Counselling and Christianity
Christian counselling uses very similar techniques to those described on the counselling page, although there is one major difference: the whole process of Christian counselling is guided by Scripture, and the values and ethics used as measuring sticks are those of the Bible. The main objective of clients, whatever their problems or goals may be, is to find a biblical way through their difficulties, to grow in grace, and to produce increased spiritual fruit (Gal.5:22-26).
Some Christians respond to the concept of counselling in a negative way. They think that all psychological and counselling endeavours are about Freud and similar concepts. But this is not true. Today, we use many types of counselling, and not all are ‘bad’. The hindrance here is a lack of understanding, and I am hoping to rectify this in some small way. Our key verse is Romans 12:2 ‘And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God’ (NKJV). This expresses exactly our aims in working with Christians.
Also Jehonathan, David's uncle, was a counselor, a wise man... and Ahithophel was the king's counselor... "Come now, and let us reason together," says the LORD. (1 Chronicles 27:32,33 & Isaiah 1:18 NKJV)
Christian counselling is about helping believers to put this verse into action. We all want to be happy, but not everyone understands the biblical principles of how to get there. We may seek happiness in all sorts of places: people, activities, or even material goods, but true happiness is found only in Christ. And most of all we want to feel good (which is fundamentally self-centred!), forgetting that we are to become like Christ in the midst of our problems. The truth is that we will never be happy as long as we are absorbed with becoming happy!
Sadly, some Christians object to professional counselling because Jesus said that the Holy Spirit would be our Counsellor and Guide. They say that we should need nothing more than the Bible, and in a sense this is true. But the problem is that not all Christians know their Bible very well, and even if they did, they may not have the skills or the roadmap to get to the prescribed destination. Would you agree that many Christians continue to carry baggage from their old life without Christ? And that some are still babes and have not yet grown very much in the Lord? And what about their relationship or decision-making skills, are they always perfect? I do not believe that it is sufficient to simply quote scripture without supplying the roadmap of how to put them into action in a God-honouring way. Whilst it is true that the answers to life’s questions are found in the Bible, it is also true that at times we need someone to explain certain concepts, to make us aware of certain things, to teach us a few people skills, to hold up the mirror, or to simply encourage us when things are tough. And this is where Christian Counselling can be of enormous help!
Natural Therapies and Christianity
Prior to 1983, things were different. I had a young family and my own natural health clinic, and life was good (or so I thought). New Age philosophies were part of my life, and I was delving with gusto into parapsychology. But then one April morning everything changed. A client shared the gospel, I was convicted of sin, and that very evening I came to the point of conversion. What followed was a huge transformation. Whilst my professional training had encompassed hypnotherapy, naturopathy, herbalism, homoeopathy and massage, I had added many New Age dimensions. But now that I was a Christian, I had to re-think my approach to every part of my work.
I started searching the Bible and found that God is the one who heals (Ps.103:3). But I also found that He employs men (Luke was a physician) and the use of foods and herbs as ‘prescriptions’, such as a cake of figs for Hezekiah’s boil (Is.38:21), wine and oil for the Samaritan’s wounds (Lk.10:34), and a little wine for Timothy’s stomach and frequent illnesses (1 Tim.5:23). A number of other herbs are also mentioned for their medicinal value, and the sanitary ‘code’ given in Lev.15 is quite extraordinary, because such hygiene practices were not known in the ancient world. Nonetheless, biblical descriptions of health, disease, healing and death are limited by the purpose of Scripture, which of course is theological rather than medical.
Let them take a lump of figs and apply it as a poultice on the boil, and he shall recover. (Isaiah 38:21 NKJV)
During my quest for truth I realised that the core practices of naturopathy (working with life style factors, dietary regimes, foods, vitamins & minerals), herbalism (using herbs in various forms) and homoeopathy (using natural substances in minute quantities so that the body reacts to their energy rather than their biochemistry) are not contrary to biblical injunctions, but that New Age practices such as pendulum work, ‘spiritual healing', certain types of meditation and energy channelling definitely are. To my amazement I also found a connection between emotions and health in the book of Proverbs. Here are some verses you can check out: ch.12:25; 13:12; 15:4; 15:30; 16:24; 17:22; 18:14. There is so much wisdom in this book! You may even like to read all of Proverbs and colour code the different topic areas. I was amazed by what I found when I did just that. Anyway, these insights caused me to learn more about counselling, because I realised that people needed more than physical help. But this is the natural health section, so let's return to it.
Let us start with the definition of naturopath. Have you ever wondered what that word means? Take it apart and see what you get: ‘nature’ and ‘path’. You might like to think of it as a person who follows the path of nature in relation to health practices. Or as a practitioner who utilises principles of healing that have been built into nature from the very beginning. Have you ever bathed a sprained ankle in cool water? Have you had peppermint tea to settle a disturbed stomach, or chamomile tea to calm your nerves? Do you practice hygiene by washing your hands before you eat? If you have done any of these or similar things, you yourself have practiced naturopathy or, in other words, natural medicine!
