Integrating Faith into Counselling

When God created us, he put a healing system within us as well.

There is a purpose in life. It is not fate. But the purpose is for us to find and define, though joy and laughter, tears and sadness.

“I am living but there isn’t much life in me.” People we encountered shape who we are. Some of them bring blessings. When we think of them, there are smiles on our face. Some of them are challenging. They brought out the worst in us. Some of them are hurtful and they left scars in our lives. The hurt and betrayal is over but the scars that remain continue to impact our intimate relationships, and reaction towards situations and people. They show in form of fear, doubt, anger, sadness and numbness.

“I know God loves me but I cannot trust that. It is something in my head but not something I experienced. When I am angry, I will not pray to him cos’ I am afraid I will say something wrong and he would not forgive me.” If we have a trusting relationship with someone, we will show our true selves to the person, including our God. When we hide, we are not just hiding because we are sinful. We are hiding from our own emotions. Until we made peace with these emotions, we can never experience “there is no fear in love”.

The redemption Jesus brought restored the relationship between human and God, human and human, and human to oneself.

These are some of my thoughts on the following topics:

Justice


(a sermon preached at Mandarin Scarborough Alliance Church and Zion Alliance Church in September 2012)

Doing justice is a big deal because justice is a big deal to God. Being righteous and caring for the needy is one of God’s major attributes. Consider the following texts: He executes justice for the oppressed and gives food to the hungry. The LORD sets prisoners free, the LORD gives sight to the blind, he lifts up those who are bowed down, the LORD loves those who live justly. The LORD watches over the immigrant and sustains the fatherless and the widow, but he frustrates the ways of the wicked.(Psalm 146:7–9) The LORD your God . . . defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow, and loves the immigrant, giving him food and clothing. (Deuteronomy 10:17–18)

(This is quoted from Timothy Keller’s)

“Micah 6:8 is a summary of how God wants us to live, as His people. To walk humbly with God is to know him intimately and to be attentive to what he desires and loves. And what does that consist of? The text says to “do justice and love mercy,” which seem at first glance to be two different things, but they are not. The term for “mercy” is the Hebrew word chesedh, God’s unconditional grace and compassion. The word for “justice” is the Hebrew term mishpat. In Micah 6:8, “mishpat puts the emphasis on the action, chesedh puts it on the attitude [or motive] behind the action.” To walk with God, then, we must do justice, out of merciful love. And it is exactly the meaning of verse 5, “the righteous acts of the Lord”.

Being Single


(a sermon preached at Zion Alliance Church in December 2010)

This is a gift that could be a gift at a certain point and last for a certain period of your life. At some point of your life, you have the gift. At some point, you may not need this gift. C.S. Lewis lived most of his life as a bachelor. He did not get married until he was 57 and the marriage lasted for 4 years only when his wife passed away. Then, he lived as a single person for the rest of his life. Does he have the gift? Yes, for the most part of his life. When he met his wife, he did not need the gift anymore.

Failure – truths we learn in hard ways


(a reflection on 1 King 18:1-20)

In times of success, “Look at me.” Your focus will be “me”.

In time of failure-what’s wrong with you, God?

I have done everything I could. I tried to save these people but they do not repent. Pity me. Cannot you see? I am the only who cares. I am the only one who is faithful. Elijah’s motive is not negative, nor selfish, but he has his own agenda how things should work. When I performed a big miracle, people would know who YOU are, they will repent; they will kill the Baal prophets, their king and Jezebel. Unfortunately, things do not turn out the way as he calculated. The miracle was performed, Baal prophets were killed, but the people did not repent, the King is still alive and Jezebel is still in control. How could that happen? How could they not see the miracle and repent? (Implied, I have done everything right. But something is wrong. It must be you, God)

In times of failure, we tried to find the logic and the reason causing our failure. If we think we have done everything right, if we think it was not us, we think it must be God.

In times of failure, it exposes how we think this faith, religion and relationship with God should work. I do my part, I earn what I deserve. Is it Christian faith or is it moralism? In times of failure, it filters all the religious rituals, our religious activities. Our intention and theology exposed. Who is my God? Who am I and who are you, God?

