Counseling Concepts

Finding Help for a Hurting Heart: A Faith-Based Plan for Meeting Unmet Needs

I. The Pain

The hurt we feel is not really the result of the adverse circumstances or people in our lives, as we may think, but the result of our unmet needs - the normal, in-born, multi-dimensional needs we have that have not been met.

II. The Problem

This means, our pain is not really the problem, but the symptom or result of the problem. Also, the problem is not what is present in our lives that hurts, but what is missing in our lives that helps.

To illustrate: Stress, commonly thought to undermine good health, is not really "the problem." In fact, stress (defined in the dictionary as "a weight or demand") is a good thing! That's why gym weights are heavy.

Instead, the problem is the absence of strength sufficient to support the stress or weight (in which case, the health risk is not stress, but "strain").

For example, if a demand is made of a muscle greater than its strength to bear it, it can tear or rupture. Also, what we sometimes call a stress fracture of a bone is actually a strain fracture.

Injury, then, is the result of a weight or demand in our lives that is greater than the strength we have to support it. This is true whether it is physical, emotional, financial, or relational.

III. The Provisions

The distinctive principle guiding Christian counseling is that God has provided adequate resources in creation (the soil and atmosphere), community (support relationships in the home and church), and especially Christ (his Blood/death for us and his Life in us) to meet every human need - physically, psychologically, and spiritually.

For example, in creation God stored minerals and fuel in the earth, gave fertility to the soil, provided sunshine and rain to maintain geological and other processes, wind and lightning for energy, and placed the earth in relation to the sun at just the precise distance and tilt, as scientists now know, to provide just the right atmosphere - without which life would be impossible.

In his book, "Mistakes God Did Not Make," R.I. Humbred noted that God colored the grass green and the sky blue, instead of red. He placed our eyes on the front of our heads instead of the back. He also put our noses above our mouths so that we can smell the food we eat - before we eat it.

God also vented our noses downward. (Favorite old joke: A man accidently cut his nose off, and it was sown back on upside down. He said he got along okay - except when it rained, he drowned, and when he sneezed, he blew his hat off!)

Also, God created our bodies with the capacity to increase strength through exercise (called "training effect"), to heal from injury and sickness, and to sleep. God also created the family unit in order to meet our affection needs. "It is not good," he said of Adam, "that he remain alone" (Genesis 2:18). The Bible also says, "He puts the lonely in families" (Psalm 68:6).

And, most importantly, God made provisions through Christ to meet our deepest and greatest need, which is spiritual (to experience God). By dying on the cross for us, Christ provided a way for us to go to Heaven. By living his life in us, Christ provided a way for us to be healthy and happy (Romans 5:10).

IV. The Plan

Faith-based Christian counseling discerns the unhappiness (the pain), diagnoses the unmet needs (the problem), discovers appropriate resources for meeting those needs (God's provisions), then develops a strategy for healing (the plan).

Other strategies exist for meeting counseling needs but typically do not identify God's provisions. They are "Plan B" solutions (I call them)which minimize or deny man's fallen human nature, and are based on a strategy of heroic self-efforts to "work on ourselves" (a strategy of striving) with disregard for our need of God's enablement. This means our hope for recovery is, at best, rooted in a position of weakness (our fallen human nature).

Jesus said, "Apart from me, you can do nothing" (John 15:5).

He said, "Come to me, all you who are broken, and I will restore you" (Matthew 11:28 paraphrased).

He also said, "Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God. Trust also in the resources he has provided through me to meet your needs" (John 14:1 paraphrased).

DonLoy Whisnant/The Grace Perspective #505

Concept Distinctives to Guide Grace Counseling

The following concepts are unique to grace counseling:

1) God does not attempt to control us, but invests in us in order to empower us, then sets us free. Rather, it is Satan who attempts to control and, if he cannot, to destroy us.

"It is for freedom that Christ has set us free." - Galatians 5:1

2) God grieves the foolish choices we make which break our health, but he is never upset with us. This means we can do nothing to motivate God to love us more, or to love us less.

3) God's provisions flow faithfully and fully right to the door of our hearts; we only need to receive them (Romans 5:17; Revelation 3:20). This means we do not need to pursue God; rather he pursues us. It means also that God does not withhold his provisions from us until we work on ourselves to improve our behavior.

4) Obedience is not our behavior/performance to win God's favor, make him happy/smile, etc., but the choices we make to include his provisions into our lives which establish us in health. For example, drinking water is obedience.

