Disordered Loves, Messed Up Lives
Author: Leslie Vernick
I feel so sad. Many people I know feel desperate, confused, angry, depressed, and messed up. I hurt for them and want to help—don’t you?
As Christian counselors, we are invited into someone’s broken heart and messed up life. They want hope that we have something unique to offer that will help them figure out what’s wrong so that they will feel better. But that’s the million dollar question isn’t it? What’s wrong?
I’m afraid sometimes in my eagerness to be biblical, I’ve offered my counselee a biblical solution rather than God himself. I see this person before me as rebellious or undisciplined or indifferent to God’s Word and now the consequences of those lifestyle choices and/or emotional and thinking habits are bearing down on him or her in painful ways.
He may be prideful or self-righteous and doesn’t see to take the log out of his own eye before trying to remove the speck from his partner’s life. A couple sits before me arguing constantly, biting and devouring one another and yet doesn’t understand why they’re experiencing the destructive consequences of their communication style.
So what is our goal as Christian counselors? Where do we start and where do we hope to end up? Over the past decade or so, I’ve intentionally changed my focus. My goal as a Christian counselor is not simply improved functioning, symptom reduction, and transformed thinking (although these things may be part of the process). My primary goal is to help my client set their loves in order, not necessarily their lives.
Let me explain. Jesus commands us to love God first, with everything we have not only because God deserves our love and is worthy of it, but because he knows how crucial it is to our well-being. God knows that what we love the most will rule our lives. That’s why the apostle Paul counsels us to let the love of Christ control us (2 Corinthians 5:14).
Most times the problem isn’t that we or our clients love the wrong things, but that our loves are out of order. The consequences of our disordered loves are messed up lives. We love things and use people. We say we love God, but truth be told, our hearts long after something else that we think will fill us up or make us happy. We have made secondary things primary and primary things secondary.
In his book, Reordered Love, Reordered Lives: Learning the Deep Meaning of Happiness, philosophy professor David Naugle writes,
We can all too easily confuse what we desire with what is desirable, satisfy
the superficial and starve the essential traits of our nature, love absolutely what we should love relatively, and love relatively what we should love absolutely. We can be on a fool’s errand after fool’s gold.
Lesser loves have stolen our heart. It’s not only that we love other things too much, but that we love God too little. The apostle Paul warned us that because of our damaged natures, our human leaning is to worship people and things more than we worship God (Romans 1:25).
Our privilege and responsibility as Christian counselors isn’t to lead our clients to simply obey biblical truths but to help our clients love God more.
Oswald Chambers warns,
If we love a human being and do not love God, we demand of him every perfection and every rectitude, and when we do not get it, we become cruel and vindictive; we are demanding of a human being that which he or she cannot give. There is only one Being who can satisfy the last aching abyss of the human heart and that is the Lord Jesus Christ. Why our Lord is apparently so severe regarding every human relationship is because he knows that every relationship not based on loyalty to Himself will end in disaster.
The gospel doesn’t just teach people how to live but rather who to love. These days I’m hesitant to label myself as a biblical counselor. Instead I call myself a Christ-centered counselor. I am called to bring Christ into the center of all I do.
That doesn’t’ mean I don’t’ address real life problems, but I know that solving problems won’t lead to lasting joy, peace, or happiness anymore than eating a great meal tonight will keep me from feeling hungry tomorrow. The human heart needs more than human solutions or even biblical principles. It needs to fall in love with God.
How do you incarnate Christ in your counseling so that your clients will be drawn to love him more?
Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest (July 30), 154
David Naugle, Reordered Love, Reordered lives; Learning the Deep Meaning of Happiness (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eardmans Publishing, 2008),22.
Posted on August 30, 2014