This post is the first in a series that will feature some of the passages that have been especially encouraging to Clients–many of them have also been helpful to me. 🙂
Still groggy from sleep, it took me a moment to recognize that the thought in my mind, was the answer to a question I had been puzzling over the previous three days! I suppose I appeared quite comical, scrambling out of my bed, intent on finding a pen and paper in the next room, to write it all down . . . before it fell out of my brain and I lost it again!
The thought had to do with the reasoning behind my approach to helping. What I remembered in my sleep, was how my approach to helping was influenced greatly by the teaching of James 1:2-4:
“Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters,
whenever you face trials of many kinds,
because you know that the testing of your faith
Let perseverance finish its work
so that you may be mature and complete,
not lacking anything.”
When I first read the passage as a young Christian, I felt as if a bolt of lightening had coursed through my body. The thought so terrified me–the idea of connecting trials with joy– that I immediately slammed the cover of my Bible down while saying to myself, “Well, I’m not ready for that!”
It was probably almost a year later when I remembered and sought out the wisdom of James. It was late June, and I had been hospitalized while carrying our unborn son who was due in late September. Having been suddenly separated from our two daughters and unsure about the future of our third born, I remembered James’ call to persevere in faith. With the understanding that God’s Plan was to mature and grow my faith, James 1:4 became the drumbeat that kept me moving forward:
To persevere in trusting God despite my fear
was life changing–
I wanted nothing less for my Clients.
From the beginning, my goal in the Counseling Room (as well as in helping others) has been: To lead by following the Shepherd. That commitment has been at the heart working 30+ years in the Counseling Room. It has been an amazing privilege to watch as Clients make Christ their joy–despite their circumstances–and the beauty of His Presence shines through them.
After learning that God’s goal in adversity is to ultimately bless us with a mature faith, the second passage we look at in probably 95% of first-time Sessions– is Jeremiah 17:1-5. From the start, figuring out what is influencing the choices we make is essential. God speaking through Jeremiah provides an excellent place to begin. What influences the choices we make boils down to three options.
This is what the Lord says:
“Cursed is the one who trusts in man,
who draws strength from mere flesh
and whose heart turns away from the Lord.
That person will be like a bush in the wastelands;
they will not see prosperity when it comes.
They will dwell in the parched places of the desert,
in a salt land where no one lives.
We follow the teaching of the world and ignore God. The result? I know of no better description of depression recorded in all of Scripture: We end up, “like a bush in the wastelands” (a barren desert); robbed of hope because darkness swallows us up.
“But blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord,
whose confidence is in Him.
They will be like a tree planted by the water
that sends out its roots by the stream.
It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green.
It has no worries in a year of drought
and never fails to bear fruit.”
We seek after God as we work through our problems. No matter how “dark” things may appear, we cling to the Hope that is ours because of God’s Sovereign Goodness.
Option #3 is a bit tricky:
“The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure.
Who can understand it?
I the Lord search the heart and examine the mind,
to reward each person according to their conduct,
according to what their deeds deserve.”
I can remember one of my first clients reading verse 9 during a Session. Suddenly she stopped reading–obviously startled. Then, she looked up at me with huge brown eyes and slowly said, “But I thought we were supposed to follow our hearts?!!” It still brings a smile to my face when I think of her, because she brought up a valid point. As the world teaches us to follow our hearts (our feelings) we often reap disastrous consequences. Better to persevere in trusting God, rather than being run by our feelings!
I love the varied responses I get when we go over this passage as it underscores the importance of guarding our hearts (Proverbs 4:23).
I share all of this in the hope that these insights will help you encourage and buildup whoever God puts on your path. Enjoy the process as you lean on Him, and be sure to take notes so that you don’t forget the insights gained from the one you’re helping.
All to His Glory!