[This is part 1 of 2 in a short series on dependency as a counselor. Part 2: The Trap of Dependency]
Is it a becoming attribute to be dependent on anyone or anything?
Often, the answer to that question is (and should be) “no.” From dependency on chemical substance, to the healthy man in his 30’s who is fully dependent on his parents, to the counselee who’s obedience to Christ depends on the nagging of her counselor (more on this in PART II) – dependency is not a universally good thing.
What now? Do we as Christians and counselors swing the other way and pursue independence from everyone and everything?
Just A Stick
In John 15, Jesus puts us in our place: “Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me. I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing” – John 15:4-5.
Christian brother and sister, I hope you caught that – apart from Jesus, we can do nothing. That sounds a little bit like dependency to me…
If we are acting independently, we are not attached to the Vine and we can do nothing – we are just a lifeless stick. It is not until we abide in the Vine that we receive the necessary nutrients to be fed ourselves and then, in turn, produce fruit.
Part of our mission as counselors is what Paul was called to: “we impart this in words, not taught by human wisdom, but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who are spiritual. The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned” – 1 Corinthians 2:13-14.
The truths we have to impart to our counselees are spiritual. In the flesh, we are only able to provide human wisdom. Thus, we are dependent on the Spirit of God to use His Word to teach life-giving truths to our spiritually discerned counselees.
How then do we cultivate a dependent heart?
The most obvious expression of dependency in the Christian walk is the act of prayer. In the beginning of Luke 18, Jesus describes a widow who persistently pleads with a judge in her area for justice. The widow recognizes that apart from the action of the judge, justice has no hope of being served. Eventually the judge caves and grants her request. Jesus equates this act to our need to cry out to Him – and He is far better than a reluctant judge!
Do you have a counselee that is far from Christ? “You do not have because you do not ask” – James 4:2. Do you feel stuck on where to go with one of your couples? “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him” – James 1:5. We need it, and the Lord alone has it.
Therefore, spend time praying – especially right before you meet. Your level of dependency can be gauged by your frequency of prayer. If you never cry out to the righteous Judge on behalf of your struggling counselees (or on behalf of yourself as you minister to them), who might you be dependent on?
One Thing is Necessary
Luke 10 is one of my favorite places to take folks who are not convinced they should read their Bible. In it, we find a familiar story: Jesus interacting with two sisters, Mary and Martha. Starting in verse 38, we get a bit of a glimpse of what either woman is like. Martha was busy welcoming and serving, and Mary was sitting down at the feet of Jesus. We can smell a reproof in the wind, but we find ourselves surprised at who it is directed at and why –
“[Martha] went up to [Jesus] and said, ‘Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.’ But the Lord answered her, ‘Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her’” – Luke 10:40-42.
First, Jesus is reproved. Not a good idea.
Next, Martha is reproved, but not for reasons we expect. Martha wasn’t cussing and gambling, she was welcoming and serving – why the strong reproof? It wasn’t what she was doing, but what she was neglecting to do.
Jesus uses a curious phrase: “one thing is necessary…” Has the profundity of that phrase gripped you before? Just one thing is necessary! What is that one thing – what is the “good portion” that Mary had chosen? We find it in verse 39, “[Martha] had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to His teaching.”
In order to be effective counselors, we must be dependent counselors.
It’s no mystery that the need for practical biblical truth in the lives of the hurting far outweighs our capacity to help all those in need. In Martha-esque fashion, we can very easily find ourselves caught up in our own welcoming/serving cycle and neglect the one thing that is necessary. Opening up the teaching of Jesus and sitting at His feet.
We expect this of our counselees, but are we doing it? Busying ourselves with ministry while our Bibles remain unopened at an arms-reach is the same as Martha welcoming/serving while Jesus teaches in the other room. Jesus was not just addressing misaligned priorities in Martha’s life – He was highlighting her lack of dependency on Him.
Working Hard at Dependency
Dependency does not mean we don’t prepare (Proverbs 21:5). Dependency doesn’t equal complacency (Zephaniah 1:12). The job of a counselor is a difficult one that requires a great deal of work, wisdom, and understanding. Proverbs 20:5 describes one of the many tasks of the counselor:
“The purpose in a man’s heart is like deep water, but a man of understanding will draw it out.”
It’s hard work to counsel. It’s much harder to do it well. It’s impossible to do biblical counseling without the intervention of the Wonderful Counselor.
Once we have prayed for wisdom and have sat at the Teacher’s feet, we are then nourished branches, ready to produce fruit to the glory of the Vine.