Are You Called to Biblical Counseling?

The problem

Last week, I sat in my living room with a devastated young man dripping tears on my couch. The story is always familiar, though the details differ. Someone sinned against him repeatedly, early in his life. The traumatic details have stained his thinking, spiraling him into burning cycles of anger, despair, anxiety, and compulsive behaviors. I invested two hours of listening, grieving alongside him, and charting a course for him to apply Scripture to his life. He left with hope, beginning to realize that the God he has been attempting to worship at church every week all his life is very different from the actual God who rules the universe. We talked about the God who is love.

Earlier the same day, I had spent a similar two hours with another young person, a girl with the same story but different details. Sins against her had led her to sins of response. For the first time, she was able to choke out some of the words that circle like vultures in her mind, making her long for death as a sweet release. Together we began unraveling the net of lies that has tangled her in despair for years. She left with hope, having been introduced to a God she had never met before: the God who is love.

Piercing heartache and unresolved grief whirl sin’s tornadoes through the minds of broken people. And I, as a biblical counselor, am called to come alongside each one in an attempt to heal the broken in heart. “How can God be love, when He allows these things to happen?” is the question that must be answered. In each situation, my goal is to reveal pertinent aspects of God’s love yet undiscovered.

In the meantime, my dishes often sit unwashed, my floors unswept. The toys need to be sorted and put away. When I do pause to sit down, the stream of emails from people pouring out similar devastation never stops. How do I answer them all? And in the meantime, who will read stories to my precious children and laugh with my beloved husband? Who will clean my refrigerator and buy my groceries?

The work is unending—and I don’t just mean the housework. The unceasing flow of broken people, who despite frenzied or hopeless searching, are unable to discern a God of love, even despite desperate searching of His Word. Overwhelming misperceptions of His character, usually based on life experiences, camouflage His face. He seems distant, harsh, demanding, or indifferent–often remarkably like their parents. Who can help? Who has time? Who is willing and trained? We need a thousand biblical counselors, where we have but one.

The solution

Starting a biblical counseling blog has been my intention for some time, and despite my inadequacy, at the urging of many people, I have begun. Why, then, do I devote so many of the first posts to a theoretical, theological discussion of God’s love? (Especially when every humanistic and pop psychology movement frantically waves this cheap word “love” as its banner?)

Why not just get into the meat of how to actually counsel? If I can give some simple recipes, maybe others can roll their sleeves up and join in the work.

The reason is simple: biblical counseling is the process by which a counselor communicates the love of God, and its practical applications in daily life, to the counselee.

That’s it.

God’s love is the method and message of biblical counseling.

If you have a clear understanding of God’s love, and are committed to living it out in your life, by His grace, you are ready to begin.

How does it work? God’s love transforms as:

1)   The counselor images God (reflects the character of God) to the counselee, and

2)   The counselor explains the love of God to the counselee.

Biblical counseling is the revolutionizing application of the law of God—the law of love, the law of the universe—in earthly sinners’ daily life. It is the messy process of helping others be transformed by the renewing of their minds.

In summary, biblical counseling is how humans cooperate in the work of redemption in one another’s lives.

When counseling is defined this way, what aspects of ministry are not counseling? Parenting, preaching, eating lunch with your co-workers, encouraging your spouse, picking up your dry cleaning—all of these are opportunities to image God in your daily life, and when opportunity arises, to explain in words how love works.

Drinking in the love of God—understanding and believing in God’s love as the Bible defines it—is the first step toward becoming a biblical counselor.

Letting the love of God overflow, spilling from your heart into others’ lives, is the natural second step.

People often ask me if I think they should get into biblical counseling. My answer is always a resounding, “Yes!” I believe in biblical counseling with all my heart, because I believe in the love of God and its application to life. Since biblical counseling is merely helping people apply God’s law of love to life, it is not merely an option, but the responsibility of every Christian. In fact, if any person is drinking in the love of God, it should start coming out of their mouths, and be reflected in their lives, as biblical counseling. If it doesn’t, there is something wrong.

All of us are counselors. “You should leave that jerk!” and “Just stop getting so worked up about things!” are counsel. So are, “Here is a verse that has been helping me with a similar struggle,” and “It breaks my heart to see you hurting.” Not only our words, but also the tones of our voices and the looks on our faces communicate God’s love–or don’t. Who has ever fallen in love with God without first seeing His love reflected in human relationships? In everything we are called to image God to others. Even the words of Scripture are often powerless until human actions have first mirrored God’s love to hurting people.

Are you called to be a biblical counselor? Yes! You were called to it the day you accepted Jesus. As His follower, He asks you to disciple others. That happens through telling others about Him, both by words and actions.

Of course, future blog posts will get into more detail regarding how to apply biblical truth to specific situations and problems. But you don’t have to wait until you have read the blog or the books, or have taken the classes and gotten certified with a paper that has your name and “Biblical Counselor” stamped on it in gold letters, to begin biblical counseling. You can—and must—start immediately, using your only two essential tools:

a)    The love of God flowing through your life, and

b)   The ability to describe God’s love, based on the Word of God.

