Weekly Breakthroughs

Every successful biblical counseling case is filled with key moments that could be called "Divine Breakthroughs". These are times in conversation with the counselee that they hear one or more biblical truths with such clarity and candor that a major shift takes place - the darkness and hopelessness of their complicated situation is replaced with the direction and perspective of the All-Wise Sovereign Father and God. Each week this blog will seek to contain one or more of those divine breakthroughs that have recently occurred in counseling by one or more of our biblical counselors at the Lowcountry Biblical Counseling Center. Our hope is that the Lord will use these weekly gleanings to help you in your life and ministry to others.

The Heart Wants What the Heart Wants

Author: Patty Brown, MA
June 15, 2016

“I can’t believe I did that! I’ve always done the right thing. What’s wrong with me?”

These were the questions that haunted one young lady who was distraught and disheartened at the realization that she could change from being an obedient, godly daughter to a rebellious, pleasure seeking sinner when in the company of a certain person. Although she had separated herself from bad company, repented from her sin and sought forgiveness, she wondered if something was seriously wrong with her.  She knew there was something more than just the influence of bad company corrupting her good character. She was right! Psalm 1 and Jeremiah 17:7-8 both depict the blessed man as a flourishing tree planted by water that remains green and yields fruit despite drought and heat. Much like water being the source of life for the tree, the Lord is the life-giving source to the blessed man. In this young lady’s case, her heart’s desire was not to delight in the Lord, but to delight in the opinion and praise of others. Thus, she was delighting in a source that leads to sin and death. As we began to unpack her desires and the things in which she was trusting, an “AHA!” moment occurred. The influence of bad company simply revealed what was in her heart: delighting in the approval of man rather than God. Thus, her outward behavior changed according to that which would bring the approval of others.  Her past obedience had been fueled by a heart that was seeking approval and praise from others rather than from a heart that sought to please God, manifesting self-righteousness rather than the gracious character of her loving God. With these new realizations, we began focusing on cultivating a heart that loves and fears God more than man. We worked through Wayne Mack’s Bible Study “Hope Comes from knowing God as Our Father,” studied God’s attributes and examined the humility of Christ using Tim Bryant’s Bible Study “The Wisdom of Humility and Foolishness of Pride.” In his booklet, “Motives: Why Do I Do the Things That I Do?,” Ed Welch notes:

The heart is the source of all human motivation. It is the wellspring of life (Prov. 4:23), the root that determines whether the fruit on the tree is good or bad (Jer. 17:5-8; Luke 6:43-45). It is our true self ... the heart’s root motivation is “I want.” By nature the heart is selfish. It wants what it wants when it wants it. It doesn’t want God setting limits or providing direction. When changed by God Himself, the heart’s selfish and anti-God motives are not erased, but they are gradually replaced by a desire to love God and live for Him alone.[1]

 
 
 


[1] Edward T. Welch, “Motives: Why Do I Do The Things That I Do?” The Journal of Biblical Counseling (Fall 2003), 49.

 

When Our "Want To" Is Broken

Author: Greg Gifford
April 13, 2016

One of my counselees recently asked me an excellent question: “What do we do when our ‘want to’ is broken?” He was asking this in reference to honoring God but it is a question that is embedded in every one of us. What do we do when we don’t want to do? I appreciate his candor in expressing what most of us have felt. To say it another way, “I don’t want to change the diaper. I don’t want to help them move. I don’t want to be kind when they are snippety.” So what do we do when we don’t want to do what honors God?

To begin, it must be said that our desires, perhaps, are the most understated function of our being. We have a propensity to focus on our behavior (i.e., the do) but often neglect the fact that our behavior is a manifestation of our desires (Prov. 4:23). If we don’t move past behavior to the heart/desire level, we miss the majority of what God sees in our lives. As one author said, “we do what we do because we want what we want.”[1]

How do we want correctly? And what do we do when our wants are off-kilter? This is vital to get right. Paul notes in 2 Corinthians a significant shift with the mindset of the Corinthians regarding giving. He informs us to the nature of how the Corinthians gave, which informs us in regards to desires. Listen to what he says, “And in this matter I give my judgment: this benefits you, who a year ago started not only to do this work but also to desire to do it” (2 Cor. 8:10; italics mine). Did you catch that? They gave but not only did they give—they started desiring to give. This is profound in that Paul commends the Corinthians for both doing what honored God and wanting to do it. Here’s the point: our desires matter. But how much do they matter?

