You may want to read:
Also, these notes do not accurately reflect all of the give-and-take of this session. More importantly, what you’re about to read is only one session in a series. This specific meeting was three hours, and it was an “in-process session,” the sixth one that I had with my friend.
Before this meeting, we had nearly twenty-five hours of conversation. The things addressed here are in the context of an established friendship. Because we had built the “relational bridge,” we were able to enter the deep waters of the person’s heart. I changed the name of the person and the situation. The actual historical data is not as essential as the truth conveyed.
This material will help you and the discipleship opportunities the Lord sends your way. This session was with a “counselor-in-training.” She took the notes that you’re about to read. The key to the success of this meeting was the humility and repentance of the counselee.
Mable, you recapped some of what has been happening in your life since our last meeting. After describing some of the events of the last couple of weeks, you asked Rick, “What do you think is the weirdest part of what I did?”
Rick responded how your behavior seems erratic. He drew a zig-zag diagram up and down on a piece of paper. It represented good to bad and back to good again. These ups and downs reflect your behavior. When he asked you why your behavior had been so erratic, you responded that you’re often unsure of what to think or how to react to people.
After Rick spent some time exploring your response, he asked if you struggled more with guilt or fear. You answered guilt, and this is where we spent the rest of the counseling session, as Rick explained a biblical view of guilt.
The Bible gives us an accurate picture of how we are to live. When we live within what the Bible teaches, we do not experience guilt. The Spirit is not quenched or grieved, and all is well in our relationship with God (1 Thessalonians 5:19; Ephesians 4:30). But if we don’t live by the clear teaching of Scripture, we are guilty, which is why we feel conviction from the Lord, a good thing. Conviction, pointing to guilt, is one of God’s many kindnesses to us.
Unfortunately, your understanding of right and wrong is much different from what the Bible teaches. When we do wrong, the Spirit of God convicts us of the wrongdoing, which guides us to repentance. We repent, and God removes all of our guilt. The gospel is the power that works for us to accomplish this.
You place burdens on yourself that are beyond what the Bible would teach. This habit is what gives you a lot of unnecessary conviction, unbiblical guilt, or what some call false guilt. At this point, Rick drew another diagram on a piece of paper with a lot of rocks on it and called them your “guilt rocks.”
Some of these stones you believe are from God. But others you think are from friends, children, extended family, Rick, me, people in your church, and co-workers. Rick drew them looking like rocks to show how heavy they are and how they weigh you down. Ultimately this can cause depression. You even acknowledged how you sometimes struggle with depression.
He explained how these rocks become your “authorities” if you allow them to be. They are like “voices” that tell you when you’re doing right or wrong. You either validate or invalidate whether they are right or wrong, and you are guilty or not guilty based on your conclusion. This cycle is messy and unbiblical, and it does not have God at the center of it. It is a self-centered interpretative grid based on a wrong understanding of God’s view of things.
Because you subject yourself to the control of these voices, you live in guilt that is not always legitimate. This overhanging cloud of guilt in your life fosters insecurity in your heart. You end up with an unbiblical process of producing guilt that causes a deep-seated and controlling fear of others. Biblically this is called fear of man (Proverbs 29:25).
These convoluted heart idolatries lead to your erratic behavior, which you permit other people to determine by their approval or disapproval of you. You are like a pinball that responds according to who is blaming you or telling you how to react. Rather than being controlled by God alone, according to a clear understanding of Him through the lens of Scripture, you allow others to control you.
The solution to illegitimate guilt and conviction is to listen to the one and only “Voice,” which has all authority in your life. That voice is the Lord’s. He is the one who defines what is right and wrong.
As your thinking lines up with His thinking, you will be able to discern where you are responsible and where you are not accountable. In time, this will not only eliminate your insecurity but will significantly reduce your erratic behavior.
At this juncture, Rick drew another line on a piece of paper. It looked something like this:
Insecurity: ——X————————————————— GOD
You are the “X” on the page. God is the goal, the Person you are heading toward with the hope of benefitting more from His relationship with you. There are hindrances between you and God, which the dotted lines represent. These are things that keep you from enjoying God the way He wants you to experience Him. Guilt is one of those hindrances. Insecurity is another one.
If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind (James 1:5-6).
As Rick explained, insecurity is a kissing cousin to guilt. Insecurity, guilt, fear, and doubt are some sins that you need to repent from to experience restoration by God. From here, you remember how Rick began to unpack fear of man or what you understood to be insecurity.
Insecurity is placing your faith, hope, confidence, trust, or belief in something or someone you can lose.
You have placed your “hope” in the approval of others. You are hyper-aware of how you can lose your friend’s acceptance, and it’s this fear of loss that controls you. This struggle is part of the reason you measure or overinterpret what they say to you.
This kind of thinking is born out of your insecurity, which inevitably gives them control over you. If your friends are accepting, you feel good. If they reject you, according to your interpretive system, you are erratic.
Rick noted how your insecurity is not consistent with every friend because there are some situations where you feel a sense of security. These are typically contexts where you excel and can rely on your strength or personal gifting. You are insecure in other contexts that are new to you that you don’t excel in, or when you are unsure folks will accept you.
