What I Have Learned in Counseling

In a little under a week we will begin our next round of training people in the practice of intensive discipleship, otherwise known as biblical counseling.  This is a very exciting time for me as I see the eager faces of our students who want to soak up the truth about effective ways of helping others. I have learned so many lessons over the years of counseling and discipleship and it is really my greatest joy to pass it all on. 

One of the greatest lessons I have had to learn is to be gentle in my discipleship because so much of the church is very psychologized and is unaccustomed to theology that emphasizes the disastrous role of sin in our lives. Gently confronting sin is a skill I can always improve on.  I have learned to let Scripture do the talking and the Holy Spirit do the convicting. 

For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart. Hebrews 4:12 (NASB) 

 I have had to become patient as I sometimes have to explain the same truth over and over as I help someone try to grasp the truth. I have learned that all attempts to restore a fallen brother or sister must be presented in a spirit of meekness, with a kind and patient heart (Gal. 6:1). Many of the people I meet with have never heard the true gospel before, and while what I say is very clear to me my counselee's often do not have the ears to hear. 

Anyone with ears to hear should listen and understand! Matthew 11:15 (NLT)

I have learned that restoration must be done with affectionate admonition because included in the greatest imperative of Jesus Christ was to love one another. If you desire to minister to others you must love those who are often very unlovable  Our love is to be sacrificial for those we counsel. Our instruction must be covered in prayer and faithful to the text of Scripture we choose. 

Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage--with great patience and careful instruction. 1 Timothy 4:2 (NIV) 

I have learned to overcome the temptation to become angry or impatient with a struggling counselee, especially if they tend to make the same errors repeatedly. There are other more productive steps to take in this case that will reveal the true issue behind the repeated failures. You will see that it is usually not worth it to rebuke someone in anger or display a harsh attitude toward them. 

Always be humble and gentle. Be patient with each other, making allowance for each other's faults because of your love. Ephesians 4:2 (NLT) 

Also remember to consider yourself as you teach, rebuke, correct and train others. Some of the best counseling that takes place in my office is happening to me! Galatians 6 tells me to be very careful about this business of discipling others because it is so very easy to become prideful in the process.  I remind myself often that I am only one thought away from acting on the worst of sins. 

I have learned to examine myself honestly in the light of Scripture. My tendency to be critical both helps and hurts me as a Biblical Counselor. Sometimes, being blunt or pointed in speech is misunderstood as being harsh and uncaring.  

Let your speech always be with grace, as though seasoned with salt, so that you will know how you should respond to each person. Colossians 4:6 (NASB) 

I have learned to pray for discernment, wisdom, and understanding. 

To know wisdom and instruction,

To perceive the words of understanding,
To receive the instruction of wisdom,
Justice, judgment, and equity;
To give prudence to the simple,
To the young man knowledge and discretion—
A wise man will hear and increase learning,
And a man of understanding will attain wise counsel,
To understand a proverb and an enigma,
The words of the wise and their riddles.
The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge,
But fools despise wisdom and instruction. Proverbs 1:2-7 (NASB) 

I have learned to rely on God to effect change in the heart of a counselee. I am comforted by this truth: I cannot change anyone. My "job" is to present the truth in a loving and compassionate manner and trust God for the outcome.