Episode 17: The Difficult Topics of Abuse and Suffering, Part 2 (with Mike Wickens)

by | Mar 12, 2024

Today, I’m sharing another conversation with my good friend, Mike Wickens. Last time, we discussed the heavy topic of abuse, and today, we’re following up with a closely related topic: suffering. We dive into the mystery of why suffering exists, a sovereign, good God who doesn’t stop suffering, how to love suffering people, and best practices for pastors who are ministering to those in pain.

Mike has been studying in the biblical counseling realm and soul care space for many years. Since 2017, he has served as Associate Pastor of Biblical Counseling at Southern View Chapel in Springfield, IL. He’s also the director of the Springfield Center for Biblical Counseling, which is a certified training center for the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors (ACBC).

Since starting his counseling journey in 2010, Mike has experienced the burden and reward of shepherding people who have experienced abuse. Through our conversation, he helps us gain perspective on biblical suffering, observations about how to suffer well (or not), and resources for those on the front lines providing guidance to those who suffer.


Key Takeaways

1. The Church needs a correct theology of suffering. Pastors should be intentional about preparing their congregations for the reality of suffering in the Christian life. It’s often mistakenly believed that “good people don’t suffer,” but that’s not true: Look at the biblical example of Job. Much of the suffering that happens in the world comes as a result of the Fall in Genesis. Suffering can be a way of accessing a “deep intimacy to the heart of God” when we trust God with the ugliness of life. We don’t want more suffering in our lives, but we can celebrate what God does through our suffering and the way it drives us to Christ.

2. We have a choice in how we respond to suffering. The concept of “I am a victim” can contribute to people thinking they are powerless in their response. Pastors should empathize and enter into the pain of their counselees but also point out that there is always a choice. Suffering can have a positive aspect to it when we allow it to drive us to Christ, which is a decision the individual has to make. Involvement with a local church, time in the Word, and counseling are all important in a healthy response to suffering. Some people want help more than they want to change, so assess if the person is willing to grow in seeing their suffering from a biblical perspective.

3. In cases of abuse, there are unique aspects of suffering. Pastors should have a team in place to assist in abusive situations, which is an opportunity for the larger church community to be a support. Control, fear, and pride can deeply influence both the abuser and the one being abused to the point where those attempting to help may find that the ones most closely involved are unwilling to make changes. Ultimately, we can’t control other people’s choices. In a counseling situation, God and his Word never fail, but humans are fallible—both the counselor and counselees. Prayer and humility are key. Think through a team approach so you are ready to come alongside them, set up their practical needs, and provide ongoing support.


Meet Mike

Mike Wickens has dedicated years to studying biblical counseling and soul care. He serves as Associate Pastor of Biblical Counseling at Southern View Chapel in Springfield, IL, and directs the Springfield Center for Biblical Counseling, an ACBC-certified training center. Previously, Mike spent 38 years as a Site Manager at various parks in Illinois before retiring from IDNR. He holds a Masters in Biblical Counseling from Faith Bible Seminary and is ACBC-certified. Married for over 40 years, Mike has three daughters, three sons-in-law, and eight grandchildren.

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