Fixing problems begins with the counselee — not circumstances, not the other person. Guest writer Julie Ganschow, director of Reigning Grace Counseling Center, shares how she helps counselees fix problems and experience spiritual growth. This article appeared first here on Julie’s blog and is used with permission.
I have noticed that when people come for help for their problems, they are often more interested in learning how they can change their circumstances or the other people in their lives than they are in personal change.
Many are very determined to fix the problems and are equally as determined to prove the problem is not themselves. They are excited to finally have someone to whom they can talk about their problems; someone they hope will see things their way and validate their viewpoint on the person or situation that they believe is making their lives miserable.
Typically, they have already tried a number of things to fix or change the problem people or circumstances. Reading books, watching videos, and attending conferences are all methods I frequently hear about. This is great, except the goal is nearly always to change the other person.
When their well-meaning “help” falls on deaf ears, they respond with anger, withdrawing, complaining, and even hopelessness or escaping through working or substance abuse.
Part of my goal is to help struggling counselees see how God is using their situation for their personal growth and change. If I am any good at what I do, I will help them to embrace God’s agenda and see the person or difficulty from God’s perspective. I will also help them to see and accept their responsibility in the matter.
Where Is God?
An unfortunate reality is that this important question is usually asked out of frustration rather than being asked by one diligently seeking to see Him in the midst of their troubles. The simple answer is that God is right here, in the center of the situation. He is always involved.
The problem seems to be the counselee does not like how God is involved. This becomes clear as they balk and complain when He does not do things their way. This kind of response is exposing the heart of the counselee.
The Israelites responded in much the same way as they wandered through the desert. God was actively involved in their circumstances, He was actively providing for their needs, He was clearly leading them somewhere, but they didn’t enjoy the journey. They grumbled and complained, and revealed their faithless hearts (Numbers 21).
Bringing this home to you; as you think about your reaction to the discomfort of your present circumstances:
- Can you see how your circumstances are revealing who or what you are living for?
- Can you see a lack of gratitude emanating from your heart? You’ll know it by your words and by your emotional responses.
Thankfulness should be a standard practice for the Christian, and you can build it into your life by recognizing that God is using your present problems to reveal your own sinful heart.
Your difficulties are intentional and purposeful. God is using them to increase your spiritual life and to help you to grow in Christlikeness!
It is from such adversity that the spiritual fruit we all desire proceed. When life is humming along nicely we typically don’t think about developing patience or kindness or self-control. We realize we need to grow those qualities when our responses to trials reveal we don’t have them in sufficient quantities! This is a reason to be thankful.
Change Your Focus
Take a step back from the perspective you had on your problems when you began reading today, or from the belief you held prior to that last biblical counseling appointment. Change your focus from fixing the people in your life and from changing the circumstances that frustrate you to examining yourself.
- Has God been getting your attention by allowing these things to reveal your sinful heart?
- Is there work to be done internally?
- Have you been resisting His methods?
- Have you hardened your heart and claimed your innocence in these troubled relationships?
All good questions that if you are honest with yourself can dramatically change the direction of your present troubles.