Promoting PErsonal Change, Centered on the PErson of Christ through the PErsonal Ministry of the Word
Biblical Counseling Coalition: Grace & Truth

Resources for Your Life and Ministry from the Biblical Counseling Coalition


On weekends we often highlight resources from various biblical counseling organizations and leaders. This weekend we highlight three resources produced by the Biblical Counseling Coalition and written by dozens of biblical counseling leaders.

Biblical Counseling and the Church: God’s Care through God’s People

How can your church become a place to grow in grace?

Biblical Counseling and the Church equips your congregation to be a family where every member is empowered to speak the truth in love so your entire church matures in Christ. Bob Kellemen and Kevin Carson have assembled over twenty respected ministry leaders who practically and relevantly describe the relationship between counseling and the local church.

This comprehensive resource will take your vision from having a church with a biblical counseling ministry to becoming a church of biblical counseling—a church culture that is saturated by one-another ministry.

And when you order your copy on the BCC Website, you get over 40% off the List Price—that’s cheaper than!

Learn more here.

Sale price: 18.99  Order Today!

Scripture and Counseling: God’s Word for Life in a Broken World


Today we face a tremendous weakening of confidence in the Bible. This is just as true for the pastor offering counsel in his office as it is for the layperson talking with a struggling friend at Starbucks or the small group leader who is unsure of what to say to a hurting group member.

Scripture and Counseling is a collection of essays that will help you in two specific ways: First, it will help you understand why the Bible is a trustworthy, authoritative, and practical guide for living life in a broken world. Second it will help you see how different parts of the Bible—historical narrative, proverb, gospel, and letter—can be used with hurting people in practical ways.

This book will give you the framework and some tools to use your Bible to “instruct, convict, correct, and train yourself and others in righteousness” (2 Timothy 3:16).

And when you order your copy on the BCC Website, you get over 40% off the List Price—that’s cheaper than!

Learn more here.

Sale price: 18.99  Order Today!

Christ-Centered Biblical Counseling: Changing Lives with Christ’s Changeless Truth


Christ-Centered Biblical Counseling seeks to become a catalyst for the return of God’s people to gospel-centered one-another ministry in the context of the local church. Authored by over two dozen biblical counseling leaders, Christ-Centered Biblical Counseling provides a positive presentation of the sufficiency of Scripture for progressive sanctification. It offers both a theology of biblical counseling and a methodology of biblical counseling.

Learn more here.

Sale price: 19.49  Order Today!

Topics: BCC Exclusive, Biblical Counseling, Christian Living, Megaphone Post, People in Need of Care, People Who Offer Care, People Who Train Caregivers | Tags: , , , ,

7 Gospel-Centered Principles for Protecting Your Marriage


A Word from Your BCC Team: The following post is from a presentation that Dr. Newheiser gave at IBCD’s Spring Conference. You can listen to the audio here. 

What Must Be Done to Protect a Marriage?

Almost every marriage begins with joy as newlyweds anticipate sharing life together. Sadly, not all couples live happily ever after. A large percentage of marriages end in divorce. Other couples remain married, but drift apart emotionally due to bitterness or mutual indifference. They share a name and a home, but not a life. What can a couple do to preserve the joyful loving intimacy of their marriage? Consider these seven gospel-centered principles.

1. Do Not Take Each Other for Granted

Couples who are courting or engaged spend every spare minute together and can’t bear to be apart for long. But often after they are married each gets so caught up in career, children, hobbies, sports, and other activities that the marriage relationship is neglected. Very gradually the couple drifts apart. While there may not be much open conflict, the spark is missing. The wife may notice that something is wrong only to have her husband tell her that she is worried over nothing.

A new marriage, like a new car, needs regular maintenance. It may look and work great today, but if you don’t maintain it, sooner or later it will break down. A husband and wife need to spend time growing closer to one another and enjoying one another. Work harder at romance after your wedding than before. Seeking to grow in intimacy year by year will protect your marriage from falling into disrepair.

2. Make Your Personal Walk with the Lord a Priority

Marriage takes grace. On our own we are selfish sinners. It is only as we are strengthened by God’s Word through His Spirit that we can endure in love. We do not have the power to keep loving in our own strength. Jesus said that if we abide in him we will bear much fruit, but apart from Him we can do nothing (John 15:5).

When couples with troubled marriages come to us, I typically ask the spouses about their prayer and devotional life. In almost every case I have found a correlation between the lack of a vibrant personal walk with the Lord and a failing marriage. You and your spouse need Scripture’s constant reminders of God’s grace to you, which in turn, motivate you to show grace to one another. As you walk in the Spirit you won’t carry out the destructive deeds of the flesh, but instead you will bear the fruit of the Holy Spirit (Gal. 5:16-23). Therefore, if something is not right with your relationship with your spouse, start to address it by first making sure things are right between you and the Lord.

3. Remain Involved in a Strong Church

God blesses and strengthens His people through the ministry of the church, both through the public preaching of the Word and through the members of the body building one another up (Ephesians 4:11-16). The neglect of gathering with the people of God is detrimental to your soul and to your family (Hebrews 10:25). It also is important for  you to be in a strong church so that you can benefit from counsel and accountability if your relationship has trouble. I have heard families who have benefited from this kind of faithful pastoral care say, “We don’t know what we would have done if this church hadn’t been here for us.” I also have seen many families who were in the midst of a crisis suffer because they didn’t have godly church leaders caring for their souls (Hebrews 13:17).

4. Quickly and Completely Resolve Conflicts

Many couples will periodically engage in arguments in which the spouses speak in anger and say hurtful things. Over time they cool down and life goes on without ever properly resolving the disputes. As the years pass, their marriage is affected by hurts and scars which never healed. Paul vividly warns the Ephesians of the danger lurking behind unresolved conflict. “Be angry and yet do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and do not give the devil an opportunity” (Ephesians 4: 26-27).

To leave an issue unresolved and to remain angry is letting the devil into your house to wreak havoc. Marriages fraught with unresolved conflicts are more vulnerable to more increasingly destructive conflicts and to extramarital affairs. Believing couples must be determined to do whatever is necessary to be fully reconciled to one another.

5. Be Honest With Each Other

Nothing is more destructive to marriages than falsehood. More than once I have heard the victim of marital infidelity say, “I can forgive the sex, but I don’t know if I can forgive the lies or if I can ever trust her again.” Paul tells the Ephesians, “Therefore, laying aside falsehood, speak truth each one of you with his neighbor, for we are members of one another” (Ephesians 4:25). ). If the rest of the body can’t trust the eyes to see danger or the legs to run to safety, then the entire body is at risk. In a special way, this image of people joined together as a “body” applies to married couples (Genesis 2:24). Spouses must be able to trust one another.

