“Hear my voice according to your steadfast love.” – Psalm 119.149a
This verse brought me much hope and rejoicing earlier this week. But, how do we do this in our counseling of one another.
King David, the Psalmist, had written just verses before about a fervency in prayer – day and night. In this verse he gives a clue as to why he liked to pray: he knows that God will answer him and hear his voice according to the LOVE and covenantal character of God. He wouldn’t listen and judge according to our sins.
This should be how we counsel with others. I’ve never had counseling training, so you may not think I know what I’m talking about, but I’ve been counseling girls (youth, college) and now women in mentoring relationships for about 20 years now. And I’ve needed counseling before. When I was in seminary, I can remember a conversation with a girl I’ve discipled through the years (now one of my dearest friends) where both of us had taken a spiritual gifts inventory and both completely failed on the mercy part. But, years later, after living much more of life, we had grown in that area because of the mercy God had shown on us.
So, here are some tips for counseling, or listening, to others:
1. Listen. That doesn’t mean formulating thoughts while they are talking. This is hard for me, even in marriage, but one I constantly need to work on.
2. Offer grace and hope. If we are to be little Christs, and we are often committed to be like God in his nature, than shouldn’t we start there? That is one of the reasons I love reading Elyse Fitzpatrick’s books on counseling. The person may be coming to you admitting their sins, or may need their sins pointed out – in a loving way. Learn to realize the difference or pray that God would show you wisdom in each conversation.
3. Deal with the sin at hand. Make sure that confession and repentance and pleasing Christ is the focus and goal of the session. There is a difference between just saying you are sorry or admitting your wrong and actually confessing it and wanting to repent of it. Make that the aim.
4. Center the counseling on our hope. Every person’s hope is Christ and Christ alone. If we don’t counsel well, it will hinder some from wanting to know more about Christ or ever finding hope in the Gospel. They will think they will only find judgment in the Bible and at the cross. Yes, God is a God of justice but His wrath for believers was covered by Jesus.
If I have had a chance to counsel with you and have not offered you mercy, please forgive me, I am a work in progress too!
Charles Bridges, a pastor of old, “And not less fully is my conviction of his judgment, in dealing wisely and tenderly with me, according to his infallible perception of my need.”