Recently, a young, non-Christian, Indian father called on me within weeks after being subjected to the greatest tragedy of his life- the loss of his wife and the unborn baby who died in a terrible car accident. All too sud-denly, the father and his four year old daughter were left behind to carry on their lives in a world that seemed terribly cruel and frightening. Not only that the father had to cope with his own loss, but he was now being con-fronted with a new problem- the impact of the tragedy upon the little girl who seemed to be becoming increasingly depressed- as evident in her severe agitation, aggression and isolation.
To be sure, Christian are not exempt from their snare of suffering common to their fellow human beings. Although one may imagine that Christian can easily overcome their difficulties compared to non-Christian, this is not often the case. To the contrary, it is quite likely that Christian respond no differently from their non-Christian counterparts when it come to coping with personal tragedies and their aftermaths. What is important here is to recognize that the process of one's emotional response to personal crises is as varied as his or her faith in a personal, living God as well as the ability to draw from h-is or her spiritual reservoir. As a person who may have gone through a personal or family crisis, can you recognize the intensity of your emotional experience?
When tragedy strikes an individual or family, the reality of the trauma does not easily register in the mind. Feelings of shock, denial, anger and guilt are some of the earlier natural responses to human traumas that commonly attend our lives. The road to one's emotional recovery from the devastating effects of the tragedy can be even more painful or slow. How do Christian cope with personal crises? What resources are available for them? Perhaps, more importantly, what are some of the roadblocks that may seriously hinder or delay the process of emotional recovery and healing? These are areas that Counseling can help focus.
Every true believer in Christ has experienced the power of God's Word in their moments of great sorrow or conflict. They have discovered what it is to simply believe the words of Christ "Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, I will give you rest" (Matthew 11:28). However, experience has taught us that there are times in our lives that we may succumb to feelings of doubt, fear and rejection. In John chapter 21, we see Peter, at his moment of despondency, ready to go back to his old profession of being a fisherman. How could this be? Is this not the same Peter who had once stood on the Mount of Transfiguration beholding the transcendent glory of Christ? But, here at last, we see him at his weakest moment- thoroughly confused and gripped with feelings of self-doubt and guilt. But not for long. Because, Christ the Great Counselor comes to his rescue and reassures him of His love and his unique calling. In the epistle to the Romans chapter 7, we also can see Apostle Paul crying out " O w-retched man that I am! Who shall deliver me from the body of this death?"
Is it hard then to understand the struggles of our young people today and how vulnerable they are to being easily overwhelmed by feelings of worthlessness, hopelessness and even despair? And, what about our parents who are becoming increasingly frustrated with their teen-age children so as to become excessively punitive eventually driving them away, or to become very passive or indifferent towards them resulting in their further alienation.
One may ask: What answers do we have for the current dilemma faced by our children and their parents? More preaching? More teachings? And more exhortations? Most certainly yes! These will continue to have their place in our churches and in our printed media. However, there seems to be one thing that has long been overlooked by our communities, churches and their leadership. This is the ministry of Christian counseling which is both Christ-centered and based strictly on the principles of the Bible.
To be sure, such a ministry is vital to the spiritual and emotional growth of our church membership, particularly our growing number of young people and their concerned parents. And for our youth leaders, ministers, and pastors, its benefits are immense, rewarding, and enduring. Of course, for those who may still be wary about change, one only needs to look at the example of Jesus, our Great Counselor. We see Him speaking of the "water of life" to Samaritan woman who becomes thoroughly convinced of her sinful life-style. What spiritual insight! We see Him speaking words of mercy and truth to the woman caught in the act of adultery. What great compassion!
Let follow the example of Jesus, our Great Counselor, whose ministry it was to not only "preach the gospel to the poor but also to heal the broken hearted and to set at liberty those that bruised" (Luke 4:18). Good Christian counseling is simply that and nothing less. And, who can deny its value and relevance for our changing times?
Dr. George Kurian is a Psychologist, Regional Institute for Children and Adolescents Baltimore, MD.