The Bible consistently speaks of desires and passions (cf. James 4:1, 1:13-15; 1 John 2:16; Acts 20:33; Gal. 5:24). Our wants are a common discussion in the New Testament especially. We hear things like 1 Corinthians 10:6, which says that we can learn from Scripture so that “we don’t desire evil as they did.” Galatians 5:17 also says that the Spirit has desires. In fact, before we were in Christ we were characterized as being controlled by our desires (Eph. 2:3).

Romans 6:12 says, “Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions.” Passion is the same word used as “desire, craving, lust, or longing.”[2] In fact, it is the same word that Titus uses to articulate what Christians were freed from when they became believers (Tit. 3:3) and what John says the world is full of, to its own demise (1 John 2:15-16). Every person has desires and those desires are quite important: they are part of the fabric of being human. However at the new birth, our desires shift dramatically.

Our desires must become reformed desires: reformed in that they are no longer evil (Col. 3:5) but rather, they are wanting what God wants. Ephesians 2:3 says, “among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.” Before Christ we had fleshly passions, but that is no longer true. Galatians says that the “desires of the Spirit are against the flesh” and if we walk in the Spirit, we won’t satisfy the desires of the flesh (5:16).

Moreover, in John 8 we see that the Jews had the same desires as their father, the devil (v. 44). Jesus literally says, your desire is to do the will of your father (v. 44). This is blatantly juxtaposed to Jesus’ desire to do the will of His father (John 4:34). Yet before salvation and after salvation we have operative desires. This too is obvious throughout Scripture. The question comes when those post-salvation desires do not align with God’s desires.

The good news is that Philippians 2:13 says, “for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.” Paul says this in light of working out that received salvation as believers. But most importantly, God is reforming our will to conform to His as we “work out our salvation” (2:12). God is changing what we want so that it conforms to His will. Psalm 37 says that He gives us the desires of our heart as we delight ourselves in Him (cf. Ps. 37:4). Do not miss that the process of sanctification happens at the desire level.

But what do we do when our “want to is broken”? How to we redeem our desires? How do we want what God wants? Do we become Stoics? Not totally. However, in ordering desires we must put on superior desires through self-denial. The Bible paints a portrait of cultivating desires through self-denial. Listen to just three examples of this:

  • “But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires” (Rom. 13:14).

  • “And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires” (Gal. 5:24).

  • “Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry” (Col. 3:5).

This is an integral part of cultivating God-honoring desires. Namely, we deny our natural desires—we deny ourselves.

Thomas Chalmers’ work on affections is quite insightful and spot-on. Yet, one thing he misses is that new affections are cultivated through denial of old affections. I wish there were a silver bullet to kill the sinful desires we possess (i.e., the absolute expulsive power) but that is a process of sanctification of our desires. One author said, “Even after the reception of the divine Spirit,  [desire] is always a danger against which man must be warned and must fight.”[3]

So what do we do when we don’t want to do what honors God? We deny our desire to do what dishonors Him (Gal. 5:24), pray that He inclines our hearts to His will (Ps. 119:36), and do what He has called us to do by faith—despite what we want (Rom. 13:14). Therefore, our goal is that we too, like the Corinthians, will not only do what honors God but that we will desire to do it (2 Cor. 8:9).

[1] Heath Lambert, “One Sinner to Another: How the Church Must Speak about Homosexuality,” October 5, 2015, presented at the annual ACBC Conference 2015.

[2] BDAG, s.v. “epithumia.”

[3] Gerhard Kittel, Geoffrey W. Bromiley, and Gerhard Friedrich, eds., Theological Dictionary of the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1964–), 170–171.

[3] Gerhard Kittel, Geoffrey W. Bromiley, and Gerhard Friedrich, eds., Theological Dictionary of the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1964–), 170–171.

