I'm reading through an odd text for a course I'm taking. It consists of a number of interviews done for Preaching magazine over the past couple of decades, and it has a truly eclectic group of preachers as its subject, including Max Lucado, George Barna, R. C. Sproul and John MacArthur.
I was truly horrified to read the following quote:
I think it's very tempting for traditional preaching styles to present Christ and the Word of God as the quick cure-all for whatever ailment is afflicting an individual today. I think that might be a little simplistic. If someone has been sexually molested, if someone grew up in the home of an alcoholic father, if someone has been beaten as a child, there are some deep psychological wounds that have to be carefully treated by trained Christian counselors before these wounded people can thorougly appropriate the promises and precepts of Scripture. (Communicate with Power, ed. Michael Duduit. (Michigan: Baker, 1998), 74-75.
The speaker is Bill Hybels, back in 1992. It is a frightful thing to see how even the pastors of the church are willing to exchange the glorious resources of God for the muddy cisterns of modern psychology.
Were there no sexually molested people in first century Palestine? Were alcoholic fathers absent throughout the Roman empire? Is child abuse purely a 21st century phenomenon? Nonsense. God provided what they needed then, and what we need now, in the marvelous riches of his Word illuminated and made active through his Spirit!
As David Wells so trenchantly observes in The Bleeding of the Evangelical Church:
Biblical inspiration was affirmed but its consequences were not worked out for our preaching, our techniques for growing the Church, our techniques for healing our own fractured selves. These all happened largely without the use of Scripture. It is as if we think that while the Bible is inspired, it is nevertheless inadequate to the tasks of sustaining and nourishing the twentieth-century! The result of this divine myopia is that he has left us with something that is inadequate to the great challenges that we face today.
I can personally testify to the power of God's Word to heal brokeness. My step-father was an alcoholic who was at times physically abusive. But I am neither, having both forgiven him and loved him. All of my aunts and uncles on both sides of the family have been divorced at least once. My wife and I have been married for almost 10 years and are deliriously happy. My wife's father is a mean-spirited man who often was (and still is!) physically abusive. But she is a loving, devoted Mom.
And we attribute all of our health to the work of God's Spirit primarily through his Scriptures. He is the God who heals us, and to turn to anything else is sinful, dishonouring and destructive. Not that there isn't a place for counseling, but all the wisdom of the counselor will come through the Word and all the effectiveness of the counselor will be of the Spirit through the Word.
If you want a remarkable testimony to this truth, I highly commend the story of Jan Fletcher to you. In her pamphlet God's Complete Provision: for healing the pain of childhood sexual abuse, she describes the start of her suffering:
Molestation in my pubertal years by a church deacon, and later, incest by my stepfather in my mid-teens, led me to engage in rampant promiscuity, as I tried to find love in all the wrong places.
By Hybel's standard, this woman needs specialized counseling. Some, including my former church, would recommend mystical prayer counseling, which Mrs. Fletcher is very familiar with (see her online book Lying Spirits). But when she was 39, God graciously led her to true healing, in reconciliation with himself:
No gimmick and no special formula discovered by any man can heal the human soul. Only the power of God can truly give lasting healing. God's healing is absolutely unique, because the result is a changed heart and a new spiritual birth. God freely offers it to us, but the cost of giving it to us was not cheap. It was very costly. This precious gift of spiritual rebirth required that Jesus, the Son of God, suffer a humiliating death on a Roman cross.
True healing comes through reconciliation with God, as we accept God's gift and submit our sinful nature to God's work in us through the cross. This reconciliation is not based in a mystical encounter we initiate. ... Instead, as the Apostle Paul explains in Romans 10, our salvation, and the healing to our souls that it brings, does not come through a subjective feeling. It comes through a willful and reasoned acceptance of the objective truth of the message of the Gospel heard through the word of Christ.
Let us flee all false and worldly solutions to the all-sufficient, all-powerful Word of God!