What You Know Is Not Sufficient

June 24, 2015

Sacha Alexandre Mendes

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Sacha Alexandre Mendes

Here I was again in front of a struggling couple. The husband was in love with himself, doing everything that he wanted to do. The wife became a tired and bitter woman. She had probably asked herself a thousand times, “Why did I marry this guy?” Although this was not a unique scenario, the situation got awkward after weeks of counseling. There was little improvement. I had shared virtually everything that I believed was going to help them.

However, after a self-assessment of my own counseling, I had to admit that everything felt just vain. Ironically, I even had an answer for that: “These are hardened hearts. Sometimes they hear, sometimes they don’t!”

I had looked for answers in everything that I had learned. I thought on what my mentors had to say in the beginning of my counseling training. I tried to think on what they would say in this particular situation! My thoughts were all over the place: “If I could read at least one more book, or article, or even another post on marriage, then I could help them! Where can I find additional resources in order to help them? Maybe I am not fit for this task!”

The anxiety with my inability to help this dear couple lead me to spiritual exhaustion. What I did not know at that time was that I was finally getting close to the best position to help them.

At the end of the road, I had to look at their eyes and confess: “I don’t have anything else to say to you.” Then I prayed. I prayed the way I should always pray, recognizing my desperate need of Jesus. I had to pray asking God to help them because I could not. After the “amen,” I was shedding tears. They were shedding tears. We were all crying for help in a time of need. I was embarrassed to let them go with no hope. Sad. I knew that I should never do that to a counselee.

Spiritual Ignorance Leads to Spiritual Exhaustion

A couple of days later, I came across Proverbs 30:1-6. Although this was a familiar passage, I was ready to receive its instruction in a powerful way and in a time of great need.

“The man declares, I am weary, O God; I am weary, O God, and worn out. Surely I am too stupid to be a man. I have not the understanding of a man. I have not learned wisdom…” (Proverbs 30:1b-3a).

What I have experienced is common to many counselors. It does not matter how far you have walked on this ministry road; you have faced or will face a situation that reminds you of your spiritual ignorance. Eventually, ignorance leads to exhaustion. Lack of wisdom can take you to a path of sinful lack of confidence.

The desperate temptation to solve spiritual ignorance proposes useless intellectual solutions. This is exactly where we go wrong in a pragmatic world. Ignorance and exhaustion tempt us to look for additional content. Do not get me wrong. Content is great and we should look for wisdom. The problem is that we pursue wisdom as an intellectual matter. We seek answers to a “what” question. However, true wisdom answers a “who” question!

Spiritual Ignorance Is Not an Intellectual Problem, but a Relational One

“Nor have I knowledge of the Holy One. Who has ascended to heaven and come down? Who has gathered the wind in his fists? Who has wrapped up the waters in a garment? Who has established all the ends of the earth? What is his name, and what is his son’s name? Surely you know!” (Proverbs 30:3b, 4).

Agur, the author of these verses, recognizes that his ignorance is not because he does not know something, but ignorance regarding someone. Increasing what you know is not the solution to your spiritual ignorance. Spiritual wisdom comes through a relationship to someone.

Therefore, counseling is not merely imparting principles, but ultimately introducing counselees to the wonderful Redeemer. This is exactly what I had missed with my counselees. I was lecturing, not counseling. I was talking about the Bible, instead of ministering the Lord of the Bible.

Biblical Content Fuels Spiritual Relationship

“Every word of God proves true; he is a shield to those who take refuge in him. Do not add to his words, lest he rebuke you and you be found a liar” (Proverbs 30:5-6).

Therefore, the question shifts to “How can you grow in your spiritual relationship to Jesus?” Without a doubt, as a biblical counselor, I have to say “through the Bible!” My final answer and outward attitude have not changed. However, my whole attitude toward the problem has gained a fresh perspective on the person and work of Jesus, the incarnated Word of God.

The written Word of God alone fuels the relationship with the living Word of God.

What happened with the struggling couple? I did not see the husband for awhile. The events lead to church discipline. God showed Himself in such a way that I could never claim responsibility for his change. It was not my counseling wisdom. It was the doing of the perfect Counselor. God opened their eyes in true repentance. They came back for counseling and it seemed to be a fresh beginning. The couple, the counselor, and Jesus were all in the same room again. Outwardly, everything looked the same. The information was the same.

Nevertheless, the dynamics were totally renewed! It was not “what” I knew, but “who” we met in our ignorance: Jesus! It was not the wisdom of the counselor nor the will power of the counselee, but the wonders of the Wonderful Counselor! Counseling skills are not sufficient, but Christ is!

Join the Conversation

Have you ever struggled with lack of wisdom in counseling? Where and how did you find Jesus? Is there anything else that you could add to a situation where you lack wisdom to counsel? How can you encourage someone in the same situation?