5) Forgiveness means "removal." It is God's removal of his judgment against the human race (separation from his Life/Light resulting in spiritual darkness) because of Adam's disobedience in the Garden of Eden, and also his removal of our brokenness because of the choices we have made in the darkness. This is the meaning of Romans 5:12-14. He forgives (removes) his judgment against us on the basis of our faith/trust to receive his provision of Christ's death/blood for us, and he forgives (removes) our brokenness (this is the meaning of "healing" - also "salvation") on the basis of our faith/trust to receive (include in our lives) his provisions for our health in creation (soil and atmosphere) and community (supportive relationships in the home and church), but especially through Christ's resurrected Life birthed in us, which enable us for making the wise choices (obedience) that establish us in health.

6) Our forgiveness of others “as Christ forgave us” is the enablement he gives us to withhold judgment/punishment from those who have offended us, and to minister to their support needs for the healing/removal of their brokenness.

7) We have no power to battle Satan. Satanic warfare is not our fight, but God's. It is wasted energy and time. We can only take time daily to be filled/renewed in fuller measure with the Light of who Christ is so that the darkness of the demonic world cannot prevail.

8) We do not serve God, but he serves us and others through us. We are not slaves attending to his needs (He has none!), but vessels for the flow of his redemptive provisions into a hurting world - conduits for the shining of his Light into the darkness.

9) God gave the law as a minimal standard to govern/guide man's fallen nature. He gave his Son to make possible our holiness and to enable our choices for health. This means, we are enabled to serve in the new way of the Spirit (by the power of God's provisions which we receive into our lives, beginning with his Son), not in the old way of the written code (Romans 7:1-6).

10) Talking to God is not a substitute for hearing God. Faith (to trust/receive God's provisions for strength) is birthed and increased in us when we take time daily to read the Scripture in order to hear God communicate to us his Truth.

11) Nothing any teacher/writer/counselor says is a substitute for what God says to us by the Holy Spirit through his Word. If what we believe about God is based upon what man writes or says instead of rooted in what the Holy Spirit is teaching us as we sit quietly each day to read the Scripture, we have reason to wonder if what we believe is Truth. Error is perpetuated when man teaches/writes/reads books that fail to understand the mystery/revelation given to the Apostle Paul – which is “Christ in you, the hope of glory (doxa: “the ways and character of God [who he is] revealed in Christ and manifest in us”) – Colossians 1:27.

DonLoy Whisnant/The Grace Perspective 9G20

Grace Counseling: Based in Concepts Not Widely Held

The counseling we provide is not mainstream. It is based on our understanding that:

1) Ministry to broken, hurting people is really very different than ministry to others. It is the care Jesus provided when he left the ninety-nine and attended to the needs of the one who was lost and in trouble. It is also the ministry for which Heaven rejoices most (Luke 15:3-7).

2) God’s relationship to us is organic, which means he is in a support position beneath us and not in a power position over us. This means the goals and dynamics for leadership in the organic home and church (investment leadership, I call it) are different from those of an organization or institution.

3) God gave the Law to guide behavior, but provided himself (grace) to heal our brokenness so that we are enabled to serve in the new way of the Spirit and not in the old way of the written codes (Romans 7:5). Law may save us from falling off a building, but it has no power to heal brokenness or to birth holiness (Romans 8:3-4).

4) Christ is in relationship to us as a Father (John 14:9-10) and also as a husband (Ephesians 5:22-33). He gives himself up to serve his bride and to make her radiant. (She is the glory [reflection] of her husband’s care – 1 Corinthians 11:7). He is the faithful Vine so that his bride, in relationship to him, is supported for fruitfulness (John 15:1-8). In yoke with him, the wife is renewed (Matthew 11:28-29).

5) God provided the home and church as resources to support our health (in the same way he made the Sabbath for man, not man for the Sabbath – Mark 2:27). They were given for our good, as a benefit, not to be a burden to us. This means we are not called to give ourselves up for our resources; instead, they serve us in behalf of our support and enablement in service to others. This means Ephesians 5:22-24 does not call wives to “suffer” their husbands, but to give them opportunity for influence (the definition of “submit” in its organic context) as they do to the Lord who is the Savior of his bride, feeds and cares for her, gives himself up for her (vvs. 25-33) and pursues her to the door of her heart (Revelation 3:20). This means also that children do not serve their parents, or wives their husbands.

6) God is an advocate for women and children. So is our counseling. Wives respond to it, except when they are driven, usually by religious guilt, fear, and ego, even at the cost of their own personal health and happiness, to please their husbands, to make him happy, and to stay out of trouble with him and God. It is usually religious and traditional leadership that rejects grace concepts – some times with gnashing of teeth.

7) The first goal of our counseling is personal health - which is also the first goal of God’s redemptive plan for us and the way Christ will manifest himself foremost in our lives. (The first fruit of the Spirit is love – Galatians 5:22. Also, “the husband who loves his wife, loves himself” – Ephesians 5:28-29.) That is the reason the message and methods of our counseling give couples a better chance for happiness and success in the marriage than performance-based, mainstream counseling.

