Past Tense Living

When do Nouthetic Counselors deal with the past—or do they?

They do not deal with the past even though at times it may appear that they do. How is that? Compare what they do with Freudian archaeological expeditions into a person’s past. Freud was concerned with digging up the past to discover what had led to his patient’s present problems. NCs do not believe that this is biblical—or even possible. To try to upturn every flat stone in one’s past to discover what vermin lives there is not only an impossible task; it is unnecessary, unproductive, and harmful.

NC deal with the past only when it is actually present.

What does that mean?

Simply this: if, for instance, a person must still repent for something done in the past, the matter has never been settled to God’s satisfaction, and is, therefore, not a past issue. It is actually a present reality. He has unfinished business to attend to. The object in such cases is to deal with the issue in such a manner that it may truly become a past issue.

Similarly, when one has had an occurrence in the past that he brings unnecessarily into the present and makes it a present reality, the object will be to help him to put it where it belongs—in the past. If, for instance, someone has been abused, and allows that tragic event to govern his present life, he has brought the past into the present. If he fails to deal with it as a believer should he may carry anger and hurt with him throughout the rest of his life. As it continues to dog his steps it will cause him to live an unhappy and unfruitful life. A Christian is able, by God’s grace, to resolve issues of this sort, so that he no longer needs to go about thinking (and speaking) of himself as “an abused person,” the way many others do. It is wrong to build one’s future life around some such event in the past.

Nouthetic Counselors help people to live in the present with an eye fixed on the future. They encourage counselees to look to the past only to remember God’s goodness to them in past times. Otherwise, it is likely that they will be of little use in the kingdom in days to come, and they will chalk out a course for themselves in which past tragedy guides them into an uncertain, but almost certainly miserable future.

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