Jesus and Counseling
As a preacher, one is inevitably going to counsel. The preacher can either be good at it, or bad. However, there is no getting around the reality of the situation. Most people come to a preacher or minister before they ever go to a professional counselor. They feel more comfortable with a preacher or minister.
Life is not predictable. Life is not totally controllable. There are variables to consider in every individual’s life that is out of their immediate control. Maybe the situation is their own fault. As in they committed adultery or got addicted to drugs. Maybe the situation is someone else’s fault. As in their spouse committed adultery or their kid is addicted to drugs. Maybe the situation is completely out of their hands and anyone else’s hands. As in their mother got cancer or they had a child born with a deformity.
The list could go on and on, but the point is that everyone has, and will continue to have, unfortunate circumstances in their lives. This does not necessarily mean these are bad people. It does not necessarily mean others around them did something cruel. Even in a world full of perfect people there would people natural and unfortunate circumstances appear before every person.
These circumstances need to be addressed or else they will never heal. They will be everpresent in the lives of their victims until they are truly resolved. There are three options for the victims: 1) They could ignore the problem until it bottles up and explodes in a less than healthy way. This could cause more pain and unfortunate events. 2) They could use the problem as a crutch for all their lives. This way they would not have to be a productive member of society because “people will understand that they have a difficult time.” 3) They could address the problem in a positive way by learning from it and allowing it to make them a stronger person.
If an individual is coming to a preacher for counseling, one could probably assume that he is coming for the last reason given above. The person has humbled himself and admitted that he has an issue to address if he has come to a preacher for help. Bad, uneducated, and unchristian-like advice will be a misfortune and tragedy to this seeking individual. However, If one seeks to care, be like Jesus, and educate himself before giving advice, then the hurting person can be assured that he will gain stability if he listens to this preacher.
A preacher, in his right heart, wants so badly for there to be peace and joy in the heart of every person. This is especially so if the said person in a brother or sister in Jesus Christ. However, the truth of the matter is that there are so many preachers who do not properly train themselves. They do not educate themselves. They use what they believe is common sense and intuition. They use Bible verses out of context to support an ignorant view that they hold. More harm than good is often the reality when it comes to a preacher’s Christian counseling. So many hurting people leave, still wounded by the unfortunate situations in their lives.
Preachers tell mourning widows that it was God’s will for their spouse to die at that particular time. Preachers tell struggling parents that they are not “training up their child in the way he should go” because their child is departing from the Lord. Preachers tell hard working fathers that they lost their job because God is trying to punish them for the evil in their lives. These are uneducated and evil responses towards good, loving, and hurting people.
So what is a preacher to do if he truly cares for these people? How is he to act? What is he to say? The simple (notice I did not say “easy”) answer, and the answer that will be given in this article, is that being like Jesus and speaking like Jesus is the way to bring people to a place of stability. Being Jesus to a hurting and dying world will bring healing to a hurting and desperate person.
1. He is the answer to everything.
From the beginning, there was a mystery about the world. So many questions, and, seemingly, no answers. God gave the Jews a temple, kings, priests, and rules, but for what reason? The kings and priests died, the temples were destroyed, and the rules could not be kept. Why would a powerful, good, and loving God give His people things that were seemingly vain?
First, all Christians are the modern temple of the presence of God now (1 Cor. 6). All Christians are built upon the perfect cornerstone that is Christ Jesus (1 Cor. 3:9-16; Eph. 2:19-22). He perfects those who need perfecting. He is the stone by which all are to conform to. Through His foundation, the world has opportunity to have relationship with the Holy Father, creator, and God of all human kind. God had a plan from the foundation of the world to make a way for the creation he loved to enter into His loving presence again. This thread of thought is one of the most encouraging and beautiful pictures that one can find when studying the Bible. The temple of God was and is truly significant. There is a new temple.
Second, Jesus is both priest and king. Jesus reigns in heaven, on the right and of God until He takes us home. He is from the tribe of Judah, but he does not reign as a king on earth. He is also the priest because He is after the order of Melchizedek. We read this both is the Psalms and in Hebrews. Melchizedek is a “type” of Jesus because he was both a priest and a king. There is now a new king and priest.
So how are all of these things significant? What makes these things so important in both Jewish and Christian history? The Law was a means to an end. It was a shadow. As both Hebrews and 2 Corinthians show us, the old testament manifests the truth that Jesus is the answer to all. He is the greater glory. He is perfection. God knew from the foundation of the world that we could not perfectly maintain holiness on our own merit. He knew that we would not know on our own how to treat people with true love. There had to be an avenue beyond ourselves to both reach Him and to be like him. So He put it in His plan to show the Jews, the facilitators of Christ, that their temples and kings would never be good enough, but God still would keep His promises. He would be faithful in a way they could not imagine. He would fulfill all righteousness. He would show the Christian what God’s compassion is in reality. Christ would be the answer to everything. He is the foundation of the spiritual temple, He is the king, He is the sacrifice, He is the priest, and He is the true counselor and brother. Why Jesus? Jesus is the answer of recovery. He shows the Christian how to respond to true human sorrow. He gives every person hope now, just like He did for the faithful Jews in times past.
2. We are told to be like Him.
Since He is the answer to human hurt, it makes perfect sense that being like Him would heal the problems of the world. We read about His character and approach to things primarily in the New Testament. However, we also read that He was present and active all through the Scripture. There are many places that help one conform to His image. Jesus kept a sober mind in all that He did. This caused him to remember that through the power of God, all things are possible. The Spirit helps us to be like Him if we bear His fruit (Gal. 5). Being led by the Spirit is the same as being led by the Character of Jesus.
Jesus was in constant and prayerful conversation with the Father. He was always remembering that the only way to help himself or someone else is through the Father. So many times the Christian avoids prayer. It may have something to do with the ignorance of how prayer works. It may have something to do with a lack of faith in the power of God. Maybe it is a lack of faith in the existence of God in general. So many people suffer without turning to God, and then turn around and blame Him when things do not work out. This Christian should ask himself “if I believed that God had the power to help after the suffering, why did I not ask for that power during the suffering?”
Granted, no individual understands the full will and purpose of God in detail. Some may pray during their suffering and never clearly see God work. This may discourage continual prayer in said suffering, and it also may discourage prayer in future suffering.
Jesus was all too familiar with this reality in the moments before He bore the cross. “In this dark moment, with His life slipping away, Jesus turns to the only resource He has. He prays. Like us when we are overwhelmed by disastrous events, Jesus also turns to God when facing the hardest challenge of all” (David Thurman, Gospel Minutes).
However, this does not mean that Jesus turned to prayer as a last result. He turned to prayer because He had a relationship with the Father, and He knew that God would guide Him to what is right and best in that situation. Prayer is a declaration of one’s faith in God, not a ritualistic fix to one’s problems. If a Christian sees someone who is suffering, He should encourage them to pray. No trial or temptation is, or will ever be, bigger than the God who is over all creation. We need to pray for ourselves and others before we ever try to take the initiative to counsel them ourselves. – Jesse
Suggested Reading After This Article: Jesus and Counseling Part 2