The Centrality of Christ in Counseling by Chad Nightingale

by | Aug 8, 2023

I have often been disillusioned by a poor theological view of those who are not in Christ. When I heard those who were without were totally depraved, I immediately thought of monstrous individuals, close to zombies, committed to sin and destruction. This reinforced by their inability to do any good thing and probably the influence of prosperity teaching in my fundamentalist church caused me to believe that. Unbelievers cannot have good marriages. Unbelievers could never be happy or contented with their lives. Unbelievers may be successful in their business objectives but only because they were shady or downright wretched thieves.

With this poor theological understanding and the resulting conclusions, I was disillusioned when my friends’ unsaved parents loved each other while running a bar. Had lifelong friendships that seemed to eclipse most relationships I saw in the church. My friends’ parents seem to have successful lives with homes, boats, every new electronic gadget, and of course Air Jordans. On the other hand, we were poor. My dad worked all the time just to take care of my mom’s medical bills. It sure did not seem like we were on the winning side. This disillusionment almost caused me to jump ship, leave the faith, walk away, or deconstruct (which would have made me look cool!). Almost! as in, “my steps had well-nigh slipped.” Then I was introduced to Asaph and Psalm 73. One little line, “Thou hast set them in slippery places.”

This line helped me to realize that anyone can achieve happiness if their circumstances line up correctly and the source of their happiness remains. Married people can be happy if they are both committed to each other and their family. Money can bring happiness and contentment as long as it keeps coming and satisfies the individual’s personal desires. Friendships can be all an individual needs to live a full life. But all these things can be gone in a moment. This is why Job was tested with loss. Satan’s argument is that Job has no reason to turn from God because God has given him everything he desires.

This is the same reason therapy is such a devastating enemy to the body of Christ. Therapy that is well received can provide answers for dealing with difficulty, better engagement and communication in marriage, tips for dealing with finances in a logical way. Those who are willing to listen will be able to change their circumstances and the change of circumstances will fuel success and that success will build confidence for the establishment of relationships, and the combination will provide a happy satisfying life. But what happens when success is gone, circumstances are out of control, confidence is lost, and you feel like you are all alone? When the foundation built for standing strong crumbles the individual who learned to live on their own strength loses everything they are in a nightmare.

Scripture teaches us that there is not one stable thing in this world that we can put our sights on. Everything around us is dying. The only firm foundation is Jesus Christ because He is the only reality that lasts in this life and in the life to come. If we manage to bring a counselee into balance by maneuvering all the situations, assets, and relationships into order they will do well for a time. But at some point, the most disciplined and dedicated individual will feel the pressure of a collapsing foundation. If we cause individuals to put their faith in their local church (which seems very biblical) then when that church lets them down, they will be crushed. If we cause individuals to trust in a model or a counselor (also seeming very biblical because who does not need a good discipler) then they will be crushed when that individual is no longer available to them. But if their faith is in Jesus and because of this they have put aside everything that draws them away from Him they will be stable and strong even in the most difficult of times.

If the goal of counseling is a temporary fix, then let us use every human means available to us. But that is not the claim. Counselors claim the ability to change individuals’ lives. If that is the claim, then temporary fixes are not enough. Jesus is the only always available, never-failing foundation in this world. Every person who wants a life that can never be crushed by the brokenness of this world and the people in it must learn to place every hope, dream, pursuit into the trustworthy hands of Jesus. Nothing else will do. “Because we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight and sin that so easily entangles us and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, placing our eyes on Jesus the author and finisher of our faith who for the joy set before Him endured the cross” (Hebrews 12:1-2)

At BCM we are committed to showing individuals how to place their entire lives under the always available, never-failing foundation Jesus Christ by helping churches prepare their people to point each other to Him as the source of care in this life and the next.

Pastor Chad Nightingale

BCM Church Care Partner

Sr. Pastor Pekin Bible Church

IABC & FBC Certified Counselor

MABC Calvary Theological Seminary

Kari Gross

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