Category Archives: counseling

“There’s a Psalm for That”

In our highly technological age, we often assume that any problem can be tackled with a computer program, mobile app, or invention.  And we certainly have seen a number of needs addressed.  I use my phone on a daily basis for easy access to an alarm clock, camera, calendar, and, oh, yes, a telephone (but there are also apps that will let me use it as a level with a virtual bubble, print wirelessly, play games, watch videos, listen to my music collection, check my bank account, etc.).  For so many things that a person would like to do…. “There’s an App for That” ™ (literally ™ – Trademarked by Apple in 2010, but my phone happens to be Android, for what it’s worth).

In our highly technological age, we often forget to interact with a resource that deals with virtually any spiritual problem with struggle with.  And we certainly have a number of them.  Confusion, depression, anxiety, and fear, as well as thankfulness, joy, and celebration are all dealt with in this resource.  For so many things that we as sinners struggle with…  Yes, it’s in the Bible.  But even more specifically, there is one book that is especially suited to the whole range of human emotions.  Whatever your situation, however you feel…. “There’s a Psalm for That” (and yes, I realize others have thought of this adaptation of the catchphrase).

In many ways, the book of Psalms is the “app store” of the Bible, a place you can go and search for God-inspired material about what you are going through.  You can tell by the New Testament “ratings” (69 quotations versus 51 for the next most quoted Old Testament book, Isaiah, out of 263 total citations), which include use by Jesus and the apostles, that the Psalms ought to be used by Christians (not that we shouldn’t use the rest of the Old Testament and the Bible!).

Feeling far from God but looking for hope?  Check out Psalms 42 & 43.  Struggling with fear?  Psalm 27.  Expressing thanks?  Psalm 106 and 107.  Got contentment?  Psalm 23.  Oppressed by enemies?  Psalm 55.  Want to praise the Lord with music?  Psalm 150.  Facing a crisis where it feels like your world is falling apart?  Psalm 46 (God is our refuge and strength – a very present help in trouble, even though the earth be removed and the mountains quake!).  This is not an exhaustive list.  There are 150 Psalms that cover the whole range of human emotions – yours to download, peruse, pray, sing, read, apply – no credit card information required.

With this being said, it would not be fair to characterize the Psalms as band-aids or quick fixes for our problems.  But sometimes the Psalm is the medicine for the situation (and we may have to take it multiple doses!).  Other times, the psalm helps us to trust the Great Physician for His wisdom and timing in placing us in that situation or helps us to wait on Him to remove the problem in His appointed way and time.

In the preface to his commentary on the Psalms, John Calvin wrote (and this quote is worth citing and reading in full):

I have been accustomed to call this book, I think not inappropriately, “An Anatomy of all the Parts of the Soul;” for there is not an emotion of which any one can be conscious that is not here represented as in a mirror. Or rather, the Holy Spirit has here drawn to the life all the griefs, sorrows, fears, doubts, hopes, cares, perplexities, in short, all the distracting emotions with which the minds of men are wont to be agitated. The other parts of Scripture contain the commandments which God enjoined his servants to announce to us. But here the prophets themselves, seeing they are exhibited to us as speaking to God, and laying open all their inmost thoughts and affections, call, or rather draw, each of us to the examination of himself in particulars in order that none of the many infirmities to which we are subject, and of the many vices with which we abound, may remain concealed. It is certainly a rare and singular advantage, when all lurking places are discovered, and the heart is brought into the light, purged from that most baneful infection, hypocrisy. In short, as calling upon God is one of the principal means of securing our safety, and as a better and more unerring rule for guiding us in this exercise cannot be found elsewhere than in The Psalms, it follows, that in proportion to the proficiency which a man shall have attained in understanding them, will be his knowledge of the most important part of celestial doctrine. Genuine and earnest prayer proceeds first from a sense of our need, and next, from faith in the promises of God. It is by perusing these inspired compositions, that men will be most effectually awakened to a sense of their maladies, and, at the same time, instructed in seeking remedies for their cure. In a word, whatever may serve to encourage us when we are about to pray to God, is taught us in this book. And not only are the promises of God presented to us in it, but oftentimes there is exhibited to us one standing, as it were, amidst the invitations of God on the one hand, and the impediments of the flesh on the other, girding and preparing himself for prayer: thus teaching us, if at any time we are agitated with a variety of doubts, to resist and fight against them, until the soul, freed and disentangled from all these impediments, rise up to God; and not only so, but even when in the midst of doubts, fears, and apprehensions, let us put forth our efforts in prayer, until we experience some consolation which may calm and bring contentment to our minds.

