A family in conflict.

A young man trying to find his identity.

A married couple on the verge of divorce.

A young woman with a personality disorder.

At times in our lives when we are struggling, hurting, lost and confused, we seek answers. We desire solutions, some relief from the thing that afflicts us. We are vulnerable and susceptible, seeking comfort, safety and understanding. Most of us will at some point reach out to an authority figure for help, someone we respect, who will listen to us and be able to provide sound counsel. It is good to have people in our lives who we trust, individuals who offer their knowledge, wisdom, experience, love and compassion when we need them most.

When you trust in the wrong person, the results can be disastrous.

The Bible teaches that God gives wisdom to those who ask for it:

“If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.” (James 1:5, English Standard Version)

Simple, right? Just ask God, and wisdom is yours. It makes logical sense, then, that leaders in the church would be full of wisdom – these are the people who diligently study scripture, pray ceaselessly, and who have been placed in a position of spiritual authority. Many self-help resources will advise you to seek the help of religious clergy in working through the difficult situations you’ll encounter in life. If God is real, and the Bible’s promises are true, then God will grant the requisite amount of wisdom to be applied to any problem. Christian clergy believe that the Holy Spirit gives them the right words to say at the right time – that their advice to you has been generated supernaturally, or that events leading up to your exchange were orchestrated to deliver a unique message. If this were true, then all advice from clergy would be one-hundred percent trustworthy, one-hundred percent of the time. It is not. Most of these clergy are not near qualified enough to handle your deepest struggles and provide healthy guidance.

In my experience, religious and personal bias almost always results in the distortion of reality, and sometimes produces pure fantasy. Well-intentioned people who believe they have a direct line to the mind of God are predisposed to think all kinds of strange things, and will not hesitate to speak authoritatively into your life. You may find yourself walking away with a new views that hadn’t occurred to you, having received a slight tweak to your identity. You may even develop a habit over time, a habit of looking to your new authority figure whenever you need to make a difficult decision; weighing their thoughts more than your own, responding to their guidance without question. In my childhood, this kind of blind allegiance was encouraged by my parents and our church leaders. They taught me not to think critically, but to trust and believe. I have been burned many times.

Doubt (not to be confused with pessimism) is a wonderful counselor – it leads to discovery. I am quite content these days to ignore the menagerie of characters dogmatically laying claim to what’s right for me.

Sometimes, there is no answer.

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