Christian Counseling & Educational Foundation


Six Basic Struggles

by Ed Welch

Most people would acknowledge at least six basic struggles.

  1. Anger
  2. Guilt and regret
  3. Shame
  4. Suffering, such as loss, victimization, sickness . . .
  5. Fear
  6. Saying “yes” when we should say “no”—this would include everything identified as an addiction

Sin doesn’t make the list because it is not naturally acknowledged by all humanity. Though most people can acknowledge wrongdoing, not everyone believes their wrong is against God.

Consider the list for a moment. To make the cut, the problems should be identified in the early chapters of Genesis (at least in their nascent form), and they should be carried through the rest of Scripture. For example, the experience of saying “yes” when we should say “no” is central to the fall. We were told to avoid one particular tree, and somehow, what was forbidden became a deadly lure. The remainder of Scripture teaches us to correctly identify what is right and wrong, so that with Christ’s help, we can act on that growing discernment.

Would you agree that these six are part of everyday life for most people? If so, you will want to envision how to equip your congregants to bring these matters to Scripture and to Jesus. From there, your church can move out and be helpful to others.

With this in mind, what might you aim for? Here are some ideas.

That everyone who attends will be able to identify that these six are, indeed, their struggles.
That everyone will be familiar with at least one text that draws them into Scripture for each problem.
That together, the church will be able to talk openly about these things, be eager to ask for help, and pray for each other.

An interesting feature of these six problems is that they are the constituent parts of more complicated human struggles. Depression, for example, is certainly a form of suffering. It often has a physical contribution, yet depressed people are human beings who also struggle with fear, guilt, anger and shame, and these can all intensify the experience of depression. Or consider anorexia. Guilt, shame, fear and even anger are frequent building blocks of the anorectic experience. The more you know someone, the more you discover that our struggles are more alike than different.

In the coming months, we will move through these six topics and we welcome your questions about them.


Burnout and Stress

by Ed Welch

Burnout suggests that the flame is flickering and there is no stoking the fire this time. You have nothing left to give. Stress comes to us by way of engineering. The building is under too much weight; there is too much pressure, and fractures are beginning to appear. You have too much to do, what you do is substandard, and you can’t do it all. Something has to give or … you don’t know exactly what will happen but you know it will be bad.

Burnout and stress are recurring pastoral maladies but lately they are getting more attention. A recent example is David Murray’s fine book, Reset: Living a Grace-Paced Life in a Burnout Culture. He makes the case for more sleep, a real Sabbath, limits on social connectivity, and many other important matters—all in a clear and biblically persuasive structure. We recommend it. What follows is an occasion for you to consider this topic yet again. It should always be on your personal agenda.

Here are some ways to locate it.

  • When do you feel like quitting?
  • Do you feel as if most of your work and ministry gets a barely passing grade? Do you ever feel hollow? Do you ever feel like a fraud? Do you think that others have it together but you don’t?
  • How often do you start your morning with “I just can’t do it all today”?
  • Are interpersonal conflicts part of your daily life—tensions at home, infighting at church, divisions in the staff, relentless critiques of your preaching or ministry? Who can bear up under such things?

We could quickly identify a long list of potential contributions to burnout and stress—our own sins, the impossible expectations of others, inadequate finances, and the sheer burden of caring for so many souls. Our goal, though, is not simply to say “no” more often and keep our anxieties in check. Those help, but we want more. What we hope to do is grow—grow in mature, child-like dependence on the Lord, grow in asking for help and prayer, grow in love that can weather conflicts. We hope to grow in wisdom expressed as an ordered life, in humility before God and others.



Six Free Articles from CCEF’s Journal of Biblical Counseling

This package of articles, all of which were written by CCEF faculty, will serve as a foundation. If you are new to biblical counseling, these will help you to get oriented and if you are not new, perhaps you will find something here you have not considered before. The six articles are:

  1. “The Pastor as Counselor” by David Powlison. David makes the case that pastors counsel by virtue of their daily interaction with their congregation. He describes that counsel and contrasts it with the modern psychotherapies.
  2. “Understanding the Influences on the Human Heart” by Mike Emlet. This article provides a theological guide that identifies how things both come out of the heart and come at the heart. Too often we can miss critical influences that shape the person we want to help. The result is that people go unheard and we miss opportunities to offer God’s care and compassion.
  3. “How Does Scripture Change You?” by David Powlison. This piece has progressive sanctification in view, which is a key doctrine in biblical counseling. No quick fixes, nothing simplistic, but the Spirit through the Word really does change us.
  4. “How to Talk with Someone about Sin” by Ed Welch. This article considers how sin is hard to talk about—especially among friends and family. Welch offers some guidelines for all of us.
  5. “Counseling is the Church” by David Powlison. This article will get you thinking about the place of pastoral care and counsel in your denomination and ordination process. In order to grow in our care of souls, we too must grow, yet certain institutional traditions must also be refined.
  6. “Ten Questions to Ask before Starting a Counseling Ministry in Your Church” by David Powlison. As the title implies, this article offers guiding questions for churches to consider when discussing a possible counseling ministry. You might be surprised that he is not necessarily advocating that such a ministry be the goal for your church.

These articles will help answer the question: What is biblical counseling? We know that in some ways, even using the word counseling is cumbersome because it suggests something professional and scheduled—just for the experts. But we think of biblical counseling as wise conversations in which we join the daily struggles of life with the many words and promises of God that are fulfilled in Jesus Christ. For you who work in the church, it is what you do every day.

The articles are available below and will be present on this page for the foreseeable future. Work through them at your own pace.

The Pastor as Counselor

Understanding the Influences of the Human Heart

How Does Scripture Change You?

How to Talk about Sin

Counseling is the Church

Ten Questions to Ask Before Starting a Counseling Ministry

What topics do you want to hear about?

Please email us at [email protected] with any questions or fill out the form below.