Greetings from everyone at R:TC,
People sometimes come to R:TC curious if Biblical Counseling “works.” I have heard different questions such as, “Is it ‘real’ counseling?” Or “Can we trust non-licensed counseling?” We desire to be patient and understanding of these curiosities. Our best answer to those questions are stories of real and true change that ripple in ways that are undeniable.
What follows is a beautiful story from one of our counselors of how God’s mercy softened an abusive man’s hard heart. It is a story of repentance before a Holy God and real change that leads a husband from harsh words to gentle service for his family in love.
A Hard Heart Softened
I recently met with a man referred to R:TC by the elders at his church. This man exhibited ongoing patterns of controlling behaviors toward his family. This was a difficult situation. We spent months of extensive counseling with this man. We worked with his church to help hold him accountable. We brought the light of the gospel into the dark places in his life. His process of redemption has also included an extended time of separation from his family.
After many prayers and countless hours of hard work, in God’s severe mercy he opened this man’s eyes to see, confess, and turn from his controlling tendencies. Part of the fruit of our counseling was him seeing that his controlling behaviors were the fruit of his deep fears and selfish desires. In the face of those fears and desires he used to bully, control, and abuse his family. Now, he has learned to turn to God and then his community to ask for help and prayer when he feels anxious and overwhelmed. Christ speaks personally to this man’s worries and enables him to respond differently with love towards his family.
He still struggles. During counseling he provides weekly updates that regularly include family interactions where he has responded poorly. He is often still “confused” by how quickly he can fall into old patterns of sinful behavior. But the growth we see is that he more openly confesses these occasions and takes time to journal through them with the Lord. He shares these incidents with his pastor, accountability partner, and myself. We work through these reflections and look to the Lord who truly is for this man, Immanuel (God with us, Isaiah 7:14; 8:8, 10).
I saw new fruit this past week in his life as he moved from repentance to love in action. During our weekly meeting the man reported that his wife had been extensively sick for several days. As a result he spent time cooking, cleaning, and helping to care for and transport the children to their activities. From my experience working with oppressive men, I have learned to be cautious and slow to rejoice too quickly when I hear such updates. There’s frequently two sides of such stories—sometimes such statements aren’t true and other times it may be true but abusive behaviors are still happening. As part of his accountability and growth in community, I made a point to confirm with the counselor of this man’s wife what she experienced that week. In doing so I was able to confirm the positive report that he had indeed relieved his wife’s burdens by taking on additional responsibilities in their home while she was ill. Only the Lord could author such sweet irony: whereas this man has historically added to his wife’s burdens by complaining about her cooking, critiquing the lack of cleanliness in the home, and condemning their children, here were multiple examples over the course of several days where small but significant reversals took place.
This man still has a long ways to go in breaking free from sinful cravings that enslave him and hurt others, but we both are increasingly confident that the Lord will see him through, regardless of the time it takes (Phil. 1:6). In a holiday season where it’s understandably depressing to be separated from his family, this man left our session with a countenance of great hope. We ended our time together considering the reality of Immanuel—God has come to “make His blessings flow as far as the Curse is found.”
Real Change by a Real God
Working in abusive situations is among the hardest work we do at R:TC. And it is especially difficult to work with someone who is abusive. At R:TC we are committed to providing the needed and necessary support for victims of abuse, and we are also committed to helping oppressive people. The work is hard and requires a wide network (elders, advocates, other counselors) of people to be involved.
We have many stories that haven’t and won’t turn out like the one you just read. And even in this story there is so much work left to do on the part of this husband as he seeks to grow in grace. Please pray for this young family. Pray the wife will bravely stand in the grace of God by calling what is evil, evil. Pray the husband will stay the path of humility as he learns to take refuge in God rather than in his own way. Pray for them right now if you can.
I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ. We don’t put our hope in a process or even in Biblical Counseling itself, rather our hope for change is in God’s working in our lives. Praise be to God that change comes by and through the Spirit at work!
Grace and Peace to you in Christ,
Biblical Counseling Director for Redemption: Twin Cities