by James Rudy Gray
Personal growth involves change. Our emotional and spiritual growth is usually not accomplished instantly. In fact, one of the dangers we face in our instant-gratification society is the idea that we can have the results of growth without the pain and the process of change.
Conversion is change. The new birth still mystifies the secular mindset. The postmodern mind may accept your testimony of being born again but give no credence to its importance. However, even secular psychology has not been able to deny its reality. “Quantum change” is the psychological label for what we Christians would call conversion.
Dr. Carlo Diclemente, chair of the Department of Psychology at the University of Maryland, has observed, “Quantum change may not represent a completely intentional behavior change process because it can involve the intervention of a higher power for a force seen as external to the individual.”
Researches in the field of human behavior change have various models for how change occurs. They all conclude that patterns of behavior are not usually treated or stopped in a single moment, with the exception of “quantum change.”
The idea of behavior change means, fundamentally, that an old pattern or behavior has been dissolved and a new one has been established. The Bible says, “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature, the old things passed away; behold, new things have come” (2 Cor. 5:17).
While conversion is instantaneous, most believers would agree there is a pre-conversion work of God in a person’s life that begins before the moment of the new birth. After a person is born again, the process of growth begins. This journey that involves change and pain is often challenging and sometimes perplexing.
Change itself is best achieved in a context that encourages and rewards the desired change. Growth is aided by the tools God uses in a person’s life—everything from circumstances to people. A counselor is a tool in God’s sovereign hand for helping a person grow.
Counseling itself is a process where change takes place. We must not expect it to be easy, painless, or quick. However, we can anticipate it being a way God uses to help a person grow. As such, Christian counseling should be viewed as a positive experience and not necessarily seen as something that only sick or disturbed people need. Sometimes, it is the healthy people whom God is leading to grow and change through the counseling process.
Everybody and virtually everything changes—except God. Conversion is not the end. It is the beginning of a life of growth and change. God uses tools to serve as His change agents in the lives of His people. We need to grow. God has ordained it. God’s people must learn not to fight it but to embrace it in faith. It is not that we change. Rather, it is how we change that is critical.
People struggle in different areas, but rarely does anyone not struggle at all. Everyone changes. God’s will for our lives is that we grow more and more into godliness, wholeness, and purposefulness. This results in greater confidence and better self-esteem.
Change is inevitable. Growth must take place. Whatever the cause that leads to an opportunity to grow, it will involve change. When someone comes to a counselor for help, that counselor must realize the significance of being in the place to be God’s agent in the growth process.
James Rudy Gray, who pastors Utica Baptist Church in Seneca, S.C., is certified as a professional counselor by the National Board for Certified Counselors, and is a member of the American Association of Christian Counselors.