Occasionally when people hear I am a biblical counselor they reply, “Oh, I could never do that!” I understand this response. It’s usually followed by an explanation of how difficult it would be to hear of so many sorrows and troubles. Or sometimes they speak of their inability to help someone when they have their own list of difficulties. Whatever the reasons, their initial response couldn’t be further from the truth.
Yes You Can… and You Do
Paul Tripp captures it very well when he says, “You cannot be a human being and without counseling people. Everybody counsels everybody all the time. Every human relationship is a counseling environment.” Just because you are not sitting in a formal setting designated for the purpose of counseling doesn’t mean you are not actively a part of counseling someone every day. Every phone call, every email, every interaction with people in your life brings you into counseling.
That being understood, how can we move into these situations with a clearer focus on what we are called to do? Romans 15 gives an almost step-by-step look at how we can enter into people’s lives and circumstances in a way that brings glory to God.
We who are strong have an obligation to bear with the failings of the weak, and not to please ourselves. Let each of us please his neighbor for his good, to build him up. For Christ did not please himself, but as it is written, ‘The reproaches of those who reproached you fell on me.’ For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope. May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God (Romans 15:1-7, ESV).
Looking at these verses, we see some clear teaching on how to interact in the lives of those around us, which is essentially counseling.
The first thing we see is the calling we have to this.
We who are strong have an obligation to bear with the failings of the weak, and not to please ourselves. Let each of us please his neighbor for his good, to build him up. For Christ did not please himself, but as it is written, ‘The reproaches of those who reproached you fell on me.’
The opening sentence broad brushes everyone into this passage. It speaks of the strong and the weak. You may be on one end of the spectrum or the other, but you qualify. If you’re feeling strong, chances are you will one day find yourself weak. If you think you’re weak, believe it or not there is probably someone in your life who still looks up to you or is depending on you. But if the broadness of this first sentence doesn’t convince you of inclusion, the second sentence should.
We are each called to build up our neighbor. This is all inclusive. No one is exempt. Each one of us is called to bear with others and not please ourselves. Why do this? Because, as we see from this Scripture, in the moment when we bear with one another and we are not seeking our own interests, we are more like Christ than perhaps at any other time in life. You may have amazing quiet times, or memorize chapters of Scripture, or sing worship songs like an angel, but it is in the bearing of others burdens and the serving of others and not ourselves that we incarnate Christ in the most tangible way.
What do you say to a person who is hurting in ways you have never experienced or is going through difficulties that seem bigger than human help? This is where people get nervous. But the beauty of being called to this kind of relationship is that you do not hold the answer; but you point them to it. You are not hope, you show them where to find it. You are not relief, you point them to it. You are not their rescue, you tell them who is.
“For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.”
The source of endurance and encouragement comes from the truth found in the pages of Scripture. God has given us everything we need for life and godliness and personal interaction with people around us. This doesn’t necessarily mean that you quote chapter and verse but instead you speak truth and hope in relevant ways into their circumstance.
Whenever we have a chance to walk with someone through any difficulty, no matter how great or small, our purpose is to give them hope but also to unite with them.
“May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus.”
The Scripture uses the word “unity” to describe the state in which the Body of believers in Christ should live. Unity (or harmony) is important. We are told to preserve it, to seek it, to maintain it. Harmony is best cultivated in the soil of self-sacrifice and service. Entering into another’s life is where unity begins. You don’t come with demands or stipulations, but simply to be a part of where they are. When someone sees you have no personal agenda in helping them, they respond at a deeper level. You can then walk together in the hope you are setting before them.
Too many times we think that the result of speaking into people’s lives will mean that they will change and see things the way we see them. You might have better understanding of truth but if the outcome you are hoping for is that they will see things like you, then you may be in for a big surprise.
“That together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God.”
If I have learned one thing from counseling with people it is that I am also in the counseling room. Every situation that I am presented with is an opportunity for God to work on me, too. My counselees teach me so much more than they will ever know; it’s the one-another aspect of counseling.
“The weak” are not a burden to “the strong.” They actually sharpen and shape, help and encourage, them. As I speak to a person of the hope found in Christ I am encouraged in my own faith. When I hear them starting to see purpose in their trial and suffering, I am directed to that same hope and purpose for my own struggles. As I speak of God as an ever-present help, I am verbally reminding myself of that truth. When both the sufferer and the strong point to God, we have the same voice and in that voice we glorify God. It is not the strong that get the glory. It is the God of the strong who, in his love, provides us with the surest hope through Jesus Christ.
Join the Conversation
How does this change your view of your interaction with others? You may never be in a formal counseling setting, but be encouraged, you can bring hope to the hurting and glory to God.