Tuesday, May 1, 2012

no perfect people: the gospel in counseling

Francis Schaeffer writes the following in a personal letter to Kristina, a woman who had experienced years of chronic depression. She had suffered much personal isolation and had lost the comforting sense of the reality of God.  

This excerpt strikes me as having a gospel-centered approach in counseling, in that it fully recognizes the effects of the fall (in all of us) and of the reality of grace and hope through Christ.  (The highlights below have been added by me.)

"I understand too what you write about the difficulty of finding a consolation and reality.  I think there are really two things to see:  first, that when a person goes through the kind of difficulty you have gone through, this kind of feeling is not to be unexpected; and secondly, all men since the Fall-- although in a far lesser degree and a far lesser agony than you have known-- also have some such problems.  

"Increasingly I am so aware that just as there are no perfect people physically so there are no perfect people psychologically.  There are differences in intensity of physical problems and differences of intensity in psychological problems.    But there is no such thing, since man has revolted against God, as people who are completely well, either physically or psychologically.  Thus, as I have people come here who have problems, my own contact with them always involves a very deep realization that there may be differences of degree and kind of problem, but it is not that they are sick and I am well.  I think this makes for a depth of human contact that is so lacking in much medical and psychiatric treatment.  So often the doctor stands without a human contact with those who are before him.  But when we come to one another on a really Christian basis, it seems to me this need not be the case; rather, we can stand together as poor people who are marked with the sorrow of a mankind who has revolted against God. 

"At the same time, as Christians we do not have to allow the pendulum to swing between [the extreme of] a false idealism and romantic hope, or the opposite [extreme] of despair.  The infinite finished work of Christ upon Calvary's cross not only opens up the gates of Heaven to us when we accept Him as Savior; but it also provides, in the present life, for a substantial advance in the areas of psychological need."

(Francis Schaeffer, July 19, 1963, from Letters of Francis A. Schaeffer, pp. 96-7)

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