DonLoy Whisnant/The Grace Perspective 9E25

Identifying Resources for Meeting Needs

We define our counseling sometimes as "guidance and support for health and happiness." We borrow this phrase from our understanding of God's faithful love and care to provide resources for meeting our essential needs.

These resources are multi-dimensional - physical (biological), psychological (mind, emotions, and will), and spiritual.

Physical. Private First Class Vemp (Pfc. Vemp) is how I remember the biological needs we have. It is an acrostic for Protein, Fats, and Carbohydrates (the macro nutrients) and Vitamins, Enzymes, Minerals, and phyto-chemicals (the micro nutrients in plants).

Of course, we add to these oxygen, water, and sunlight. Included also are movement (or exercise), maintenance of the movement, and momentum (bio-rhythm).

The goal of these resources is to establish 1) a strong immune system to help protect our bodies against the elements we ingest in our food, water, and air that are adverse to good health, including viruses, bacteria, toxins, and parasites, 2) other properly functioning biological systems including the cardio-vascular, nervous, and digestive systems), and 3) skeletal and muscular strength, flexibility, and endurance.

Psychologically. These resources meet our need for people to be involved in our lives with respect to: 1) learning how the world we live in works (the mind), 2) the experience of affection, i.e., the feeling of being accepted, approved, appreciated, admired, and wanted (the emotions); and 3) decision-making, i.e., the power (ability) to say "yes" and "no" appropriately, and impulse control (the will).

Spiritually. Our most essential resource for support, however, is the Life of Christ, or the divine nature, birthed and nurtured in us by the Holy Spirit (2 Peter 1:3).

God has provided for these resources in 1) creation to support physical health, 2) through community (relationships to people in the home and church) to support psychological (mental and emotional) health, and through relationship to Christ and his Word by the Holy Spirit to support our experience of the nine fruits of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23).

When our multi-dimensional support needs are met, the outcome is manifested in health and happiness and also in enablement for service to others, beginning in the home.

DonLoy Whisnant, DCC, LCPC/The Grace Perspective #708

God's Inclusive Plan to Meet Your Multidimensional Needs

Your inborn needs for health are multidimensional - body, soul, and spirit. When they are not met, you suffer; but when they are met, you are energized and happy and enabled for life and service to others.

For example, the right foods will energize you. That's what food is for. Also, oxygen is the body's most powerful biological fuel. When you increase your uptake of it during exercise, you are increased in your energy, including to your brain.

This is true also psychologically. Kind words and warm embraces and meaningful time spent together with loved ones energize the soul (mind, emotions, and will), and are essential to overall good health. Loneliness is epidemic in our society because of unmet relationship needs.

Interestingly, the deeper your needs are dimensionally, the more essential they are to your holistic health. This means, as essential as food and water are to your physical health, met relationship needs are even more essential longterm with consideration of overall well-being, because 90 percent or more (we are told) of physical illnesses is the result of unmet psychological needs (called psychosomatic illnesses).

Also interestingly, the more inclusively your needs are being met, the more supported you are for energized living. This means, when your biological and psychological needs are both being met, you have wonderful increased potential each day to be and feel energized for your life and work, and especially for your interaction with others.

But this means, also, that as beneficial as these met needs are to your overall well-being, the most essential need for health and energy to support your life will be missed without your experience of Christ's life flowing up from your spirit (where he lives by the Holy Spirit) into your soul (your mind, emotions, and will), then onward and outward, psychosomatically, to manifest in health for your body.

Your experience of Christ each day is your most powerful provision for health and happiness. Without him, really, you may do okay in terms of meeting your minimal needs for not being unhealthy, but it is his power alone that makes the abundant life possible.

"I have come that they (you) may have life, and have it more abundantly (fully)." - John 10:10

"God's divine nature gives us everything we need for life and godliness through our experience of Christ." - 2 Peter 1:3

DonLoy Whisnant, DCC, LCPC/The Grace Perspective 7K02/#711

More Core Concepts to Guide Grace Counseling (A Review)

1) By a husband’s expectations of his wife we are referring to his carnal desires for her to meet his pain relief needs. It is not the same as hope - which is our confident expectation, rooted in and produced by faith (Hebrews 11:1), that
  • God’s provisions are powerful/effectual to accomplish his redemptive purpose (Philippians 1:20; Romans 1:16), and
  • the seed of Life we sow into others which God has sown into us will produce fruit according to the promise in Psalm 126:5-6 and other Scripture.
When using the word expectation, it may be best to think in terms of our expectations of God to be who he is and to do what he does, not of others to meet our religious (and certainly not our self-serving) expectations and standards for them.

2) The covenant vow which the wife makes to her husband is to open the door of her heart (for the purpose of connecting to him as a resource) in order to receive his love, care, and influence for her life. It is based upon her confidence that her health matters to him and that he is a faithful, enabled resource. She has come to this confidence after an extended period of time during which she has had the opportunity to experience and evaluate his investment in her. It is not confidence she has because of the words he says to her which he wants her to believe anyhow.