Pray that God will send you counselees today. (Be assured, He will!) You may counsel while patiently waiting in line at the checkout; you may counsel by texting a discouraged friend who He lays upon your heart. Or you may find yourself drinking tea with a weeping friend, as I often do.

We all counsel constantly. Make yours biblical today.

“God transforms people’s lives as people bring His Word to others.” (Paul Tripp, Instruments in the Redeemer’s Hands, p. 19)

16 Responses

  1. Michael Ross says:

    To reflect the love of Christ in everything I do and say to others.
    The line between counselor and counselee then is simply this – those who know and have experienced Christs love in their own lives, and those who haven’t. Those who know and have experienced Christs love in their own lives will then share with those who haven’t. Simple?

    Or maybe not so simple.

    Especially when we view/box/categorize God’s love through a miriad of humanistic experiences

    experiences, which leave us individually devastated and broken. Which twist and

    • Nicole says:

      Yes, Michael. Except for one thing, which I will talk about in later posts: There are no counselors who perfectly know and experience Christ’s love in their own lives, yet. All of us are broken vessels. Often the balm that God uses to heal our wounds is found in the opportunity to offer it to someone else.

      Broken people like me are used to help other broken people. Instead of giving the job to perfect angels who would never mess it up, God entrusts the responsibility of building relationships, of living out love, to those of us who often do it poorly. We stagger along learning what love is, and offering it to others, and messing it up. And God gives grace to cover and to teach us how to do better, as we stumble along in His footsteps.

      • Michael Ross says:

        Yes I agree with you 100% ! (As you will see in the second part of what I was saying) – sorry but I accidently hit “post” in mid sentence. Lol.

        Thank you for expounding on my thoughts.
        God is using you in a mighty way to be a blessing to so many people. I pray that He will somehow see it fit to use this broken vessel to communicate His love to others as well. (To my wife most of all).

        Thanks for sharing this blog!
        Blessings.

  2. Michael Ross says:

    continued . . .

    Experiences which twist and destroy the true picture of God’s love.

    With every individual having there own interpretation of what “God’s love” means, it becomes essential that only those who have a close relationship with God and who have truly experienced what it means to “know” God’s love, will actually have the awesome and solemn responsibility of sharing that love with others.

    Yes, this is God’s desire for each and every one of us, to truely “know” and experience God’s love, and to share it with others. And as you have rightly mentioned, it begins with sharing the “small” seemingly insignificant experiences of God’s love with one another on a daily basis.

  3. Jane Lee says:

    Thank you, Nicole, for sharing your thought here on this blog for others to read and be blessed. The words here on this particular article are the exact sentiments that I have been feeling lately. How can I juggle being a mom, mother of three little ones, AND reach out to a dying world in need?! The hurting thousands out there have been a burden on my heart causing me to not fully enjoy my life at home as a stay-at-home, homeschool mom. I felt the desire to be out on the streets reaching souls and healing the hurt one person at a time. Yet I am convinced that the most important and primary role I should play is as wife and mother and God will have to provide a way to reach out to others if that is indeed my calling. I have come to find full joy and satisfaction at home in knowing that I can still reach others through my actions and my words — my daily life. Through living in a small country town, doing so becomes easier and more attainable. I thank God for placing our family here so that we can do just that — be a light to this dying community through our daily interactions and relationships. Thank you again for sharing. It brings more confirmation to where I am now and encourages me greatly! May Hod continue to bless you, your family, and your ministry!

  4. Cristiano Sequeira says:

    Reading through this entry I realized the first time in my life that I always loved giving counsel based on the Word of God.

    Given the fact that I am yet to finish my bachelor’s in Theology I will give that some prayerful consideration…

    Anyway.

    So, you asked on your Facebook wall what topics people look for in counsel? You already know that the most common ones are related to relationships. The root of them being, of course, a distorted view of God and a broken relationship with Him first.

    In my country I have been hearing this question a lot, even from Seventh-day Adventist Christians (especially from young people): “What should I do, where should I go?” That is because, here in Europe at least, and especially in the Mediterranean countries, we are going through a major financial crisis. Unemployment is very high, for every age group, but things are going especially bad for young people. We have no means. And even when we do, whatever professional choices we venture into, we often find ourselves on a dead end, with no job and no future. Most of us live way into their thirties with their parents and find no way to become independent. That brings a lot os trouble with it. And add relationships with the opposite sex to all of that. So I see that here, at least, for people in general, but for young people in particular, we need to learn how to find our God-given call in life through the Word of God and a growing relationship with Jesus. Many youth find themselves making the worst mistakes because they see no way out. I think of the many millions of young women in our universities and even in general, who seek prostitution as a means to support themselves. What about the millions of young men who end up doing crime? I am blessed to have god-fearing parents who can support me, and even I struggle to know what to do right now, because I fear that in the very near future I won’t be able to support myself (let alone a family if it came to that). So, good, Christian, Word-of-God-based-counseling about professional life, and life-calling decisions is definitely needed.