The truth is God does not “measure” us with success or failure. We can never be too “successful” that we cannot bribe him into his kingdom or we do not need his mercy. And we can never be too “failed” beyond his mercy and redemption. Elijah, being so “successful” needs to learn obedience. Ahab, being so failed and wicked, is not beyond redemption. The Bible does not focus on success or failure but obedience and repentance.

Intimacy


(a reflection on Genesis 2:15-25)

When I worked in the addiction field, my male clients often said “relationship and intimacy is a women thing, a loser thing. Guys like us, solid like a rock, we do not need that warm and fuzzy thing,” in different phrasing but the same mindset. It is not true. As a counsellor with 80% male clientele, I notice men are actually very sensitive. Men have all kinds of emotions (weakness, sadness, fear, anxiety, depression just like women do). The only difference is they would admit to less of that fragility. As a Christian, I do not think men are emotionless. From the scripture, it is not the woman who felt lonely and depressed, the text told us this man who have power over all the animals on earth, busy with his work, and God is literally present in his life, he is not deprived materially or spiritually, yet he felt lonely. Even with God’s vivid presence in his daily life, Adam was lonely. He is not bored. He is occupied with meaningful work. He is lonely, longing intimacy with another human being. He is lacking someone who shares his nature as a human being and yet different from him. He does not need another Adam. He needs a “complementary different” person, which the Bible refers as “helper, a “complementary different” person, a companion, someone who will bring out his male identity.

So, God created something brand new to fit his need, the woman (which means the wife of man). When Adam saw his “woman”, he said, “This one, this time, is the bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh.” The man and his wife were naked, yet not ashamed.

If we are denying our need to relate, we are denying our created nature.

Forgiveness


The healing power of “letting go” is tremendous. Over the years, I have seen people recover from their traumatic experience. I witnessed abused wives “let go” of the abused experience, re-marry and have beautiful children. I witnessed abused children “let go” of their childhood trauma and start pursuing their own dreams. The curse of not forgiving is like a chain. It chains the victim to the traumatic memories. The chain is heavy and binds them so close to the traumatic experience it paralyzes a person. That is all they can see, all they can feel. Not forgiving is like a prison. No one can understand the pain and isolation of a person inside a solitary cell. But the person inside could not leave. Psychologically speaking, forgiving someone benefits one’s well being, and sometime repairs relationships, especially when the other party remorses and repents towards what they did, reconciliation takes place. But it is far from the biblical understanding of forgiveness.

Forgiveness happens when a Christian acknowledged the price HE has paid for us, slaves of sin. Forgiving others is not a condition of being forgiven. It is a response to other who owes a relatively small debt to you. From your forgiving response, people recognize the gracious act of the forgiveness of sins from the merciful, gracious, forgiving Heavenly Father. When he pardoned your sin, he empowers you to forgive others as well.

Self-Esteem


How to be comfortable under our own skin? I must admit I started to like myself after 30 and I truly love myself after 40. The components of a good esteem includes the experience of being loved, forgiven, accepted, liked, needed, respected. Unconditional love provides a fertile soil for self esteem to grow.

Loving oneself is challenging. Guilt is the strongest weapon the Evil One has. It took me a long time to balance between self-care without feeling guilty and caring for others without being the savior.

We, counsellors, struggle with the “savior syndrome”.

Mental Illness


It is the modern “leprosy” that isolates people, brought hurt and fear because of lack of understanding.

Mental illness is a physical (largely manifest in the brain), spiritual, emotional disease that separate the patient from the world, sometimes by choice and more often by fear.

We share more in common than we are different. If we seek understanding, we all could be part of recovery.

Can you recognise the image of God behind that troubled soul? Perhaps there is more than one person being ill.

None of us is immune to mental illness. Do not think you are well because you are strong or you are holy. Mental illness happens to the best Christians. Do not believe “you are abandoned” when the darkness seems overwhelming and there is no one you can talk to, prayers are not answered, or God seems remote. When you are not well, your feelings can misguide you.