An example of a setting where you shine and are secure is your work. At your job, you are working within your strengths. Your self-reliance guarantees that you’ll experience acceptance. But you are insecure with people who are out of your class or who you think have it more together or who you believe is more spiritual or more of whatever you wish you had and believe them to have.
Because your confidence is in yourself, it is a sin, a self-centered worldview that is opposed to a God-centered way of thinking and living. This “self-centered faith in yourself” is the specific thing you need to repent of to be free from the opinion of others. As long as your confidence is in yourself, you are going to be insecure. Ultimately, security in yourself is not security at all. It is a mirage as well as illogical and unbiblical. God’s desire is for you to rely on Him alone.
For we do not want you to be ignorant, brothers, of the affliction we experienced in Asia. For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead (2 Corinthians 1:8-9).
Security is placing your faith, hope, confidence, trust, belief in something or someone you cannot lose.
As you can see, there is only one minor but life-altering difference in the two definitions. It all rests on what you can or cannot lose. You can quickly lose people’s approval, which makes you insecure. The question you want to answer is, “What is something that I cannot lose?” There are only two things.
The written Word of God and the living Word are eternal. Anything else you can lose, and those things are not worthy of your trust. Whenever you go into new situations, you will always be nervous about whether you might not get it right or have the acceptance of others. That should not be a problem if the answer to the dilemma is to put your confidence (security) in the only One who cannot reject you.
If you fully trust Him, it doesn’t matter if you mess up, don’t get it right, or meet perceived expectations. Your faith is not in what man can do to you but in what God has done for you by His gospel.
Then Rick took you to Matthew 14:29-33, the story of Jesus calling Peter out of the boat to walk on water. You remember how His command to Peter was one simple mono-syllabic word. He said, “Come.” That was it. No explanation and no more information. Just “come.” You noted that if you were Peter, you would find a lot of security in your boat, which is accurate for all of us. You described what self-reliance looks like for the fear-motivated controller. But God is calling you to have faith in Him, even if it means walking on water to Him.
The real issue of your heart is not about the acceptance or rejection of other people. It is about a faith that is in God alone. The Lord wants you to trust Him, and He brings these challenges to you to motivate you to trust Him. Even when you begin to sink, which you will do because of your temptation to rely on your strength, you will find these dicey moments as opportunities to cry out to Him. If you do this, God will immediately come to your aid. He gives grace to the humble crier (James 4:6).
Peter cried out, ‘Lord, save me!’ Jesus immediately reached out his hand and took hold of him (Matthew 14:30-31).
He leads me in paths of righteousness for His name’s sake (Psalm 23:3).
As Rick mentioned, this story was not primarily about Peter or Peter’s faith. It was about God and His faithfulness to His children. The reason for this was that it was God’s reputation that was on the line. God takes care of us to make His name great. And when He does help us, we magnify His name, which Peter and his friends did when they got back in their boat (Matthew 14:32-33). Our responsibility is to trust Him as we cooperate with Him. Then we praise Him for what He has done.
You have been unwilling to trust Him like this up to this point. You have been relying primarily on yourself. To believe in yourself is to put yourself in direct opposition to God. He is a jealous God. He will not allow any of His children to set up other objects, concepts, people, or even ourselves as the primary thing we trust.
This problem begs a few questions that you want to ask yourself. As you mentioned, you have already rolled some of these questions over in your mind. Though you may not have asked them with such clarity, your behavior tells us how you have some “sort of issue with God” because you will not trust Him explicitly.
Here are a few questions we explored. You will have to distinguish between what you know to be accurate and how your behaviors contradict what you say you believe. It’s your behavior that reveals the most accurate condition of your heart.
Your answer to all of these questions should be the same. God is God, and He is good, faithful, just, and entirely worthy of your trust. These are easy questions to answer because of the gospel. The cross is the centerpiece of His gospel, and if nothing else, it informs and proves God’s goodness to us always. As you grow in your understanding of His goodness, as understood through the gospel, you will begin to become more secure in the Lord.
Over the subsequent few sessions, Rick wants to begin unpacking the gospel as it pertains to your salvation and your sanctification. The more you grow in your understanding of who God is, as viewed through the lens of the cross, the more you will find rest in Him. Believe it, Mable: you can entirely fling yourself upon God. If you begin to do this, you will also start to mature in the only authoritative voice in your life. And others will not so easily sway you.
We will begin our journey through the gospel the next time we meet. In the meantime, Rick needs you to continue the momentum of the gains from this session by doing the things he asked. Study the links at the top of this article. Let me know that you have received this follow-up email, and please share any questions, comments, concerns, or anything else that needs clarification.
Take your time. Your goal is not to get through the work to finish it. Your aim is to “own the material,” which will be discerned by personal transformation.
Rick launched the Life Over Coffee global training network in 2008 to bring hope and help for you and others by creating resources that spark conversations for transformation. His primary responsibilities are resource creation and leadership development, which he does through speaking, writing, podcasting, and educating.
In 1990 he earned a BA in Theology and, in 1991, a BS in Education. In 1993, he received his ordination into Christian ministry, and in 2000 he graduated with an MA in Counseling from The Master’s University. In 2006 he was recognized as a Fellow of the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors (ACBC).