Counseling Others

 

“Rash language cuts and maims, but there is healing in the words of the wise.”

Proverbs 12:18, Message

Lately, I have grown skeptical of my own ability to give out sound counsel.  For the most part I have refrained from doing so, lately, I introduce them to the wisdom and love of Jesus.  It seems like a it’s a bit like a triangle– Jesus, them and myself–we each have a corner.  All I do when I counsel someone is to help them see the Lord.  Hopefully, once a dialogue has taken place I step back and let the supernatural happen.

Much of counseling is facilitating or creating an environment that you can gather information.  Probably your friend feels that you and your surroundings are “safe” and he/she can open up in that situation.  Almost all of the time, a certain level of confidentiality must exist and be understood as being “in place” even among peers.  

A key fact is getting permission to counsel.This should happen in order for the counselee to really receive.

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Job with his Friends

Usually when if I meet with someone, I don’t want to sound profound, or wise; I’m still trying to follow Jesus myself.  I recognize the Holy Spirit gifts the un-gifted. But I’m also pretty much aware of my own short-comings. (I guess this can make me a better listener and not a talker?)

Remember that Job’s friends were at their best when silently sitting with him in the ash and rubble. At that moment, they were very effective counselors.  The problem came when they verbally explain why Job’s personal disaster took place.  Very often I find that people have a need to be needed.  Some well-meaning believers give counsel so they can feel good about themselves. 

I’m afraid there is a lot of Christian counseling out there that is sabotaged by this inherent flaw.

Part of speaking wisely to a friend must include the option that I might be totally off-the-wall! Whatever I say must not be “ex cathedra“, or as truth unchallenged.  And just because I’m giving you counsel does not make me superior, wiser or more authoritative.  It really should take as much humility to counsel, as it takes to be counseled. I can think of an easy dozen encounters that I’m embarrassed by– and will never be able to retract. Mistakes are made, but we should trust the Holy Spirit to use those missteps. He is sovereign.

Peer-to-peer counseling is very much a blessing.  A great need exists in the church for this particular ministry.  But to be a source of wisdom to another should be both a sobering, and a clarifying experience.  To be a counselor can be quite dangerous, spiritually speaking, and I should not seek this place unless its thrust on me. A good counselor is almost always reluctant.


“If you young fellows were wise, the devil couldn’t do anything to you, but since you aren’t wise, you need us who are old.”  Martin Luther

“If you have knowledge, let others light their candles at it.”   Thomas Fuller

 

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Hold Onto What You Know

 

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A dear and wise friend of mine once told me that I should never go by what I feel, but by what I know. Feelings can be fickle and reactionary, and oftentimes they do not reveal the truth about the situation they are a reaction to.

There are times when my feelings have been all of these things. I’m sometimes sad or angry or depressed or disillusioned. My feelings are often a reaction to what has been going on in my life, or to things that have been said to me as well as about me and others whom I care deeply about. I’ve had times of feeling hopeless and been in disbelief of the things that have transpired in my life. I had days when I feel completely lost and alone. On those days I listen to my dear friend and turn to the things I know to help me get through how I am feeling, to get to the truth of the matter. Here is what I know:

  •  ”And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” Romans 8:28. The important word in this verse for me is “all.” It is not just in some things, but in all things, that God works for the good of those who love Him. I may not see the good that will come from my present circumstances, but God does.
  • “‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the LORD, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’” Jeremiah 29:11. God has planned my days, now and for eternity, and His plan is one of hope.
  • “But those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.” Isaiah 40:31. Even though my own strength may be insufficient to get me through difficult times, the strength of the Lord is always there for me to lean on.
  • “Cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you.”  Peter 5:7. God loves me and will take my burdens and anxiety if I will only let go.
  • “Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.” John 17:3. Eternal life starts now by knowing Jesus, not just when this body dies.
  • “Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” Luke 6:38. This is one I have proven to myself. As I am a blessing to others I receive a blessing in return much greater than I gave.
  • “Do not grieve, for the joy of the LORD is your strength.” Nehemiah 8:10. There is a joy to be found when I trust in the Lord.
  • “From the fullness of his grace we have all received one blessing after another. For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.” John 1:16-17. Grace and truth go hand in hand, and they are the great blessing that we all have from Jesus.
  • “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” John 10:10. Jesus came that we might live an abundant life, the best life that God could possibly want for us, something much better than we can ever imagine. Satan is the thief who promises pleasure and great ideas but means us only harm.
  • “Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.” Psalm 23:6. This is a promise and a truth that can get me through any day.

These are just some of the things I know. God’s Word is full of promises of hope, love, joy, and redemption. It is full of stories of how those who had faith in God, who trusted in His promises, were blessed beyond measure.

God is greater than my feelings. I may feel hopeless, but that does not negate the hope He offers. I may feel lost, but that does not change the fact that He has found me and will never leave me. For all these promises I am grateful.

Love,

Linda K.

 

http://lindakruschke.wordpress.com/

When Life is Dark and Heaven is Quiet

 

God’s people have always had to wrestle with the things from the dark.  As believers, the Bible tells us that we’re in a permanent state of war against Satan. There has never been an armistice or treaty signed to my knowledge.  Each one of us is on the front lines.  The devil has been practicing with a deadly form of “spiritual terrorism.”  And he terrorizes many with his posturing and manipulation.

