Until the late 1990’s “there was a 17-to-1 negative-to-positive ratio of research in the field of psychology. In other words, for every one study about happiness and thriving there were 17 studies on depression and disorder” [The Happiness Advantage, 11].
Consequently, most psychologists spent their time helping people with problems get back to an “average” human experience. Their aim was to help people who were operating at sub-normal levels to get back to normal (e.g. sober up the alcoholic, remove anxiety, etc). Little attention was given to making people happy and optimistic, to lifting them above the average.
In 1998, Martin Seligman, then president of the American Psychological Association, rebelled against this imbalanced negativity and led a shift to studying the positive side of the curve, the above average, the “abnormally” happy, etc. Thus, “positive psychology” was born with the emphasis being “what works” rather than “what’s broken.” 
Instead of traditional psychology’s focus on “Why are people unhappy?” and “How can we help them out of the slough?” positive psychology asks, “What makes people happy?” and “How can we help them flourish and excel?”
Positive Biblical Counseling
As I survey biblical counseling literature, the ratio seems to be at least 17-1, negative-to-positive (and I’ve contributed to that imbalance.) If you asked most people what words comes to mind when they think of a biblical counselor, I don’t think “smile,” “laugh,” and “enthusiasm for life” would trip off the tongue (although there are some wonderfully cheery exceptions).
Isn’t it beyond time for biblical counseling to become a more positive movement? Yes, of course we must continue to get involved in the mess and rubble of people’s lives. But what about forging an additional positive path? Building another brighter dimension to the movement? Adding the banjo to the violin? Getting on to the front foot and leading people proactively rather than waiting for disasters and then reacting?
I’d like to see Biblical Counseling change the ratio by:
- Getting Christians through the dark valleys AND leading them beside green pastures and still waters.
- Wiping away their tears AND teaching them how to rejoice.
- Fixing spiritual problems AND promoting spiritual flourishing.
- Targeting sins for demolition AND graces and gifts for strengthening and exercising.
- Pulling the backslider out of the filthy ditch AND showing the godly new vistas of spiritual beauty.
- Puncturing the pride of the arrogant AND building up the faith of the meek.
- Removing despair AND instilling hope.
- Quenching hate AND inflaming love.
Such pre-emptive, pro-active, and positive biblical counseling would not only enhance and strengthen an already strong and useful movement, it would also hugely bless God’s people, many of whom are tired with “average,” and who long to flourish, excel, and soar.
It might cheer us all up a bit as well.