The following is excerpted from chapter three of Transformed in His Presence: The Need for Prayer in Counseling by Roger Peugh and Tammy Schultz, who are on the faculty of Grace College and Seminary. This new release by BMH Book, a 136-page paperback, sells for $10.99 (ISBN 0884593007) and may be obtained online at www.bmhbooks.com or by calling (toll-free) 1-800-348-2756.
The older we become, the more we realize Jesus taught that the essence of life is loving God and loving others (Matthew 22:34-40). Caregiving, then, is helping others to love God and to love people.
This is an uncomplicated concept, but it is not easy. Facing staggeringly complex human entanglements, multiple losses, trauma, and addictions is anything but easy.
But perhaps we have added to the burden by making the task far more complex than our Lord intended. He knows that against the rigors and sorrows of a fallen world, we are only dust (Psalm 103:14). He intentionally fashioned us to need and enjoy interdependent relationships with each other and to live our lives dependent upon Him.
He never wanted us to lend a hand to hurting people all by ourselves. He wants us to ask Him for help as we walk with broken individuals.
Mark records an encounter with a paralyzed man. If ever there was a man who was truly loved by his friends, we find him described in Mark 2:1-12.
The disabled man was brought to Jesus, the only one who could free him of his paralysis, but he came away with more than just a healed body. Jesus can and often will change our circumstances, heal our bodies, prompt an adulterous spouse to give up the affair, rescue us from financial straits.
But sometimes He does not. And when He does not alter our situation, He still without exception desires to ease our greatest struggle-our tendency to live independently and alone, alienated from Him.
The friends of the disabled man are remarkable examples of what Christian counselors are called to do. Christian soul care is all about helping people discover the presence of Jesus. The friends of the disabled man ripped the roof off to get to Jesus. What price will we pay to help hurting people find Jesus? This is the crux of true transformation, teaching others to “approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need” (Hebrews 4:16).
To Be in the Presence of Jesus
Perhaps, like us, you wonder what could be meant by the phrase “into the presence of Jesus.” The stretcher bearers brought their disabled friend directly into the physical presence of our Lord. Today, when we guide someone into the presence of Christ, we can’t do it physically.
To enjoy the presence of God, to enjoy being close to Him, we need to tell Him we are sorry for the ways we hurt Him and others. We must call Him. And we don’t have to shout, because He is closer than our skin.
Discovering that God is with us all the time (1 Thessalonians 5:17; 1 Chronicles 16:11) is like using a cell phone that is constantly connected. God is listening on the other end 24/7. Prayer is far better than any cell phone since there are no batteries to go dead, we are never out of range, the signal is never garbled, He never misses our call, and He has prepaid all charges! And whatever language you speak, He does too.
Roger reflects: I have long been fascinated with electronic devices. Recently, however, I was embarrassed by my ignorance. I had been accessing the Internet in my office using a dial-up connection, believing it would be quite complicated to hook up to the school’s faster network.
After two years of delay, I finally contacted the Computer Services Department and asked how much trouble it would be for them to help me connect to the Internet via the campus network. “All you have to do is plug in the cable,” they told me.
Sure enough! The moment I plugged in the cable, it worked. I was mortified. The high-speed Internet connection, less than three feet from my computer, had been available for at least 24 months but sat unused because of my lack of knowledge.
God is present with us always, closer than our breath, waiting for us to spend time with Him
We can’t make people change. But we can encourage hurting people to spend time with the One who offers the best kind of change. When the disabled man on the mat was physically healed by Jesus, he was faced with a choice of how he would live the rest of his life.
Ultimately, his friends could not change his heart. They could not heal him. But they did the greatest thing they could for him-they led him to Jehovah-Rophe, The Lord who Heals (Exodus 15:22-26, Jer. 30:17). This is what true transformation is all about-leading people to the One who heals.
What We Think It Means
In the turmoil of working with tormented individuals, what does it look like lovingly to lower a hurting person through a rooftop-smack dab in front of Jesus?
Phil, a counselor in a residential facility, began talking with Melina, a 16-year-old, articulate, well-mannered African-American who lived in the facility for a time.
Melina grew up in the projects in a Midwestern city. Her mother’s crack cocaine addiction led to Melina and two younger siblings being removed from their home when Melina was about five years old. Over the next ten years, she went from one foster home to another.
Melina’s mother engaged in sex for drugs or drug money. Her six children were fathered by multiple men. Melina did not know her father. She said she still loved her mother, although she resented having to act as a parent when still a young child. She longed to recover the childhood stolen by her mother’s addiction.
Melina relayed a vivid memory of sexual abuse by one of her mother’s drug friends shortly before she was removed from the home. She wondered, out loud, whether or not her mother knew about the abuse and had covered for the attacker. She wanted to see the abuser in prison, but believed he had gone undetected and unpunished.
Phil asked about her ability to trust others, and Melina told him of her attraction to gangs. Gangs, she explained, provided her drugs (to escape her pain), fun (which she had missed out on as a child), protection (from her attacker), provision (lacking at home), and a strong sense of security (an overarching theme in the conversation).
Melina had big dreams for her future-to finish high school and college, and then to become a family doctor. Thinking about the long and difficult road to such lofty goals, she sighed, “Sometimes I give up on myself.”
Phil realized that Melina’s pain and many fears were far more than he could handle. Phil asked, “Where could I take her for help but into the presence of the best of all Fathers?” He asked God to help him be a representative of Him until she learned to trust Him on her own.