Being Squeezed: James 1 and Trials

Author: Greg Gifford
February 28, 2016

Often times in counseling, I use the idea of a balloon. Like a balloon we are squeezed by our circumstances in life: jobs, family, politics, houses, et cetera. These are things that James 1 would describe as a trial (v. 15). But there are also those pressures that come from inside, like the over-inflation of a balloon, they encourage us to ‘pop’. This is the idea of James 1:13 when James refers to those inner solicitations to sin—those enticements come from within us.

Just like a balloon, we have both inner and outer pressures working concurrently: we are a sinner living in the midst of other sinners. Most often in counseling, this resonates with a counselee. They feel the squeeze of the inner and outer pressures of life; they feel the squeeze of circumstances in which they have made sinful decisions, too. The majority of counselees don’t see this with such clarity, but they clearly feel the squeeze.

One particular counselee facing financial issues could definitely feel the burden of those external pressures. He had focused on the external squeeze of investments that had floundered, and the difficulties that brought to his life. The “Aha!” moment for him came when I said that God didn’t want him to get out from underneath this trial (i.e., the “squeeze”) but that in the trial God was accomplishing His purposes. This was a game-changer!

Let me angle this a different way: God was using the financial squeeze in this brother’s life to grow him. Financial trials are a means that God uses to grow his children. And this doesn’t just mean that the money has run out, in fact, Deuteronomy 8:11 reminds us that prosperity can allow us to forget the Lord, our God. Prosperity can make its own type of unique squeeze because in prosperous times, I am less inclined to feel incapable and incompetent.

So back to the balloon: God’s will is not that we escape the external pressures that we face in life, but that in those external pressures we stand fast (James 1:12). Think of letting the air out of a balloon just before it pops. God has promised that we will not face anything that will force us to pop, because He is with us. And He is working in the middle of these pressured circumstances to accomplish His purposes. This counselee needed to hear those words, and—perhaps—so do you: God uses the squeezes in our life to accomplish His purposes, so “count it all joy when we face trials of various kinds” (James 1:2).

The Importance of Having a Biblical Perspective

Author: Patty Brown
February 21, 2016

The Importance of Having a Biblical Perspective

 “I know I should be thankful instead of being angry, but it’s difficult to not feel like God has cheated me when I see that others have and what I don’t have.”

This was the sentiment spoken from a discouraged and heart-broken counselee who had faced some difficult troubles for many years. Envy and anger had become the predominant fruit in her life which resulted in misery and sadness. This counselee reminded me of Asaph, the author of Psalm 73. He had admittedly become envious of the arrogant because they were experiencing worldly and temporal prosperity despite their ungodly lifestyle. When Asaph compared his afflicted life with that of the prosperous ungodly he concluded that he had lived a righteous life in vain. Such a conclusion is likely to lead to anger, discouragement and bitterness. Fortunately, Asaph didn’t stick with this conclusion, but gained a different perspective when he entered the sanctuary of God. As he refocused his gaze onto the unseen and began to consider his circumstances in light of the character and ways of God, he analyzed his problem from the lens of godly wisdom and concluded that his problem was a covetous heart.

Like Asaph, this heart-broken counselee needed a new lens in which to view her circumstances. Thus, we began looking at how the Apostle Paul viewed his circumstances while in a Roman prison as recorded in Philippians 1:12-26. As we began to unpack this passage, hope began to fuel the counselee and her countenance changed. She began to see all that was being gained and accomplished through Paul’s imprisonment for the purposes of advancing God’s eternal plan of redemption. This led us to consider what potential good purposes God was working to accomplish in her life through troubling circumstances. We referred to the homework assignment, “Discovering God’s Good Purposes in Your Perplexing Circumstances[1] to help her gain a biblical perspective in her troubling circumstances. The recorded testimonies of Asaph and the Apostle Paul teach us to view our circumstances with eyes of faith. They teach us to focus on the good purposes God is accomplishing in our trials, things like putting off sin and enduring in our affliction. We all need this reorientation, at times. And like Asaph, when we have that biblical perspective it changes everything.

 

 


[1] See the Counselor Resource Center for all our assignments

Who Are You Working For?

