Disclaimer: This section is written specifically to those who share the Judeo-Christian worldview and would like to read more about how I integrate this system of belief into my counseling theory and practice. Christian Biblical references and the name of Jesus Christ are highly integrated into this section of my literature.
Judeo-Christian Spiritual Philosophy
Why so downcast, O my soul?
Why so disturbed within me?
Put your hope in God,
for I will yet praise him,
my Savior and my God.
King David – Psalm 42:5
The Apostle Paul stated, “Be transformed by the renewing of your mind” (Romans 12:2). As we struggle to “be transformed” we naturally encounter adversity and trials. Although I do not believe that God causes evil or bad things to happen, I fully believe that God uses any and all circumstances in our lives, whether good or bad, to help us mature in character and become more like His Son Jesus Christ (Romans 8:28-29).
Whether it is individual or relational, we engage many opportunities to persevere and gain character. When those opportunities arise, the challenge put to our soul can be greatly disturbing. Our best efforts are often derailed by long-held thoughts and beliefs and coping devices that ultimately fail us, rather than serve us and our relationships. Coming to terms with patterns of behavior that hurt ourselves and others is difficult and usually takes some objective help from the “outside.” This is where counseling can help.
Behaviors tend to follow one’s core beliefs and values, which are held and renewed within the processes of the mind. I have worked with many individuals who suffered severe childhood and adolescent trauma. Yet when liberated of those influences they break the vicious cycle of blaming themselves, others or God for their pain. Once this cycle of despair is broken, the client is free to continue growing at a wonderful pace. It is getting to this juncture which requires significant time, effort, trust, renewal of the mind and forgiveness toward themselves and others. Sounds simple, but this process only moves at the pace in which a client is ready.
My healing philosophy assumes that a person’s spirit, thoughts, emotions, and behaviors interconnect to form personal wholeness. Strict attention to the mind, without looking at the emotions or spirit, creates a split rather than holistic integration. We are not simply computers to be “reprogrammed.” Our minds are deeply influenced by our emotions and must realistically learn to live within this complex union. Conversely, too much emphasis on the emotions, without being guided by the mind and spirit, leads to emotional anarchy and hopelessness. Emotions offer insight, not unconditional truth; while truth can be illuminated by the richness of our emotions, the habit of blindly following our feelings – or placing emotions over the mind and spirit – is almost always a recipe for disaster. Egocentrism and narcissistic behaviors are not far behind.
Behaviors tend to follow a personal choice. That choice may be unduly influenced by any number of factors – good or bad. Nevertheless, until one takes personal ownership of these choices they can never be truly free. This concept alone can present an incredible challenge to therapy. Without seeing one’s own volition (even in horrible circumstances) we can never be entirely free to change. Even worse, if we remain under the control of past events we may be destined to endlessly repeat them. This cycle leads to a prison of despair and hopelessness. The Good News is that Jesus Christ has come to set the captives free, and to release the prisoners from their sorrow.
The Apostle Paul did not say, “Be transformed by the renewal of your neighbor’s mind.” Awareness of our own feelings, thoughts and choices is the first step toward meaningful change. As we take personal responsibility for our spiritual, psychological and emotional renewal we move forward in victory. This is not always easy. It remains as tempting today as it did 2000 years ago to remove a sliver from your neighbor’s eye while keeping a log in your own. Taking personal responsibility for your healing is key.
Divisions of the soul need healing
Living an authentic life requires that personal values are aligned according to one’s belief system. In the Judeo-Christian belief system one’s thoughts and behaviors are guided by Scriptural truth, rather than by temporal emotions or cold-hearted logic. Our Scriptural command to love one another is one thing – putting that into practice is quite another. Though spiritually redeemed, we still reside in these “earthen vessels.” And these vessels get tired, grumpy, bitter, selfish, resentful, we hold grudges, want to “get even,” or get my “fair share.” All types of unlovely attitudes and behaviors!
