We are now ready to take under our consideration the fourth foundational principle underlying IRBC’s philosophical model of counseling: God created man to work. This principle, as with the last one, primarily serves as the foundation for the Secondary Dominant Domains, particularly the Production Domain™.
Introduction to the Production Domain
The grounds for including labor or production as a dominant domain in IRBC’s model of counseling are rooted in the primary role that work is to play in the lives of the creatures that were created in the image of God—an eternally existing Being who works. The Bible begins with an account of God working. In fact, the whole first chapter of the first book of the Bible describes God’s work of creating the universe and everything in it. In the second chapter of God’s inspired book, we read of God’s resting “from all his work that he had done in creation” (Gen. 2:3, English Standard Version). A few verses later God begins to reveal the fact that work is part of his plan for humanity: “When no bush of the field was yet in the land and no small plant of the field had yet sprung up—for the Lord God had not caused it to rain on the land, and there was no man to work the ground . . .” (Gen. 2:5). After God created Adam, he gave him specific work to do in accordance with God’s intentions. In Genesis 2:15 we read, “The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and keep it.” In John 5:17 (King James Version), Jesus makes mention of the fact that both he and the Father work: “My Father worketh hitherto, and I work.” As creatures created with the ability to work, fashioned in the image of a God who works, we must work in order to glorify God and find true fulfillment during our earthly pilgrimages. Problems arise in people’s lives when they fail to work (see also Prov. 21:25; 2 Thess. 3:10–11).
Gainful employment is not necessarily the focus of the Production Domain in relation to the way it fits into IRBC’s counseling philosophy. One can be retired and engage in volunteer work, wherein one is using one’s gifts and talents for the glory of God and finding much fulfillment in such work. One can even be severely restricted from physical labor due to health problems associated with old age, yet still be engaged in work that greatly profits the kingdom of God.
You possibly know aged saints who are involved with prayer and prison ministries (as homework graders, etc.) who are bearing much fruit in their old age despite physical restraints. Such people are often kept from depression, boredom, and problems associated with self-concept and self-worth because they continue to labor for the Lord as they are able. On the other side of the age spectrum are those who could greatly benefit from receiving vocational guidance counseling. Greater leadership could be provided by Christians in all vocational fields if covenant youth’s natural gifts were identified and they were encouraged to receive training in the vocational field which would most benefit from the use of their gifts.
Inactivity in the Lives of Youth Is a Significant Contributing Variable to Depression
Suicide is currently one of the leading causes of death among teenagers in the United States. The Centers for Disease Control report that it is the third leading cause of death, behind accidents and homicide, of people aged 15 to 24. Even more disturbing is the fact that suicide is the fourth leading cause of death for children between the ages of 10 and 14. Although the suicide rate is lower in Christian circles than in the world, for which we can praise the Lord, cases wherein young people experience suicidal ideation and deep depression are very high. One of the significant contributing factors in teen and child depression is inactivity, a lack of being regularly engaged in work.
A large number of teenagers in America occupy most of their free time watching television, playing electronic games, or engaging in unsupervised communication via handheld devices. Insufficient supervision and/or the lack of parameters for usage of these things stunt spiritual and social growth and thereby increase the potential for experiencing depression. It is of paramount importance for parents to establish and encourage their children to fulfill legitimate purpose-and objective-driven responsibilities—work—in their households if they are going to develop properly as image bearers of God. Parents need to understand that their children are hard-wired to work. If children are not engaged in regular, meaningful, age-appropriate work, it will yield them a poor work ethic and predispose them to depression. Helping around the house and yard is not only helpful for parents; it is a great antidepressant for children.
Many church youth group ministries are nothing more than glorified play lands for adolescents. Their focus is upon entertaining the youth in one way or another with games, activities, and charismatic leaders and speakers. Other groups function more or less like modified theological academies or societies. Both extremes often make for poor youth programs. While some of the key elements of a youth program should include objectives aimed at nurturing the spiritual and social growth of our covenant youth, a key and often neglected element is work in the form of kingdom service. There are often many needs within a community of faith and its surrounding neighborhood that can be addressed by service projects. The mowing of lawns, raking of leaves, and shoveling of sidewalks are practical good works which can greatly bless elderly and health-impaired congregants and neighbors. They are also a no- or low-cost means of bolstering the mental and emotional health of our precious covenant youth. Service projects are less expensive than antidepressants, and they have no side effects; sounds like good medicine to me!
Work is important. It is an important philosophical principle in a comprehensive counseling model, and it is an important part of the Christian life. May we view work as a gift from God, a source of blessed purpose in our lives.
Dr. Jeff L. Doll is director at The Institute for Reformed Biblical Counseling, director at The Shepherd’s Way Biblical Counseling Center in Holland, MI, and pastor of biblical counseling at Cornerstone URC in Hudsonville, MI.