Author: Dr. Ron Allchin
February 09, 2016

“With good will render service, as to the Lord and not to men.” 

—Ephesians 6:6

 

Recently I counseled a young man who came in with discouragement, disillusioned over his job and disappointed that he did not receive the raise in salary he hoped for so he could afford that new car of his dreams.

He explained that the expected advancement at his job would have moved him into the next level in his company with a significant salary increase.  However, as we talked, he recounted the crushing words of his boss.  “Brian, you just aren’t showing the energy for your job or the initiative that you have shown in the past.” 

Brian stated that he was working as hard as the others.  Yes, he took a little more time at breaks and lunch than what the company allowed. “But after all,” he said, “everyone does that.” 

After that admission, I asked Brian a question that confused him at first, but that ultimately had a dramatic impact on Brian and his work ethic.  You might say that Brian had a major paradigm shift that become the new standard for his improved work ethic and performance ever since.

I asked Brian a simple, yet profound question: “Brian, who do you work for?”   Brian though a minute and said to me, “I work for Joe Johnson, he is my immediate supervisor.  He is the one who gave me that review.” He continued with anger in his voice, “It was his poor review that caused me to lose my promotion!”

I paused and didn’t address his attempt to shift the blame to his supervisor.  Rather, I stayed focused on the same question and asked it once again. “Brian, who do you work for?”   He paused for a minute, a bit confused, and then said, “Oh, I get it, I work for J.P. Schmitz and Sons, and have for the last four years.”

When I asked him the same question again and he sat there with a quizzical look on his face, he replied,  “I have no idea what you are getting at.”

I shared with him Ephesians 6:6 and told him that his real boss was GOD!  You are really working for HIM. He is the One you work to please, not your bosses. When you work for HIM, your motivation is to be a “God pleaser” and not a “man pleaser.” 

It was like a light bulb came on in Brian’s mind.  He had never looked at it that way before.  But it totally impacted his work life and other parts of his life from then on. 

He went back to work the following day with energy and with a purpose to please his God, his new boss. He figured that if he pleased God he would also please his boss.  His boss immediately saw the difference in his energy and initiative and asked him, “Brian, what has caused the change?”  

Brian’s response to his boss was, “I don’t work for you anymore.” 

Now his boss was troubled for fear of loosing a great employee. But Brian went on to tell him he was not quitting, but that he was now working for God.  His boss, not sharing or understanding Brian’s faith, responded to Brian … “Well, I don’t care who you work for, just keep up the good work!”  It was shortly after that exchange that Brian did receive the advancement and the raise for which he was hoping.

Worrying Over Sickness

Author: Greg Gifford
January 17, 2016

A counselee of mine has been facing extremely tumultuous health issues for the past year and a half. These health concerns along with other pressures of life have brought him to a point of extreme worry and anxiety. As we started our time together, the Lord began to gracious show him something with detailed practicality—these health struggles had not slipped through God’s hands into his life. God was working in them to mold him into the image of Christ. In fact, that the health struggles provide a stage on which to display this conformity to the image of Christ.

Practically, it was important to see the truth that Nebuchadnezzar notes: “He [God] does according to His will among the host of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth; and none can stay His hand or say to Him, ‘What have you done?’” (Dan. 4:35). The functional ruler of earthly kingdoms makes this observation, and it is one packed with implications of God’s rule in our lives.

For this counselee, knowing God’s plan for his life included these health struggles changed the anxiety and worry he had over these issues. A big view of God often does this. Isn’t it interesting that in Luke 12 and Matthew 6 that Jesus uses the phrase “Oh, you of little faith!” (Matt. 6:30; Luke 12:28)? Why would He say that? Because anxiety shows us that there is a trust issue in God. When I have great anxiety, I am a functional atheist.

Therefore, Jesus says instead of worrying, “Seek first the kingdom” (Matt. 6:33; Luke 12:31). Orient yourself towards God’s purposes in your life—His provisions, His blessings, His doings, and His purposes. We have a big God who is in control, and that understanding abates our anxieties and worries. “Fear not, it is your Father’s good pleasure to give … ” (Luke 12:32). We are to trust this big God in practical ways, even in health struggles.

