By: Mark Roberts
“Your love is better than wine…” Song of Solomon 1:2b
Where Do We Go From Here?
In my last article on Understanding Addiction, I concluded with understanding addiction from a Biblical Lens. But this leaves us asking some questions, “Where do we go from here? How do we Biblically Counsel someone struggling with addiction?” Before I answer these questions, let’s first understand some simple aspects of Biblical Counseling and how it works.
What is Biblical Counseling?
Simply put, Biblical Counseling is interpersonal Gospel ministry. Interpersonal Gospel-ministry means: One-on-one; face-to-face ministry that enters the world of people’s lives by incarnating the person of Jesus Christ, through careful listening and application of the truth and power of the God’s Word to every matter of life and the troubles they face, under the ministry of the Holy Spirit.
How Does It Work?
It is most effective and efficient when understood as a series of events. In other words, Biblical Counseling is a process. It will not help addicts and/or anyone “arrive” after a few hours or days of counsel. There is no magic wand. The patient bearing of someone’s struggle and the difficulties they face by intently listening and carefully applying the truth of the Scriptures takes time.
More specifically Biblical Counseling targets the inner man. It aims at the place were all of life is lived from – the heart. Why? Because the heart, Biblically speaking, is the reason why we think what we think, say what we say and do what we do. In the words of Paul Tripp, “The heart is the causal control center of your personhood”. This idea is set forward by verses like; Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do comes from it (Proverbs 4:23 NIV, cf. Matthew 12:34b-35 & Mark 7:21-23).
Therefore, one of the main purposes of Biblical Counseling is getting to the heart of why people think what they think, say what they say and do what they do. But how does this actually translate into the Biblical Counseling setting? What does it practically look like?
Biblical Counsel for Addictions
To begin the process of Biblical Counseling for addictions, there are 5 important and practical aspects we must consider.
Before we begin, two important notes: (1) these 5 aspects are not exclusive to those facing addiction, but are a few basic and essential functions of Biblical Counseling for all matters of life and/or all difficulties that individuals may face. (2) These different aspects are not an exhaustive list of Biblical Counseling methods nor are they a systematized list to be followed in exact order, but can and do work fluidly and simultaneously.
The first aspect to offering Biblical Counseling for those battling addictions is very important…we must see them. We must admit and realize that it is very possible for us to see people without actually seeing them. Then turning toward the woman he said to Simon, “Do you see this woman?” (Luke 7:44 ESV)
Simon saw her, but didn’t actually see her. Jesus is touching on a vital aspect to interpersonal Gospel ministry; we must actually see those in front of us. Yet, too often we see with the eyes of Simon. We see them, but still don’t see them for who they are, people made in God’s image. For this reason, we don’t see the true value of people but like Simon, we only see what’s wrong with them.
However, Jesus comes face-to-face with this woman, who yes, was a sinner indeed, but one made in God’s image…and he saw her and she felt it. This was instrumental in how Jesus proceeded to care for her (cf. John 9:1-3). First he saw her, and then he proceeded in care. Therefore, in Biblical Counseling, we must prayerfully ask the Holy Spirit to truly see those in addiction with the eyes of Jesus.
The second aspect is just as important: we must feel. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them (Matthew 9:36 ESV). Jesus not only sees what we fail to notice, but also feels what we don’t. Because of this, Jesus’ compassion moved toward people’s suffering and pain with great humility and, therefore,with care. Thus, in many cases recorded in the Gospels, when hurting people encountered a compassionate Jesus, they also encountered the compassionate God.
For this reason, put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts… (Colossians 3:12) Without this, interpersonal Gospel ministry will be cold and unfeeling. Having said this, we must earnestly pray that the Holy Spirit pours through our hearts compassion and tenderheartedness for those in addictions.
In Biblical Counseling, asking questions is the practical means of seeking to know someone and their experiences. This third aspect is very difficult because it forces us to learn how to listen. This is a problem for most of us, we are too quick to speak and/or fix the issue, and therefore fail to actually listen. Good listeners are known for their ability to ask the right questions in the right moments. Therefore…when, how and what questions we ask matter significantly.
All through the Scriptures we see God and his Son, Jesus, seeking to get at the heart of man, and one of those ways is through asking questions. The Lord said to Cain, “Why are you angry and why has your face fallen?” (Genesis 4:6)
Close-ended questions are framed for a simple “yes” or “no” response, which limits further dialogue. Open-ended questions are framed for inviting the individual to give more information of their feelings or experience, and postures the inquirer to listen further.
Examples of close-ended questions:
- When he did that, did you feel angry?
- Does feeling depressed make you want to get high?
- He didn’t understand your struggle when you were sharing, is that right?
Examples of open-ended questions:
- When he did that, what were your feelings of anger saying inside you?
- Why does feeling depressed make you want to get high?
- When you say, ‘he didn’t understand me’ what do you mean?
When offering Biblical Counseling to those in addiction, we must work diligently to know them and their struggle, by learning how and when to ask the right questions.
Here in this fourth aspect we learn to speak the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15). This means carefully and precisely applying the truth, power and grace of God’s word.
Yet, we need to be reminded that words do not first belong to us…they first belong to God. Therefore we should give great care to our words. Think before you speak, and speak clearly and directly. The heart of the godly thinks carefully before speaking… (Proverbs 15:28 NLT)
Your words don’t necessarily have to be few but should be graceful and well said. People in addiction don’t need long lectures, mini-sermons or a quick fix verse. Therefore we should be silently praying and expecting God to give us words that reach in and touch the central nerve of their personhood.
This last aspect is the most vital. We must love. It is what binds everything previously mentioned together. It is the lifeline of all Biblical Counseling. More specifically, if love is not abiding in our seeing, feeling, knowing and speaking then we can certainly rest assured that our efforts are being driven by some other motive or fleshly purpose.
We love because he first loved us (1st John 4:19). When we have personally encountered the love of the living Jesus, we should respond by freely give what has been given to us. This is why and how we are even able to love, because Jesus first loved us. This is what truly shapes everything we that we do for others. The addict must taste this love, feel it and know it. He must find that the love of Jesus Christ is better than any delight of the physical senses. The addict must come to see and know, Jesus’ love is better than wine (Song of Solomon 1:2b).