    I have been witnessing these past few years, as I have traveled to many different churches and met many Seventh-day Adventist families, that education is also something many are struggling with. I’ve met wonderful people, who fear the Lord, but their children are a complete mess. Most of the time, these parents are too permissive. On the opposite extreme, the parents are so messed up themselves that the children don’t grow up with a correct concept of God’s love. And my personal pet-thief are entertainment and recreational choices that parents make. I am no father, but it brakes my heart to see children being raised up by television, video games, pornography and you name it. I have extensive knowledge in that field. That, and my personal experience from my childhood, being addicted to all of these things is what led me to go country-wide preaching about all of those. I have seen so many hundreds of children growing to become so self-centered because of their parent’s poor recreational choices that it makes sick. If I was a parent myself, that is one area I would definitely aim for.

    Another one that I think is more subtle and almost no one talks about is related to one of our fundamental beliefs: “Growing in Christ.” I haven’t fully matured in Christ yet, but I also see that most people around me do not even “know” about that concept. They see Christianity like some sort of check-list: “I do not break the Sabbath anymore. Check, one step closer to heaven.” I think especially about our devotional life, about studying God’s character through the life of Jesus, about actively applying the lessons from Scripture and the Spirit of Prophecy. People need to be made aware of their relationship with God and how they can foster that. That would answer questions like: “Why is it that I feel that although I do this, and that and the other I am not growing spiritually?”

    And the last one came up these past few days. It is related to sexuality within marriage. I believe it is a sign of the times we are living in. There is a big group of Christians who believe that anything is O.K., when it comes to sex, as long as it is done with a consenting spouse inside the monogamous, exclusive, marriage relationship. Can I talk straight? Every one know that the Word of God, in the writings of Moses, considers Anal sex to be sodomy. It’s what homosexual men gave into for obvious reasons. What about oral sex? And by that I mean mouth-to-genitals. Because although we have Solomon talking about breasts, he never talks about his lips touching anywhere below the waistline? What about toys? Lingerie? Role-playing? I don’t want to get too graphic, you get the idea. This of course is a consequence of the porn-culture and a topic I always bring up when I talk about modern entertainment. Unfortunately, even Christians tend to bring these practices into the sacred room of pure sexual relations between a married couple of husband and wife. Today, by God’s grace, though, there is, I believe, enough scientific evidence, even in the field of physiology and psychology to say that we can definitely rule out some of those practices. And I believe that we can find answers in Scripture and the Spirit of Prophecy too, albeit not word for word.

    And this would be it. What do you think Nicole?

  5. Lisa Manzanares says:

    Thanks for this, Nicole. Affirmation. Praise the Lord. 🙂

  6. Cristiano Sequeira says:

    Nicole,

    I started reading a book yesterday that I believe is a very good resource for the Biblical Counselor: Thoughts from the Mount of Blessings, by Ellen White. Two close friends of mine recommended it to me. Now, the sermon on the mount is probably my favorite passage in all the Bible! There is so much to learn about true Christian character from the words of Jesus there. I absolutely loved chapter 31 of The Desire of Ages about it. But that there was a whole book, just about that one sermon, blew my mind, and I have been loving it.

    If you don’t have it, our brothers and sisters over at the Ellen White Estate made it available for free on their webpage, egwwritings.org: https://media1.egwwritings.org/swf/en_MB/index.html. On the bottom left corner of that link you fill find a download (in .pdf format) button.

    God bless.

  7. keijo leppioja says:

    So much joy with the bible brings today in wisdom and be take care of us all in grace and drinking the living waters from a well of the word in blessng and be thankful when heavenly the bread are to be given with love of Christ ,thanks and bless and pray,keijo sweden

  8. Onserio Nyangaresi says:

    Dear friends,praise the Lord Jesus! God apear to his people in many ways. The testimonies are okay.Thank you God bless you.

  9. Thembinkosi Dube says:

    Hi Nicole

    I should say I liked reading your post above and it is so true what you say. The Bible holds so many helpful tips and stories to help with counselling. After all. that is what the Bible is all about right, Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth……B.I.B.L.E.!!!

  10. Onserio Nyangaresi says:

    This is the ministry of vision I like!!

  11. Annie Harley says:

    In 16 and have recently felt as though being a Christian counselor is what I am called to do. This post gave me a really good look into what I could be doing some day. Thank you. ❤

    • Nicole says:

      I’m so glad to hear that, Annie! There are many books I recommend on biblical counseling, many of which I talk about in the seminars on our resources tab. I hope you will look into biblical counseling as a life calling. It is so needed!

  12. Ruth Ricoy-Lamb says:

    The Bible is the Basis for All Truth and without adding to it or subtracting from it, one must be skilled in professional counseling to delve deeper with people into their problems. Too much well intended so called “Christian” advice handed out to desperately hurting people only exacerbates their situations.

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