One aspect of having a truthful marriage is striving to make it safe for one another to honestly confess sins and failings. A wife may not want to tell her husband that she got a traffic ticket because she fears his angry reaction. A husband who has visited a strip club may fear a dramatic emotional outburst from his wife. Even if it is hard to hear the truth, a spouse can give thanks to God for helping the other spouse be honest. As sinners who have received much grace from God, you can have compassion on your spouse by working toward restoration rather than condemnation.

6. Be Circumspect in Your Dealings with the Other Sex

Few Christians plan to have an affair. Yet many wind up in an inappropriate physical or emotional relationship which threatens their marriages and even their souls. In counseling such cases, I have observed that these situations typically follow a pattern. A man and a woman are acquainted through work, the gym, children’s activities, or even the church. They start talking and find that they enjoy one another’s company. Over time one or both of them begin to develop feelings for the other. They find that they look forward to the next time they see each other and start communicating through e-mail, social media, or the phone. At some point a barrier is crossed. There is a touch, then an admission of attraction, then a kiss. The slide into an affair continues, usually until they are caught, or sometimes when the conscience of one can’t stand the guilt.

Many will be hurt. Marriages may end.

Don’t think that it can’t happen to you. If a man as good as King David could fall into adultery, you too are vulnerable. You must be very careful in relationships with the opposite sex, not because you think you would do something wrong, but because you are determined not to.

7. Be Gracious to Each Other

Just as the Lord treats you better than you deserve (Psalm 103:10), you should treat your spouse better than he or she deserves. Your spouse’s sins and failures provide opportunities for you to show grace which resembles the grace we have received from God. In an ideal marriage each party tries to outdo the other in showing love.

Paul tells the believers in Colossae:

“So as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience; bearing with one another and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you. Beyond all these things put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity” (Colossians 3:12-14).

A marriage characterized by such grace will be well safeguarded.

Join the Conversations

What additional gospel-centered principles would you share for protecting your marriage?

Topics: BCC Exclusive, Biblical Counseling, Marriage & Family, People in Need of Care, People Who Offer Care, People Who Train Caregivers, Relationships | Tags: , ,

Moving Beyond “God won’t give you more than you can handle”


If you have been a Christian for longer than a month, then I’m sure you have heard someone say, “God won’t give you more than you can handle.” I’ve heard pastors, biblical counselors, and many other Christians make this comment. However, we need to think critically about this statement though based on what the Bible says: Is it really true to Scripture?

I want to make a case that this statement is untrue and unhelpful. Many godly, mature, and more knowledgeable Christians may disagree with me. If you are one of them, I still hope you read this and engage in the conversation so we can charitably help one another deepen our thinking on this topic. My goal is not to make anyone feel condemned or attacked, but rather to help us all sharpen our thinking, so we can be more precise and helpful as we minister to individuals who are suffering.

Why do I believe the statement “God won’t give you more than you can handle” is untrue and unhelpful? Here are two reasons: (1) The Bible does not teach this. (2) The Bible teaches the opposite truth (at times God does give us more than we can handle). In addition, I think we can give more precise and helpful encouragement to individuals who are suffering.

Reason 1: The Bible does not teach that “God won’t give you more than you can handle.”

Many believers claim that 1 Corinthians 10:13 teaches “God won’t give you more than you can handle.” This verse states, “No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and He will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation He will provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.” Many people teaching that “God won’t give you more than you can handle” explain that the word “temptation,” or peirasmos in Greek, can refer to a temptation to a sin, a trial, or any type of  suffering. They are right. In fact, the Greek word used here for “temptation” can be used to speak of both suffering and sin. If you look in a Greek lexicon, it will show “testing” or “trial” as a possible way this word can be translated. Why, then, is it wrong to claim that this verse is addressing testing, trials, and suffering?

Any good book on hermeneutics will tell you every word has a range of potential meanings. The specific meaning an author intends to communicate when using a word is determined by context. A specific example of this concept is that the phrase “beat it” can be used as a command to tell someone “get off my porch,” or it can refer to one of the greatest Michael Jackson songs on the radio. You know which meaning I, the author, intend based on the context of the statement in which I use the phrase. It is here that we come to an important interpretive rule. I can intend to communicate the first or second meaning, but not both at the same time. This rule should be applied to 1 Corinthians 13 as well: Can “temptation” be referring to temptation to sin and to testing/suffering at the same time? There is one way it might–if I am intending to communicate with a pun. However, I do not know of anyone who claims that Paul is attempting to make a pun in this passage. In the context of this passage, we cannot claim Paul meant to reference both temptation to sin and trials/suffering simultaneously through this single use of the Greek word peirasmos. In fact, if we attempt to interpret this verse as though Paul has intended both meanings simultaneously, we commit what New Testament scholar D.A. Carson calls an exegetical fallacy. In his book entitled Exegetical Fallacies, Carson calls this specific type of exegetical fallacy “illegitimate totality transfer.” This is the fallacy of reading every possible meaning of a word into a single use of a word. Carson writes about this interpretive error under fallacy 13, “unwarranted adoption of an expanded semantic field” in the word-study fallacies section of the book.

Thus, the question we need to ask is not what range of meanings a word can possibly have in all of its uses, but rather, what did the author mean to communicate through the word in a specific context. When we look to the context of the passage to determine which meaning Paul intended, we find that he is addressing sin, not suffering. Verse 6 addresses those who “desire evil.” In verse 7 Paul addresses “idolaters,” showing the context of this passage is sin. Verse 8 identifies this idolatry specifically as “sexual immorality.” The following verses continue to address sin as we read of “put(ting) Christ to the test” in verse 9 and grumbling in verse 10. Verse 12 gives the exhortation “therefore, let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall,” which continues the focus of the passage on addressing sin. Verse 13 continues to address sin within the context of these verses. The plain reading of this text should lead us to conclude that Paul chose to use the word “temptation” to address temptation to sin, not trials and suffering, in this passage.

God, through Paul, is telling us in this passage that no one will be tempted to sin beyond what he or she can bear. That is amazingly good news. Praise God for His grace to us. However, this passage does not teach that a person will not face a trial or suffering beyond what he/she can bear.

Reason 2: The Bible teaches the opposite. At times, God does give people more than they can handle.