Struggling with something in your life?  Feel far from God?  Need to rejoice?  There’s a Psalm for that.

David Powlison’s Biblical counseling book, Speaking the Truth in Love, is free today only for Kindle.  Highly recommended.  You can get it here.

How Can I Help Those Who Struggle with Sexual Addictions?

The unprecedented quantity and easy availability of pornography have not only affected the world in general, but the church in particular.  What was once hard to access is now easy with technology, including mobile phones. If you are a pastor, you have probably already faced counseling situations that involved this issue.  If you have not encountered these situations, you likely will in the near future.  Many in our churches (women and men, single and married, young and old) have a past or present enslavement to this destructive poison, the lies it spreads, and the perversions that it encourages.  Many pastors struggle with this sin as well.  I do not write with a tone of condemnation for strugglers, past or present; I write to try to call this deceptive phenomenon what it is, because it presents itself as attractive – like the bait hiding the hook.  It is a serious issue of idolatry and misdirected worship, but there is hope in the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

There are a number of resources available that seek to provide biblical counsel to past and present strugglers which will help them grow in sanctification, and may also be of help to others by encouraging them to keep up their guard.  This is not an exhaustive list.  I am aware that there are some other resources as well (feel free to suggest any in the comments or by contacting me).  This post includes authors whom I have read and have reason to commend to you.  Many of these resources would be useful not only for one on one discipleship and counseling, but for small group studies.  Hopefully you will find something here to be of benefit to you and those you have opportunity to counsel, encourage, and warn.

Tim Challies, Sexual Detox: A Guide for the Single Guy (Click for free eBook, pdf format)

Tim Challies, Sexual Detox: A Guide for the Married Guy (Click for free eBook, pdf format)

(Click here to read the original series online at Tim’s blog.)

Brian Croft, “How Do You Counsel a Husband Who Has Hurt His Wife with His Pornography Struggle?

Brian Croft, “How Do You Counsel a Wife Hurt by Her Husband’s Pornography Struggle?

Joshua Harris, Sex Is Not the Problem (Lust Is): Sexual Purity in a Lust-Saturated World (book)

Rick Holland, A Biblical Strategy for Fighting Lust (conference talk; see related manuscript)

John Piper, “Battling the Unbelief of Lust” (Click here for access to sermon manuscript and audio)

John Piper, A.N.T.H.E.M: Strategies for Fighting Sexual Lust

David Powlison, “Breaking Pornography Addiction” (Click here for Part 1) (Click here for Part 2)

David Powlison, “Making All Things New: Restoring Pure Joy to the Sexually Broken” (Click here for link to conference audio and video) (Click here for free .pdf file download of book chapter)

Review of Wired for Intimacy: How Pornography Hijacks the Male Brain by William M. Struthers by Dr. Albert Mohler

Here are a couple of blogposts with links to more resources:

“Porndemic” by Justin Taylor

“Women and Pornography” by Thabiti Anyabwile

Here is an article on how pornography affects the brain:

Slave Master: How Pornography Drugs & Changes Your Brain by Donald L. Hilton, Jr. The article seeks to address two fallacies:

Fallacy No. 1: Pornography is not a drug.

Fallacy No. 2: Pornography is therefore not a real addiction.

“While we must continue to fight the good fight legally and societally, we are way beyond avoidance as our only defense. Pornography wants you, it wants your husband or wife, it wants your son and daughter, your grandchildren, and your in-laws. It doesn’t share well, and it doesn’t leave easily. It is a cruel master, and seeks more slaves.”

Let’s fight the good fight of faith and help others to as well, pointing them to the pure joy found in Jesus.