Many years ago as Tricia and I began our counseling through Klesis Ministries (a ministry we founded in 1990), we recognized that unless people "owned" getting better from their side of the table, they would only engage so far in healing. It didn't make any difference how hard we worked or how skillful we were, if they held back we all went in circles.
Below are 10 decisions we ask people to wrestle with before we begin the counseling process. If they take it seriously, these decisions put them on sound footing to get well, at least in terms of their commitment.
1. THE DECISION TO BE WELL: While Christian counseling and healing ultimately depends the movement of the Holy Spirit, it is also true that you have a crucial part to play in the process. You must commit to doing what it takes to heal and get well. Even if if you have little idea what they might look like or entail in the process, you must choose this perspective. It opens you to trusting God. If your will is not decidedly in the effort, no matter how skilled or diligent the counselor, you will only go as far as you decide.
2. THE DECISION TO FACE PAIN: In the course of getting well you have to decide that you will face the pain necessary to heal. If you want to avoid the pain, you will only waste your time and that of the counselor. There will be struggles to face in the forms of grief, anger, guilt and shame, but you will not face them alone . Jesus will walk with you as will we. Exposing the pain begins the healing process. Walking through suffering with Christ leads to the treasures of faith, hope and maturity. (Romans 5:1-5; James 1:2-4; 1 Peter 1:6-7)
3. THE DECISION TO FACE A FEAR: Along with facing pain, you will also have to face what you are afraid of. It could be hidden sin that makes you ashamed. It could be the fear of going through trauma again. Maybe you are afraid of being abandoned and rejected. It could be the fear of facing the responsibility of being well. Whatever the source of the fear, it has to be faced so that it is not the LORD of your life, but Jesus is. Fear cripples; facing it in Christ's presence leads to freedom. (Psalm 27:1, 56:3; Isaiah 41:10; Mark 5:36; John 14:27; Hebrews 13:6; 1 John 4:18)
4. THE DECISION TO GIVE TIME: Emotional or spiritual healing for most does not happen overnight. There are no quick fixes or magic bullets. You must have patience and perseverance to allow the Holy Spirit time to heal you as He chooses. He will not force progress faster than you are willing to embrace. Settle in your heart the commitment to take whatever time is necessary to let the LORD free you from what binds and afflicts . (Psalm 40:1-4)
5. THE DECISION TO WORK: Counseling and healing are hard work. You must decide to work at the process of getting well, otherwise you will depend on others to do it for you. That means doing homework assigned to you or any other task the counselor gives to help you heal or change. Passivity hamstrings the process. Lip service nullifies authentic effort. No one is going to fix your life for you. You must choose to make the effort to do what the LORD asks of you to heal. (Philippians 2:12-13)
6. THE DECISION NOT TO BLAME OTHERS: It is a chronic sin of men and women to blame others for their problems, and failures. But to do so is often to hide behind a smokescreen and not take responsibility for one's growth and maturity. Exposing sin, your own and that of others against you, is a decision to live in the truth. Refusing to make other people responsible for the choices we make honors God's call on us to " live as children of light." (Ephesians 5:8)
7. THE DECISION TO TRUST: Underlying the decision to get well is the decision to trust God as you work through your problems. This Psalmist tells us that the "LORD's unfailing love surrounds the man or woman who trusts in him," (Psalm 32:10) and Isaiah tells us that "the one who trusts in Him will never be put to shame." (Isaiah 28:16) dealing with deep-seated addictions, traumas and pain requires that your trust in God be grounded in the belief that He passionately loves you, and will see you through the struggles to be healed. In turn, you also have to trust that we your counselors have your best interests in Christ.
8. THE DECISION TO EMBRACE THE TRUTH: Implied in all of this is the decision to live in the truth at all costs. Through the healing process, Jesus tells us that knowing the truth will set us free. (John 8:32) The LORD " delights in men who are truthful," (Proverbs 12:22) and He " desires truth in the inner parts." (Psalm 51:6) The decision to get well is the choice to know the truth about God, about yourself, and about others. You must decide to let the Holy Spirit lead you into the truth so that lies, illusions, fantasies, and deceits can be brought to light, and their influence neutralized.
9. THE DECISION TO FORGIVE: In order to be healed and live the kind of life God has for you, He wants you to decide to forgive those who have hurt, abused, betrayed, abandoned, offended and violated you. Obviously, this can only be done by His grace, but you must choose to cooperate with the Holy Spirit in forgiving. It is essential to your getting better. Even if you can only pray for the willingness to forgive, you have to decide to move in that direction (Matthew 6:14, 18:21; Colossians 3:13; Ephesians 4:32) To forgive is to free yourself from the effects of the sin against you, and to not condemn the persons who harmed you.
10. THE DECISION TO LIVE A NEW LIFE: It takes courage to live without old hurts and fears to hide behind. You need to decide to discover what it means to live as one of God's treasured Beloved despite your brokenness.