To get us thinking about direction, consider this:
I hope you can laugh at this scenario, maybe you’ve heard it before!
A new teen driver was driving down the freeway when his mother called his cell phone.
“Harry, I just heard on the news that there’s a car going the wrong way on Route 280. Please be careful!”
“It’s not just one car,” said Harry, “It’s hundreds of them!”
Too often in life, we are unsure of the direction that we should take. When beginning in counseling, we can easily feel like Harry who was confidently heading in the wrong direction, and endangering those around him.
Where to Begin
It is crucial that we learn how to correctly define the problems that we are solving.
One of the early principles that we teach biblical counseling students comes from I Thessalonians 5:14. The nuances of these three heart conditions are best captured in the three translations below and are an important reminder when seeking to help those who are struggling.
- And we urge you, brothers, admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all. (ESV)
- Now we exhort you, brethren, warn them that are unruly, comfort the feebleminded, support the weak, be patient toward all men. (KJV)
- And we urge you, brothers and sisters, warn those who are idle and disruptive, encourage the disheartened, help the weak, be patient with everyone. (NIV)
3 Common Heart Conditions
This passage outlines 3 common heart conditions:
- Rebellious – A rebel is known by another term in Scripture: the fool. It is someone who is unwilling to listen and take advice. Counseling typically has little effect with someone who is predominantly a rebel.
- Weak – The weak are those who know they need to change but lack the strength or courage to follow through, despite their genuine desire to do so. You help the week by providing support, encouragement and motivating them to follow through.
- Ignorant – Some people don’t know how to find help with their struggles. Encouragement or rebuke without proper instruction in the practical matters of change, frustrates all involved. Effective counselors are teachers. In order to be teachers, they must be learners as well. One of the main benefits of biblical counseling training is that it challenges you to be both a teacher and a learner.
Some counselors have a one-size-fits all agenda that shapes virtually all the counsel they give. Some feel that listening is most important. Other counselors seem to find the same common sin (pride, lack of self-control, anger) in everyone and focus on rebuke and changing that first. Some counselors rarely teach within counseling because they feel that would be imposing onto others what they themselves believe but all viewpoints should be viewed as neutral.
Most importantly, be patient with them all.
Not One-Size-Fits All
Jesus modeled many different stances with the varied heart conditions that he encountered. He did not have a one-size-fits all ministry but he was intentional. He was also incredibly patient and often repeated the same themes in different ways to help his disciples and others understand.
In Jesus’ ministry, you can see instances of encouragement, rebuke, and teaching all intermingled in effective ways to grow the faith of those he encountered.
The heart was the target, yet he always cared deeply about the concerns of those he encountered.