I’m intrigued as well by you talking about batting average. And I’ll sometimes tell people that even one blade of grass on the moon is a miracle. And even one person like this transformed from a person of anger and judgment to becoming a person of grace and love is a miracle. So tell us in terms of what kind of positive results do you see? I don’t know if you have percentages? Or instances of … How have you seen this happen since a lot of us probably haven’t seen many cases where it’s happened?
So I think you’re going to look at a few different things. So let’s just do the statistical rubrics which don’t tell us a whole lot about the heart. But interventions, statistically, has a higher or I should say a lower rate of recidivism. So a man convicted of a crime who completes a course similar to ours in anything, even biblical or not, has a lower rate of recidivism. Even self-reflection helps the behavior.
But as far as transformation, that’s something that is observed over time. So one of the passages I like to use when I’m talking with pastors about this because one of the things in biblical counseling is that, I think, some of us have been pre-programmed to, “Well, if this takes longer than eight weeks, then it’s not worth my time.” And this type of work is not an eight week work.
I mean I tell pastors, when we’re doing consulting stuff, that we should plan for at least a year of work. That’s really a conservative estimate. Because I like to use Ephesians 4, the idea of, “When’s a liar no longer a liar? When’s a thief no longer a thief?” Paul communicates that, for instance with the thief, he’s no longer a thief when he has a job and he’s become generous. That doesn’t happen after a couple weeks of counseling, right? He’s got to build an income. He’s got to be demonstrative in his generosity so over time, people can see it. I think the same’s true in our work.
So we can look at recidivism and say, “Okay, it works that way.” We can look at behavior change and say, “Okay, he’s not as violent and people at home seem to be safe.” But the really filter has to be transformation. In order to see that, we have to watch over time, as you just said a second ago. Has he moved from a person of violence to a person of gentleness? Has he moved from a person who exercises privilege as a husband to somebody who exercises leadership as a husband? And that’s only going to be observable over time.
I think those are the marks of transformation, is giving him every opportunity to succeed and then holding him accountable when he doesn’t.
One problem I’ve seen in cases of angry and violent men is worldly sorrow too.
Where you get enough pressure and for a period of time, the behavior will change but it’s only the Spirit who can move someone from the deeds of the flesh to the fruit of the spirit.
That’s a good observation. So two things there. One as I’m doing training, I often talk about the pivot point of repentance. We tend to like that in the Church when someone says, “Yes, I’m sorry. I won’t do it again.” And we can be guilty of then dropping the ball there in saying, “Oh good, everything’s good.” But that’s just the turning point and we need this eventual, observable repentance, that fruit of repentance over time.
The second thing that I like to say is that pithy little statement, “You can lead a horse to water but you can’t make him drink.” And then I say, “But you can’t feed him crackers.” We can’t force anyone to do anything and that worldly sorrow can come by pressure along. But Godly sorrow comes only after a man is thirsty enough to see not just the how dastardly his choices were in the past, but how amazing the opportunity is in the future. And so I want to see men become so thirsty to be the type of man that God’s designed him to be that they abandon that old way and they embrace the new way. So yeah, that’s a wonderful observation.
And the key to that in many ways, is time and then avoiding hoops for an individual to jump through. So we don’t just want things to check off the list when we hold men accountable. We want concrete measurable, observable steps in spiritual development.
So yeah, he might be a Bible scholar now because he’s reading his Bible every day but is there a gap between that as practical theology? Evaluating that, and again guys, this comes back to how positioned biblical counselors are at this. We’ve been doing this with other things for so long. We’re really positioned to speak into this maybe better than any other field I know.
Typically, “why” questions are ineffective in counseling, as people are more likely to blame their sin on the behavior of another. This is especially true in the case of abusers. Asking an abuser why he hit his wife will open the door for him to blame her perceived lack of respect or submission, her chastisement of him, or some other aspect of her behavior that provoked him. This is not what the biblical counselor is after. Instead, asking “what” questions provides more specific, accurate, and valuable data. For example, asking the counselee “What did you expect your wife to do after you began calling her those names?” can expose the true desires of the heart. Through “what” questions, the counselor can discover the lust for control, desire for power, and overwhelming pride that is generally driving abusers. With this step, the biblical counselor should begin to look out for true, biblical repentance.
