Have you ever thought about how many people you could call to get help for some sort of feelings-oriented health issue, personal crisis, or perplexing situation? Consider this abbreviated list…
• We call the doctor when we feel physically ill
• We call the psychologist when we feel emotionally unstable
• We call the pastor when we feel distant from God
• We call our financial advisor when we feel stressed about our finances
• We call the child developmental therapist when we feel our kids are out of control
• We call the divorce lawyer when we feel out of love with our spouse
• We call a loving friend when we feel insecure and in need of support
• We call the travel agent when we feel exhausted and need a break
• We call the exterminator when we feel violated by invading pests
• You call the ___________________ (fill in the blanks) when you feel _________________________
The common denominator in all of these events is “our feelings!” Calling for help when our emotions are on overload is not necessarily a bad thing, but what is a concern is that for many people in our society, feelings dominate their existence. Feelings and emotions have become the driving force in how we think, what we do, where we go, and how we speak. But are our feelings the most trustworthy source of decision-making or the best determiners of our attitudes, behaviors, and speech? I suggest not!
If we are truly honest with ourselves, our feelings are often very fickle and can change with the weather! That would make them unreliable at best. By living in relation to our feelings, we subject ourselves to unstable and even volatile choices and behaviors that can hinder our social relationships and stymie a more rational and logical way of handling life events. What is that more rational and logical pursuit? There is a series of three reactions that follow a chronological order for properly dealing with life events. The flow is this…
Right thinking leads to right actions that produce right feelings.
By starting with proper thinking, we can make good decisions that help us ultimately to arrive at good feelings. Starting with feelings is like placing the cart before the horse. Here’s another way of saying it: If we think right, we will do right, and when we do right, we will feel right.
In our counseling ministry, the Valley Forge Biblical Counseling Center, we try to follow this axiom. It’s based on the teaching from Proverbs 23:7, “For as he thinketh in his (man’s) heart, so is he….” Jesus himself taught in the gospel of Matthew chapter 15, verse 19, “For out of the heart proceedeth evil thoughts….” The heart is the center of man’s inner being, and from there come his thoughts, will, desires, etc. From the inner man (volition) comes man’s actions, since man acts upon what he first thinks. If he thinks and acts right, positive feelings will result. If he thinks wrongly (selfishly, immorally, unkindly, angrily, etc.), he will act wrongly. When he does this, there are most often negative feelings (e.g., guilt) that result because he acted against his moral conscience.
So often, those who come for counseling just want to feel better. In other words, they want relief from the struggle they are going through (anger, worry, depression, guilt, fear, addictive impulses, etc.). They say to themselves, “If I could just feel better, life would be better.” But in reality, improving feelings is just treating the symptom of the problem and never really gets to the root cause of the problem. It’s like taking a fever-reducing medication when sick. The medicine treats the symptom (the fever) but never gets to the underlying problem (the infection causing the fever). Wrong thinking is most often the underlying culprit in one’s emotional problems that prompts a person to go in for counseling. By getting to the heart issue that underlies the bad feelings, we can help solve the counselee’s problems more quickly.
This is different from Behavioral Modification therapy (since we are not just trying to simply change behavior). We are trying to get to the heart of the matter, which is a matter of the heart (one’s intellect, will, etc.), by first helping people change their thinking about themselves and their situations. Next, we try to help them alter their actions and behavior in accordance with sound biblical thinking. When this is accomplished, good feelings will follow and the fears, anxieties, anger, depression, guilt, etc. begin to lift. Our goal is not just to help someone feel better (though this is what will result). Our goal in biblical counseling is to root out the heart issues causing all the pain in a person’s life by showing them what God says about it from His holy Word and then as they learn to live a life the pleases God in obedience to His Word (right behavior), their feelings will reflect this new life purpose resulting in peace, contentment, joy, satisfaction, confidence, and a fulfilled life.
If the Valley Forge Biblical Counseling Center can be of help to you, you may contact us through our website at www.vfbcc.org or by calling us at 800-828-9667. We would be happy to schedule an appointment.
Article by Pastor Lamar Eifert
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