“Oil and perfume make the heart glad, so a man’s counsel is sweet to his friend” (Proverbs 27:9). These beautiful words demonstrate the goal of the biblical counselor’s conversation with the counselee. In biblical times oil and perfume were luxurious gifts from a gracious host. When a guest arrived for a feast, sweet smells and soothing oil felt welcoming and brought refreshment. We desire our counselees to know they are welcomed when they arrive and refreshed by our words when they leave. The biblical words we share are as desirable as honey in a desert land (Psalm 19:10, Psalm 119:103).
This blog is the second in a series about the qualities a good counselor should possess. The first article  discussed the counselor’s character: Spirit-filled, humble, and caring. This blog is about the words used by an effective counselor. Her words should be self-controlled, wise, and filled with hope.1 For more information, see When Words Matter Most: Speaking Truth with Grace to Those You Love by Cheryl Marshall and Caroline Newheiser.
- A Gracious Counselor is Self-Controlled.
Anyone who has counseled for a while has learned that impulsive speech is generally not helpful. It’s easy to blurt out reactions to a problem without knowing all the pertinent aspects and details (Proverbs 18:13,17). It’s easy to cut off someone’s story because you have heard it before. It’s easy to give simplistic solutions which may not apply. Instead, remember Proverbs 25:28, “A man without self-control is like a city broken into and left without walls.” The best biblical counselor will guard her mouth (Proverbs 13:3). Then you will avoid the subsequent confession which must come after you realize that your words came out too quickly because you didn’t listen well. Ask the Lord for cautious and considered words. Pray for a heart filled with self-control, knowing that your words reflect what’s in your heart (Luke 6:45). Then you will have the time to patiently consider how the Word can be used to help the counselee.
- A Gracious Counselor is Wise.
Counselors may give their opinions and share solutions, but only those words backed by Scripture will be wise. “For the LORD gives wisdom; from his mouth come knowledge and understanding” (Proverbs 2:6). We don’t want to rely on common sense or our experience of what “works”. The Bible warns us against leaning on our own understanding and being wise in our own eyes (Proverbs 3:5, 8). I picture leaning against something flimsy which won’t support a person’s weight. That person will fall. Knowing and doing God’s Word is as solid as a rock (Matthew 6:24-27). Wisdom begins with knowing God and His ways. A study of Proverbs chapter two inspires the Christian to seek God’s Word for wisdom. When the wise counselor earnestly seeks the Lord, her words will be filled with wisdom. Pray for a heart filled with wisdom, knowing that your words come from your heart (Matthew 12:34b).
- A Gracious Counselor is Hopeful.
Christians, of all people, should be filled with hope. Our solid foundation built on God’s Word gives confidence in God and in His promises. This hope is contagious as it spreads from you to the troubled person sitting in front of you (Proverbs 10:28). A small dose of hope can multiply because it is based on truth. The world around us says, “Hopefully things will turn out all right.” Christians say, “I know that God is working all things for your good and His glory, because I believe what God says in Romans 8:28.” That verse begins, “We know…” This knowledge is based on God himself and His trustworthy promise to conform us to Christ. He who began changing us will continue to change us. “I am sure of this…” (Philippians 1:6). This hope is powerful but should be applied carefully. Your counselee may need some time to grieve and lament before hearing God’s uplifting words. You can ask, “Would it be all right if I share the reason for the hope that is within me?” If she agrees, express your confidence with gentleness and respect (1 Peter 3:15). Pray for a heart filled with hope, knowing that “the heart of a man reflects the man” (Proverbs 27:19).
The Christian counselor recognizes that her words have power. The conversations she has with others can be meaningful and life-changing. They can have eternal consequences. They can be used to direct others to a path which is life-giving and God-honoring. Let us pray for our words to be self-controlled, wise, and full of hope, that they may bless those who hear (Luke 11:28, Revelation 1:3).