November 1, 2012

Have you ever had a friend or family member tell you that you needed to go to counseling? They might as well have told you that you had purple skin with green spots or a banana growing out of the top of your head. As much as our culture has officially and outwardly embraced the idea that counseling is healthy and beneficial, when it is offered as a personal suggestion, we often interpret it to mean, "There is something really wrong with you! I've never met anyone as messed up as you are!" What does God's word tell us about the need to share our burdens with others? What can we accomplish in a counseling relationship that we may not be able to do alone? If I've got a relationship with Jesus, isn't that all I need?


Throughout scripture, from Genesis, when God creates the first family to Revelation, when he speaks to each of the churches, people are found in groups. We were created to be in community. God relates to us as our Father and calls Jesus our elder brother. As our creator, He knows that our humanity is most fulfilled when we share our lives with others. In an age of increasing isolation we, as social creatures affected by a world filled with sin, really need other Christians to help us remember the goodness of God and His promise to be with us always.

Our culture today increasingly emphasizes independence and isolates us from one another. The natural supports we once had may live far away. We often are fearful of letting others - even in our church - know about our needs for fear that they will think that we are weak or "should" be able to handle the challenges of life without help! Sometimes the weight of sin is so overwhelming that people turn to alcohol or drugs as an escape, hurt those around them with unkind words or with violence, or even decide that they would rather die than continue to struggle. Although friends and family members care for us deeply, there are times when we become so entangled in sin that it feels like more than any friend can handle. So how can Biblical counseling help when there is trouble in life?

Bearing burdens: In Galatians 6:2, Paul tells us, "Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ." What is this law? Paul seems to be referring back to Jesus' words recorded in John 13:34, "A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another." So in bearing one another's burdens - listening, helping, sharing, and understanding - we show love to one another.   Listening is where counseling begins!

Encouragement: In Hebrews 10:24 we are told, "And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the day drawing near." A counselor can help you to identify your strengths and suggest ways you might use these gifts to love and serve your neighbor.

Exhortation: Hebrews 3:13 "But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called 'today,' that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin." Sometimes, we need to be exhorted - encouraged strongly or admonished. Exhortation connotes urgency - it is a stronger word than encouragement. In today's world, a coworker or friend might be afraid of hurting your feelings with words of truth. A Biblical counselor should use the Word of God as a mirror to help you to see where steps might be taken toward change.

Helping us to Remember and to Return:   If you open your Bible to the book of Judges and scan the first line of each chapter, more likely than not you will read these words, "And the people of Israel again did what was evil in the sight of the Lord . . ." (Judges 3:12). They had a problem with remembering. We share the same problem! Sin clouds our perspective and causes us to think of God as a punishing menace instead of a gracious Father who is eager to welcome us into fellowship with Him. A Biblical counselor should remind you of who you are in Christ - an adopted son of the Father - a child far from home who can - in a moment of repentance - return to the Father's embrace.

So, the next time you see a friend in need; don't be afraid to offer to help. We need each other. And, if it seems that needs are more than you can bear with them - if a Biblical counselor could listen, offer encouragement or exhortation, or help your friend to remember God's love - you might try telling them - in the nicest possible way - that counseling could help!

Susan Reusser, LCSW