“Eventually … I came to see myself as I really was, someone whose security was rooted not so much in God, but in achievement and activity.”
Selwyn Hughes wrote these words in his autobiography1 and I can relate to them well. I have found it hard to understand that God loves me for who I am, not for what I am doing. Scripture tells us to be transformed by the renewal of our minds, so I worked hard to live in a loving way and I knew my sins were forgiven, but I was not being transformed. It was like the new wine was put into old wineskins and the old wineskins were not being fundamentally changed.
I have found it hard to understand that God loves me for who I am, not for what I am doing.
In Jeremiah 2:13 we read, “My people have committed a double evil: They have abandoned me, the fountain of living water, and dug cisterns for themselves, cracked cisterns that cannot hold water.”
It is this challenging teaching from Selwyn Hughes – author of 52 books including the ‘Everyday with Jesus’ devotional, and pioneer of Christian counselling training in the UK – which has motivated us to develop our ministry here in Bulgaria.
I wanted to know how to live as Jesus lived, going to the fountain of living water and not going to broken cisterns.
In studying the Bible, Selwyn Hughes found that, to live healthily, people need to have security (knowing we are loved and accepted), significance (our life has purpose and meaning), and self-worth (personal value). These are found in our relationship with God. However, often as a result of our upbringing, both Christians and non-Christians are subconsciously driven to meet these needs in other ways.
We started training in counselling with a Christian worldview in September 2021 with four trainees. All are committed Christians from different walks of life, interested in helping people to have healthy marriages and families, and good relationships with their communities. They have all experienced brokenness in many ways in their own backgrounds and have similar challenges to their non-Christian colleagues in handling relationships.
Equipping our counselling trainees
Our counselling trainees come to our village once a month. Together we gently explore their own hearts: how much they are coming to the fountain of living water and what leaking cisterns they have dug or are digging, depending on these for significance, security and self-worth.
They have all been brought up in a previous era, where life was hard. Children would often be left alone during the day and night for long periods while their parent or parents worked and then queued for food. With limited choices of schooling and employment, a person’s identity was often shaped by struggles to survive.
In addition to learning about themselves and how they relate to others, the trainees learn techniques for working with individuals to help them identify how they function in relationships and how they have been affected by their upbringing.
Trainees learn how to help individuals identify how they function in relationships.
All the trainees completed a Certificate in Counselling in June 2022 and are now seeing their own clients, supervised by UK counsellors. They are helping clients with all sorts of issues, such as anxiety, depression and abuse. In their second year with us they hope to gain a Diploma in Counselling.
Us and the counsellors, that ‘many a bruised reed and smouldering wick would be strengthened and lit up’ (Isa 42:3), as clients come to gain insight in what is going on in their lives. Pray also that we would all keep drinking from the fountain of living water, learning to discern what the Lord’s will is and his ways of going about it.
A bruised reed he will not break, and a smouldering wick he will not snuff out. (Isa 42:3a)
1. Selwyn Hughes, My Story, CWR 2004
Gisli & Nora work in church-based counselling in partnership with SEND