In 2 Corinthians 1, Paul’s autobiographical story in verses 8-11 clearly shows that God may give someone more suffering than he or she can handle. Paul says that he and his companions were “so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself.” He continues by saying, “Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead. He delivered us from such a deadly peril, and He will deliver us. On Him we have set our hope that He will deliver us again.” This passage shows us Paul was burdened beyond his strength. To be burdened beyond one’s strength is to have more than he or she can handle. God, through Paul, is saying people can experience more suffering than they can handle.

Furthermore: We can give more precise and helpful encouragement to individuals who are suffering.

Can I make a confession? I don’t know what “handle” means in “God won’t give you more than you can handle.” How are people defining “handle” when they make this statement? When different people say “God won’t give you more than you can handle,” do they all mean the same thing? The reality is that the saying “God won’t give you more than you can handle” can actually mean quite a few things. Regardless of what you believe about my previous two points, I hope we can all see that this saying is vague and unhelpful because of its imprecision. We, as counselors, pastors, and helpers can all make more precise and helpful statements than “God won’t give you more than you can handle.”

I want to propose we adopt a new text to be our go-to text for encouraging sufferers. Rather than using 1 Cor. 10, I submit we should use 2 Corinthians 12:7-10:

So to keep me from being too elated by the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from being too elated. Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

I propose we cease saying, “God won’t give you more than you can handle,” and begin to encourage people by saying, “God will give you all the grace you need in every situation you face.”

Why do I believe that the statement “God will give you all the grace you need in every situation you face” is more helpful for a sufferer? First, it is a more precise. It more precisely reflects the theological truths of 2 Corinthians 12:7-10 and other texts that suffering people need to know. No matter how much suffering people face, and how deeply they hurt because of that suffering, they know the truth that God’s grace will be sufficient for them in all their needs.

Secondly, the focus is on God not us. The saying “God won’t give you more than you can handle” is a man-centered statement that focuses on the person’s resources or abilities. Focusing on oneself and one’s resources in suffering does not bring great comfort and hope. Focusing on God and His resources for us in suffering does bring great comfort and hope.

Thirdly, God gets more glory. Paul tells us that it was when he did not have the strength to face his own suffering that he found God’s power and faithfulness was sufficient to provide what he needed. It was his inability to endure the suffering he faced that led Paul to a greater knowledge and experience of God’s provision, comfort, and deliverance. God may give the suffering people around us more than they feel, think, or believe they can bear. God wants His people to know through 2 Corinthians 1 and 12 that He is all-powerful and that they can hope in Him and His power.

Fourthly, this approach avoids the harm that “God won’t give you more than you handle” can do to a person. Many sufferers feel their suffering is beyond what they can bear. For these individuals, hearing the message “God won’t give you more than you can handle,” can communicate that they are not good enough or that something is wrong with their faith. This message that “God won’t give you more than you can handle” can also breed a self-focused and self-reliant way of thinking. The sufferers may feel they aren’t trying hard enough, or aren’t reading their Bibles thoroughly enough or aren’t praying fervently enough. They can experience guilt, shame, and doubt based on a misunderstanding of God’s Word. This unintended consequence of “God won’t give you more than you can handle” is antithetical to the gospel and must be refuted by gospel-oriented preachers and biblical counselors. When we feel weak and unable to persevere through suffering, we should not look to ourselves for help; we should look to God for help and hope. People who feel they are enduring more suffering than they can bear are not too weak, soft, or simply lacking in trust. Explaining that God may give more suffering than people can handle has been freeing and liberating for individuals I have known who are suffering through domestic abuse, illness, and other situations. These individuals were able to see that no matter how bad things got for them, God would give them the grace they need in every situation they faced.

For these reasons, I hope you will join me in putting an end to the belief that “God won’t give you more than you can handle,” and begin to encourage people by saying, “God will give you all the grace you need in every situation you face.”

Topics: BCC Exclusive, Biblical Counseling, People in Need of Care, People Who Offer Care, People Who Train Caregivers, Suffering, Theology | Tags: , , ,

Breaking Racial Barriers: Starting the Conversation


Over the years I have found it difficult to engage in healthy helpful discussions on race relations. How do I keep from becoming bitter, cynical, defensive or just simply disengaged? Effective biblical counseling assumes authentic, transparent and humble conversations. It has proven helpful to me to break the broad concept of racism into four groups that, I believe, better identify the motives of people and assist in addressing the true need of their hearts.

Racism is a difficult subject to discuss!

“Race relations are like a perpetual wound that some argue is worsening rather than healing. Indeed, eradication of the disease has proven to be an elusive dream….” (One Race One Blood, Ken Ham & A. Charles Ware, p.58) Recent protests and rioting in response to the deaths of black men by predominantly white police officers have sparked a heated national debate about racism. As the debate escalates, even police officers have been gunned down.

Media coverage seems to fan the flames of distrust and division between different ethnic people. As a Christian, whose skin is black, I have often wrestled with how I should view whites as I seek a biblical solution to racism?

How would you define racism?

There is a lack of common definitions and expectations. Blacks and Whites differ greatly on what constitutes racism, the seriousness of the issue, and the solutions. Is racism an attitude, a belief, an action, a look, structure, an environment, a method, or a combination of all of these? How can we solve a problem that we cannot define?

Webster’s New World Dictionary (Collins, 1979) defines racism as, “a doctrine, without scientific support, claiming the superiority of one race.” Biblically, racism is “respect of persons.” (Acts 10:28-34; James 2:8-12)

Wisdom is needed

Wisdom is needed to keep one’s heart in check and treat others respectfully when discussing heated issues like race. We must keep in mind that the wisdom from above is different from the world’s wisdom. (James 3:17-18)   How can we engage someone in helpful conversation and counsel toward healthy relationships without a proper diagnosis of the problem? It is always beneficial to pray for knowledge, wisdom, and discernment. (Colossians 1:9-12; Phil 1:9-11)

Wisdom requires that we seek, listen, receive and keep what we learn. After many conversations over the years, I have come to the conclusion that there are at least five different motivations for actions that some would classify as racist. It has proven beneficial for me to determine with which of the following five groups a person is identified before assuming a single diagnosis and prescription.

Racists are people who, like the Nazis, refuse to listen to any evidence that contradicts their bias. These people are usually open and vocal about their innate racial superiority. They need an unusual work of grace.

Prejudiced people have made a judgement without all the data. When given more data, a prejudiced person may change.

Perplexed individuals are confused by the entire racial discussion. They tend to be very sensitive and are constantly concerned about saying or doing something to offend someone. They need to be loved and handled gently.

The protective person is usually a parent whose greatest concern is that they do not want their children to get involved in the racial debate for fear they may be hurt. Protective persons fail to understand that Christianity often calls for suffering. To suffer for righteousness is a privilege granted to some of us by our heavenly Father.

