Where to Turn for Counsel
There are times in everyone’s life when he needs help. Where is reliable counsel available?
WISE men appreciate the value of good advice. Today advice is the stock in trade, not only of the lawyer, but of the doctor, minister, social worker, lovelorn columnist, witch doctor and crystal-ball gazer. You can get professional counsel on marriage, education and vocation. There are advisers to schoolboys and presidents; counselors for young mothers and queens upon their thrones. From the judge on the bench, the business forecaster, editorial writer and newspaper advertiser people daily receive advice. All the world seems to be preoccupied with getting it or giving it.
WHY THIS NEED?
The tremendous demand for counsel is not unrelated to our peculiar times. Rather, this growing need for counsel accurately reflects our tense, restless generation with its many anxieties and conflicts. Never before has any generation been bombarded so regularly with problems of an emotional, moral, marital, financial and spiritual nature. As noted in Counseling, A Modern Emphasis in Religion: “A strong interest in counseling of all types and in all spheres has developed during the years since World War II.” Faced with complex modern society, parents and others often feel inadequate for the counseling tasks they formerly handled with assurance. So much is this the case that one of the leaders of Reform Judaism recently complained because personal guidance and counseling have become “the overwhelming concern of the minister.”
Bible readers are not surprised at this trend. Jesus warned of a time when society would be perplexed by “anguish of nations, not knowing the way out . . . , while men become faint out of fear and expectation of the things coming upon the inhabited earth.” (Luke 21:25, 26) The apostle Paul wrote of this same period of transition: “Know this, that in the last days critical times hard to deal with will be here.” (2 Tim. 3:1) What explains these critical times?
There are two basic reasons why living is very difficult now. The East-West struggle and the nuclear threat are not the basic causes of man’s problems but merely a reflection of them. Fulfillment of Bible prophecy shows that we are living in the last days of this system of things. Satan and his demons are raging upon the earth because they know that they have a short period of time left to try to turn all men away from God and his righteous principles. (Rev. 12:7-12) Satan has been the chief problem-maker for mankind since he began.
The second reason for our critical times is modern man’s rejection of God’s Word the Bible. Enemies such as Wellhausen and his prejudiced school of higher critics, Darwin and his evolutionists, Freud and his theories, Marx and his atheistic revolutionists—all these have played a sinister role in destroying the guiding influence of the Bible for many; especially since so many of the clergy have adopted such worldly wisdom. This anti-Bible trend has saturated the educational institutions, books, the public press, TV, radio and the motion-picture industry. Rejection of Bible wisdom has opened the floodgates for a surge of lawlessness and unprincipled conduct that has nearly drowned society in problems.
A fitting description of this foolish course is found in God’s words to his people of long ago: “They have left even me, the source of living water, in order to hew out for themselves cisterns, broken cisterns, that cannot contain the water.” (Jer. 2:13) However sincere it may be, the advice bubbling forth from worldly fountains of wisdom is a far cry from the life-giving wisdom of God’s Word.
Consider the lovelorn columns seen in newspapers from London to Manila. In the United States alone 1,500,000 letters are received every year requesting advice on a wide range of anxieties. Millions of readers devour the syndicated replies and often try to fit the counsel to their own similar problems. But how reliable is this journalistic advice? Among America’s newspaper experts on love and marriage are a divorcee and a counselor separated from her husband. Do they have the sound spiritual qualifications needed to give help to readers with serious problems? Their glib, superficial counsel seems to be aimed at building fame, fortune and newspaper circulation rather than happy lives.
Better motivated and better qualified are the professional marriage and family counselors who have a commendable desire to help people untangle their knotty problems. But it is also a fact that the quality of counsel varies widely with the ability and experience of the professional counselor. Then, too, this counsel is not likely to be free, except in hardship cases. At nonprofit agencies fees are usually scaled to your ability to pay for the counsel. Agency fees for those able to pay may run from $4 to $10 per office visit. A private marriage counselor may charge from $10 to $20 an hour for his wisdom. He may ask you to return regularly over a period of many months or even for a year. For many this is inconvenient. The majority of people in trouble need handy counsel that is not only authoritative but inexpensive.
