Some of my readers may know that I am currently working towards a degree in biblical counseling. One of the reasons I desire to invest the time and money into something that may never become a paid profession is that I acknowledge I am desperately dependent on God imparting His wisdom into my heart and my mind if I am going to be able to be used to help even one woman who may seek counsel.
Counseling is a very serious calling before the Lord, and I know that by myself, I lack God’s kind of wisdom in a major way. This is one reason I am seeking the wisdom of the Lord with all my heart. Point blank – I need it.
Please allow me to share some things that I have been studying and how this information relates to what God has taught me in the past. My hope is that the women who have contacted me to say they desire to get the kind of help they need in the midst of struggling marriages will be able to identify signs of discerning and undiscerning faith counselors.
“I really like this chart,” announced a counselor in a church training meeting for lay counselors.
He went on to explain how much he appreciated having “if, then” tools like charts and diagrams where he could neatly match up the counselee’s problem with a biblical solution.
Later that evening I remember thinking about the counselor’s comments.
On one hand, I really like charts, graphs, and maps, too. They are helpful learning tools.
Then again, something was not settling well with me about this particular man making these statements. Yet, his comments helped me to understand the origins of the problems this counselor (and his counselees) were experiencing with his methods.
Here’s the deal . . .
Not all matters of life fit into neat little “if, then” scenarios.
Complicated problems won’t be solved using decision maps printed on 8 ½ X 11 sheets of paper (even if there are 20 Bible references listed within the chart).
And these more complex matters are more often than not the situations that present themselves in the counseling room — not the ones that fit into pretty little “if, then” diagrams.
Just as living well requires wisdom, advising well requires wisdom.
Counselors need to know a lot more than the rules of God’s Word. They need to know the principles of God’s Word. Understanding God’s principles allows us to make appropriate assessments when cookie cutter judgments simply won’t suffice.
That’s why we all need wisdom so badly.
We can memorize the rules for living in Scripture. These are the “thou shall not” and the “don’t do this” statements of the Bible that are clear and concise because they require little wisdom for knowing what we should and should not do (although they are not always easy to obey in the face of temptation).
Legalistic folks love to give most, if not all, of their attention to the “rules” of Scripture that focus on the sins of commission, figuring, “If we don’t do anything God deems wrong, then we are living righteous lives before God.” (I know this line of thought, because I speak from experience as a former legalist.)
The problem with this mentality is that it’s only half of God’s picture of living a life of righteousness. The other half – sins of omission – tend to be neglected.
I remember discussing this subject with a man who was trying to prove his point that his three counselor friends “had done nothing wrong” when they jointly counseled a recently (physically) separated couple during their first counseling meeting. This initial joint counseling session came after the woman had made the appointment stating up front that she had been enduring months of physical, emotional, and verbal abuse among other covenant-breaking marriage problems.
The church counselors not only counseled the couple jointly from the first meeting, endangering her if she would choose to be open and forthright about certain details of her situation, but they also did not have either party complete even a single standard intake form to gather more details on the nature of the problems and marital dynamics. To make matters exponentially worse, the counselors told the abused spouse in the presence of her unrepentant mate that “most of the time, marriage counseling does not work if the couple is not living together,” which implies that if she doesn’t move back in with him, she is the hindering factor in their marriage.
The woman was not only given the expectation through implication that if she wanted the “help” of their marriage counseling that she was going to have to move back in with her husband, but she was also told that she should not talk about her spouse or the counseling she received to anyone other than the counselors.
As I debated the validity of such counseling methodologies with this man who continued to argue that his counselor friends had “done nothing wrong,” I told the man that the Bible says it is as much of a sin to choose not to help someone in need when it is within your power to do so as it is to commit a sin that is expressly condemned in Scripture.
To which the church leader laughed and replied (and I quote), “I don’t know what version of the Bible you’ve been reading from, sister!”
I don’t recall which version of Scripture I had with me at the time, but I do remember opening up Galatians 6:10 to support the case that sins of omission in fact do exist in God’s eyes. I had recently read this verse in a book I was reading called Women Helping Women (by Fitzpatrick and Cornish), where the writer explained that not doing what is good when you are able to do so when an obvious need presents itself is a sin. Notice that this verse is written with an imperative tone . . .
Therefore, whenever we have the opportunity, we should do good to everyone—especially to those in the family of faith. (Galatians 6:10, NLT, emphasis added)
And there is also this verse . . .
Remember, it is sin to know what you ought to do and then not do it. (James 4:17, NLT, emphasis added)
We also see this concept illustrated in the lives of Bible characters such as Jonah, who had the chance to do a good thing but initially opted to make other choices because of his lack of compassion for people in peril. In the New Testament, Jesus taught the familiar story of the Good Samaritan to illustrate that we have an obligation before the Lord to live by the same spirit of the Law that the Psalmist wrote about when he instructed God’s people to defend the cause of the weak and uphold the rights of the afflicted (Psalm 82:3).
Living lives pleasing to the Lord requires more than the avoidance of the vices God hates. It unequivocally includes the joyful obligation of helping others in a spirit of discernment through a compassion driven wisdom.
Here’s one of the many Old Testament passages that shows the superior value of wisdom over the foolishness of forcing all situations to fit into a list of rules or contingencies . . .
For the Lord grants wisdom! From His mouth come knowledge and understanding. He grants a treasure of common sense to the honest. He is a shield to those who walk with integrity. He guards the paths of the just and protects those who are faithful to Him. Then you will understand what is right, just, and fair, and you will find the right way to go. For wisdom will enter your heart, and knowledge will fill you with joy. Wise choices will watch over you. Understanding will keep you safe. Wisdom will save you from evil people, from those whose words are twisted. (Proverbs 2:6-12, NLT)
Maybe you are in a difficult marriage and have considered making an appointment with a Christian counselor because you desire wisdom for your future?
I will continue in my next post with more information designed to help determine how to find a counselor who seeks God’s principles of wisdom as much as they seek to know God’s rules.
For now, here are a few key points to note from this post when you select a counselor and begin to meet with them:
- If the counselor does not first have you and your spouse complete detailed forms about yourself, your spouse, and your past and current situation, then be concerned about the counsel you will receive.
- If the counselor does not first meet with you and your spouse separately and ask you many questions to gather information about your safety, well-being, and marriage dynamics, then be concerned about the counsel you will receive.
- If your counselor begins to make statements about what you should or should not do before the first two points I have listed have been thoroughly completed, then be very concerned about the counsel you are receiving.