The positioned person, like the Apostle Peter, supports segregation due to his or her belief that the Scripture teaches it. This person, like Peter, needs to hear a clear defense of racial reconciliation from the Bible. He may well require more than one hearing.    Ware, A. Charles. Prejudice and the People of God. (Baptist Bible College of Indianapolis, 1998), p. 23.

We live in a culture where Christians find it difficult to have honest conversations to bring hope and healing across ethnic/racial lines. The above categories assist me in rising above fear, bitterness, anger and cynicism to insert biblical truth that can free, grow and unite us in Christ.

What can you do?

  1. Pray for divine wisdom for how to develop healthy relationship
  2. Listen to people who are hurting from either real or perceived racial injustices.
  3. Learn about cultural experiences that form the beliefs and perceptions.
  4. Discern the heart motivation of your audience and how best to engage in conversations that lead to healthy biblical relationships.
  5. Seek cross-cultural relationships for mutual encouragement and growth.
  6. Model the greatest commandment, love God and your neighbor.

Recommended reading

Beyond Suffering – Dr. Robert Kellemen
Prejudice and the People of God – Dr. A. Charles Ware
One Race One Blood – Ken Ham and Dr. A. Charles Ware

I also recommend Crossroads Bible College course, Culture, Race and the Church. The course can be taken online, visit

Join the Conversation

  • What are your questions?
  • What helps you engage in difficult racial/cross-cultural conversations
Topics: BCC Exclusive, Biblical Counseling, Christian Living, People in Need of Care, People Who Offer Care, People Who Train Caregivers, Relationships | Tags: , , , , ,

An Overview of ACBC Certification


A Word from Your BCC Team: The Association of Certified Biblical Counselors is the leading biblical counseling certification organization in the world. In today’s post, as we often do on weekends, we are using our BCC “megaphone” to highlight and overview ACBC’s certification process. You can also view this video, which we are re-posting with the ACBC’s permission, at the ACBC’s site here.

For nearly 40 years, the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors (ACBC) has been certifying biblical counselors to ensure doctrinal integrity and to promote excellence in biblical counseling. Are you interested in ACBC Certification? This short video walks you through the 3 Phases of Certification.

For more information about ACBC certification, visit the ACBC certification webpage.

Topics: BCC Exclusive, Biblical Counseling, Christian Living, Education, Megaphone Post, People in Need of Care, People Who Offer Care, People Who Train Caregivers | Tags: , ,

10 Ways that Satan Loves to Watch Marriages Fall Apart


Note from the BCC Staff: Today, we decided to take a break from our normally occurring “Friday’s 5 to Live By” posts and bring one of our popular posts from the archive. We hope it is a blessing to you.

According the Bible, Satan prowls around like a lion looking for someone to devour (1 Peter 5:8), but many times, he probably doesn’t have to do that much. I wonder if sometimes Satan sits back and laughs at us.

Marriage can be extremely messy. As sinners we can do dumb things in marriage—we hurt one another; we make false assumptions and then miscommunicate; we manipulate or say mean things to our spouse; we think less about serving and more about being served. We don’t always follow God’s Word or advice from godly leaders. We put our hopes in the world or each other more than we put hope in God.

We don’t need Satan to ruin our marriage. We do plenty of unhelpful things on our own to ruin our marriages. I’m sure Satan enjoys having a front row seat, watching our folly and foolishness.

What does he see?

The Battlefield of Marriage

1. Spouses live in the flesh and not in the Spirit (Galatians 5).

Picture a fight. You and your spouse are arguing about something big or small; and at just the right moment, you are faced with a decision. It’s the moment that I’ve heard some call the watershed moment—the point at which you pick a path to follow. You can satisfy your sinful flesh or follow the lead of the Spirit. You go down the path of a nasty fight or honor your spouse by admitting your wrong. Which do you typically choose?

2. No sex in the marriage (1 Corinthians 7).

If you are fighting, the last thing you want to do is to be intimate with each other, right? Conflict is a barrier to intimacy in marriage. The two are not one, but two. One of God’s purposes for sex is to foster “oneness” or unity (Genesis 2:24; 1 Corinthians 6) in your marriage. Couples who don’t have regular sex are allowing a barrier to come between them. No sex in marriage means the couples is less unified.

3. A husband is consumed by pornography (1 Thessalonians 4).

This causes him to be distracted from his wife’s beauty. Sometimes he gets drawn in by a pop-up. More often, he simply gives-in to lust (Galatians 5:13) and aggressively pursues it. She discovers it. It quickly shatters trust in the marriage. She is devastated and she asks questions like, “Am I not desirable?” “Why would he look at other women when he has me?” Worst of all, “Is there something fundamentally wrong with me?”

4. Lofty, sky-high expectations.

I’ve seen men crushed under the weight of their wives’ perfectionistic expectations. The husband says things like, “She expects me to be a holy man.” He constantly feels like a failure, and therefore has little to no incentive to actually work at the marriage. She beats him up (verbally, not physically) because (in the words of one spouse I counseled) “nothing else seems to work to get him to do anything.”

5. Nuclear war (Romans 1:28-32).

You go head-to-head every night. You have nasty, mean, tears-evoking, loud-screaming, door-slamming fights. Sometimes it gets physical. And you are weary…very, very weary…because you don’t know how to stop the fights, yet you are tired of dealing with nuclear war every night of your life.

6. Avoidance and withdrawal (Ephesians 4:26-27).

The most basic response to any difficulty is the famous fight or flight response. In marriage, the flight response often looks like avoiding your spouse. Maybe you live in the same house, but you live separate lives. After a fight, you avoid one another rather than doing the hard work of dealing with each other. Or, maybe you hide at work in order to avoid the marriage. You are really good at your job, so you often get praise and affirmation at work, but never at home. Is it any surprise that you like being at work more, especially when home is a war zone all of the time?

7. Hate speech (James 4:1).

In the heat of conflict, we say things that we all regret. I have a friend who calls this stupid talk.  Things come out of my mouth, and the moment it launches from my lips, I regret having said it. I wish I could pull it back and stuff back into my mouth. Sadly, I ignore the maxim, “Not everything that comes to my mind needs to come out of my mouth.”

8. Weak boundaries.

The husband flirts with a woman at work by saying nice things to her. He finds her attractive. He finds ways to go out of his way to encourage her, and sadly, he doesn’t ever demonstrate the same kind of deliberateness with his spouse. There is no physical, immoral interactions, but his verbal affirmations and emotional flirting goes beyond what would safely be deemed as platonic.  Wives are cable of doing this, too. Often times, in retaliation to the husband’s careless boundaries.

