Several years back I had the misfortune of dealing with an undiagnosed illness. It began as a cold, developed into the flu and then morphed into a series of weird ailments. My skin itched incessantly, I slept all the time and my chest hurt. The first doctor I sought seemed to be experimenting with the latest in natural remedies. She “prescribed” a nasal rinse and recommended I rest. Humph. A couple weeks later nothing improved. The succession of doctors and ER techs that followed had me breathing into a paper bag, fainting while they took my blood gases (a novice at a teaching hospital, that was fun) and traversing a room full of treadmills all in the name of stress testing. Nothing like a treadmill when it hurts to breathe; you bet I was stressed.
At one point a doctor I had never before met burst into my hospital room and announced I would be taking cholesterol medicine the rest of my life; she scribbled instructions on my clipboard, shoved the pills in my direction, and exited the room as quickly as she entered. Against all of the doctor’s orders I instead got dressed and left the hospital.
In the end my problem had nothing to do with the treatment encouraged by the professionals. Had I taken the countless prescriptions recommended for my unidentified ailment, they would simply have masked the source of my problem.
I began my trek through John MacArthur’s “Counseling” yesterday by first underlining our problem. Sin. If we attribute our problems to any other disease we will necessarily seek solutions from the wrong source. I’m not referring to true physiological illnesses—determined by a lab test—rather, “Today’s ‘infirmities’ (self-image, looks, codependency, emotional abuse, mid-life crisis, and unfulfilled expectations) [which] were once seen more accurately as the pains of selfishness.”
MacArthur writes, “The path to wholeness is the path of spiritual sanctification.” In an effort to alleviate pain, typically attributed to trials and suffering, Christians employ an ineffective technique often proposed by the world; behavior modification. Similar to treating my unnamed illness with random pills, we adjust our behavior and believe we have cured our sin.
At our fingertips, however, believers have the most comprehensive tool to eradicate what ails us. “The only reliable help for the human soul is the infallible truth of Scripture applied by the Spirit of God.”
Many of you just nodded in agreement to that statement and probably added this book to your “must read” list. Before you do, though, let me delve a bit deeper into the thesis for this chapter. MacArthur states that it is the Church that has moved away from that thinking, not society. “Christian psychology”, a multi-billion dollar business, “has diminished the church’s confidence in Scripture, prayer, fellowship and preaching as means through which the Spirit of God works to change lives.” It is “not taking the church in a biblical direction.” “The influence of psychology is reflected in the kind of sermons that are preached from evangelical pulpits, in the kind of counseling that is being offered over the radio air waves…and in the books that are being offered by many evangelical publishers.”
This movement, the one that believers are eagerly taking, moves people from a biblical perspective to a problem/solution approach. And “it cannot change the human heart.”
Which is our goal.
My illness was eventually diagnosed as pneumonia. Apparently it hid in the lining of my lungs and could not be detected by conventional testing. Ironically, at my chiropractor/ acupuncturist appointment last week, he mentioned that all skin reactions originate in the lungs. Astounding that the myriad of professionals previously assigned to my case were unable to identify that symptom—nor add it together with chest pain! But then, a chiropractor is trained to diagnose from a holistic perspective.