To be a trusted counselor, you have to do more than come alongside a counselee and spout vague generalizations and empty platitudes. You must meet them where they are — like the LORD God walking with Adam and Eve in the cool of the day — like Jesus manifest in the flesh to break the power of sin and death — because they cannot come to where you are. First, you must understand their pain, their fear, and their darkness. Then, you can challenge them to face their situation in the power of Jesus Christ. Then, you can offer them guidance from God on how to handle their situation. But, this requires them to trust you and you to trust God.
The motivation of a trusted counselor
There might be many motivations for someone to become a counselor, but there is only one motivation that will work for becoming a trusted counselor. This motivation has to spring from the heart of the gospel of salvation itself. As ambassadors for Christ, who hath reconciled us to God, by reconciling the world unto himself, we have to use the ministry of reconciliation (2 Cor 5:11-21) to restore each other. This motivation results in a parent’s heart towards the beloved children of God. It leads them to follow you as you follow Christ rather than pushing them to do what you want (1 Cor 4:14-21).
Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted. Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ. For if a man think himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceiveth himself. But let every man prove his own work, and then shall he have rejoicing in himself alone, and not in another. For every man shall bear his own burden. (Galatians 6:1-5)
The qualifications of a trusted counselor
For thousands of years, God has always wanted the same kind of person to serve him. It’s not likely to change now. God wants honest, faithful, men and women who are full of the Spirit and wisdom.
- Leaders appointed by Moses (Ex 18:13-27; Deut 1:9-18)
- Judges and officers of Israel (Deuteronomy 16:18-20)
- Servants of Christ (1 Corinthians 4:1-21)
- Qualifications for overseers (1 Timothy 3:1-7)
- Qualifications for deacons (1 Timothy 3:8-13; Acts 6:1-7)
- Qualifications for elders (Titus 1:5-9)
The behavior of a trusted counselor
Since all Christian counselors are just forgiven sinners, because none of us are perfect in any way, we all sin on a daily (or even more often) basis. The best we can do is be quick to confess and repent. Contrariwise, I knew a man who was very good at preaching the word and telling other people what to do, but he couldn’t even follow his own advice, when his own life and family were an ungodly mess. It didn’t take very long for people to realize the problem, which ruined his reputation, and destroyed his ministry. Don’t be that guy.
Know ye not that they which run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize? So run, that ye may obtain. And every man that striveth for the mastery is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a corruptible crown; but we an incorruptible. I therefore so run, not as uncertainly; so fight I, not as one that beateth the air: But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway. (1 Corinthians 9:24-27)
Join me in suffering, like a good soldier of Christ Jesus. A soldier refrains from entangling himself in civilian affairs, in order to please the one who enlisted him. Likewise, a contender does not receive the crown unless he competes according to the rules. The hardworking farmer should be the first to receive his share of the crops. Consider what I am saying, for the Lord will give you insight into all things. (2 Timothy 2:3-7)
The resources of a trusted counselor
A trusted counselor has to offer good counsel, and the only good counsel comes from the father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow of changing (James 1:17). The word of God is the best lamp to guide us (Psalm 119) This means you need to be constantly reading, studying, praying, and growing in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ (2 Peter 3:18).
All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works. (2 Timothy 3:16-17)
For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope. (Romans 15:4)
Now all these things happened unto them for ensamples: and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come. Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall. There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it. (1 Corinthians 10:11-13)
So they read in the book in the law of God distinctly, and gave the sense, and caused them to understand the reading. (Nehemiah 8:8)
A trusted counselor challenges the counselee
The idea of challenging your counselees with an insight from God about what they need to think about and act upon, is a powerful idea. It has been said, “We don’t change until the pain of not changing is worse than the pain of changing.” The pain of changing can be overwhelming to the counselee in the middle of their problems. Therefore, the trusted counselor must help the counselee evaluate the pain of not changing. This will require challenging their paradigm.
- Disrupt the counselee’s current view of their situation (Col 3:1)
- Show the counselee a different perspective on their approach (Phil 3:20)
- Push the counselee to see their situation from a different perspective (1 Sam 17:45-50)
- Teach the counselee how other people with similar challenges are tackling their issues (Matt 6:33)
- Add insight into the problem and value beyond this situation (2 Cor 10:4)
What does this mean for you?
- A trusted counselor focuses on learning more about the counselee, their issues, and their problems. And, learning more about God’s ways of handling these kinds of problems.
- A trusted counselor finds ways to show insight into the counselee’s issues and problems in the first conversation. He shows empathy and gives encouragement with Biblical examples.
- A trusted counselor realizes attitude will have a huge impact on how the counselee accepts God’s instruction and implements it in their lives. So, challenge them without being challenging.
For deeper study:
- Review of Ready to Restore: The Layman’s Guide to Christian Counseling by Jay E. Adams
- Biblical Counseling: A Topical Index for Christian Living by Chuck Smith
- Review of The Divorce Dilemma by John MacArthur
- Critical Review of Shepherding a Child’s Heart by Tedd Tripp