Some Things to Consider
- Power and control are at the hub of the wheel because they are at the center of violent relationships. Domestic violence is not caused by one or both parties being drunk, high, stressed out, or angry. Abusers want power and control over their victims and they will use any means they can to do so. (James 4:1-4)
- Each spoke of the wheel represents a category of abusive tactics, ranging from emotional abuse to economic abuse to use of children. Although every violent relationship is different, they share many of these tactics in common. (Luke 6:43-45)
- The rim of the wheel represents physical and sexual violence. Although some abusive relationships do not include the reality of physical and sexual violence, the threat is always there for the victim and the fear that goes along with that threat can be a powerful motivator for the victim to stay in the relationship.
“Fear of man will prove to be a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord is kept safe.” Proverbs 29:25
Death. The kind of pressure that he’s undergoing. For some of us, we’re blessed. We have a position, we have a salary, we have people who are responding to the Word, responding to our counseling but we’re constantly complaining that God isn’t something and we just forget. Paul has no pension and Paul’s actual life is on the line and he’s saying, “I’m scared” and he’s looking to the Lord. The convergence of things that cause us hopelessness, despair, sadness, are legitimate. This is legitimate fear. I understand irrational fear very much in my own life. I’m a fearful person. A person of anxieties, person of melancholy. I am Eeyore, “We’re all gonna die.” My wife, Jessica, and you’ll know what I’m saying when you meet her, she’s Tigger. “It’s the morning, it’s a new day!” Right? But this is legitimate, sane fear. Emotional fatigue from external pressures of criticism, situational afflictions, bodily he’s tired, and all of this has made him sad. So let’s just pause there for a moment and say we get sad and we have pressures. Some of us imagine more pressures than there are but all of us have legitimate ones and there are times in your life when you will say, “I’m sad, I’m scared, I’m wore out, “I don’t have any rest, I can’t sleep, “and I’m afflicted”, and that statement, those statements, will not mean that you have no faith. Those statements will be undergirded by the faith you have to say them and to know that you are held by the one who undergirds all that stuff and gets through all that stuff. Because somehow he says, “But God”. Now here’s the thing, notice Paul can’t fix it all.
So number one, he can’t be everywhere at once, he’s local in a place. Number two, he has afflictions, he has fears that he cannot fix. Notice none of these circumstances change in his life. Something’s gonna change inside of him but his circumstances don’t change. It’s not fixed. It doesn’t go away. He’s gonna go to bed that night and everything is not made right and so you were never meant to fix it all. I know you’re trying so hard to. That’s why some of you are driving other people nuts. They have to walk on eggshells around you, they have to figure out how to talk to you ’cause you are constantly trying to fix it. And the thing is, being able to fix it all, being able to have the ability to do that, that’s described by a word like “omnipotent”, all powerful, able to fix anything and there’s only one person in the entire universe that has that quality and it isn’t you and it isn’t me, it’s God. You were never meant to repent because you couldn’t fix it. You’re meant to repent because you tried to fix it all. And Paul can’t fix it and he doesn’t know everything. He doesn’t know what’s gonna happen, that’s why he’s scared. He doesn’t know what’s coming around the next corner. He’s afflicted at every turn. To know everything is called “omniscience” and you and I, as a finite local creature, were never meant to know everything. Stop repenting because you don’t know everything. Start repenting because you’ve been trying to. That is the great temptation when these pressures come, to be like God: everywhere, fix it all, I know it all, I can manage it. And look at that remarkable penetrating freedom to deliver you from all that and just to say, “I gotta tell you, “this is a hard hard hard season of my life.” Just to say it. Because life under the Son is stressful. It involves criticism. It is psychologically, emotionally fatiguing and worrisome but God, but God, who comforts the downcast comforted us by whisking us away into a beach side cave where mystically He came down and we ate quinoa. It’s not like that. It’s just not like that. It’s not like that.