The Bible Way of Meeting Fear
Naturally in the search for the antidote for fear the first positive value to claim attention is the value of faith. Fromm directed his patients to expel fear by frantic activity. For two centuries psychodynamics were the order of the day. Freud would prescribe releasing of tensions and repressions. These ends could be achieved by recognizing the source of trouble. How many there are who have spent fortunes on psychoanalyses, and repeat freely the troubles from childhood that have plagued them, without the slightest sign of cure. The Bible way is so simple and yet so effective. Its effectiveness has been proved over and over again. Repent, believe, surrender, and the promise of divine power is a surety. It never fails when the simple conditions are sincerely carried through.
The Bible versus Freud.—Perhaps this is the place where we should reflect on the basic differences between the Bible frame of reference and the concept of most psychological authorities. It is impossible to deal with them separately, so we will choose the Freudian school as an illustration. Let us first notice the common ground between the Bible and the Freudian school. Both schools recognize the central place that fear holds in the alliance against man's well-being. Both schools agree that this produces the maladjustment of wrong relationships and resultant insecurity. The Bible record leaves plenty of room for the fears besetting mankind stemming from wrong training and conditioning in childhood. Bible examples would be easy to find. The sex problems of Hophni and Phinehas arose undoubtedly in conflicts and tensions produced in childhood, for which the Lord could not acquit Eli of his responsibility, even if it was the responsibility of neglect. Such blame is named in Fundamentals of Christian Education, page 67:
"The ill-balanced mind, the hasty temper, the fretfulness, envy, or jealousy, bear witness to parental neglect. These evil traits of character bring great unhappiness to their possessors."
So far so good, but here we begin to part company. All fear is not rooted in childhood apprehensions or misapprehensions. Freud would have us believe that all fears, anxieties, and their consequences begin from either birth trauma or infantile experiences. The Divine Record reveals that Adam, never having had a childhood, was afraid because he had sinned. Cain was afraid of the dreaded results of his terrible deed. Fears can come from warped emotions or ill-formed characters. With this we wholly agree, but it is equally evident that fears can also be the direct result of a wrong course of action deliberately taken by the sheer exercise of the will.
Freudians would say that healing comes by releasing repressions. Adventists hold, in line with scriptural testimony, that healing comes in receiving divine pardon, in the surrender of the will, that opens the way to receive divine power in the form of the Holy Spirit. Healing comes by receiving divine power to overcome evil urges, and cleansing power is imparted, bringing with it inner peace. Freud leaves God out of the picture. He deals with the mechanism. Freud points a way and then says, "Achieve this philosophy; it will help you." The Adventist pastor preaches man's utter helplessness on his own, but presents Christ as the Great Healer. "Come unto me," He says, "and I will give you rest."
Understanding the problem.—There is much that can be said concerning the objective aims and possibilities of pastoral counseling as practiced by Seventh-day Adventists. Any satisfactory answer to our topic must state the relationships between our concept and the procedures and principles of authorities in this field.
Counseling is challenged by a widespread universal need, affecting the vast majority of the human race. This need reaches all levels and all departments of life. The attempted relief of this need is just as broad. In its broadest sense counselors include philosophers, psychologists, psychiatrists, priests, ministers, Christian Science practitioners, and all who serve in similar capacities. The remedies offered are almost as varied, running the whole gamut from complete self-reliance to complete self-rejection, with causes varying from the predestination of inherited tendencies and the almost equal helplessness from environmental conditioning, to faith and trust in God.
Pastoral counseling limits the field to those who act in these capacities as ministers of the gospel. Here the way they interpret the Bible affects the basis of counseling and the methods employed. Seventh-day Adventists approach all matters in the light of a sure and deep conviction of the inspiration of the Bible—a message given by God. Accepting as they do the deity and absolute perfection demonstrated in Christ, they look to Him as the pattern in all things. They believe implicitly in the search for knowledge and recognize that it is an inexhaustible quality. They carefully examine the results of every avenue of research with a purpose to gather all that is good from all quarters. The test of what is good will be finally measured by the unerring standard—God's Word.