9. Work-idolatry (James 4:4-5).

You love your job and you pour yourself into it, to the detriment of your family. You rationalize, “They need me at work” or “She doesn’t understand the pressure I’m under at work.” If you were honest, you work matters more than your family. You cherish your job more than you do your wife and kids.

10. Lying (Colossians 3:9).

Lying can destroy trust in a marriage. A spouse lies because he is trapped and doesn’t want to have his sin exposed. For example, a husband who has been secretly having an extra-marital affair….of course he is embarrassed for anyone to find out. He is emotionally and spiritually immature—in a word, you married someone with poor character.

Sad, isn’t it, to see so much foolishness? This is the typical battlefield of bad marriage. This is why we put our hope not in ourselves, but in the glorious gospel of Jesus Christ. It is sinners such as these that Jesus came to save (Mark 10:43-45).

Join the Conversation

“What marriage maladies would you add to this list?”

Topics: BCC Exclusive, Biblical Counseling, Christian Living, Conflict, Marriage & Family, Men/Husbands, People in Need of Care, People Who Offer Care, People Who Train Caregivers, Women/Wives | Tags: , ,

Are Daily Fantasy Leagues Immoral?


Three clarifications need to be made before you get into the substance of this post.

  1. I love fantasy sports leagues; particularly baseball and football. These are free leagues and the only “reward” is bragging rights with friends and co-workers. I consider them a healthy outlet for facilitating some light-hearted relational interactions and a stimulating way to enhance my enjoyment of sports.
  2. Fantasy sports and daily fantasy leagues are different types of games. Fantasy sports have been around for several decades and became increasingly popular with the advent of the internet. No money is required to play. Daily fantasy leagues are a relatively new enterprise that advertise major cash rewards for winners (click here for a brief history and recent law suit summaries). You’ve probably noticed the rapid increase in commercials lately.
  3. This is not a post about the legality of daily fantasy leagues, but only guidance on how to think about their morality in light of Scriptural teachings. Whether daily fantasy leagues fit the definition of gambling and, therefore, come under the same regulations, is a matter for individual states to decide. However, for clarity in how the leagues are referenced in this post, the growing consensus seems to be that these daily fantasy leagues do fit the legal definition of gambling.

As we seek to think well about this issue, here are the questions I believe to be most relevant:

  • Where is the line between entertainment, investment, and gambling?
  • Should a Christian be guided by morality or wisdom when it comes to gambling?
  • What are the signs that sins or folly are becoming slavery (addiction)?

One final question is worth asking, “Does this question merit discussion on a counseling blog?” Obviously I believe the answer is yes or I wouldn’t be writing this. But here is the reason – this is the kind of question that frequently comes up in counseling; fringe-moral-wisdom questions about seemingly inconsequential parts of life that cause discord in relationships or create imbalance in an individual’s life.

For this reason, I think how we discuss this question in this blog is as important for the reader to consider as what conclusion is reached.

Entertainment, Investment, and Gambling?

Every time we order a new dish at a restaurant we’re “betting money” we’re going to like it. Whenever we give to a charity we are “risking” whether the funds will have the impact we desire. We often “invest” time in initiatives that we are not sure will provide the outcome we desire. When a kid uses his own money to buy a pack of baseball cards not knowing if a player from his favorite team is in it, he is “gambling.” (If his parents buy the cards, it’s clearly an investment.)

Is it okay to “wager” time but not money? Is it acceptable to take “risks” for necessities but not luxuries; or within certain parameters of certainty? Would it matter if daily fantasy leagues were part of an “educational lottery”? What is the difference between an investment with uncertain results (i.e., stocks and mutual funds) and gambling?

Gambling is simply “taking a risky action in the hope of a desired result.” We all do this every day. We “gamble” time when we watch a movie we don’t know much about. We “gamble” emotional equity when we invest in a new relationship. Some of us are very risk-averse and find these experiences unnerving. Others of us are more entrepreneurial and enjoy them immensely.

In my assessment, I think we have to engage this first question from the standpoint of stewardship. Every good gift in our life is from God (James 1:17) and we are called to steward our entire life for God’s glory (I Corinthians 10:31) which is the source of our ultimate joy (Psalm 37:4).

The key question regarding any “investment” activity becomes, “Is this use of time / money / talent that God has provided a good investment of the resources he has entrusted to me?”. If the answer is yes, “At what point would my investment of time / money / talent in this area begin to cause neglect in other areas God would desire me to invest in?”

When the answer to the first question is “no” or the answer to the second question is ignored, investment and entertainment (morally positive or neutral activities) would have become gambling (morally negative activity).

Wisdom or Moral Parameters?

The natural, first question here would be, “Are there biblical commands against gambling?” The answer would seem to be no. The closest biblical reference would be to casting lots and Scripture’s references to this practice seem to be morally indifferent. At its worst, casting lots was used to distribute Jesus’ garment at his crucifixion (John 19:23). At its best, casting lots was used to choose Matthias as the disciple to replace Judas once the finalists were reduced to two men (Acts 1:26).

I have heard gambling described as “stealing by mutual consent” and can appreciate the argument, but since “stealing” implies “non-consent” I don’t find it intellectually satisfying.

Scripture’s most direct discussion of the subject would seem to be that seeking to make lots of money quickly is generally dangerous for the soul and decreases our life satisfaction (Proverbs 13:11, 28:22; Ecclesiastes 5:10; 1 Timothy 6:9-10; Hebrews 13:5). From this, we can conclude that Scripture would highly discourage the primary motive most people have for gambling; Scripture seems to be saying the desire to to get rich quick is toxic to contentment and a strong work ethic.

Based on this, I would conclude that the best way to ask the question is, “Should a Christian play in daily fantasy leagues?” rather than, “Can a Christian play in daily fantasy leagues?” This question is not the equivalent of the moral question, “Is a Christian allowed to be unfaithful to their spouse?” but more akin to the wisdom question, “What is an acceptable amount of neglect one should be able to give to their health in order to eat foods they enjoy or avoid exercise?”

Based on these principles, I will share where I am on this question. I would not play in a daily fantasy league or engage in other forms of gambling. I personally could not justify this kind of stewardship of the finances God has entrusted to our family; neither do I believe a “big win” would be good for my character or as an example to my two sons.

At the same time, I would not be confrontational in a conversation with someone that did play in a daily fantasy league. I do not see this as the equivalent of bragging about cheating on their taxes, but more akin to wearing an “I ate the 5 pound burrito” t-shirt. However, if asked, “Since you enjoy fantasy sports and seem to know a lot about them, why don’t you play the daily leagues?” I would explain both the stewardship and character-shaping rationale for them to consider.

