Treating Sufferers like Sinners

One of the worst mistakes a counselor, friend, parent, child, or anyone can make is to treat a sufferer like a sinner. What do I mean by that? Let’s define terms.

When I write about a “sufferer” here, I am defining it as someone who has experienced a hardship due to a sin-cursed, fallen world and not due to their own sinful choices. Many would fall into this category like: someone grieving the death of a child, someone who experienced abuse of all types, someone who had a tragic accident and lost a limb, etc. Those are true sufferers living in a fallen world and we do NOT want to address them as sinners responsible for their suffering when it truly was not their fault. In other words, the cause of their suffering was not their fault.

Imagine someone grieving the loss of a child and the counselor addresses their sinful parenting – how awful would that be? That would be in disobedience of Romans 12:15 which states: Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep. Maybe at some point much, much later, it could be appropriate to address sinful parenting especially if guilt is involved because it is always good to lead guilty persons toward repentance and forgiveness. But again, that would be much, much later.

While I could write much more about this topic with specific example after specific example, I want you to respond to this blog with your comments and personal stories. Let me know some of the examples you can think of, or perhaps have experienced personally (without names, of course!), that would better illustrate this point. I’ll respond to your comments with mine.

-Pastor Mark Shaw (seeking to love sufferers with greater sacrificial love)

Mark Shaw
Mark Shaw has 22 years of counseling experience working in a variety of settings including faith-based residential programs, dealing with issues surrounding “addictions” of all types, and supervising staff positions. His experience in the biblical counseling field began in 2001. He has written 14 published works including The Heart of Addiction; Relapse: Biblical Prevention Strategies; Divine Intervention: Hope and Help for Families of Addicts; Addiction-Proof Parenting; and Hope and Help for Self-Injurers/Cutters. He also co-authored a chapter in Christ-Centered Biblical Counseling (2013).