I never quote here from the NIrV, the simplified (children’s) version of the NIV, but somehow it seemed appropriate:
- Matthew 9:12
Jesus heard that. So he said, “Those who are healthy don’t need a doctor. Sick people do.
- Mark 2:17
Jesus heard that. So he said to them, “Those who are healthy don’t need a doctor. Sick people do. I have not come to get those who think they are right with God to follow me. I have come to get sinners to follow me.”
- Luke 5:31
Jesus answered them, “Those who are healthy don’t need a doctor. Sick people do.
I grew up in a culture where only people who had mental or emotional problems sought professional counseling. Anyone in my elementary or high school who admitted to having an appointment with a psychologist would be treated like a leper, and as I got older, there was a certain stigma that remained attached to having a need for a mental health professional.
Recently, however, I’ve been listening to sermons and podcasts and reading books by respected Christian authors who freely admit regular — usually weekly — visits with their counselor, including pastors of some of the very largest American churches.
The stigma of the past just isn’t there now.
I’m not sure if this has more to do with the level of detachment we feel in modern society and therefore simply need someone to talk to, or if it has more to do with the possibility we’re more messed up than previous generations. Or perhaps because we now speak in terms of having a life coach the process is just a little bit less mysterious.
Chuck DeGroat and Johnny LaLonde looked into this two years ago at Q blog. Rather than take the easy way out and advocate for therapy as a preventative strategy, they suggested that we’re all messed up one way or another.
Good therapy is challenging and costly, because it exposes both the depths of your woundedness and the extent of your sinful self-sabotage…
When we go to therapy, we admit—at some level—that we don’t have life figured out, that blind spots erode our sense of vision for ourselves and others, that our motives are mixed. To say, “I’m in therapy” takes courage, because we’re admitting we don’t have it all together. And that is a rare admission these days…
We may spend years avoiding our pain, avoiding our stories, avoiding our subtle forms of self-sabotage and relational sabotage. But when they catch up to us, therapy is one way God uses to awaken us…
In a subsequent article — now offline — LaLonde returned to the blog with some practical steps for people to take in selecting a counselor. He admitted that some offer quick fixes, while with others, it takes a few weeks to feel comfortable sharing your inner self with that person.
But probably the best thing articles like this accomplish is to remove the longstanding association between counseling therapy and more severe mental illness.
So then what do we do with our opening? Is it only the sick that need a doctor? Well, either Jesus was wrong, or perhaps we’re all just a little more messed up than we think. After all, in the context of the statement — repeated in all three synoptic gospels — Jesus is Himself the doctor and for all the various types of emotional, social, mental and spiritual wholeness we need; more than anything else, we needed a Savior.