The Power of Presence

Today a former counselee stopped by to deliver a Christmas present for me.  A couple of decades ago I had the privilege of counseling him and his wife about marital challenges they were facing.  Since then we have become friends, brother and sisters, and members of the same church family.

Usually this fellow gives me a humorous Christmas card that makes me chuckle and celebrate our lasting friendship that began with several rather tense counseling sessions.  When he and his wife placed their faith and trust in Jesus Christ over twenty years ago now, the Lord gave them a kind of joy that has been refreshingly infectious.

This year has been different because several of his close family members and friends have died in a relatively short span of time.  We have walked together through the kind of grief that comes from significant loss and heartache.  It has been a different kind of year, and my friend wanted his gift to reflect that.

I was truly stunned when I opened the package.  It contained a 3 dimensional piece of art made of burlap and fashioned to look like the face of Jesus after being crowned with thorns.  An attached card explained that the artisan was a recovering drug addict enrolled in a jobs program where 80% of the monies from the sale of each item went to support the addictions treatment program.  The metaphor was simple and powerful – the artist realized that his only hope in overcoming his drug abuse was the power and presence of his crucified and living Lord.  The power of the gospel could and would truly set him free.

My friend’s point was clear.  He wanted to thank me for being there as he suffered the loss of people he deeply loved.  My presence reminded him of the presence of our loving Savior.

I have been racking my mind to remember any of the words I said to this dear friend as we walked through those various trials together.  Honestly I don’t remember what I said, and I doubt that this man does either.  That very well may be the point.  Sometimes what our counselees especially need and appreciate most is that we will be there with them, and for them.  In so doing, we remind them of the presence of Jesus.

I think it was especially poignant that this fellow blessed me with this message at Christmastime.  One of the delightful names used to describe our Messiah was Immanuel, God with us.  The fact that He was willing to be with us is one of the glories of the Christmas season.

I am going to hang my new piece of art on the wall in the office where I counsel.  I think it will help me the next time I feel stuck and unable to find words that I believe are appropriate for the person I am seeking to help.  Maybe it is time to place more value in the power of presence, especially if mine reminds someone else of His.

Steve Viars
Dr. Viars has served as a pastor and counselor at Faith since 1987. He is an author, national speaker, and Vice President of the Board of Directors for the Biblical Counseling Coalition.