Training standards are very high these days for both naturopaths and herbalists, and a number of universities are now offering degrees in Health Science (Naturopathy). In order to obtain professional indemnity insurance, practitioners also need to have professional memberships with the Australian Traditional Medical Society (ATMS), the National Herbalists Association of Australia (NHAA), or the Australian Natural Therapies Association (ANTA). In most cases, therefore, you will encounter practitioners with high ethical standards and continuing professional education. But don’t be afraid to ask a person about their professional qualifications and/or spiritual practices! If they are genuine, they will be happy to tell you what you want to know. If you are looking for someone in your area, you can either check your Yellow Pages, or you can contact the Associations directly by phone or via their websites: www.atms.com.au or www.nhaa.org.au or www.anta.com.au
Here in Australia this profession has unfortunately been linked to New Age practices, such as psychic or spiritualist healing, Reiki (a combination of hypnosis and energy channelling), chakra work (based on Indian religious beliefs), crystal healing, astrology, tarot cards and the like. These forms of mystic or ‘spiritual’ healing have their roots in Eastern religions and Eastern ‘spirituality’, which have been attractively repackaged for Western consumption. And of course as a Christian I no longer approve of these ‘healing’ methods as legitimate! Unfortunately, however, many Christians reject natural therapies altogether because of these ungodly associations, throwing out the good with the bad.
The fundamental principles of naturopathy, low potency homoeopathy and herbalism have nothing whatsoever to do with the occult or other religions, and this is reflected in European countries, where many orthodox medical practitioners will use and prescribe herbal and homoeopathic remedies, nutritional programs, and other forms of natural healing such as massage and hydro(water)therapy. These practices are based on natural laws and can be verified by scientific research. Think for a moment: when your car needs petrol, would you supply it with sugar syrup? Of course not! You would use only petrol, which is specifically designed to make your car engine run. But in this hectic world filled with hurry and stress, pollution, chemicals, sprays, fast foods and additives, many people are not as diligent with their bodies as they are with their cars. They have forgotten that good nutrition is the basis for health and an efficient immune system, and that God has given us foods and herbs to aid health and reverse disease (you might find it interesting to do a concordance study on the word herb/herbs and look at Rev.22:2).
Now here is another word we can take apart: disease. It points to the origin of most illnesses: a dis-ease, an imbalance within the system. And most practitioners of natural medicine (the politically correct term these days is complimentary medicine) seek to restore that balance. First of all they will need to do some detective work and ask you lots of questions regarding your lifestyle, nutrition, exercise, body habits and emotional situation. They may even check your tongue, your eyes, your lungs and/or your pulse, and occasionally they may send you for further clinical tests. When the causes for your symptoms are finally established, the necessary building blocks are then supplied to aid your body in its great potential to heal itself according to God’s design. These building blocks may be environmental, nutritional, herbal or whatever else in nature, because a naturopath will look at your health from a wholistic point of view (I spell wholistic with a ‘wh’ rather than just a ‘h’ in order to distinguish its origin from the word ‘whole’ rather than ‘holy’). A natural health practitioner will therefore take the whole of your life circumstances into consideration, rather than labelling you with a disease based on symptoms. God has given us bodies with an amazing power to recover from imbalances and injuries, and the intricate workings of body and mind never cease to amaze me.
But please don’t misunderstand me! I am NOT saying you should not go and see your doctor! God has allowed the medical profession to make great discoveries, and we are grateful for its many advances. I regularly send clients for medical tests, for example. But on the other hand I am saying that those ways which naturally help our bodies to rebuild themselves are preferable whenever possible. There are some illnesses that natural therapies cannot cure (although they may still aid the person’s comfort levels), and I am grateful for hospitals and surgeons in the case of accidents or when disease has progressed too far for a natural reversal. And sometimes drugs are necessary. But an ever-increasing number of people are searching for more natural ways of looking after their health. And due to the abundance of information available these days, they are able to make more informed choices. I sincerely hope that some of the things I have said will help you to do the same! May the Lord lead you in the way that YOU should go!
How to Choose a Non-Christian Practitioner
Naturopaths and herbalists that are full members of either the ATMS (Australian Traditional Medicine Society www.atms.com.au) or NHAA (National Herbalists Association of Australia www.nhaa.org.au) are fully qualified in their field. So, no matter what their belief system, they would most certainly be able to help you in the areas of nutrition (i.e. diet), lifestyle and herbal remedies.
You will find practitioners on the websites of both associations – try especially the ATMS website (go to their home page, then click on your modality of interest in the green field to the left, e.g. Nutrition, and finally click on Find a practitioner.
