I'm reading the book Women Helping Women. It's a book about how to counsel women in various situations. The first four chapters discuss the biblical counseling approach, as opposed to other, secular methods of counseling. The book is not a defense per se of biblical counseling, but establishes its position so that the other chapters are an outflow of the principles in biblical counseling. I'll be doing a review when I'm finished.
There is a chapter about counseling post-abortion women, written by Ellen Scipione. The counselee is encouraged to seek forgivess and restoration. Guilt and shame are the overwhelming feelings post-abortion women have. Some women are told "forgive yourself" as a means to alleviate their guilt. Scipione has a different perspective on this:
The Bible never teaches her to be concerned with whether she has forgiven herself or not. Rather, she is to be concerned about God's forgiveness and the forgiveness of those whom she has sinned against. She is to embrace God's lavish forgiveness in Christ (Ephesians 1), reminding herself daily of His mercy and grace, but she is not to becomed embroiled in psychological manpulations to try to "feel forgiven." Forgiveness is a matter of faith and belief in God's character and His Word, not feelings. She must believe that God will forgive her when she asks (I John 1:9) and that His forgiveness is all that matters. His forgivenes is not based on her worthiness; in fact, just the opposite is true. His forgiveness is based on His goodness, which He extended to her even when she was His enemy (Romans 5:5-8). She cannot earn His love or His mercy; she must not seek to assure herself that, before God, she is somehow worthy. God is the only worthy One.
Of course, this flies in the face of popular thought. A worldview that does not include God would not understand such counsel. It is not surprising that a counselor with an opposing worldview would counsel someone to forgive herself. The woman needs to deal with her guilt; outside of a Christian worldview, how else is that done?
This approach follows from unbelief. At the centre of unbelief is self. Self becomes the god, the standard, the arbiter of truth. Of course we would seek forgiveness from ourselves if we have become our own god. And it is not just women in a post-abortion situation who may be counseled to forgive themselves. We hear the sentiment that we have to love ourselves first before we can love others. We can't forgive others unless we forgive ourselves. Who has become the god? We have.
What we must understand when we sin is that we have forgiveness, and that it is not of our own doing. It is entirely outside of ourselves. We have to accept our utter dependency on Him before we can deal with the guilt.
I am often hard on others, judgmental, critical. I often don't forgive easily. Why would I seek my own forgiveness first when I am like that? God forgives much easier than humans do.
This chapter dealt with issues I'm totally unfamiliar with, but the principles of helping wome struggling with such guilt can be used in other situations. This author had the counselee memorizing Scripture passages and dealing with every issue in a Scriptural way; that's biblical counseling.
It may strike us that we are not professional counselors, so why would we need to read such a book? Well, maybe one day, someone you know may come to you with a confession about something like this. Maybe it will be someone you know; someone close to you. It's good to be prepared.