Because of the time difference, I ended up talking to her before I got a chance to do my devotions. When we got off the phone, I had to get the children started on school. The day started to slip away from me, but before lunch time I finally slipped away to spend time in the Word.
You know those moments when your devotion just totally grips your heart? Those moments where you really find yourself not just reading, but inspecting and reviewing? Yes, this was one of those devotions. Of all places, I was in the book of Job today... and Job's "friends" were counselling him. It really made me reflect on the counsel I have been giving my friend. Have I been showing true compassion? Have I just blurted out all the "right answers" because I am convinced I have them?
The book of Job seriously makes me inspect my counseling methods and motives.
Job was in deep grief and pain, and these three "friends" had nothing to offer except sharp, critical words. Job even tried to counsel them on how they could be better friends:
Hmmm... Strengthening people with our mouths. That is what counseling should be.
So how can we be better counselors? How can we better help people who come to us with problems? I am sure there are tons of ways to improve, but in my devotions I found three main ways.
Purpose to be a friend and not an enemy:
Job was telling his friends that they acted more like enemies than friends. His enemies treated him this way... why were his friends doing the same? Their mouths were not constructing anything. They were smiting and gaping.
Our goal is not to make people feel guilty. Guilt changes no one for the better. Often we try to make people feel guilty because we do not trust God's Word and the Holy Spirit to bring conviction.
Our goal in counselling Christians is not to beat people down, but to encourage them toward truth. It may be truth about a sin they are involved in, or it may be encouraging them toward trusting in the goodness of God through a storm. Even in the case of sin, we should be focused on rescue and restoration, not condemnation.
Flattery helps no one, but always speak the truth in love.Job 17:5 "He that speaketh flattery to his friends, even the eyes of his children shall fail."
Job didn't want someone to just tell him what made him feel good. He was looking for truth. He didn't want his friends to flatter him. If he had truly sinned, he wanted his friends to help him see it. The problem was, his friends could not point out any sin. They only had accusations and assumptions. They hurled those at Job unmercifully.
(Ladies, if we don't know the "why" of a problem, don't assume. It's OK to say, "I don't know.")
If You Don't Know What Counsel to Give, Ask!
I have to admit, I have been like Job's friends more times than I can count. I find it easy to tell people why they have all the problems they do. My pride tells me I know all the reasons and the solutions. Yes, often people encounter problems because of sin. But there are also times when people encounter problems because God is doing something special in their lives. How careful we should be in diagnosing the "why!"
It is also easy to be all love... or all truth... and forsake speaking the truth in love. Truth should never be separated from love, nor love from truth.
When we learn to seek God's direction in our counselling, we learn to speak the truth in love, and we show compassion for those grieving (whether the problem was brought about by their doing or not) we will truly learn to strengthen people with our mouths.
-- Charity, Southern Asia