Where there is no counsel, the people fall; but in the multitude of counselors there is safety” (proverbs 11:14).
This ancient proverb offers wisdom for people who are hurting and for family members and pastors who are called upon to help them.
The challenges of real life. Many of us have family members or close friends living with the pain and confusion that seems so much a part of life: addictions, Alzheimer’s, autism, clinical depression, marital abuse, or life-threatening eating disorders. We can only imagine how many others are struggling with post-traumatic stress, gender confusion, panic attacks, schizophrenia, or obsessive-compulsive disorders.
These are only a few of the sorrows that need the wisdom of Solomon and the Spirit of the One who came to rescue (john 3:17; 12:47).
The additional pain of criticism. It’s important to think about how we respond to those who are struggling with issues of emotional and mental health. If we are not careful, we can unintentionally add to their pain by suggesting that their struggle reflects a lack of faith, prayer, or time in the Word of God.
How many of us understand the intimate connection between body and soul when it comes to trauma and memories that sear the soul like a hot iron? How many of us have the insight to deal with those who have been devastated by sexual abuse, the front lines of war, or a history of domestic violence?
The pressures of faith. Anyone called upon in such crises can feel overwhelmed. Many realize their limitations, but feel compelled to act as if the Bible, prayer, and fellowship are the only God-honoring ways to deal with emotional and mental problems.
The tension between what we think of as biblical solutions and secular resources are understandable. As followers of Christ, we don’t want to make the mistake of treating a spiritual condition as a physical or mental illness. But neither should we treat a physical or mental illness as a spiritual condition.
In pursuit of answers. Our dependency needs to be on God alone. But within what boundaries does the God of the Bible provide for His people? Haven’t many of us thanked God for the help of health professionals and social workers who have walked with us through medical problems, mental illness, addictions, and the trauma of war or poverty?
If our intent is to find help that reflects the wisdom of God, we lose nothing if we ask a doctor to look for factors that might be clouding our minds. Faith does not suffer if we ask professional specialists to help us explore our thoughts, emotions, and choices.
No one should have to stand alone under the weight of spiritual problems complicated by the possibility of real mental, emotional, and physical illness. Nor can we safely assume that our desire to trust God needs to be kept separate from the combined counsel of pastoral and health professionals.
The need for perspective. Counselors, doctors, and support groups can never replace our accountability to God. Nor can medical or professional counseling ever replace the need for pastoral and congregational care. We would be better off dying early, diseased in body and troubled in soul, than to live long, peaceful, and healthy lives without a daily awareness of our reliance on Christ.
Christ is the Lord of all truth. We should remember that God provides through many men and women, whether they know Him or not.
Yes, there are dangers. Along the way, any doctor, counselor, or spiritual leader might unintentionally mislead us. That’s why we need to pay special attention to the wisdom of Solomon. Because bad advice can come from trusted sources, we need to weigh multiple perspectives to sort through difficult problems. “Where there is no counsel, the people fall; but in the multitude of counselors there is safety” (proverbs 11:14).