As so many counseling problems are at least partly caused by ignorance, error, or forgetting about God, every counseling problem finds at least part of its answer, and usually a large part, in teaching the counselee about God.
Continuing yesterday’s focus on the Fatherhood of God in counseling, I want to ask two questions: (1) What do you know about the Father? and (2) Do you know the Father? The first question is an intellectual question regarding facts. The second is an experiential question about faith.
1. What do you know about the Father?
Often a counselee will have very little knowledge or very wrong views of God the Father. I therefore want to enquire into their theology. I’ve found that most errors about God the Father revolve around four misconceptions, misconceptions that are often related to their own experience of their father.
First, there is often a misconception of hardness. Often suffering people will conclude from their pain that God does not care, at least not for them: He is unfeeling, cruel, and vindictive. Or perhaps they have been abused by a Father – verbally, physically, sexually – and transfer their earthly experience of fatherhood (or of a “father figure”) to their heavenly Father.
Second, there is a sometimes the opposite problem, a misconception of indulgence, again often a consequence of their experience of their father. Maybe they were spoiled, or they’ve seen again and again that that’s how most fathers deal with their children. Or perhaps they’ve swallowed the culture’s predominant representation of God as a cuddly cosmic sugar-daddy who gives everyone what they want.
Third, there is the classic deist misconception of God as distant and non-involved. Again, in an epidemic of absent fathers, this can be a perfectly understandable conclusion to draw.
Fourth, some can view the Father as a rather sinister figure, lurking in the background, hiding in the shadows. The Son is the loving front-figure of the Deity, but has to work very hard to keep the reluctant malevolent Father “on-board” with the plan of salvation. It’s an error that’s been around for a long time, an error that Jesus Himself faced down with: “He that has seen me has seen the Father.”
Obviously if a person believes any of these lies about God the Father, it’s going to have a huge impact on their relationship with God and upon their response to problems in their lives.
A large part of the counseling process can involve re-educating people about who God is, uncovering lies and replacing them with biblical truth.
2. Do you “know” the Father?
This question takes us into the realm of Christian experience, using “know” in the biblical sense of “having intimate personal acquaintance with.” Our questioning here is not just an intellectual fact-gathering, but a searching of the true spiritual state of a person – saved or unsaved, then healthy believer or unhealthy.
The most important question here, of course, is does the person savingly know God the Father the only way that’s possible, that is through faith in Jesus Christ (Jn. 14:6).
Assuming the answer to this is “Yes,” the major questions really center upon whether the Christian is living that out in daily life, and especially in dealing with their problems. Is there a daily walk with God? Is there a daily consciousness of God as Father? Is there a looking to Him for guidance, wisdom, and strength? Is there a submitting to His discipline? Is there a personal relationship with this person of the Trinity? Do they really “know” the Father?
Tomorrow we’ll look at how the Fatherhood of God can offer specific help in dealing with specific counseling problems.