Life can get quite dark, and desperately bleak. No one needs to educate us about the dark nightmare that is now active. Over a couple of millennia, God’s covenant people have been harmed and harassed.  Enemies are constantly manipulating and twisting God’s Word. As disciples, we’re under steady surveillance by the dragon.

Sometimes heaven is silent. But I believe it is never, ever disinterested.

But He certainly has not overlooked us.  As we read our Bible, our faith becomes like Teflon.  Nothing can stick to you; even though so much is thrown at us.  When life is really dark or terribly bleak, we can protect ourselves and others. There are times when we can sense nothing.

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us.”

We are not theologians, we are just simple disciples.  He knows this.  I believe He simplifies things in order to help us understand. God has little reason to complicate things for us.

I believe that we are “surrounded” by saints of all ages.  They see in us a faith that justifies us.  And I must admit, that helps me.  I am part of a continuum.  I now know that my simple faith must always pass the test of discouragement.

But now the torch is passed, and now you must run with it faithfully and honestly.  And when all is so dark, and things seem far too quiet, I still intend to hold up that torch and carry it all the way to my Father’s house.

“There was a castle called Doubting Castle, the owner whereof was Giant Despair.”

John Bunyan, “Pilgrims Progress”

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Good Grief, [Post by James Winsor]

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How Depression is a Blessing in Disguise

A darkness creeps into the soul and smothers it. Who knows why, how long it will last, or what will make it go away. You feel like you have nothing left to give to anyone else. You don’t want anyone around, except that one person who knows how to lift the darkness. You can’t and don’t want to explain how you feel. You don’t know why you’re sad, and you feel embarrassed by it because you have a pretty nice life. You can see why hungry, sick or poor people would be sad, but not you.

If you’re up to it, you try to process thoughts about God or words to or from God. This feels impossible. At best, God is distant. He couldn’t care about these stupid, unjustifiable feelings. There are people with real problems; God should be much more concerned about them. At worst, God becomes a very active enemy. He judges you for feeling this way. He wants you to just drop this selfish, self-centered, self pity trip. Doesn’t the Bible command, “Rejoice in the Lord always?” You’re a long way from doing that. Every word of good cheer seems to condemn you more for not being cheery.

As you deal with these feelings, you start to see what’s at the bottom. For the most part, it’s self-loathing. You just can’t stand being around you! Sometimes you can’t see the causes for the self-loathing. It’s just there and it won’t go away. I hate being me, and anyone who really knew me would hate me. The people who love me only do because they don’t know me.

Sometimes the self-loathing turns outward. It explodes into a kind of rage against the world. Now the darkness has covered not only your heart, but your eyes. You can’t see outside of yourself. You have trouble remembering there is an outside world. When you wake up to that fact, you again see the self-centeredness and hate it all the more.

It doesn’t seem possible to break out or for anyone to break into it. Even God doesn’t seem to know how to break inside the darkness. Some of the most spiritually-rich Christians I know experience depression. Some of them medicate it. Some don’t. But it doesn’t make that much difference when it comes to the soul. You can’t medicate the soul.

God is up to something in your depression. There are things God can do for you better when you’re depressed. Someone once said that God empties in order to fill, and kills in order to raise up. God could have made a world where depression is impossible. He could have made a world where sin, death and Satan are not on the scene. But God decided ahead of time that it was better to do things His way. There was something important that He could do with a broken world that He couldn’t do with a perfect world.

In paradise, Adam and Eve did not know God as well as you do. They walked and talked with Him, but were ignorant of what God was really about. God is self-sacrificing, self-giving love. Adam and Eve didn’t have a clue about Good Friday. They didn’t need Good Friday. Do you realize what that means? They didn’t need God’s self-sacrificial love. All they needed was a creator and provider. They didn’t need a Savior.

But that’s what’s best about Him. He saves sinners by dying for them. When Jesus was on the cross, you were loathed enough. God took out all of His holy loathing, and it was over. There is nothing more important in your life than God’s saving love for sinners.

Depression is a cold, gray wind that blows you off the cliff.

You can’t find anything inside yourself to cling to, to hope in, to claim as a basis for God’s acceptance.

All you have is Jesus and His love for sinners.

His resurrection of sinners in Himself. His baptizing of this sinner, you. That’s all you have. You fall into the water and lose yourself. But once you fall in, you can only see the love of God in Christ. A purple robe for mocking. A brown cross. Silver nails. Red blood. A white robe shining forth from the darkness of the tomb.

Have you ever noticed that you can see the farthest at night? In the daytime the most distant object you can see is the sun – a mere 93 million miles away. But at night your eye takes in countless stars and galaxies that are many light years away. Your vision is greatly improved in the darkness.

So it is with depression. When you are having bright days of happy sunshine, you can’t see too much further than your studies, sports, work, friends, family or possessions. A very small world. But in the darkness of depression you begin to see the glistening vast expanse of God’s love in Christ.

And when you are full of self-loathing and darkness, the love of Christ is all you have. And as it turns out, you don’t have Christ at all until all you have is Christ.

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The Rev. James Winsor is pastor at Risen Christ Lutheran Church in Arvada, Colorado.

Taken from the Spring 2002 edition of Higher Things magazine. You can write Higher Things at P.O. Box 58011, Pleasant Prairie, WI 53158-8011.  http://www.issuesetc.org

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