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On the most difficult aspects of biblical counseling comes when emotion controls the counselee. Someone in the midst of a difficult circumstance such one facing disease, loss of a home, loss of a job, divorce or marriage trouble, a child who has turned badly will often face and experience powerful emotions. The emotions alone are merely emotions, a subjective valuation of an event.

The troubles comes not with the emotions per se but more the control the emotion exercises over the person. Who overcome with emotion may think (ironically) themselves incapable of obedience. When conforming to one’s emotions without reason, one often resorts to various sins in an attempt to manage the world as seen through the emotion.

Thus, a husband in a bitter marriage may express bitterness toward his wife, even though God has commanded love. The wife of an unbelieving drunkard may complain and seek to manipulate her husband, even though The Lord has prescribed a gentle, pure heart for such a situation. A parent who has lost a child may grieve, but as those who have no hope.

The story of David and the sack of Ziklag illustrates what one may — and must do — when faced with overwhelming tribulation:

1 Now when David and his men came to Ziklag on the third day, the Amalekites had made a raid against the Negeb and against Ziklag. They had overcome Ziklag and burned it with fire
2 and taken captive the women and all who were in it, both small and great. They killed no one, but carried them off and went their way.
3 And when David and his men came to the city, they found it burned with fire, and their wives and sons and daughters taken captive.
4 Then David and the people who were with him raised their voices and wept until they had no more strength to weep.
5 David’s two wives also had been taken captive, Ahinoam of Jezreel and Abigail the widow of Nabal of Carmel.
6 And David was greatly distressed, for the people spoke of stoning him, because all the people were bitter in soul, each for his sons and daughters. But David strengthened himself in the LORD his God.


1 Samuel 30:1-6. David suffers like the rest, but he does not despair overmuch. Rather, in the midst of his pain he seeks the help of God.

The counselee may ask, How can I take hold of God when in such pain? What would it be to take hold of God from here? How could I pray? The 42 & 43 Psalms give a picture of this. Psalm 43 in particular shows the back and forth as one reasons with oneself and calls out to God: I am in distress, but God ….:

1 Vindicate me, O God, and defend my cause against an ungodly people, from the deceitful and unjust man deliver me!
2 For you are the God in whom I take refuge; why have you rejected me? Why do I go about mourning because of the oppression of the enemy?
3 Send out your light and your truth; let them lead me; let them bring me to your holy hill and to your dwelling!
4 Then I will go to the altar of God, to God my exceeding joy, and I will praise you with the lyre, O God, my God.
5 Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God.