We who minister the Word to one another; i.e. counsel, in whatever place and form God has called us, spend significant time with people whose lives, by their own admission, are badly broken. We listen to stories of marriages on the brink of divorce or accounts of childhood abuse that are too horrific to describe here. People reveal to us the addictive behaviors that result in job loss, financial ruin, and the destruction of relationships. Couples speak about relentless drama from extended family members, and children tell of parents whose chronic anger and alcohol abuse control every aspect of their lives. Many of our counselees simply weep in the midst of their brokenness — and we weep with them.
Thankfully, God’s Word is no stranger to brokenness. King David lamented, “I have been forgotten like one who is dead; I have become like a broken vessel” (Ps. 31:12). Variations of the same theme are repeated every day around the world to men and women who counsel others. Engaging people in love and wisdom is much more than an academic exercise for us. As followers of Jesus, we weep when others weep (John 11:35; Rom. 12:15). We minister to broken people in a broken world. We often sound, look, and feel like the prophet Jeremiah when he said, “For the brokenness of the daughter of my people I am broken; I mourn, dismay has taken hold of me” (Jer. 8:21 NASB). As we mourn, we share our counselees’ hurts and seek to find ways to help them achieve a real sense of healing and wholeness.
That is where the topic of counseling may actually take on a more disturbing ring, because Scripture speaks about the possibility of counselors addressing the hurts of others in ways that actually do more harm than good. In the days of Jeremiah, God condemned spiritual counselors who “healed the wound of my people lightly, saying, ‘Peace, peace,’ when there is no peace” (Jer. 6:14). The last thing a hurting soul needs is a superficial response. True healing requires answers that speak to the fundamental issues of the heart with a balance of grace and truth.
For this reason, having the right source of truth in the counseling room makes a huge difference. Jeremiah explained the reason some people-helpers in his day were offering superficial answers: “My people have committed two evils: / They have forsaken Me, / The fountain of living waters, / To hew for themselves cisterns, / Broken cisterns, / That can hold no water” (Jer. 2:13 NASB).
Words such as these strike appropriate concern and caution into the hearts of those of us who counsel. We practically tremble when we think of serving a broken person with answers that are equally broken. The words of James are always near: “Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness” (James 3:1).
This leads biblical counselors to be profoundly thankful for the sufficient resources of heaven. We look first to Scripture itself for an explanation of the nature of the revelation that God has provided to address the brokenness of His fallen creation. Alongside the apostle Peter, we marvel that “his divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire” (2 Peter 1:3 – 4).
This is the first of five posts derived from the chapter that Steve Viars and I contributed to the Biblical Counseling Coalition’s book, Scripture and Counseling: God’s Word for Life in a Broken World, from Zondervan. Pastors, elders, counselors, small group leaders…anyone interested in growing in the personal ministry of the Word to one another would benefit greatly by reading this volume.