Too many Christian counselors are in bondage to the horrific influence of Sigmund Freud as they attempt to understand their counselees and fix their problems. Freud developed a complex set of theories to describe the human personality and to attempt to understand and treat mental-emotional disorders. Basic to these theories is what Freud described as the unconscious portion of the mind, which he says is hidden from us and not open to our direct knowledge. The usual analogy is that of an iceberg, with most of the mind submerged, hidden, and filled with a vast amount of powerful, motivating material. Freud believed the unconscious is formed in early childhood and determines the future condition of the person, thus setting a standard of searching one’s past to understand one’s current condition.
Looking backwards in counseling in search of reasons for a person’s present condition is a grave contrast to Christians remembering Christ and moving forward in newness of life. Digging for past details and rummaging around in the mind about one’s early life focuses on me, myself, and I (see 2 Tim. 3:1-7). And the more we look at self and try to fix the self, the more we will be engaging and enhancing the flesh. In contrast, the more we look at Christ, the more we will become like Him (2 Cor. 3:18). As people look to the Lord and His Word they nourish the spirit. Nevertheless, in spite of these diametrical differences and perspectives, too many Christians are running in the wrong direction.
We have often encouraged believers not to delve into the past to understand the present, but rather to walk according to the Spirit in the present and to keep eternity in view. However, to biblically remember the past is important and can be very useful during trials as we remember God’s Word and what He has already done for us. In fact, it is essential for all of us who have been given new life in Christ to actively remember what we have learned regarding our identity in Christ, our spiritual provisions, and the power to walk according to His ways. Therefore we encourage one another to remember His Word and His unfailing faithfulness to us.
What a contrast between the way counseling often uses the past and the way God’s Word encourages us to remember Him, what Christ has already accomplished, and the ongoing work of the Holy Spirit. Sifting through the dust of past circumstances and ruminating on how the sins of others might have influenced who we are today is in stark contrast to remembering the cross and all of God’s mercies to us throughout our years. A persistent spiritual battleground lies in what we choose to remember. The flesh wars against the spirit and works to justify and exonerate self. But as we look to the Lord and remember the cross, we are enabled by His grace to leave sins we have committed and the sins committed against us on the cross with the rest of our old sinful self as we identify with Christ’s death and resurrection (Romans 6-8).
The Bible is full of truths to be remembered and applied. Even new believers often know plenty to remember and apply, and believers who have been walking with the Lord over the years, should be well-equipped, not only with the essentials of the faith, but with His faithful work in their lives through His Word and through the indwelling Holy Spirit enabling them to apply the Word. Believers can choose to remember the cross when they have slipped back into the old ways of the flesh. As soon as they turn back to God through confession, repentance, and faith, they are “cleansed from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9). Thus believers have experienced God’s faithfulness both for external difficulties and for the internal warfare of the flesh and the spirit. Whether assailed by problems in our circumstances or by personal sin, we can remember God’s faithful presence, power, and plan to conform us to the image of Christ (Romans 8:28-19).
Remembering God’s Word and what He has already done for us in the past puts a dramatically different perspective on every problem of living and strengthens our faith to persevere unto the end. The Passover was a memorial service designed to remind the Israelites of how God had delivered them from Egyptian bondage and brought them to a land of blessing. Today believers participate in communion to remember Christ’s death until He comes. Every day believers can turn every trial into a time of remembering the cross, of being thankful to Him, of “looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith” (Heb. 12:2).
Dwelling on the negative aspects of the past either by oneself or in counseling weakens believers. In contrast, remembering times of God’s faithfulness through life strengthens us to walk according to our new life by grace through faith. Whereas most counseling focuses on problems and many counselors search the past to solve people’s problems, God has given believers a superior way. God’s way is through Jesus: “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me” (John 14:6).
There is no need to go back to understand the old man because Christ has given believers new life. In following Freud by attempting to improve people’s present condition by understanding their past, people continue in bondage to self. Just the opposite happens when believers follow Christ. As they turn their thoughts to Him in faith and remember the new life He has given, they are encouraged, edified, and equipped to live according to God’s glorious plan: “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me” (Gal. 2:20).
(PsychoHeresy Awareness Letter, July-August 2014, Vol. 22, No. 4)