My encouragement to readers of this post is to seriously weigh the stewardship and character forming aspects of any form of gambling (which, by the definition above, we all do every day). Being willing to casually dismiss stewardship or character is of weightier importance than whether you do or don’t play in a daily fantasy league. If the question of total life stewardship became central to more Christians than debating the legitimacy of particular activities, the church would be a much healthier representation of what God desires the church to be.

When Does Sin or Folly Become Slavery?

There is at least one more question that should be addressed – What is the addictive quality of gambling? There are some individuals for whom the emotional thrill of a potential “big win” is literally captivating (i.e., takes them captive).

For this man or woman, daily fantasy leagues or any form of gambling would be wrong; based on the teaching of I Corinthians 6:12, “‘All things are lawful for me,’ but not all things are helpful. ‘All things are lawful for me,’ but I will not be dominated by anything.” When something is dominating or enslaving an individual, it is morally wrong for that individual even if it might qualify as a wisdom decision for others.

Here are indicators that participation in daily fantasy sports is enslaving and, therefore, should be abstained from permanently.

  • Lying – If you cover up what you’re doing, then you are revealing you are violating your conscience or are experiencing shame. An activity that leads you to other sins, in this case lying, should be avoided even if it doesn’t violate your conscience. If you can’t talk about an activity openly then it should be avoided (Romans 14:23).
  • Borrowing Money – You might be borrowing from others or yourself (i.e., pulling money from non-leisure parts of your household budget). In either case, pulling money allotted for more important purposes for entertainment is a red flag.
  • Chasing Losses – When you are gambling to catch up on previous losses you are entering a motivational feedback loop that has a high propensity for addiction. This also usually means you’re lying to people who are close to you.
  • Preoccupation – If your involvement in a daily fantasy league is one of your “stickiest” thoughts, meaning it’s become too important; even if it’s not an addiction. When thoughts about a preferred form of recreation are not something you can pick up and put down at will, they are taking on too large of a role in your life.
  • Planning Your Week Around Gambling – You can tell how important something is by what you’re willing to move in order to make room for it. When you begin to arrange your week around a fantasy sport (whether money is involved or not) it is becoming too important and creating an imbalance in your life.
  • Gambling as Escape – When an activity becomes your refuge from the stresses of life, it is replacing God. One of the great moral tragedies of sin is when we begin to pray to our sin.

These criteria are not just relevant for daily fantasy leagues or gambling. They are pertinent for any wisdom-based decision that has the propensity to become a personal obsession or behavioral addiction; that is, any secondary enjoyment we are prone to build our life around.

We all face wisdom decisions every day. We all have forms of enjoyment that aren’t essential to God’s mission for our life and are prone to become enslaving. To be balanced, we all also benefit from having recreational outlets and invest some form of financial or time capital into them. Therefore, we need to be able to think well about these kinds of issues and be open to having conversations with one another about them. I hope this post contributes to more of these kinds of conversations.

Join the Conversation

  • If not daily fantasy leagues, where might you need to apply the principles of this post to your own life?
  • How would you have a conversation about this subject with a new believer who hasn’t begun to think of stewarding their entire life for God?
Topics: BCC Exclusive, Christian Living, People in Need of Care, People Who Offer Care, People Who Train Caregivers, Sin, Temptation | Tags: , , , , , , ,

Godly Parenting in a Structured Environment


As Biblical counselors, we have heard from the beginning of our training that no one can blame his environment for failure to walk the Christian walk. We cannot blame our home, family, or friends, our culture or country of origin, our church, school or teachers, even though these do impact every child’s early formation.

As parents, however, we must look at the need to structure the environment for better parenting of our children. As counselors, we must be prepared to help parents understand the principles of effective parenting. Structuring the environment is a key factor in successful parenting.

A structured environment is fertile soil for Deuteronomy 6:2-9 parenting. Ephesians 6:4 directs fathers to train their children effectively by balancing nurture (structured discipline) with admonition (heart training for godliness). In today’s “Christian” culture, children hear a lot of admonition to do right, but often lack the structure to put that admonition into practice. Structure will be the emphasis of this article.

Modeling after God the Father

Hebrews 12:5-13 encourages all of us to accept our Heavenly Father’s discipline as that which helps us to grow and to peacefully and productively walk the straight and narrow path of righteousness. Likewise, the goal of good parenting is to help children mature in wisdom and moral judgments in the context of a disciplined and holy lifestyle. Effective parenting structures a child’s environment to encourage maturity in every sphere of the child’s life.

The home is where this all begins. We are talking about an environment where discipline means more than just giving consequences when the child does wrong, but also establishes a structured environment where there are controls to help prevent temptations and wrong doing. These parental consequences and controls progressively diminish as a child matures. The goal is moral maturity, not just an age or physical maturity.

Parents represent God’s authority to their children. Parents must live under the authority of God just as they want their children to live under their own biblically directed authority. 1 Timothy 3:4 requires a godly man to manage his own household well. His children are under control with all dignity. He knows how to structure the environment of his home so his children will live in submission to an organized environment. Children tend to flourish in a structured environment guided by parents who model a life that honors God and that their children want to emulate.

Proverbs 22:6 is a principle reflecting this, though we as counselors must be careful not to beat up parents with this verse when a child chooses a prodigal lifestyle. Children can choose to go against God the Father’s model and their own parents’ authority. After all, God’s very first children, Adam and Eve, chose rebellion over obedience, and it was not God’s fault! As parents, we are responsible for the training; the child is responsible for his response to the training.

So what does that modeling look like?

Godly parents reflect Christlikeness in their own life, placing controls on their child to facilitate and provoke biblical maturity in a structured environment. Luke 2:52 reflects upon Jesus’ maturity in mind and body, as well as spiritually and socially. Children who feel safe and protected within structured boundaries are free to develop as God designed each of them in all spheres of their life.

We are warned against allowing children to structure their own environment with foolish standards. Proverbs 29:15 contrasts how discipline produces wisdom, but lawlessness brings shame to parents. The child left to structure his own environment will find out that all the freedoms he thinks are really cool and satisfying often result in ultimately painful consequences and enslavement.

When we structure the environment for our families we must be aware of the shaping influences in the child’s experiences. His environment may either provide temptation to sin or fertile soil for godliness. His response will be wise choices or foolish choices. This in turn gives parents opportunity to evaluate the need for greater structure, or freedom to transfer responsibility to the maturing child.

