The purpose of this article is to start a conversation and provide an introduction about the problems of living. Specifically, however, I want to bring this conversation into the fold of a counseling conversation by having us consider how a professional counselor would think about problems of living from a christian worldview. The main reason the counseling industry exists in the first place is because people face difficult circumstances. We encounter suffering, pain and difficulty throughout our lives, and sometimes we realize we need someone else’s help in order make sense of those problems.
General Problems of Living
People die, people get sick, people endure abuse, people are overcome with anxiety and depression and some even experience psychotic episodes. Some people do things to help themselves cope with their various difficulties (some good, some not so good). Sometimes, we make decisions that unwittingly turn out to not be good for us (like spending money we don’t have). Other times, some of us are deliberate about the bad choices we make that lead to increased suffering and difficulty in life (such as crime), other times we do things because we feel totally powerless to act otherwise (such as addiction). Sometimes, life can be so difficult and painful that some may wish to deliberately end it.
The core reason for the experience of the problems of living rests in one word: Sin. To say another way – we face problems in living because of the reality of the presence of sin in us and in the world. By in us I mean to say that sin is a description of our human nature (we are sinners) and we are inclined to an act in sinful ways (such as lying — lying is a sin). By in the world I mean that sin effects everything in the world. The main way we experience this is by the fact that everything in the world (including us) eventually dies and or leads to some kind of gradual decay. Have you ever wondered why do people die? The short answer is sin. Sin has has so negatively impacted us and the world that everything is leading toward a state of death and dying. Sounds pessimistic or hopeless? What is anyone to do if at the end of it all, we just simply die and are no more?
If the presence of sin us an in the world was the final answer then this would be a hopeless situation, especially if you are like me and have lived a life of persistent problems in living. Perhaps you’ve faced medical ailments you’re whole life (like some people I know personally)? What if you’ve been victimized by brutal people such as your parents, spouses, family, neighbors or other people in society? What if you’re addicted to substances and are having profound difficulty breaking free from things such as drug, alcohol, porn or sex? Fill in the blank of any what if and it is very highly likely that someone you know or someone you know knows someone who can relate.
Taking the Shovel and Digging Deeper
Sin is the core reason behind all the problems of living, but if you can imagine this, there is bigger problem behind all our problems in living. This bigger problem is spiritual in nature. The bigger, deeper and shall I say more significant problem concerns how sin effects interactions, dynamics or, shall I say, capacity for relationship with God. To answer concisely, sin cuts off relationship with God. Just the same way that when individuals commit horrible crimes in society, and those individuals face the just punishment of a conviction of the crime and serve the penalty such as jail or as in some cases the death penalty, those individuals are effectively cut off from their society. In like manner, sin cut us off from direct access to God.
Any hope of establishing access to God depends on God himself. This is where the previous metaphor breaks down. There are cases when people complete their sentence and by that work of completing their sentence regain access to their respective society. Unlike a person who serves their punishment for the crime, however, as it concerns access to God, sin effectively permanently cuts us off unless something or someone else intervenes.
Fortunately, there is a way of hope that deals with the problem of sin in a substantive and lasting way. Regretfully, however, I must end here. In part two, I will pick-up and discuss what this intervention looks like and what hope for a sinner living in a sinful world looks like, but more specifically, how it circles back and helps us deal with the problems in living.
Two Questions to Consider:
1. What do you see as your biggest problem in living either now, in the past or you foresee coming up in the future?
2. What was or how do you envision where your greatest and longest lasting help comes from in the midst of those problems?