In examining principles of counseling in the same light, what do we find? It is easy to dismiss the whole situation by saying that we have all we need in the Bible, but the findings of those who have worked on the processes of the human mind and its needs, challenge us seriously because of our failure to exploit the rich resources of the Scriptures in this area. We have struggled to change a man's actions when the simple statement, "As he [a man] thinketh in his heart, so is he," sets the course toward deeper spiritual approaches. The importance of child conditioning and its effects on later life, now stressed by latest research, is pointed out in Proverbs, "Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it."
This is, however, balanced by the Bible doctrine of the place and exercise of the will. Central in modern thinking is the sacredness of the personality of the individual. This is but rediscovering the Bible truth, "I have set before you life and death," "Choose you this day . ." That the person is the most important consideration can be viewed in the light of Calvary, where God so loved the world that He gave His only-begotten Son.
Counseling seeks to cast out fear and replace it with faith, trust, and confidence. The objective of the gospel is to establish faith. Without faith it is impossible to please God. As a result of full surrender, Christ promises peace: "Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you."
The principles of repression and regression, though not under those titles, are clearly portrayed in the Scriptures. The outstanding example is the untiring zeal of the apostle Paul in persecuting the church, thinking he was forwarding the work of God. The groping, "Who art thou, Lord?" is significant, as is the answer, "I am Jesus whom thou persecutest."
Where Seventh-day Adventist philosophy departs from the accepted line we are more than Biblically justified in our stand. Indeed, it is because of our Bible stand that we do so. The departure is not found so much in the recognition of the cause of the troubles as the remedy sought for those troubles. The non-Christian, and all too often supposedly Christian counselors, feel the remedy is a simple human process. The remedy they suggest is found within the individual or in something that he does himself. The Bible agrees that, honoring the individual personality, the first step must be taken by the seeker after peace. "My son, give me thine heart," is the command. But having done that, one must turn to power from without to resolve the problems. Even such a strong character as the apostle Paul found that he was helpless. Though attempting to live the better life, he protested, "For what I would, that do I not; but what I hate, that do I." His solution was in Christ, Christ living in him.
The so-called releasing of tensions, opening up the barriers of restraint, all too often leads into further sin, transgression of God's law. And as the Bible states, and experience proves to be true, the penalty for sin must be paid. How often the counselee finds himself confronted with even greater guilt, and the latter end is worse than the first.
There is much to be said for the most modern approach of not digging up the past more than is required to solve the problems of the present. Paul's philosophy was, "Forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus."
There is one area in this consideration where many systems of counseling are basically opposed to the Seventh-day Adventist philosophy, which closely follows Bible lines. The basic problem, conceived by the rationalistic approach, is the deflation of the ego. Consequently, the restoration of the ego is held out as the remedy for almost all ills. The view held by all who accept the inspiration of the Bible is that all too often pride or undue inflation of the inner conception of self is the real difficulty. Lest anyone should attempt to offset this argument by the thought that unconscious inferiority might be the reaction, I would mention the example of Lucifer in the rebellion in heaven.
Christ and the Woman at the Well
Perhaps the most satisfactory way of summarizing this presentation of a Scriptural basis for our philosophy in this respect is to refer to an appropriate example when Christ as the Counselor conducted an interview. The occasion was when He talked to the woman at the well. He recognized her unspoken problem. He opened the way for discussion of that which was troubling her. He helped her to see her sin. He pointed her to the divine remedy. She left in peace.