This brother needed to see that worry over his health was an affront to our good, all-knowing, and caring God. Moreover, that God had planned these health trials to conform him to the image of Christ. And he could practically trust God at the hospital, in the doctor’s office, and after another health struggle. God is a big God, with good purposes for His kids (Ps. 84:11).

Purity is More than "Don't Do That"

Author: Greg Gifford
December 20, 2015

When meeting with another counselee recently, there was that “Aha!” moment—you could see it in his body language. He literally looked away and thought for a moment, then sat up straight in the chair. Something had struck him, but what was it? In this case, what was so striking for this brother is that pornography wasn’t the main issue.

You see up to this point he had a very legalistic mindset about purity. It was one that thought, “Don’t look at bad things, and God is pleased with me.” But what is interesting is that when we read Mathew 5:27-28, Jesus focuses on the heart and the external behavior. However, Jesus says that I can avoid the act of immorality but still not be pure (i.e., “in his heart” Matt. 5:28). Therefore, to only focus on the external act of impurity is to miss the much larger issue.

The “Aha!” moment came when this counselee realized no longer is it about, “Don’t look at that stuff” only. Rather, that God was just as much concerned about the heart attitude behind looking at those impure images as He is about seeing those impure images themselves. In fact, Mark 7:23 says that, “All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.” So if lasting and authentic change is to take place within a person, it must get to the heart level—including our desire to be pure.

It would be presumptuous to say, “Look at whatever impure image you want” and it would be equally presumptuous to say, “If you haven’t looked at impure images, then you are pure.” So when we see that purity is more than avoiding certain things it is liberating. It is liberating because when we have that heart change towards God-honoring purity we don’t want to do those impure things anymore. The goal is that we stop those impure actions, of course, but also that we are “pure in heart” (Matt. 5:8), which will suffocate those impure actions at their inception. And “blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.” When we grow in purity, we grow in relationship with God! 

An Angry Heart Driven By Hurt Feelings

Author: Patty Brown
December 13, 2015

I am continually amazed at the power and clarity of the Scriptures that, when applied, bring about lasting life change. I had the privilege of observing the Scriptures powerfully move in a dear lady’s life by reproving and correcting some unbiblical mindsets and practices. This young counselee had been harboring anger toward a friend whom she felt had sinned against her. In an effort to relieve her emotional pain, she had cut this person out of her life and sought to distract herself by staying busy. But, the harder she sought to drown out the hurt feelings, the more embittered and angry she became.   

Thankfully, the Bible has the answers she needed to gain hope and practical guidance in addressing the issue of being sinned against. Since Matthew 18:15-17 gives clear instructions on what a Christian is to do when sinned against, she and I spent some time reviewing the outlined steps and considered how God would want her to handle situations when she believes she has been sinned against. She confessed that she attempted to perform the first step in the process, confronting the offender privately, but became discouraged and angrier when the offender did not respond as she had hoped. We began to talk through how she confronted her friend and for what sins she had confronted. She confessed that she had confronted her friend in anger and her motive in confronting was not for the purpose of bringing about reconciliation and repentance, but to inflict pain on the person. It became clear to her that she needed to repent and work through step one in the reconciliation process again using biblical principles to guide her.

For the next several weeks we worked through the homework assignment “7 Questions Before Confronting a Brother.[1] It was during this homework assignment that she had even more breakthrough moments as she began to grow in humility and love, while gaining a proper perspective in how to biblically confront others who sin against you.



[1] See the Counselor Resource Center for all our assignments

Clarifying Responsibilities

Author: Sherry Allchin
December 10, 2015

Recently I’ve had several counselees come in all “uptight” about various responsibilities, sometimes feeling overwhelmed, and complaining that God was giving them more than they could handle. Stress, panic attacks, and resentment gave way to peace and trust as we worked through “Clarifying Responsibilities.” This chart was an excellent tool to help each of them evaluate what they believed they were responsible for. We looked at each item on their list to see in which column it really belonged.  

