Six Basic Struggles
by Ed Welch
Most people would acknowledge at least six basic struggles.
- Guilt and regret
- Suffering, such as loss, victimization, sickness . . .
- 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.
Blogs for Pastors
The Steady Stream of Foolish Words Said To Hurting People
Pastor: Equip Your People to Counsel Each Other
Burnout and Stress
The Gospel for Shame
So Much Fear and Anxiety
Saying “Yes” to What Can Kill You
Guilt and Its Associates
One Thing Every Church Can Do about Suffering
Six Things to Know about Anger
Six Free Articles from CCEF’s Journal of Biblical Counseling
This package of articles, all of which were written by CCEF faculty, serve as a foundation. If you are new to biblical counseling, these will help you to get oriented. If you are not new, perhaps you will find something here that you have not considered before. The six articles are:
- "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.
- "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.
- "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.
- "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.
- "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.
- "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 will remain on this page for the foreseeable future. Work through them at your own pace.