Psychoanalysis does not fit that category either. High fees and many consultations are associated with this branch of medicine that deals with the science and practice of treating mental, emotional and behavioral disorders. Just how scientific psychoanalysis really is no one is certain. At best it leaves much to be desired. Its aim to help people achieve a normal capacity for living is not wrong, but some of its methods are. While some psychoanalysts may take religion seriously in their personal lives, the profession generally ignores man’s vital relationship to God. According to Freud, one of psychiatry’s chief authorities, religion is a great illusion that man will get rid of someday. Psychiatry stresses, “Know thyself,” as if an enlightened self-love is sufficient for successful living. More than ignoring God, analysts often contradict God by advising those with guilty consciences that fornication, adultery and sodomy are not wrong in themselves. The charge rightly has been made that such counsel tends to “exterminate the conscience.”
In psychoanalysis there is also the great danger that the analyst may impose his own values on you, confusing his personal ideals with impersonal truths. Patients often develop an exaggerated admiration for their analysts. As Abraham Kaplan, professor of philosophy and member of the Academy of Psychoanalysis, warned: “The danger here is that the analyst may accept the role of omniscient moral authority in which the patient casts him.” But the analyst is not an all-wise authority on morals, as Kaplan readily admits: “Psychoanalysis cannot tell us what is virtuous and what is not. It cannot establish premises to deduce the principles of morality.” Obviously, psychoanalysis is not the answer to some very basic questions. If it helps people get on the go again, it does not point them in God’s direction. Being able to travel is not enough; you must know where you are going. If psychoanalysis cannot tell us what is moral or immoral in the sight of God, who judges our actions, then it is hardly a safe guide.
THE IDEAL COUNSEL
The ideal counsel must be convenient, understandable, available to all and inexpensive. It must give right moral standards and direction, and it should be absolutely correct. Is there such counsel available today? Yes, there is. The Creator saw to that when he provided the sixty-six inspired books of the Holy Bible. Here you find counsel that is convenient, inexpensive and completely reliable. In contrast to the human counselors who have lived short lives and often erred, the eternal God who gives counsel has “done wonderful things, counsels from early times, in faithfulness, in trustworthiness.” (Isa. 25:1) Through his book of counsel God gives commandments, instruction, discipline, wisdom and understanding for successful living. (Prov. 4:1-9) The Bible’s power for lighting your way was aptly expressed by the inspired psalmist: “Your word is a lamp to my foot, and a light to my roadway.”—Ps. 119:105.
Sacred history contains many examples of persons who faced personal crises and came through them successfully by heeding Jehovah God’s advice. The record also contains the tragic cases of men and women whose lives and eternal hopes were lost by ignoring or opposing Jehovah’s counsel. It is for our lasting benefit that the heavenly Father admonishes: “My son, my law do not forget, and my commandments may your heart observe, because length of days and years of life and peace will be added to you. Trust in Jehovah with all your heart and do not lean upon your own understanding. In all your ways take notice of him, and he himself will make your paths straight.”—Prov. 3:1, 2, 5, 6.
In God’s book of counsel you will find, among other things, practical advice on marriage problems, child training, chastity, right view of money, good manners, how to handle disputes, business and labor practices, peace of mind, happiness, how to pray and the proper worship of your Creator. Thoroughly discussed is God’s purpose for man and this earth. You will learn why God has permitted wickedness for a time, how his Kingdom will usher in a new world of life and righteousness, and when he will resurrect the remembered dead. In the Bible is hope for the future and courage for the present. This counsel from God is in your own home, in your own copy of the Bible.
Turn to the Bible for God’s advice. Put Scriptural principles into practice and you will see how clearly and wisely they light your path. Then, like the psalmist, you will confidently say: “Your reminders are what I am fond of, as men of my counsel.”—Ps. 119:24.