“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written:“For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.” No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.” Romans 8:35, 36
There are a variety of reasons people seek a counselor. Some are simply looking for “a good listener” (I have been told that I do that well (-:.) Others are aware that their feelings are distorting their perceptions, so they seek a counselor to look at them and their problem(s) with the objectivity they lack.* The last group of people I serve have concerned friends or relatives who make the initial call to arrange their first appointment. Recognizing that they are too emotionally involved, the friend or family member will do what they can to find help. (I have received calls from people several thousand miles away looking for a Christian counselor for their friend or loved one.) In fact, I was one of those friends who sought a professional counselor to help a friend when I felt overwhelmed by the scope of her problems. I looked locally but couldn’t find a Christian counselor. Thankfully, a Christian counselor was finally found but they were over an hour drive away. Given my friend’s fragile emotional state at that time, I was troubled that she had to make such a long commute. In the end, that is what fueled my decision to go back to school at age forty to earn my master’s degree in counseling.
This brings me to my purpose in writing this blog: When I finally found a counselor to help my friend, I remember backing off from helping her because I was afraid that I would somehow “mess up” or interfere with what the counselor was trying to do. In essence, I set aside the wisdom and perspective readily available in Scripture out of FEAR. As the years passed I found that my experience was not unique. I am writing to encourage you, fellow servants of Christ:
- To love your hurting friends and family with the bold sensitivity of God’s Spirit and the wisdom of His amazing Word.
- To appreciate that challenges, from God’s viewpoint, are opportunities for us to grow and mature in our faith. As a biblical specialist, I am concerned that Christians, faced with a variety of problems, demonstrate little benefit of spiritual maturity or deepened faith largely (I believe) because of a lack of spiritual nurturing. Over the past eighteen years, God has blessed me with insights into encouraging the spiritual growth of the clients I have served. In all humility and faith, it is my goal to pass along as many of those insights as I can.
- To stimulate confidence within the Body of Christ to trust in God’s ability to shepherd our hearts (and the hearts of those He puts on our path.)
Some thoughts on helping . . . Early in my walk with Christ I learned that “encouragement” is one of my spiritual gifts. I suppose that is why encouraging others through the Scriptures continues to be such a joy for me. There is a danger, however, if our motivation in encouraging others is only to make them feel good for the moment. When we do that, our spiritual gift looses its value and is in danger of becoming tawdry with misuse. Encouragement is defined in Webster’s Unabridged Dictionary as: “That which serves to incite, support, promote, or advance, as favor, countenance, reward, etc.; incentive; increase of confidence.” The aspect of “increasing confidence” in God’s ability to lead as He shepherds our hearts is what motivates me to write each entry. Since I am writing all of this as God directs my heart and mind (admittedly kind of scary!) my very tentative plan is to cover the Key Elements of Helping Hurting Friends over the next few weeks. Those Elements will include:
- Preparing to Help ~> Getting the log out of your own eye before working on the speck in your brother’s eye
- Learning to Listen with Objectivity ~> Having the compassion of Christ balanced with the Truth of Scripture
- Scripture Reading, Reflecting and Owning ~> God’s intent is always blessing as we learn to trust in Him
- Prayer Balanced with a Discipline of Praise to our God Who is Always Sovereign and Good
For now, I want to close this entry with a question to you about what kind of friend/helper God would have you be? This is an important first consideration because it will very likely prove to be a key piece to the kind of help you offer. Consider what the Bible teaches about friendships:
- Job’s friends: Zophar, Elihu & Bildad ( Job complains they are unmerciful) “I have heard many things like these; miserable comforters are you all! Will your long winded speeches ever end? What that you keep on arguing? I also could speak like you if you were in my place; I could make fine speeches against you and shake my head against you.” Job 16:2,3
- Evidence of friendship according to Christ Jesus: “Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.” John 15:13
The LORD will guide you always; He will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and will strengthen your frame. You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail.” Isaiah 57:11
*As a side note, counselors are seldom completely objective; we are all influenced by our personal beliefs. That is why before we start working together, I offer every new client the opportunity to ask questions about me personally and professionally. You really should know who you are talking to before you lay your life out in the counseling room!