the method of asking, and being answered, and taught, and searching, revelation and knowledge were revealed. Today we have drive-through salvation. (And probably why we have a lot of recovery groups.) In my early days in my present church, I was listening to a Pastoral Counselor during the week, and the Pastor during the weekend service. It was quickly evident that the two were not at all congruent most of the time. And even more evident was the fact that the teaching during services was more helpful, and much healthier than the expensive archeological digs. There was more fruit. Which is why it is so difficult to tell in the moment if we are doing the right thing. Fruit takes time to develop. The fine art of counseling, like true discipleship, lies in making it possible for hidden things to surface and come to light.
The word health in the verse above is the Hebrew word yeshuah, which means salvation, or safety. This verse is repeated twice, once in Psalm 42 (verse 11) and again in Psalm 43. In his distress, David asks himself the same question twice, and twice he comes to the same conclusion. This is congruence. This is the kind of soul-searching questioning that produces the rich soil required for growing fruit. Pastoral counseling should be the kind that prepares us for growth. It should be a form of discipleship; if it were, the soil would be prepared during the counseling session, and the seed would be sown during the teaching. The fruit would be evident; in clinical terms, we wouldn’t relapse as often. We would not only grow, we would reproduce. In counseling, this is what those in the clinical fields would call ‘evidence-based’ treatment: there would be evidence that the process is working. Without evidence, or fruit, there is no testimony. We as Christians, as representatives of Christ, cannot overcome with out two things; one of which is the word of our testimony. “This is how I used to think; this is how I think now.” “This is how I used to act, but this is how I act now.” “That is something I would have said or done in the past; now I know better.” This is fruit.
Michael Scanlon writes in his book Inner Healing “Frequently, people have others pray for them, asking for tranquility, calmness, stability, understanding, tolerance, joy, freedom from anxiety, resentments, or guilt but nothing appears to happen.” (Ever stood in one of those prayer lines?) He continues: “People are naturally inclined to seek after such desirable goods the way they would academic degrees, business success, or physical development with the additional point that they seek through God rather than through other [people]. This is not the way to inner healing by the Lord.”
I feel better now. Have a Blessed and productive weekend, people.