I’ll admit it. There are times in my life where counseling gets confusing. The struggles people face as they come into my office can be complicated and daunting to address. People want real help and I want to give it to them. When problems are so immense and change is so hard, I can find myself subtly drifting away from sound biblical counseling towards practical answers and moral pep talks just to keep people moving in a positive direction.
Over time I’ve developed some reminders to help me stay rooted in the practice of faithful biblical counseling when pragmatism wants to have its way. The following are eight ways I assess what I’m doing when I say I’m doing biblical counseling. They build on each other in a way that keeps me focused on what God has called me to do as a biblical counselor. I’ll include a brief recommendation on how to act on each reminder to keep the biblical in your counseling.
I’ll cover four reminders in this post and the remaining four in a future post.
One: Remember the Bible Is the Grounding Authority and Sufficiency for All Your Counseling
Is it helpful to develop an accumulated reservoir of case wisdom that will guide me in how I assess and address counseling problems? Yes it is. Is it responsible to account for the mental, emotional, relational, and physiological factors that can shape the struggles people bring into counseling? Certainly. Is it street-smart have practical strategies to help people cope with the hard stuff of life? Absolutely. But if these person-centered factors start to push the God-centered authority and sufficiency of the Scriptures to the periphery of our methodologies, we become less than biblical counselors and, therefore, less than truly helpful.
Do: Consistently study sound theology. Get deep in the doctrines of the faith and let them get deep in you. Make it a life commitment to grow in your own understanding of life from a biblically sound and gospel-centered worldview.
Two: Remember the Bible Is the Story That Interprets All Stories
When you use the Bible in counseling are you finding a tendency to pull out the same texts for all problems? Is your biblical counsel ‘flat’ – does it just lay onto a person’s story like a ‘one-size-fits-all’ tarp of truth? When you tell people truth from Jesus do they see Jesus himself in what you tell them? Good biblical counseling will introduce and reintroduce the Savior as the personal and powerful answer for all of life. Results happen in counseling when the gospel begins to reinterpret the story of a person’s life in light of the glorious redemption of Jesus.
Do: Regularly study the gospel and its implications for yourself. Learn to be conversational in the language of the gospel so that you can see and make meaningful connections between a person with problems and their Redeemer.
Three: Remember the Bible Is the Definer of the Counseling Relationship
What is your role in counseling? How essential do you feel? How essential does your counselee think you are? Is the energy for hope and change wrapped up in your skill and insight? It is so easy to place ourselves at the center of the counseling relationship. But we should never be indispensable.
Do: Regularly confess your counselor-self-importance. Confess when you substitute a savior complex for a servant heart. Confess when you see your identity more shaped by your effectiveness as a counselor than your status as a child of God. Be a good confessor of your weaknesses and desperate need for Christ in all your ministry efforts.
Four: Remember the Bible Is the Word of the Spirit
One of the easiest ways to lose your bearings as a counselor is when you forget or discount the need for the activity of the Holy Spirit in your conversations. So often I forget that the most important person in the room is unseen with the natural eye. Jesus promised that He would send the Holy Spirit to lead us into the truth. And He did. He promised that where two or more are gathered in His name He is present, and He is. Jesus promised that He would be with His disciples to the end of the age, and He will be. Opening hearts is not our job. The Holy Spirit applies God’s Word to people’s hearts in ways we can’t, regardless of how skillfully we use it. That’s really what we want, because true lasting change is what happens when the Spirit-illuminated Word has a transformative effect in the lives of needy people.
Do: Pray faithfully for those you counsel. Pray for the person and the meeting ahead of time. Pray to begin. Pray in your heart throughout. Pray at the end. Pray for your counselees whenever they come to mind. And pray for yourself. Cultivate a listening ear, not only to the counselee, but to the Counselor-Spirit. He is present, He is powerful, and He is able to make a difference.
In the next post will discover four more reminders:
- Five: Remember the Bible as Applied Indicatives
- Six: Remember the Bible as Applied Imperatives
- Seven: Remember the Bible as Sound Wisdom
- Eight: Remember the Bible as a Daily Dose of Reality
Questions for Reflection
How do you keep your head clear and your approach faithful to your biblical counseling convictions in the complicated experience of personal ministry? What reminders will help you be consistent in your practice of biblical counseling?