One Mom was worrying about the health of her daughter.  Yes, she had a responsibility to care for her daughter in specific ways because of special needs, but the ultimate outcome was in the Lord’s hands, not hers. The heaviest load she was carrying was actually what the Lord was already carrying for her. Understanding that principle actually freed her to do a better job of caring for the day-to-day needs of her daughter. 

A student was worrying about grades and being the best in her class.  We talked about how God had given her a good mind to honor him, not to stress out over grades. Her responsibility was to study adequately and then trust the outcome to the Lord.  Her stress was actually detracting from her abilities. Trusting the Lord not only calmed her down, but also helped her to do her best for HIM, not for selfish motivations or higher grades. She was able to move several things to the “Concerns” column that had been on her “Responsibility” column inappropriately, like where her next step in education would be when there were many factors over which she had no control. She is learning to rest by trusting those decisions to the Lord.

How can you or your counselees use this tool?  We often worry about or stress out over things not in our control. That is the time to move those items to the "Concerns” column and trust God with them.  We may be overwhelmed with all we are asked to do at church or at school.  Our desire to please people or gain recognition can move us to say yes to everything asked.  Those things may be our concerns, but may not be God-given responsibilities.  We may need to say no to some of the jobs given to us, and keep only the ones that we are passionate about because God had placed that burden of responsibility on our shoulders. But remember, if it’s responsibility, there’s also time and ability to accomplish that task as we cheerfully obey. We all have the same amount of time to steward, but are given different abilities and responsibilities in the kingdom.  

I had three children to rear; I was concerned about yours and would have encouraged you, but yours were not my responsibility. Mine were my God-given responsibility.  I am concerned about many good ministries, but God has not given me the responsibility to support every one of them. If I tried, I’d be overwhelmed and financially bankrupt! But there are certain ministries I want to support along with my local church.  These are the responsibilities God has given me to obey within my budget.

I trust as you use this tool, it will help clarify for you whether God has called you to that responsibility, or if you put in upon your own shoulders.  If you are overwhelmed, maybe it’s time to move some things to the “Concerns" column and trust in God!

What Is A Conscience and How Does It Work?

Author: Dr. Ron Allchin
December 08, 2015

What is the conscience and how does it work?  It seems that some people have no conscience at all and other people have consciences that seem to be working over time.

The conscience is a moral program, which God has placed in men’s hearts. Unfortunately, it is not just God and His Word that programs our conscience.  Many are surprised to realize that our culture, family values, and our personal conduct can alter this program.  This conscience was given to us by God and was designed to function as a moral compass to pass judgement on the activities of our lives and either approves or disapproves of them.

One’s conscience can function in several conditions.  1 Corinthians 8:10 mentions the “weak” conscience.  A person with this conscience may believe he is sinning even when the Bible doesn’t prohibit the activity in which he is engaged.  The activity is nowhere found as sin in the Scriptures, but the person feels guilty for practicing it.

Another person’s conscience may be “untrained”. This person has had little if any training concerning good and bad choices.  He has little or no guilt because his conscience has never been activated by biblical truth.  These persons become a law to themselves.

The seared conscience is another condition.  A person can render their consciences insensitive in certain areas by violating it repeatedly.  The more one offends the conscience the more calloused it gets.  This person can get to the place where he feels little when he does wrong.

The believer must strive to have a biblical conscience.  1 Timothy 1:19 calls it a “good conscience.” This is a conscience programmed and activated by biblical truth. When a clear standard of God’s Word has been broken this conscience produces legitimate guilt for the right reasons.

God’s Word teaches that repentance and confession of sin to God and others and a humble offer of restitution is the way to clear the guilty conscience.  A clear and biblically trained conscience has been programmed to reflect solid, biblical teaching. 

Introduction: "Being Helpful"

Author: Greg Gifford
November 15, 2015

“I lift up my eyes to the hills. From where does my help come? My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth.” —Psalm 121:1-2

We are all looking for help. This doesn’t mean we are all in crises, nor even that this help is extreme or life threatening. Yet, we all are looking for help: YouTube, the Internet, Books, close friends, or seeming experts all offer help to varying degrees. However, what is truly helpful? How do we sift through the “wisdom of the world” (1 Cor. 1:20) to find that which is truly helpful? At Lowcountry Biblical Counseling, we want to be truly help-full to you. We believe we can only do this as we get you connected to the ultimate Helper, who is the Lord Himself (Ps. 124:8) and we intend to do this through some new ways for the center—blogs, articles, and electronic resources.