Although I loathe any performance gospel as a means to spiritual redemption, there is Scripture that tells us to “Work out your salvation with fear and trembling” (Php 2:12). So what does that mean? Does “work” here imply that we can earn our salvation? If so, we take Jesus Christ off the cross and finish the work ourselves. A work begun in the spirit cannot be completed in the flesh (Gal 3:3). So what does the Apostle Paul mean by salvation? And why does he call it work?
In the least, working out our salvation requires something on our part. That note on “fear and trembling” gives us a clue. Not that we fear God’s wrath anymore, unless we believe that Jesus’ work on the cross was incomplete. Simply said, we are commanded to love God with all our mind, our heart and our strength. Then Jesus said to love one another as we love ourselves. Sounds simple, doesn’t it? So why do we need to be told to love one another, much less ourselves? And having heard this command why is it so difficult to obey?
Well, it is that vessel thing again. We have a body, a spirit, and a soul. If humans were ethereal beings – floating around without the encumbrance of these earthen bodies – then perhaps we could love more easily. Instead we are beleaguered by these mortal bodies – needy, needy, needy! But even if we could conquer the influences of our bodies we still have our souls to mend.
What exactly is a “soul”?
Our souls contain our mind (thoughts and beliefs), our emotions (sometimes referred to as “feelings”), and our will (personal volition guiding choices). Our souls function at light speed until we purposefully take the time to slow down. Remember the Scripture … “Be still and know that I am God!” Notice how God tied being “still” and the ability to “know” in the same command. That is the first step – to still ourselves long enough to hear from the Creator of our body, spirit and souls. That is a huge challenge to some. Especially if strife and emotional chaos has become the rule in a hectic, out of balance life. Worse, if trauma has stolen a person’s ability to experience peace.
Nevertheless, without practicing our ability to hear from God, we become like a child without a parent – very disadvantaged indeed. Since God is the Mighty Counselor and Healer of our souls, how can we expect to become whole without the healing touch of his words? I am not speaking in mysterious terms, because those within the Judeo-Christian worldview believe that God is personal and that he does indeed “touch” us with his voice and His power and love. Even Jesus said that his sheep know his voice. This is in addition to the Holy Scriptures, which are God-breathed supernatural revelation. Also called God’s Love Letter to His people, Scripture gives us direction and hope.
When we learn to hear the voice of God more effectively, we begin to shed the undue influences upon these earthly vessels. We learn to follow the voice of peace and truth, instead of the chatter within our own sometimes crazy-making minds. Some of the beliefs I encounter in therapy defy logic, yet remain firmly embedded until confronted by the love of God. Opening that door is the work of therapy. Walking through it is the work of God. With fear and trembling we work out our salvation. In my fifty-four years on this planet, I have found nothing which offers greater hope and freedom than the Light found in Judeo-Christian Scripture and the Spirit of Christ made alive through his people.
Jesus said, “The spirit is willing, but the flesh [which houses our soul] is weak.” Counseling has its highs and lows, just like anything in life. But focused, diligent work on those things that need renewal will ultimately release more energy into a life of fullness. Sometimes the work is very hard, but in most cases the rewards far outweigh the costs.
I see many opportunities for victory in people’s lives. Slowing down to achieve those victories is the first step toward permanent change. A balanced life including spiritual rest and renewal through appropriate counseling can be rewarding and fulfilling in itself. My desire is to offer a holistic approach that includes integration of the spirit, the soul and the body.
He gives strength to the weary
and increases the power of the weak.
Even youths grow weary,
and young men stumble and fall;
but those who wait on the Lord
will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
they will run and not grow weary,
they will walk and not be faint.
________ (Isaiah 40:29-31)
Thomas Isaac Berscheid, MA, LMFT, LPC
Ordained Minister and Certified Life Coach
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700 Twelve Oaks Center Drive, Suite 264 – Wayzata, MN 55391 Phone: 763-227-3431