Crisis Biblical Counseling by Karen McMahon

Biblical Counseling


Why I Do Crisis Biblical Counseling - A Personal Philosophy

Crisis biblical counseling sounds complicated and intimidating, but it’s just a way to respond with biblical help when trauma happens in life.

When a tragedy strikes, life as we know it abruptly changes. We immediately seek to make sense of what has happened yet likely can’t focus and feel overwhelmed. Our minds replay the event over and over searching to come to terms with it all. In crisis, we can become overwhelmed, confused, distorted, even grasping for air as we feel out-of-control. One minute we are flooded with emotions the next minute we are numb. Question after question filters through our minds… “This can’t be happening?” “Will this pain ever go away?” “How can I go on?” “What will I do now?” Heartbreaking pain rips open a new world to a sufferer; a world that seems to be spinning out of control.

The Word of God is Sufficient and Essential for Counseling

The church is where biblical counseling shines. It is in the context of a loving community that God provides the ideal environment for the care of souls. Biblical Counseling is built on the premise that God’s divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness (2 Pet 1:3) and has practical help for life’s problems (2 Tim 3:16-17).  The One who created our soul is sufficient to comfort and encourage our soul. God uses his people, indwelt by the Holy Spirit, to minister his Word, to walk compassionately, sensitively, patiently and prayerfully with others. To enter their pain and help bring practical wisdom to bear in a functional way (1 Thess 2:8). Because sin permeates the fallen world; our own sin, the sin of others, or the effects of sin on the world, biblical counseling in the church body is not optional. Our love for God is fleshed out by our love for others (1 John 3:10,18) and we should all desire to carefully minister to those in pain in their highest highs and lowest lows.

Counseling is a Community Endeavor

It is definitely not God’s plan for the church to be a place where an isolated counselor in confidence and secrecy is the only one helping struggling believers. Seeking help from other Christ followers is one reason God put us in the body of Christ (1 Cor 12:25-26). In his wisdom God has chosen to do his work—through the church. In community we find help from other godly men and women who live and speak truth to one another (Eph 4:15-16). Because we will naturally seek our own desire when left alone (Prov 18:1) and can be taken captive through philosophy and empty deceit according to the tradition of men and not Christ (Col 2:8), every believer to some degree, is expected to be biblically loving others and promoting the maturity and health of the body.

We Must Know Our Own Heart

My personal philosophy of crisis counseling begins with knowing my own heart. As a staff Director of Discipleship Counseling at my church, I count it a privilege to counsel individuals with God’s infallible Word. Not only am I able to watch God’s powerful Word change a heart but his truth always brings transformation to my own walk. I have suffered, I am suffering, I will suffer. I have asked many of the same questions my counselees ask; “Where is God?” “Is it my fault?” “Did God cause this to happen?” “Lord why didn’t you stop this?” I too have felt the isolation and the pain that no one really understands what I am going through.

It doesn’t matter if a sufferer needs help because of their own sin, the sin of others, Satan, God, or because we live in a fallen world; as a fellow sinner and sufferer, we are all called to compassionately minister to them and help them see that God’s Word has answers.

It Is NOT About Fixing Them

Minimizing suffering is not biblical, nor is it about fixing the sufferer, helping them get over it, or giving them coping skills (God’s goal is much more glorious). Scripture tells us why there is so much sorrow (Rom 5:12) and prepares us for suffering. Evil is real and destructive and the effects of sin is everywhere. Suffering is written into every one of our life stories as a means of sanctification, a catalyst that God uses (Rom 8:28-29), but when pain invades our own life truth can become distorted. Knowing that pain and heartache will come in the normal course of this fallen world (2 Tim 3:12), we need to be prepared personally as well as help others suffer with faith in Christ, by the power of the Spirit, for the glory of God.

I believe strongly that crisis counseling be sensitive to the weakness of another, seeking to understand, patient, long suffering, Christ focused not problem solving, directive and dependent on prayer. It must be motivated by love and concern (Acts 20:31) to present another complete in Christ (Col 1:28).

Ministering Truth

My own counseling care starts with an ongoing love for and working knowledge of the Scriptures. I will not be able to minister God’s Word if I don’t know Truth and actively apply it to my own life. If I am not walking in submission to the Holy Spirit I cannot seek to help others and if I’m neglecting the study of the Word I will give my own opinion instead of God’s opinion. It is Scripture that knows our heart, knows how we change, provides comfort, and gives us the power to suffer well.

My counseling care must be sensitive, compassionate and directive. Understanding a struggler’s life story, worldview, shaping influences, thinking, and the impact their pain is having on their daily life helps me better understand what they are going through.  We weep and mourn with them, we are patient with them and we are faithful to Scripture knowing God’s Word is sufficient, speaking to every human struggle, bringing conviction and hope.

Always Truth in Love

Truth must always be blended with love and grace.  The greatest change someone needs is to trust Christ enough and respond biblically in the midst of pain and loss… but this can be hard when in the depths of despair. It is with empathy and compassion we help another know that they are not left alone. Not physically, because the body of Christ surrounds and ministers to them in significant ways. Not spiritually, because God is in it, God will see them through it, and God will finish what He began.

Hope in Sorrow

Our hearts are revealed in crisis which is why biblical crisis care goes beyond behavior to the heart that has its own desires, wants, will and affections (Heb 4:12). A sufferer’s pain must never be minimized or ignored but the lens of Scripture has to be the functional foundation that their pain is seen through. Wise biblical counseling sensitivity guides and directs a particular person with a particular struggle so that their pain is understood in light of who God is, who they are, and who Christ is.

Without a doubt, helping someone in crisis to think and respond biblically (reframing and reorienting their worldview) will take time. It is not a “one size fits all.” There may be many aspects of God that are unbalanced; God’s goodness and the evil that is happening to them. God’s love and the pain they are in. God’s purposes and the suffering they are experiencing. God’s faithfulness and the dreams they have lost, are just few. Understanding and interpreting difficulties through the lens of Scripture has to be ministered at a pace that is appropriate for the situation for that person.

God Uses the Body of Christ

God’s community is a counseling community. We need each other. God intended for each person in the body to be helped by the body (Ro 12:15). This means that everyone cares (or counsels) on some level. Seeking input from others who are close to the sufferer and including a mentor or advocate is very important. I believe if someone is in a small group their first avenue of help should be their small group (or leader) but if they need more help than the group can provide, their group should be involved in caring at some level even if the sufferer seeks out a pastoral care through a biblical counselor in their church.

Love Endures for the Long Haul

Crisis counseling can be messy. It will take time…lots of time, compassion, love and patience. Getting into the darkest moments of someone’s life where suffering is deep and painful is not for the timid, but God is the agent of comfort and change and we are his vessels used for his glory. All of us are suffering under the effects of the fall but our risen Savior enables us to experience hope and great joy in the midst of sorrow. God is infinitely bigger than any pain anyone of us may face but there are times we need another to help bear that heavy burden and point us back to Christ. That is why I do crisis counseling.

About the Author

Karen McMahon  is the Director of Discipleship Counseling at First Evangelical Free Church in Maplewood, Minnesota, is a founding Regional Board member of the Biblical Counseling Alliance, and is a certified biblical counselor with the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors (ACBC). She has a MA in Theological Studies and a MA in Biblical Counseling

More on the Value of Relationship For Mental Health

Refer to our article entitled, Perfect Love Casts Out Fear by Melinda A. Cathey.

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