If you’ve been serving in the ministry of biblical counseling for any length of time, then you know that it can be both rewarding and heavy. It’s heavy for you, the counselor, as you bear burdens, seek to determine underlying problems, and, at times, watch as counselees take one step forward and two steps back. However, it’s also heavy for your counselees as they struggle with personal sins and the sins of others, seek to respond faithfully in the midst of devastating circumstances, and, at times, fail to make the progress they hope for. And, on top of that, as helpful as the counseling meetings can be, counselees also feel the weight of rehearsing their difficulties and idolatries from week to week as they sit across the table from you. As a result, discouragement can set in, along with a lack of motivation for the counseling process. Because of this potential threat to your ministry of soul care, I want to call each of us to the habit of celebrating God’s grace with our counselees as we see it displayed in their lives. A number of benefits can arise from this practice. Consider the following.
It Keeps Our Counselees from Overlooking “Small” Grace
Our counselees may be discouraged in the counseling process because they’re only looking at the finish line. They can see where they need to be, and they’re disheartened because it’s obvious to them that they’re not even in the last leg of the race. But they need to look down at their legs for a moment to see that, by God’s grace, they are running and they are making progress down the track—even if it’s not at the speed they desire. It may be that your counselees come in with stories of disobedience or despair. But many times, in the same week, they also come in with stories of self-denial and walking in the Spirit. Let us not forget that in His letter to the church of Pergamum, where Jesus said, “I have a few things against you,” He also said, “You hold fast my name, and you did not deny my faith” (Revelation 2:13-14). Yes, part of our ministry is confrontation, but another part is encouragement. Each step down the track is evidence of God’s grace, and we must not allow our counselees to overlook it as if the only thing that matters is the finish line. Reaching graduation with a counselee is a compilation of hundreds of moments wherein God provided grace to starve the flesh and put on Christ (Romans 13:14). So, when your counselee reports an act of godliness, no matter how small it may seem, stop right there and praise the Lord together for how He provided help in time of need.
It Keeps Our Counselees Focused on the Lord
One key goal for us in the counseling process should be to help our counselees continue to look to the Lord as they seek to change. There is a danger for each counselee that they may begin to dwell on their sins and failures to the neglect of meditating on the gospel, or that they will zero in on their own efforts to the neglect of trusting in God’s enabling power. The habit of celebrating God’s grace when you see it in the lives of your counselees can prevent them from drifting into these treacherous waters. When you do this, they will be reminded that God is their source of strength and the One whose grace in Christ secured our forgiveness. This sets them up to trust God more readily and boast in Him more fervently. We all want our counselees to say along with Paul, “I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me” (1 Corinthians 15:10).
It Gives Hope to the Offended Party
When you are counseling a married couple at odds with one another or two church members who are in conflict, it’s not easy for the offended party to see anything other than the offenses they experienced. This can lead to an attitude that assumes the worst of the other person in the relationship and an expectation that he/she will only continue to behave poorly. By celebrating grace in the life of the offender, you can help the offended party begin to “[believe] all things” and “[hope] all things” (1 Corinthians 13:7), as well as trust that God can and does transform His people “from one degree of glory to another” (2 Corinthians 3:18). This can be an encouragement to both parties that the health of their relationship is not a lost cause, which can then free them up to lean into the transformation process with both eyes fixed on Jesus.
When we celebrate grace in counseling, we are simply reflecting the heart of God who delights in the obedience of our counselees. He is the One who tells us that what is “holy and acceptable” to Him is for us to “present [our] bodies as a living sacrifice” (Romans 12:1). As our counselees do this, they demonstrate that God is at work in them by His grace and this pleases His heart. May our celebration of this grace reverberate in the hearts of those we serve in biblical counseling, so that they display it in their lives even more.
This blog was originally posted at Center for Biblical Counseling and Discipleship. View the original post here.