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.
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.
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)