Note from the BCC Staff: This is the ninth in a series of periodic posts by biblical counselors regarding what they have learned during their years of ministry as a biblical counselor. Read Part One: Hayley Satrom: Reflections after Two Years, Part Two:Deepak Reju: Reflections after a Decade, Part Three: Bob Kellemen: Reflections after Thirty Years, Part Four: Howard Eyrich: Reflections after Forty Years, Part Five: Chris Boucher: Reflections after Five Years, Part Six: Jeremy Lelek: Reflections after Eleven Years, Part Seven: Andy Farmer: Reflections after Eighteen Years, and Part Eight: Robert Smith: Reflections after Forty Years. Today Keri Seavy shares what she’s learned after twelve years as a biblical counselor.
Humbling and Thrilling
It is both humbling and thrilling to think about what I have learned in the last 12 years of being a pastor’s wife and Biblical counselor. It is humbling as I look back on the “early years,” while trying my best to love well, I lacked the life experience, wisdom, skill and biblical knowledge to be of much help. As I fast forward through years of ministry, I think about the ways that the Lord has been faithfully changing me through what He has wisely ordained, and how He has been graciously guiding my learning, equipping and growth.
He has been faithful to grow me up in grace and truth and this has truly and comprehensively changed the way I approach people. I often wonder about how different I will be 12 years from now as I consider the faithfulness of God to continue His transformative work in me and how those changes will affect how I encourage His people to faith and love.
In spite of the fact that I am still happily and dependently on the learning curve and in process as a counselor, there are many things that I have learned that have been extremely helpful. I have discovered that co-counseling is a grace to both the counselor and the counselee. I mostly counsel with a partner who is very different from me, with different giftings, and different “eyes.” This leads to growth in my weaknesses as well as more balanced, full-orbed ministry to the counselee.
I have learned how vital a training ministry is. Multiplying and broadening the effectiveness of ministry by training, mentoring, and allowing for counseling observation allows for exponential, efficient ministry to occur.
I have also learned that less talking and sermonizing and more listening and helping others draw conclusions for themselves is a better approach to lasting change. I am still learning the art of asking good questions to draw out the heart. I have discovered that lasting change happens best through self-discovery. I am still learning the intentional grace of empathy by attempting to understand what the sin or suffering is like for the counselee. This allows a depth of understanding to occur in regards to the temptations faced as well as the truths that can bring the greatest comfort.
However, these good things learned pale in comparison to the one thing that has made the most significant and profound impact in my life and in my counseling ministry: the gospel! Learning what it means to apply the gospel to all of life has truly made the most fundamental and far-reaching difference to life and ministry!
My shorthand for the gospel is that we are great sinners, yet we have an even greater Savior! To borrow a phrase, “We are more sinful and flawed than we ever dared believe, yet more loved and accepted than we ever dared hope.”
These gospel truths carry within them the ability to melt a heart by mercy and bring a sweet relief as we face sin and suffering in a fallen world. Declaring with certainty that sin (both within and coming at us) will be present as we live our lives brings a perspective that answers so many of the “why” questions that plague us.
We often spin our wheels hiding in guilt and shame because of sin, and projecting an artificial happiness that is not consistent with life in a fallen world because we do not know how to deal with the ongoing presence of sin. We are shocked by it. We do not know how to make daily gospel transactions with Jesus concerning our sins or our response to being sinned against. As a result, we either despair over our sin as if it has the last word over us, or we pridefully deny its impact on us in a self-righteous, foolish stance.
But that first truth of the gospel—that we are sinners—should bring a certain strange relief to our souls. It takes the shock out of sin and allows us to deal realistically, authentically and redemptively with life in a fallen world. When we as counselors and friends can speak candidly about sin, we invite people to come out of hiding too. We invite them to deal with sin in a frank, gospel-centered way.
We can only do this when we have a firm grip on the second truth of the gospel—that we have a great Savior! We have a victorious Savior who has conquered sin and death at the cross. He removed our guilt and our shame. We have full atonement. We are justified and we wear the blood-bought righteousness of Christ. We are more loved and accepted than we ever dared believe! To remind someone of this truth and to see the person truly understand, believe, and appropriate gospel grace is to watch before your eyes a person change from one degree of glory to the next. It is to watch light illumine darkness, truth order chaos, rest replace restlessness, mercy melt hardness. The result is a profound joy and appreciation that produces Spirit-empowered, joyful obedience and service. To see the tears of joy flow, to hear the gratitude expressed in their prayers, and to watch the life of the person change (albeit sometimes slowly, but change nonetheless) is a beautiful thing! The gospel is the power of God unto salvation that truly transforms!
There are many practical things that I have learned in counseling, but the application of the gospel by the Spirit through the Word is the most important thing. Only the gospel gives us the freedom to face sin in a way that is redemptive. From the forgiveness and grace we receive and the declaration of love and acceptance over us, we are free to obey and serve from joy. The gospel also guarantees for us the blood-bought promise that He who began a good work in us will be faithful to complete it as He faithfully conforms us into the image of His Son, from one degree of glory to the next. I am thoroughly excited as I anticipate and expect the powerful, transformative gospel to continue to bear rich fruit in the lives of God’s people! I am blessed and privileged to be a part of His gospel work!