Matthew 6:13 reminds us that our Heavenly Father does not lead us into or leave us in situations that would encourage us to sin. We are to pray for deliverance from evil. A consistent and structured environment at home guides a child who is out in the community with temptations all around, but whose parents have modeled godliness and have given him instructions on how to deal with the temptations within that environment. This is how we deliver our children from evil.

Our Heavenly Father calls upon us to control the shaping influences of our own environment. We are told to control our thoughts and behaviors because what we think about and act upon influences the environment around us. Also we must control our thoughts about and behaviors toward an environment that is beyond our control (2Cor 10:5, Php 4:8). We have a responsibility before God to respond Biblically to all the circumstances of life and to trust Him in the midst of difficult circumstances (1Cor 10:13-14; Jas 1:2-4). We teach and model this in every day life.

So how do parents help children develop character?

Just as our Father helps us through difficult circumstances, we should build character-shaping opportunities into our children’s environment, giving them a chance to practice making right choices still under the tutelage and guidance of parents. Then we celebrate their victories and success and teach them through the struggles and problems.

It is essential that parents structure the environment to guide children in evaluating friendships. At times, parental controls on those friendships are a necessity. Always a watchful eye is prudent, as Paul warns in 1Cor 15:33 about the deception of thinking that our children can have any type of friends, saved or unsaved, and that those friendships won’t impact them either for good or bad. Evil companions corrupt good character. Failure to structure friendships of our children allows for choosing close friends who are not walking with the Lord and who encourage rebellion to authority.

Another area needing structure is entertainment and activities. Our Heavenly Father calls us to purity, to not set our hearts and eyes on worthless things. We guide our children to be careful of the activities and entertainment in which they participate (2Cor 6:16, Ps 102:3, Eph 4:3, Php 4:8).

A big part to structuring the environment is determining who will teach the children and what their educational opportunities or limitations will be. Our educational approach is to train thinking children who choose to walk in the way of wisdom, who can articulate what they believe and why. Education must challenge them to think clearly and to embrace what is true. One size does not fit all! Every parent must evaluate their child’s needs and gifts and then choose what best fits the child. Structure will encourage developing the mind to the best of that child’s ability, holding him responsible for his own schoolwork.

God commands us to separate from false teachers, to not walk in the counsel of the ungodly, to not be taken captive by empty philosophies. Our structure must include encouragement to hunger after the pure milk of the Word of God. This structure includes both home and local church. Youth ministry must be more than just social.   Youth must be challenged to live out their faith (Ps 1, Col 2:8, 1Pe 2:2).

Parents need to be asking themselves a few very important questions. What ungodly influences are your children exposed to that you must wisely control and limit? What godly influences do your children need to be more exposed to? What are you specifically going to do about it?

A well-structured environment establishes routines to help the children develop disciplined habits. God is a God of routines; He is not a God of disorder. God has a purpose, and He works it out just as He wills (Eph 1:11). We help our children set goals that will produce structure and discipline in their routines, such as making their beds first thing upon arising each morning. The first two chapters in Genesis show God’s routine, both in an orderly creation and in His communication with His children. His Word accomplishes His purposes in a very systematic way.

All children need routine and habits, and it is the parents’ responsibility to establish those early, as in bedtime routines, eating habits, care of the body, exercise, study habits, habits of personal hygiene and rest times (1Tim 3:4). Children need responsibilities such as household chores or care of family pets. All of these routines help develop godly character. As he matures, the child takes on more and more responsibility for maintaining this structured routine. These habits help the children to be better stewards of their time and to faithfully develop all their gifts and talents.

Children must be encouraged to use those gifts to love God and to love their neighbors in a timely and structured way (Eccl 3:1). Human nature is naturally bent toward selfishness. Yet, when a family develops organized projects together, the whole family benefits and enjoys each other while producing great service to the church body and community. One family may pack lunches for a group like “Feed My Starving Children,” while another cleans house for an elderly widow in their local congregation. Both are serving God and others.

Another structure is to develop routines accomplishing personal responsibilities or habits of personal sanctification. A routine of spiritual nourishment includes times of individual Bible study and prayer, family worship, and Scripture memory that become a normal part of a disciplined life. A family who serves God and grows together becomes a strong and stable structure that the winds of culture cannot blow down.

Structuring extracurricular activities, like sports, hobbies, talents, and other interests that the child may have all need to fit within the routine of a structured environment. Sometimes, families overfill the schedule, and routine turns to chaos! Being too busy creates stress, and stress destroys the benefits of those chaotic activities. As in all of life, there is a healthy balance to be maintained. Rest, relaxation, and “down times” also are part of a good structure.

One great motivation is that God rewards faithfulness with greater opportunities and future usefulness. Parent should be sure to teach their children the parable of the talents, encouraging each child to use his/her talents whether two talents or five. The result is that everyone who develops what he has will be given more in abundance. Wise stewardship of time is a factor. Those who faithfully use and multiply their talents will find the rewards that God has for their faithfulness.

In conclusion, God controls everything in life to promote change in our lives (Rom 8:28,29). The controlling and shaping influences He allows give us opportunities to mature. From the beginning He established routines; parents are called to do the same with their children. “Parents, do not provoke your children, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord,” (Eph 6:4).  We structure the environment as best as we can to promote opportunities for our children to mature.

Topics: BCC Exclusive, Biblical Counseling, Christian Living, Marriage & Family, Parenting, People in Need of Care, People Who Offer Care, People Who Train Caregivers | Tags: , , , ,

Update from the Executive Director’s Office: The BCC Global Conference


A few months ago we announced some exciting news regarding the BCC’s plans to hold a global biblical counseling conference next June. We knew we could not do this alone and joined with Harvest Bible Chapel in Chicago to both plan and host the gathering. Some of you may recall that Dr. James MacDonald was instrumental in helping the BCC board launch the ministry over 5 years ago. He edited our first book and was involved in helping us to set our vision and organize our council board. After several conference planning meetings, Harvest leaders and the BCC board recently decided to make some adjustments to the global conference’s theme and venue. The following changes will allow Harvest to better support and resource the event, and will help the BCC to be even more focused on its core mission and values. The changes outlined below resonated with our leaders as we are about collaboration not competition. The BCC is more about promoting others then platforming our own ministry. For these reasons we have decided to move away from a large conference concept and instead are planning a Global Leadership Summit. The event will take place on the same dates with the same speakers, but on a smaller scale with a focus on live streaming and video capture.