We all look for the moments in our lives that are highlights—times when we can look and see God working in very evident ways. In the counseling context, these are what we see as breakthroughs. A breakthrough is a time when a counselee has that, “Aha!” moment. It is sometimes a thought, Scripture verse, or a practical application that was very helpful. As a staff we want to share these moments with you for a few purposes. We want God to get more glory for what is doing through our ministry here and we want you to be helped. Therefore, we will post counseling breakthroughs weekly to our website and send them through email. But we are not going to stop there.

Twice a month you will also see new articles on Relationships and on Biblical Change, both of which will be posted to our website. Our relationship articles will be oriented around our everyday relationships and how God has sufficiently equipped us to live in those relationships (2 Pet. 1:3-4) to His glory. Sometimes relationships are difficult, other times they are rewarding; yet in both difficult and rewarding relationships, God is doing something. We want to help you see that in your current relationships.

Lastly, we hope to get you connected to resources for Biblical Change. These articles are developed by our staff and aimed at personal and practical change in your life and the lives of those to whom you minister. We will address a wide array of subjects, resources, Scriptures, and issues so as to help promote biblical change in and around you.

So be on the look out for these resources from our staff. We want to help you. Most of all, we want to get you connected to the One who is our “Helper” (Ps. 118:6).

Glad to help,

Greg Gifford
Associate Counselor
Lowcountry Biblical Counseling Center

What's the Use? My Spouse is Done

Author: Tim Bryant
November 10, 2015

 

Discouraged Spouse: My Spouse isn't interested. She has made it clear to me that she has no interest in trying to reconcile our marriage. She has been out of the house six months. There's nothing more I can do.  I am not sure if I should come to counseling anymore.


Biblical Counselor: Look at the promise of 2 Corinthians 2:14-16,  "But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and manifests through us the sweet aroma of the knowledge of Him in every place. For we are a fragrance of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing; to the one an aroma from death to death, to the other an aroma from life to life."


My goal in counseling is not primarily to help you reconcile your marriage, but help you be the aroma of Christ to God as you respond to her and her struggle to love you.  God is your primary audience and reward in all this, not your spouse and marriage.  He is pleased by such a sincerity of love toward her.  He is pleased with you faithfully pursuing love week to week. (2 Tim 2:22)  The results of your attempts is up to God.  She may reject your repentant change but God is pleased as you continue to do good and is working through you to speak to her conscience.  We can stop counseling, but you must not stop growing in the aroma of Christ.  Biblical discipleship counseling exists to help you remedy areas of your heart, mind and actions that need biblical change.  


Discouraged Spouse: But every good thing I try to do she says is only because I am trying to manipulate her.


Biblical Counselor:  You must pass her "sincerity test" before you can influence the relationship. You told me there has been a long history of you grumbling against her, putting her down, not investing time, talk, or even touch with her.  Indeed many of your responses were probably provoked by her in some way, but it still revealed a lack of unconditional love toward her.  The devil has a strong wedge between the two of you.  For you to remove the wedge you must change your aroma - the aroma of conditional love must be changed to unconditional.  Your attitude and actions toward her must become consistently reflective of 1 Corinthians 13:4-6.  But, this could take a significant amount of time. God could change this in two weeks, a month or a year. The question is, however, are you still going to be the aroma of Christ regardless of her response? Remember this equation: "Doing good" plus "length of time" results in "proven sincerity". Her rejection of you accomplished two very good things.  First, it became a test of your sincerity toward her.  Second, it became an opportunity for you to grow. So, even though she does not possibly see it that way right now, you must, so that you do not lose heart.  We are praying for that moment when God sets up an opportunity for you to prove that you truly love her and have changed toward her and you pass the test! We pray this will be on such a significant level that she is surprised by your response.


Discouraged Spouse: But she never gives me the opportunity to show her that I've changed!


