People have problems. I do, you do.
Sometimes we are the victims of our own folly and must deal with the consequences of our choices. At other times, simply by being inhabitants of a sin-clogged cosmos, we suffer the troubles and challenges common to all humanity, agonizing together like women in labour. If we believe in Jesus Christ and are in Him, we often encounter trials that He allows for His good purpose and by His good grace. (Sometimes, His purpose is loving discipline.) These we are called to endure with joy, confident they will serve as catalysts for Christlikeness. (Rom 8, Jam 1)
As is typical in a culture where self-absorption and capitalism have become such compatible lovers, dealing with problems (we call it, “counseling”) has become an industry and those who seek help–millions of them every year–have become customers. And it’s not only counselors’ agendas that are filled–so are prescriptions. So are the self-help, psychology and human relationships sections of bookshops around the world. So are psychiatric wards and mental institutions. Even as I type this, the CBC is doing a radio piece on “bipolar disorder”, something we never heard about a couple of decades ago. It seems new syndromes and afflictions are being identified–or invented–on a monthly basis.
While I recognize that some people’s problems have physiological or chemical components and require specialized treatment, I maintain that generally, the “issues” (a word that used to apply to magazines) people suffer can be resolved with the Bible–a psych ward in print, a mirror of the soul, a diagnostician and practitioner without peer, a prescription that can be taken in any dosage as often as desired with or without food, a self-help manual by One whose name is Counselor.
Last week I was studying Psalm 25 and discovered in this wonderful poem a world of help for the troubled soul. I encourage you to read it now.
David is evidently being hunted by Saul and his posse when this psalm is composed. He is desperate, and his life is in danger. Listen to the grocery list of the psalmist’s woes, identified by his own words: fear of being shamed, a strong sense of guilt, depression, a sense of being trapped, loneliness, affliction, heartsickness, distress, fear for his life. Someone with all these complaints could be in counseling for years–a veritable niche market.
Yet in this same poem, David identifies several key components of success in dealing with the problems of life, even when they are as severe as his (and they rarely are):
- Dependence upon God for His help
- Willingness to recognize the nature of one’s problem
- Desire to know and follow God’s plan for resolution as revealed in Scripture
- Acknowledgment of personal responsibility
- Commitment to abandon one’s attitudes and behaviour and live with integrity
2011 would be a very different year from all the others if we would apply these simple truths to the troubles we will encounter.