You could also speak with individual therapists on the phone before making an appointment. And if you then decide to consult that person, you can feel your way once you are there. You don’t need to accept any treatments you don’t feel comfortable with, although nutrition and herbalism are ‘safe’ areas anyway.
And you never know; the Lord might even give you an opportunity to witness to that person as one of my clients did to me so many years ago – and I was converted! Click here to read the story of a New Age naturopath who was converted by a Christian client.
Besides, there is no need to be afraid. He that is in you (the Holy Spirit) is far greater than he who is in the world (Satan). Ask God to guide you and give you wisdom, and you can gain great benefit even from a New Age therapist, especially in the areas of nutrition and herbal medicine.
And finally, if you find a good non-Christian practitioner, please let me know. I may be able to list referrals to non-Christians as well.
Find a Christian Naturopath or Therapist
Margaret has advertised for Christian practitioners through her professional organisation and is in the process of building a referral network.
If you are a Christian practitioner, please let her know!
If you are looking for a Christian practitioner, email Margaret. She will do her best to refer you.
On a cold winter's evening in a small village in Germany a little girl was born. Her parents loved her very much and had her christened into the Lutheran faith. They took her to church at Christmas and Easter, and as she grew older she attended Bible classes and was confirmed. But as an adolescent, religious morals didn't suit her. After all, her school teacher had taught her that the evolutionary process leaves all things to chance; so who was the church to make rules about right or wrong? She explained to her parents that science opposed the existence of absolute standards and decided to find her own way. Her name is Margaret – this is my life.
At age nineteen I met a young man from a far-away country and fell in love. We were married after two short months and after another two years left for his home in Australia. The Lutheran church and its ways had been completely discarded. Ten years passed and life was good. At age thirty-one I had two small children, my husband had started a successful communication business, and I was practicing as a naturopath and clinical hypnotherapist. And then it happened: one day, two lovely ladies from New Tribes Mission came to see me as clients and, being curious, I asked them about their faith. I had turned to New Age concepts and joined the Rosicrucian Order, but I was always interested in the beliefs of others.
One of the ladies produced a little black Bible and read to me this verse: "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life." I didn't object to a God of love but did not really understand what that verse meant. And then she continued with a verse about sin. She said that no one is righteous because all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. "Stop right there," I responded, chafing against this accusation. "I’m not a sinner! I’m not a liar or a thief or a murderer – to the contrary, I try to help people and be nice to them!" Jan was wise and did not argue. Instead, she read from Isaiah chapter 53:6 that "all of us like sheep have gone astray; we have turned, every one, to his own way; and the LORD has laid on Him (meaning Christ) the iniquity (sin) of us all."
Thank God for His faithful servants! The Holy Spirit used this portion of Scripture to convict me of sin. I felt so uncomfortable that I couldn't get rid of these women quickly enough. I tried to forget about the whole thing, but it didn't work. The thoughts about sin kept coming back to mind, and I soon realised that sin was essentially SELF-WILL and therefore rebellion against God. The more I thought about it, the more I realised that I had a dilemma on my hands: if this God of the Bible was real, He would send me to Hell. So I wondered how I could know whether He really existed. Finally, I asked Him to show me, not knowing what to expect. I neither heard a voice nor did I have an ecstatic experience, but by the end of that evening I could no longer carry my burden. I fell on my knees and cried out to God, shedding tears of shame and tears of sorrow for causing Him so much pain. But there were also tears of joy because I realised that I had been forgiven, my debt was paid, and I was set free to live a new life in God. This is how I was born again and became His child on March 28, 1983.
I had been so blind, but now I could see! And what I saw was a huge mission field, starting with my own family. I eagerly read the Bible, and the Lord took me to a study group where I learnt about God’s principles for family life. I decided to put His word to the test and exchanged my feminist ideas for the role of godly wife and mother. I learned to be (more) submissive, to give my husband his rightful place as head of the family, and to treat my children as gifts from God to be nurtured and treasured. This was HARD, but God was faithful and gracious: a year later my husband experienced the new birth, we were both baptised in a Baptist church, and our children were excited about this powerful, loving God they were hearing so much about. I also reconsidered my approach to helping people and abandoned all New Age practices, retaining only what was compatible with the Bible.
As the years passed, my husband’s business became too much for us and was sold through very unusual circumstances, which were clearly an answer to prayer. We home-schooled our children and moved to the country, where I continued my practice. The Lord took us through many painful experiences along the way, but despite these trials we can say with certainty that God is good! Our children have grown to be strong in Him and are now involved in their own Christian endeavours.
I can certainly testify to the fact that Jesus Christ does all things well! My favourite Bible verse fits our situation perfectly:
"Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not unto your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths." (Prov.3:5,6).
Speaking Engagements & Workshops
Margaret relates well to groups of all sizes and would enjoy being a guest speaker at your next women's fellowship, retreat or seminar. Her talks, slide presentations and workshops reflect her love for biblical authenticity and topical excellence.
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