When the Problem Isn't the Problem
"You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free."1
John was one of the most affluent men to ever come to me for counseling. He was a very successful medical practitioner, but his practice had slipped badly and his second wife was about to leave him. He had just about everything he wanted that money could buy but was one of the most miserable men I had ever met. His world had almost fallen apart.
For the entire hour in that first session I sat listening to him berate his wife. On and on he went. Finally I said, "That's not your problem."
"What do you mean, it's not my problem?" He angrily asked.
"Come back next week and we'll talk about it," I said.
The same thing happened the next week, and the next, and the next. Finally he got it. It wasn't his wife that he was so angry at. It was his mother and he was projecting all his pent-up anger toward her onto his wife. Only as he faced the root cause of his problem was he able to resolve it.
Why didn't I tell him sooner what his real problem was? Because he needed to see it for himself and could only do that when he was ready to quit the blame-game and face the unresolved anger in himself.
Many of our problems, especially relational ones, are the fruit of a deeper root—a symptom of a deeper problem. All we see is the symptom or what counselors call the "presenting problem." If we focus only on the symptom, we tend to reinforce it. While we don't ignore the symptoms, we need to face and deal with the root cause/s so we can resolve the root problem and therein free us from the symptoms.
And what happened to John, our doctor friend? His marriage was saved, his practice was saved, and his wife became a counselor.
As Jesus said, "You will know [experience] the truth and the truth will set you free." Or to put it another way, as long as there is any area in my life where I am not free then to that degree I am into denial; that is, there is some truth about me that I am not seeing and/or facing.
Suggested prayer, "Dear God, here are the symptoms in my life [name them]. If these are caused by something in my life that I haven't faced and resolved, please give me the courage and insight to see this, and the will to do what I need to do to resolve it. Thank You for hearing and answering my prayer. Gratefully in Jesus's name, amen."
1. Jesus (John 8:32).