I think I’m your run-of-the-mill sort of patient person. I’m not quick to become impatient, but I’ve been convicted that I’m not as long-suffering and persevering as the Lord wants me to be, sometimes in counseling.
Recently as I was talking with some fellow counselors over lunch, I said that I just wished my counselees would “get it” and that they would just live to please God. This would make their lives much simpler (and mine too). In theory, I meant it. There is great joy in living a life that pleases God. I’ve had counselees who come ready for the discovering the truth of God’s Word and are eager to put it into practice. You can almost hear the angels singing!
But other times I encounter counselees who take multiple trips down the same path, dredging up the same difficulties, battling the same issues, and we go over the same truths from Scripture that we’ve already been over many times. My counselees nod in agreement, say they understand, yet we continue to go down memory lane—often.
Is it me? Am I not saying the right things, correctly handling the truths of Scripture? Have I not asked enough questions to understand the heart of the matter of my counselees’ struggles? Am I mistakenly assuming my counselee understands God’s Word and truly desires to put it into practice?
Why does this have to be so complicated?
Counseling is complicated because people and life are complicated. Sin complicates life. Suffering complicates life. Broken relationships complicate life. Lack of knowledge and lack of understanding God’s truths complicates life. Attending a weak church or being isolated from other believers complicates life. Failing to read, put into practice, and living to glorify God complicates life. A poor understanding of suffering and living in a fallen world complicates life. We don’t see things in simple terms because things are not as simple as we wish they were.
Difficult counseling cases have shown me that I need to really think about my expectations.
So, what should I expect in life and in counseling? Here are some truths I need to remember in order to line up my expectations with God’s Word.
I should expect trouble.
Jesus said in John 16:33, “I have told you these things, so that in Me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble.” I seem to be the only one surprised when trouble comes into my life. I have heard myself say, “Lord, do You see what’s happening?” And I think God would say, “Wow, Bev, I did not EVEN see that coming!” Right. He’s not the least bit surprised because He’s the One in sovereign control of all things. He alone knows what needs to come into my life in order to conform me to the likeness of His Son.
I should expect God to discipline me…and for it to be hard.
The writer of Hebrews says, “Endure hardship as disciple; God is treating you as sons…God disciplines us for our good, that we may share in His holiness. No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.” (Heb. 12:7, 10-11) God is in the process of conforming me to the likeness of His Son, and He’s chipping away everything that doesn’t look like Jesus. Chipping is painful, and sometimes He uses my counselees to do this.
I should expect good to come from trouble.
The apostle Paul says in 2 Cor. 4:17, “Our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.” I have to cultivate an eternal perspective when trouble comes into my life and help my counselees do the same. We should consider trouble joy because of the benefits that will come from it (James 1:2-4).
I should expect to encounter difficulties that can only be faced with God’s help.
Jesus said in John 15:5, “I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in Me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from Me you can do nothing.” What or who am I truly depending on to handle or solve problems? It’s prideful on my part to think I can do it in my own strength and limited understanding. I need God’s wisdom.
I should expect God’s comfort in the midst of my troubles…so that I can comfort others.
“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God.” (2 Cor. 1:3-4) I can’t give my counselees something I don’t have. My confidence has to be in the Lord and in His wisdom, love, and strength, and that He will bring good out of my troubles and good out of my counselees’ troubles. And that through our troubles He will be glorified!
I think that the reason God takes me through troubles, hardships, and discipline is to reveal to me what I’m really expecting and what I’m truly depending on. At what false altars am I worshiping? Primarily the altars of comfort, ease, and cooperation. I would like life and counseling to be neater, simpler, and less complicated. I want all of us to “get it.”
Yet my counselees may be new believers or relatively young in their faith. It’s going to take time for them to grow. Others may be followers of Christ for quite some time, but may not understand how God’s Word really connects with everyday life, or how to be renewed in their thinking. We may have to go over the Scriptures numerous times for them to really understand.
So, I’m going to ask the Lord to give me wisdom to present His truths and principles in ways that make sense to my counselees. I will pray for my counselees to have eyes to see and ears to hear so they can see how the gospel, the good news of Jesus Christ risen from the dead, makes a difference in their lives as they live to please Him. I will pray for God’s abundant grace to help us all live for His glory. We need help from the Holy Spirit, the true and best Counselor!
This has been an important lesson for me. I want to follow the apostle Paul’s instructions in 1 Thess. 5:14: “And we urge you, brothers, warn those who are idle, encourage the timid, help the weak, be patient with everyone.” I need to “get it.”