29 Jun Fitting OUr Story with God’s Story
Some people are amazing story tellers. They can make some of the most mundane events seem like an adventure because of this incredible gift for spinning words together. We love to listen to them because we are all story tellers by nature. Stories are how we share experiences, they are how we make sense of the world. As we move through life, our own story grows in beauty and complexity. Each of us can tell tales of laughter, weave stories of heartbreak and sorrow, and share moments of exquisite joy.
My brother likes to remind me, and everyone else, of the time I woke him up on his day off with the high pitched whines of my juicer. Each time the story is told, the time in the morning is earlier. Each time the story is told, his disgust at being woken, and my proclivity to healthy eating, increases. Each time the story is told, it is a little bit further from what really happened. He is not alone in twisting the truth for a good story. We are all inclined to manipulate the truth. We censor the bad bits and select the best image for the story we like.
In our fallible, sinful state, we never let the truth get in the way of a good story.
Without realising it, we look at our stories through a lens that twists the truth. As we work to make sense of our world and of our lives, we use a filter. Certain parts are doctored, removed or smoothed over, while other parts are highlighted. Just like we select from different Instagram filters to portray a certain story on social media, we do the same with the story of our life. We find filters that fit our emotional state, our relational experiences and our spiritual well-being.
Heartbreak, tragedy and despair can weigh heavy on us. In trying to make sense of what we have experienced, we pull apart the events, examine the roles of characters and piece together our version of the story. Very often, our own version finds us at the centre. We take centre stage. As the main character, we take on, or assign ourselves different roles. Our version of the story may show us as a victim of circumstance, a carrier of burdens that are too heavy for anyone else to carry. Or perhaps our version of the story is how we heroically overcame the evil that we faced. But the Bible tells a different story. Scripture shows us that we are not the main character, it paints a picture where Christ is our saviour. He liberates us, and he is the one who brings change and growth into our lives.
Much of psychological theory finds the individual at the centre. There are many different understandings, theories and approaches all connected by a common thread. The individual is the one who brings the change. They are responsible for their own healing. We know this is not the case and we have a much richer source to help us make sense of what is happening. As David Powlison puts it:
Nothing compares to scripture for making sense of the troubles and struggles of life. Wise counselling in in the Church’s DNA.
God’s word provides us with incredible insight into what it means to be human. The pages of scripture contain a story filled with joy sorrow, heartbreak and healing. Unfolded on the pages is the story of creation, fall and redemption. The story of the God who made the world. Each of the smaller stories, the individuals and time periods are all linked together, building blocks that form the much larger story that God has used to reveal himself to us.
The big story and the smaller story are inextricably linked. The big picture is revealed in the small details. The big story of hope and comfort brings specific strength and encouragement for the everyday details.
The message that we receive from secular society is the complete opposite. We are taught that scripture and religion are great when it comes to generalities, or when we are thinking about the next life. But they fall horrifically short when it comes to helping us right now. We are constantly fed the lie that our faith, and our religion are not relevant to every day life. They have no relevance for the real struggles that we face every day. Feeding on this lie, it is easy for us to turn to humanistic psychologies and new age mantras for hope and comfort.
Biblical counselling draws from the insight, wisdom and truths of scripture in order to make sense of what is happening in our lives.
It works to align our story with God’s story. Restoring us to what it means to be truly human. Restoring us as God’s image bearers. We can try to make sense of our own story using the filter of secular psychology, or our own adaptation of a self-help philosophy but that may only be temporary and it is definitely not serving God. With scripture as our lens, we can make sense of the burdens and trials that we face in a way that brings honour to God. When we learn how our story fits into God’s much greater story, we can reach out to the comfort, strength and hope that is found in our Saviour.
With the gospel being at the core of biblical counselling, we can see how and why, wise counselling is in the Church’s DNA. Providing wise counsel is not limited to a counselling office and a well learned pastor or counsellor. Instead wise counsel should be found in so many parts of church life. When we look at ministry as being public (preaching), private (personal devotions and quiet time), and interpersonal (interacting with fellow believers), biblical counselling can be considered as a part of interpersonal ministry. Wise counsel is required when we catch someone in the church carpark and ask how they are going. It is required when we mentor a younger member who is facing certain difficulties. Wise counsel is an integral part of home visits and the care provided by elders and deacons. In particular circumstances, it is also found in a specially trained biblical counsellors office.
Wise counsel is not easy.
It is not straightforward. There are many complexities of living as broken image bearers in a broken world. Wise counsel requires an ongoing growth in understanding of God’s incredible love and how that is working in your own life. It is filled with a deep humility and compassion for our fellow believers, overflowing of the love we experience from God. It requires a deep knowledge of scripture and a comprehensive understanding of the human condition so that we can connect the two in our own lives and in the lives of those around us.
There is a long journey of learning to do this well
We can all grow in our understanding of how our stories fit into God’s story. There are many great resources developed by wise men and women who have spent their lives growing in a deep understanding of how to connect scripture and the human condition. Trellis is building a collection of these resources to continue to support this development in the Free Reformed community. Below are two great books that go into biblical counselling principles in further detail. They are available through Pro Ecclesia Bookshop and the Trellis resource library.
How People Change By Tim Lane and Paul Tripp
This book takes the principles from the introductory course for biblical counselling David Powlison developed for CCEF and Westminster Seminary. Together the authors examine what change looks like on a heart level. They move through a model of how the pressures of life produce both thorns and fruit (Jeremiah 17:5-13), examining in detail how Christ is working in our lives today so that we are able to produce fruit. It provides a fantastic overview on what gospel centred change looks like. The principles may no be new but they are a great encouragement to lean into the grace of God as it works in the details of life.
Instruments in the Redeemers Hands: People in need of change helping people in need of change – Paul David Tripp
In this book Paul Tripp shows how broken people help broken people. We are all sinful and in need of a saviour and we certainly do not need to have it all together to support our brothers and sisters in Christ. Helping and caring for those who are vulernable is not something that we leave to trained professionals. It is everyone’s responsibility. God has made us to be tools in His hands. This book is comprehensive overview of how we are to be those tools to impact the lives of others.