Coping or Cure?
People naturally seek treatments suitable to the causes they believe are driving their bad behavior. Today, people seem to rely most upon such methodologies as medical treatment, psychotherapy, and education.
Coping skills like those offered by such treatments can be effective in the sense that they may squelch the conscience and help people feel better temporarily. But a cure, not coping, is what you want, is it not? Certainly a cure is what we want to help you find.²
In Soul Prescription we refer to sin frequently as “sickness.” But we do not mean by this that our sin is something for which we do not bear responsibility. We are not victims of our sin; we are the perpetrators. The analogy of sickness is useful because it describes the way our spiritual system becomes disordered through sin.
We are not interested in helping you live with your problem—we want you to be fundamentally transformed. And a cure like this is possible only if we get to the heart of the problem.
Long ago, when Israel’s prophets and priests failed to deal with the people’s rebellion against God, the Lord said of these religious professionals,
“They dress the wound of my people as though it were not serious. ‘Peace, peace,’ they say, when there is no peace.” —Jeremiah 6:14, NIV
Learning a lesson from this, we must do more than administer superficial treatments for our chronic behavior problems expressing our sinful nature. We cannot delude ourselves into thinking we are at a place of spiritual peace when actually war is raging in our hearts.
As Jesus approached the end of His time on earth, He told His disciples, “I am leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give isn’t like the peace the world gives” (John 14:27). In part, He was saying that there is a kind of worldly peace. This is the peace that can come through coping strategies that make us feel better for a while. But Jesus’ peace is qualitatively different. It is based on real, heart-level change that can come only through the work of the Holy Spirit. In the words of one Old Testament prophet, “righteousness will bring peace” (Isaiah 32:17).
Unfortunately, it is easy to mix up the two kinds of peace: worldly and godly.
You may find that going to a counselor or a doctor will give you some relief or help you address contributing factors to your problems. But what we are doing with Soul Prescription is something much more basic and direct: we want to help you deal with the heart of your problem. And you know what that is. It is sin.
Sin really is the heart of the problem, because in the end each of us is responsible for our own behavior. Regardless of the influences that may be acting upon us, sin is an act of the will. We choose to do what we know is wrong. As John Bunyan—author of The Pilgrim’s Progress—said, “There is no way to kill a man’s righteousness but by his own consent.” This is true even when the sin has become habitual.
We have to tell you (in case you do not already know) that it is never safe to try to live with a sin problem. Sin is like a cancer: it grows in seriousness over time. A little entertaining of lust, for example, can grow to encompass pornography use, adultery, and even crimes like rape. Furthermore, sin is like a contagion: it spreads from one person to another. If your problem is a quick temper, your lashing out at a coworker might cause her to overreact to her child at home. Then the child becomes upset and acts cruelly to a playmate. And so on.
If you throw a rock in a still pond, the ripples spread out and gradually die away. But if you commit a sin, the ripples it sends out may not die out; they may continue spreading within your own life or the lives of those around you. The harm they can do is incalculable. Now, we ask you, is this not a good reason to seek real healing for your sin problem and not just learn to live with it?
Soul Prescription is not for people who want to dodge their sin problem or merely cover it up or make it better but not get rid of it. It is for people who are sick and tired of their sin problem and are filled with a drive to get rid of it once and for all. They are ready, at last, to say, “I can’t do this on my own. I need God’s help to deal with my sin.” This approach requires courage and faith, but it has the virtue of dealing with the real problem.
Click here to continue reading abridged chapter 1: DEALING WITH BEHAVIOR PROBLEMS.