Counseling that Backfires

 I’m upset. 


Someone I counseled has left the church. The enemy has again used shame to divide and conquer. When will we learn? Here’s the story. I’m afraid It’s repeated all too often.

A wife came to me in tears. She informed me that her husband was having an emotional affair with a woman at work. As far as she knew, the affair had not led to sexual impropriety. But still, the marriage was distressed. I encouraged her to forgive her husband. She was also made to understand that he now had the responsibility to cut off all ties with the woman, and not allow any room for continued temptation and failure. It was his responsibility to rebuild trust and to re-establish healthy family boundaries.  

After some time passed, I noticed the couple, who had been faithful to attend church, began to miss services. And here’s what I’ve determined to be true.

First, I should have required that both spouses come to see me, but I didn’t know what she had to say. What I believe happened was that shame took over the husband’s thinking. A quiet man by nature, instead of repenting for his actions, he allowed shame to rule his heart. Then, the enemy made him feel bad about coming to church. He said to himself, “I wonder what the pastor thinks about me now, and I wonder who else knows?” Shame literally drove him away! And that makes me mad!

Not at him, but the enemy, who majors in placing shame and condemnation on those who misunderstand the convicting power of the Holy Spirit. Condemnation draws our attention toward our sin and produces shame. Conviction produces healthy guilt and draws us to repent. When we repent, we receive God’s mercy and pardon, and the Lord shows us a better way. Condemnation always divides and conquers.

Second, I’m declaring war on shame, unhealthy guilt, and condemnation. Individuals who do not feel healthy guilt that leads to shame and condemnation need not seek help until they are ready to truly repent. This is the third couple in less than six months who has exited the house of grace. Unless and until individuals quit reversing the process, there will always be fallout. True shepherds, who want to help “fix” people, must realize that salvation without repentance is no salvation at all. 

Those who sin against the Lord, their marriage partner, and all who love them must be made to understand that dropping out after sin has been identified and discussed is not their answer. My point? Don’t blame the church, don’t blame anyone! Repent from your heart!  Accept Christ’s free gift of forgiveness and determine to move forward by His grace and with the help of the local church. Don’t let shame cause you spiritual defeat. 

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