We are thankful for the clarity that came from some early feedback on what is best for the BCC and the organizations we support. We still dream of 1500+ people from around the globe gathering to discuss counseling issues that cross cultural lines. At the same time we see God’s Providential hand on this decision as we continue to coalesce as a movement. Emphasis on streaming video gives us another opportunity to be a megaphone for existing BC organizations. A more intimate leadership summit will provide the opportunity for deeper collaboration and rich conversation among international leaders. We hope this will be a natural springboard to highlight other equipping opportunities made available by the partnering BC organizations.

We are encouraged that there is substantial agreement among the leadership to continue to build our global partnerships and bring the best and brightest leaders to one place at one time to further unite the movement. Presenters will bring compelling, but more concise teaching times, similar to TED talks or the interviews often displayed on the Gospel Coalition’s website. Interviews, panels, and short presentations on the most foundational and important topics facing biblical counseling and the church today will come from speakers like David Powlison, Heath Lambert, James MacDonald, Jeremy Lelek, and Steve Viars. Our hope is to add a substantial representation of leaders from around the world who are passionate about the public, private, and personal ministry of God’s Word.

Harvest Bible Chapel has offered to host the event at their Aurora, Illinois campus which is housed in a state-of-the-art TV studio. The facility would allow for us to provide quality live-streaming and video capture of this unique event for future viewing on our website. We will have to limit seating to the first two hundred people who register. We hope to be able to scholarship several international leaders to be part of that live audience. If you have saved the date, we hope you will join us on June 5th-7th, 2016. Watch for a registration page which will be posted on our site before the end of this year.

While the dates are the same and the topics will still focus on cross-cultural issues; the theme is now focused on greater unity and synergy. This is reflected in the new title “Better Together: Standing United for the Counsel of God’s Word Around the World.” I invite you to pray along with us that the global biblical counseling community will be blessed and strengthened for years to come as a result of this gathering. Please plan to join us live or by simulcast next June.

Topics: Biblical Counseling, Christian Living, Conference, People in Need of Care, People Who Offer Care, People Who Train Caregivers | Tags: , , , , ,

Chosen (Not Forgotten)


BCC Staff Note: Today’s blog post is from regular contributer and pastor, Kyle Johnston. This is a repost of an article he wrote for Scope magazine and can be found here.

The Loneliness of Suffering

Suffering has a way of isolating us. When we suffer, we can easily feel alone—loneliness seems to follow suffering. Pastor Timothy Keller, drawing on the insights of French philosopher Simone Weil, writes that one of the marks of suffering is isolation: “A barrier goes up between us and even our closest friends. One reason is that you, the sufferer, suddenly sense a new gulf between yourself and almost anyone who has not experienced what you are going through. People who, you once felt, shared a common experience with you no longer do.” [1]

When we suffer, we feel alone. Perhaps, in your case, this is exacerbated by friends or family who no longer know how to relate to you. This social clumsiness also creates a sense of rejection, adding to the existing pain you are already experiencing. On top of these, a further difficulty is feeling forgotten by God Himself. This can make the isolation of suffering almost unbearable. When you find yourself in the storm, pain is present but God seems absent. The suffering and isolation are tangible, but God’s love seems intangible. When we suffer, we can easily feel forgotten by God and others.

God’s people have known pain and suffering for millennia. I’m currently working through the New Testament book of 1 Peter and am surprised at how significant the theme of suffering is. Almost a third of the occurrences of the Greek verb to suffer in the New Testament are found in 1 Peter alone. The Apostle Peter is writing to Christians who are mired in suffering. So let’s take a look at how this ancient pastor addresses those who are familiar with pain and sorrow.

The Father’s Chosen People

His opening lines are remarkable: “Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, to those who are elect exiles of the Dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, according to the foreknowledge of God the Father…”

What is the first thing that Peter says to hurting Christians? Does he give them some advice? No—he reminds them of who they are. Specifically, he reminds them of who they are in relation to God: chosen (not forgotten). God has elected them; they have been chosen according to the foreknowledge of their Heavenly Father.

This concept of being God’s chosen people originally applied to God’s people in the Old Testament and had a strongly ethnic flavor to it. But now Peter applies it to all those who have put their faith in Christ. This really is remarkable and worth reflection: though we have done nothing to deserve it (quite the opposite, in fact) we have been chosen by God. The privilege of knowing God as Father is ours. We have access to Him anytime—even in our suffering. In our pain, we are not forgotten by our Father.

As a counselor, I have seen the significance of how we view ourselves, particularly in the midst of difficulty. When we are submerged in pain and suffering, we are tempted to see ourselves as irrelevant, as failures, or even as people who are rejected and forgotten by God. It is very easy to allow our circumstances, especially our pain and suffering, to shape our sense of identity—but the task we’re all faced with is to view ourselves the way God does. He sees us as His chosen people- not forgotten, not rejected. If you belong to Christ, if you’ve put your faith in Jesus, then the glorious truth is this: God the Father has personally hand-picked you. He foreknew you, and He knows you now. He is with you. He remembers you. Even though you might be forgotten by others, God knows you. You belong to Him. Though the suffering we experience creates isolation, though we may feel rejected and forgotten—God knows you and remembers you. You are His chosen child. He is with you in the storm. Can I encourage you to dwell on that? Dwell on your identity and His presence, and fight the isolation of suffering with the truth of His love. He has chosen you and remembers you. You are not rejected and forgotten. You are chosen and remembered even in the midst of suffering.

The Surprise and Comfort of a Suffering Savior

Finally, one of the most surprising and comforting truths of the Christian faith is that God personally knows suffering. Instead of just dispensing spiritual truths from a distance, God became a man in Jesus Christ, and lived a life of suffering. Jesus can relate to you because He had to walk through the same troubles we find ourselves in. Jesus personally knows the variegated miseries of this world. More than that, He is near—He is with us in the pain as a Friend to lean on, a Lord to follow, and a Savior to rest in.

As the famous hymn puts it:

Crown Him the Son of God, before the worlds began,
And ye who tread where He hath trod, crown Him the Son of Man;
Who every grief hath known that wrings the human breast,
And takes and bears them for His own, that all in Him may rest. 

He took our sins and our sorrows. He made them His very own so that we might find forgiveness, life, shelter, and rest in Him. He is with you in the storm. Call out to Jesus, because you are chosen—not forgotten.

[1] Timothy Keller, Walking with God through Pain and Suffering, (Dutton, 2013), 213.

Topics: Anxiety, Biblical Counseling, Christian Living, Hope, Loneliness, People in Need of Care, People Who Offer Care, People Who Train Caregivers | Tags: , , , , , ,

About the BCC

The BCC exists to strengthen churches, para-church organizations, and educational institutions by promoting excellence and unity in biblical counseling as a means to accomplish compassionate outreach and effective discipleship.