Worry .--The Seventh-day Adventist pastor above all should realize that he has a glorious opportunity of attacking this spiritual disease before it develops to the size of a problem. The Bible doctrine is that of changing lives from the moment of conversion. The process of the new birth is the love of God taking possession of the heart. "I live; yet not 1, but Christ liveth in me." If this is more than a theoretical statement, then as divine love flows in, abject fear is cast out and its place taken by faith, hope, trust, and perfect peace. No preacher can rightly understand and interpret the Bible message without finding that his whole preaching sets forth this positive experience reinforced by right thinking. "Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things." So runs the admonition of the apostle Paul.
The whole teaching of Jesus is based on illustrations of simple trust and reliance upon God—the child, the sparrow, the flower, et cetera. We would do well to follow the example of the Master and use simple things that are conveyers of healing virtue. I have a few lines of verse that I picked up somewhere to which I cannot give too dignified a place:
"Said the Robin to the Sparrow:
'I should really like to know
Why these anxious human beings
Rush about and worry so?'
"Said the Sparrow to the Robin:
'Friend, I think that it must be
That they have no heavenly Father
Such as cares for you and me.'"
Every time I use this bit of verse it is possible to pick out the ones in the congregation suffering from real problems. They will wait in the crowd to be sure to get a copy of these lines. Their positive message of faith and confidence has a great potential of therapeutic value. The work of the counselor is as much to prevent tensions and strains developing as it is to heal the distressed in his congregation who have not learned the lessons of faith and trust.
Seventh-day Adventist counseling.—It is submitted here that the form of counseling that would appeal to the Seventh-day Adventist philosophy would need to follow a more direct approach than usually thought effective by most psychologists. The world is looking for more certainty, for a voice with a message: "The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord." This does not mean that we abandon less directive methods, but following an elected line, we lean to a more directive approach than is usually allowed. It is the kind of counseling that kindly and patiently seeks opportunity rather than waiting for it to arrive.
Summary.—In conclusion the following points are made:
- Jesus used a searching method of seeking opportunity. He went to Samaria (John 4:4).
- He made people conscious of the exceeding sinfulness of sin, to make way for conversion. "For thou hast had five husbands" (verse 18). Yet He prepared the way with great tact.
- He showed that the way of obedience is the way of happiness (Mark 10:17-19).
- He disowned national prejudice and made outcasts feel at ease. "The Jews have no dealings with the Samaritans." "The hour cometh, when ye shall neither in this mountain, nor yet at Jerusalem, worship the Father." "God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth." (John 4:9, 21, 24.)
- He mixed with publicans and sinners. He was a man among men.
- He loved people. That in turn won their love.
- His own inner security and peace helped Him to win others. "Never man spake like this man." "He taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes." (John 7:46; Matt. 7:29.)
As has been stated, pastoral counseling is not a one-way experience. It is not all giving out. To give out one must receive, and the very experience of counseling itself provides an inlet as well as an outlet in sharing. One of the most beautiful examples of divine sharing with humanity in "counseling" is found in Genesis 18:17. The Lord had to destroy the cities of the plain, but He wanted Abraham to understand. The Lord did not want to do it without Abraham's knowledge; He told him of the impending doom. Abraham was touched with the movings of divine intercessory love and pleaded with the Lord for the sake of fifty, forty, thirty, twenty, ten. Abraham finally realized that the Lord was destroying the cities because there was no reasonable alternative. Then the record says, "The Lord went his way, as soon as he had left communing with Abraham, and Abraham returned unto his place."
There is in this experience an important lesson. This kind of sharing is not born of the spirit of self-importance or self-confidence, but is the product of a sincere humility and of deep, godly Christian experience. Ellen G. White says of this experience:
"There was no self-confidence, no boasting of his [Abraham's] own righteousness. He did not claim favor on the ground of his obedience, or of the sacrifices he had made in doing God's will. Himself a sinner, he pleaded in the sinner's behalf."—Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 139.
Abraham's humility, his intense earnestness, his willingness as a suppliant to receive, his intercession to share, elevated him to friendship with God. It was these very characteristics that made his counsel and friendship valued by all who knew him. These characteristics are basic in the Adventist requirement of those who would be pastors and counselors.