3) Suffering is not a tool of God to produce holiness in us. This means, he did not identify qualities he wanted us to have and then chose suffering as a means to accomplish it. Every man is subject to suffering because of the judgment. If suffering produced holiness, every person would be holy. God’s provision to establish us in holiness is the Life of Christ renewed in us daily. He allows suffering as a sowing and reaping outcome only to call us to Christ. When the Bible says suffering is a test, it means that the adversities of life make a demand upon us for which we have no strength. It is in our confession of weakness that we turn to God’s provisions.

4) It is not weakness for us to stay on course to make wise choices each day for our health, trusting that God's provision which we include in our lives will make our seed effectual. Rather, it is weakness to abandon those choices, then attempt to manipulate, intimidate, or enforce the self-serving outcomes we want.

5) We look beyond behavior to the brokenness - of the person, but also of the system they are rooted in.

DonLoy Whisnant/The Grace Perspective 10H24

Seven Concepts to Guide Grace Counseling

Seven basic concepts which guide the instructions we give in our counseling are:

1. The solution to every problem begins with intimate connection to Christ by the Holy Spirit through his Word.

Occasionally a counselee will insist on a counseling plan that does not begin with (or even include) taking personal time daily (at least an hour) to sit quietly before God with an open Bible for Scripture reading (beginning with the Psalms and the Gospel of John), confession of need, prayer, and worship in order to be renewed in their hearts (mind, emotions, and will) by the presence of Christ.

But we offer no such plan.

2. We indeed can lose our salvation.

But this is not our eternal salvation (from God's judgment against us because of Adam's transgression in the Garden of Eden). Our eternal salvation is secure, based upon, not what we perform to do, but what God does for us the moment we trust Christ's Blood/death on the cross as our only hope for going to Heaven.

However, we can lose our salvation (healing) from the brokenness of our sinful nature. This aspect of salvation is our sanctification which God has provided through Christ's resurrected life (Romans 5:10) birthed and renewed in us by the Holy Spirit through his Word.

This is the salvation Paul longed for (Romans 7:24, Philippians 3:7-14), from which we can fall (Galatians 5:4), that withers (James 1:11), and for which we are instructed to work (Philippians 2:12).

3. God has made provisions to enable our compliance to every instruction he has given us in his Word.

There is not one response from us that God's health laws require which he has not already provided a resource to which we can connect in order to be enabled for it (Philippians 2:13; 2 Peter 1:3).

4. God is continually calling us to the resources he has provided for our enablement.

This calling is more than an invitation, or even a command, but an effectual or creative calling, demonstrated by the Holy Spirit when he called the world into existence (Genesis 1).

5. God's call is not imposed and can be resisted.

Unlike plant or animal life, God gave man the power of intellect and reasoning, and also a free will for decision making. (Animals have instinct.) He provides information and teaching concerning his provisions, also faith (conviction) to trust and receive them, but does not impose them. In the same way that light has effectual power to warm and purify, but can also be shut out or boarded against, so too God's provisions are not imposed upon the human will, but must be received.

6. Other provisions exist that stimulate behavior, but do not build core health.

Connection to resources other than to those which God has given provides only stimulant energy, which does not build health but, instead, robs from our core reserves, resulting in diminished health and also bondage (addiction).

7. Renewal and recovery (healing) begins with a return to God's provisions, beginning spiritually with intimate relationship to Christ.

The solution to every problem begins with intimate connection to Christ by the Holy Spirit through his Word (Concept One). Who he is in us will increase our mental and emotional health, heal (detoxify) our poisoned appetites for inappropriate choices, and increase us in enablement to make wise choices which lead to healing.

DonLoy Whisnant/The Grace Perspective 9A28

Support for Covenant Connection to Christ: The Starting Goal of Grace Counseling

The goal of grace counseling includes, of course, to relieve pain/symptoms, reduce tension, and resolve conflicts in relationships, but its first and foremost goal is to support counselees for making choices which result in their personal healing.

These choices begin with taking time each day to
  • read the Scripture (in order to)
  • hear God communicate to them Truth regarding their brokenness and need for him - leading to conviction, change of mind, confession, conversion, and calling out to receive his provisions, beginning with Christ's Blood and Resurrected Life (in order to)
  • experience God in quiet-time worship - leading to enablement for making the essential choices (for diet, exercise, and covenant connection to investment leadership in the home, church, and especially Christ) that support physical and psychological health (in order to)
  • manifest the Life of Christ into the world, especially in redemptive service to others, beginning at home.
DonLoy Whisnant/The Grace Perspective 12B13

©GracePoint, AGRC. All Rights Reserved