Biblical Counselor: 1 Corinthians 3:5,6 says, "What then is Apollos? And what is Paul? Servants through whom you believed, even as the Lord gave opportunity to each one. I planted, Apollos watered, but God was causing the growth.”


The Lord will be faithful to give you various opportunities to prove the sincerity of your love - to prove that you have changed in your relationship to God and thus you are able to be more patient, more kind and less self-seeking towards your wife and family. Trust Him for the opportunity as well as for the result.  Know that the result of passing the test of sincerity may indeed lead in time to full reconciliation with your wife and family, but it will absolutely result in greater fullness of life, character and heart in you with the Lord for the rest of your life on earth and eternity (1Tim 4:7,8).  You will get greater good when you are good because God is good and a rewarder (Heb 11:6).


Discouraged Spouse: But it actually seems the more good I do the more she pushes and pulls away. What's the use?


Biblical Counselor: Sometimes this can actually be a good sign. It means that your goodness could be bothering her conscience. You see when Jesus Christ died on the cross, the guard who was at the foot of the cross looked up, immediately after helping kill Jesus, and proclaimed, "Truly this was the Son of God." He had been a part of many crucifixions but he had never seen a man die like this man - so compassionate and full of love. You have to pass the test of your wife's increased rejection of you by continuing to be full of compassion for her and your family, like Christ was on the cross, for God's glory.  


When the apostle Paul was involved in murdering many Christians before His conversion, he watched the way Christians responded to the brutality he was inflicting on them.  It was right after killing Stephen, a Christian man full of wisdom and goodness, that he was confronted by Jesus Christ on the road to Damascus.  "Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?"   Would Paul's conscience have been won over by Jesus had Steven and the other Christians displayed retaliation when they were inflicted with unjust suffering? No! It was in the context of their persecution that Paul was won over to Jesus Christ.  


Never does your love and change look more genuine then when your wife's hurt, bitterness and anger over your sin is at it's height of expression toward you. This is how the dynamic of spiritual influence occurs.  Again, I go back to Paul's statement in 2 Corinthians 2:15-16, "We are to God the aroma of Christ among those who are perishing and those who are being saved." Your Christ-likeness will have a drawing effect on your wife and family, regardless of her present rejection of you, if God is saving her.  You will prove your sincerity and you will grow in your sincerity if you remain like Christ, doing good throughout the rejection.   Your wife's increased rejection serves to allow you to increase in your sincerity for God and her. The persecution of others can either serve as proof that you really have not changed or proof that you have truly changed in your motivations, your behavior, and your love.



Discouraged Spouse: Oh boy, I just don't know how I can keep it up! Where can I find the strength to keep handling such rejection.


Biblical Counselor: First, godly sorrow over your own sin and its affect on your family, works energy in you to remain repentant (2 Corinthians 7:10-11).  You owe your family better than what you gave because God called you to it.  Every punishment your family inflicts on you for your past sin is another opportunity to dig out of the debt of love you owe and prove yourself genuine.   At some point, your family will be given an opportunity by God to see your sincerity.  Keep those opportunities open.  


Also, you will need to practically apply Hebrews 12:3, "Consider Him who has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart."   This passage was written for such a time as this.  You will be able to endure only by thinking much about His costly sacrifice for you.  You are laying down your desire for respect, relationship, closeness, and much more, in order to show your family that you love them more than you need these things from them.  But to fill the vacuum left by their rejection, you will need to think often about the example of Jesus and the good you have gained from Him.  You will have to not only be sad and prayerful about your family’s rejection of you at this time, but thankful and hopeful about all the good that Jesus has accomplished for you that you will experience in this life and the one to come.  Your involvement in counseling and in the local church will be key to continuing in these perspectives that keep you energized in growing in sincere love.


This week I would like you to memorize, for 15 minutes each day, the following passages: 2 Corinthians 2:14-16; Hebrews 12:3; 2 Corinthians 7:10-11 -  one phrase at a time. I would also like you to complete the following study, working on it 15 to 30 minutes three days this week: Becoming a Person of Influence, When You Are a Person in Conflict.