by Santiago Chavez
I heard my inner voice repeatedly telling me to keep it together, but his tears and quivering lower lip pushed me over the edge. A warm tear drop fogged my vision and rolled past my glasses down my cheek.
He could barely get the words out, “I can’t believe I let myself do that. I must be some sort of monster.”
His addiction had taken him further than he wanted to go and cost him far more than he was willing to pay. His wife discovered the activity and was so wounded that she issued the ultimatum, “Get help, or get out!”
His marriage, family, reputation, and career were all on the line. He knew this before, but the danger had never been as real as it is right now. He reached an important benchmark: the pain has become greater than his fear.
That internal voice again, “God, give me Your Wisdom to help my suffering Brother in Christ.” Where do we start?
The Broken Body Analogy
It is easy for us to rush someone to an emergency room when they suffer a fall and become physically injured, but we do not react as decisively when someone falls morally and is injured spiritually. Many Christians have an aversion to counseling while affirming to care about the health of a person’s soul.
Some forget the Greek root word psyche means soul. The law of Christ compels us to carry each other’s burdens:
[Brothers and sisters], even if a person is caught in any wrongdoing, you who are spiritual are to restore such a person in a spirit of gentleness; each one looking to yourself, so that you are not tempted as well. Bear one another’s burdens, and thereby fulfill the law of Christ (Galatians 6:1-3 NASB).
An Approach to Helping Someone in Emotional or Spiritual Need
The first key to a successful Christian care interaction starts with the proper relationship with God of both the person offering support and the person seeking it. Because God’s Holy Spirit indwells every Believer, it is undeniable that every sincere Believer can be a blessing to anyone that will sincerely accept their support.
Yet, a person with a personal relationship with God, The Father, through Jesus Christ – a Christian – will benefit the most from another Christian’s support. Jesus Christ must always be the third person in the room during such conversations. As Believers, we know that He does the actual healing of our souls (Acts 3:16).
Learn your organization’s suicide prevention protocols, today. The commitment of confidentiality is an indispensable element to effective Christian care. Do not discuss the content of your conversations with anyone. Fear of having their trust violated is the main reason people fear seeking advice from others, especially clergy.
Learn your state’s required reporting rules and share them with the person seeking advice. Explain that suicide concerns and the items listed as required reporting are the only reason you would be obligated to get others involved.
Further Direction in Soul Care
I can offer a manageable, Bible-based (2 Tim. 3:16-17) four-phase approach taught by Dr. Robert W. Kellemen [ref]Kellemen, R. W. (2007). Spiritual friends: A methodology of soul care and spiritual direction. BMH Books. pp. 47[/ref]
- “It’s normal to hurt.” Sense your client’s earthly story of despair and empathize with and embrace your Spiritual Friend. Strive to develop a plan while helping your client to not sink further into their pit of despair.
- “It’s possible to hope.” Stretch your client to God’s eternal story of hope and encourage your Spiritual Friend to embrace God. Enter your client’s pain trough appropriate empathy and work to heal their wounds.
- “It’s horrible to sin, but wonderful to be forgiven.” Strip your client’s enslaving story and expose your Spiritual Friend’s sin and God’s Grace. Help your client understand how their idols and false beliefs contributed to their situation.
- “It’s supernatural to mature.” Strengthen your client with Christ’s empowering story of life and equip and empower your Spiritual Friend to love. Help your client develop strategies to recognize and navigate factors that contributed to their spiritual injury.
Commit to meet on multiple occasions. Many of the issues that afflict us developed over many years, possibly decades. It is unreasonable to expect an hour or two can adequately address the concerns. Accept that seeking to care for the entire person (emotional, volitional, rational, relational, spiritual, physical) may require returning to previous phases more than once.
Always be aware of the possibilities of spiritual warfare. Only advise members of the same sex as yours. It is very easy to become emotionally confused as we walk through the Christian care process together. It is also advisable to beware of dependence from the person offering and the person seeking advice.
Refer to Professional Counselor if Needed
Most of us are not professional counselors. Be eager to refer to a more qualified Christian care provider or mental health professional, but never abandon the person that came to you for care. Continue to pray for their well being and to tell them you are praying for them.
Encourage continued care and taking of medications if any are prescribed. Do not share disagreement about the instructions of another provider with the person seeking advice.
Never stop depending on God and His Word for wisdom. It is highly recommended for Christian care givers to seek Christian care for themselves, especially when dealing with difficult cases. It may be wise to build a Christian and Mental Health care library.
Christian care is an overwhelming, yet rewarding, challenge. Artios Christian College can help you get started.
Artios offers the following courses on counseling and mental health. Watch for them to be available sometime in 2024:
- PSY 311 The Church and Mental Health
- PSY 321 The Principles of Counseling