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My Heart is Broken Again, Thankfully

In the midst of our busy lives as counselors, we must guard against becoming callous in our care of others.

Dec 10, 2021

It just happened again. The administrator for our counseling center emailed me with a new couple she is placing on my schedule. My first thought was, “I already have four counseling appointments that day, and now you have scheduled another case for 8:00 pm!” I became weary just thinking about it! 

And then an email followed containing their two PDI’s. As I read through them, I again encountered a horrible family situation. This couple wasn’t a nuisance. It wasn’t just another case, these were real people who are suffering immensely. I began to cry, as I have so many times before, as I read their pleas for help. It was simply awful. 

My mind went immediately to Galatians 6:1-2 as I thought about the gentleness that would be required to adequately come alongside this dear couple. I thought of 1 Thessalonians 5:14-15 and how I was required to not only confront sin and admonish the unruly but to, “encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all.” 

And as my eyes continued to leak, I became grateful that the Spirit of God had not allowed my heart to become calloused and desensitized to these dear suffering saints. 

If we were to say that the ultimate goal of biblical counseling comes from 1 Timothy 1:5, “But the goal of our instruction is love from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith,” then the biblical counselor is focused on bringing that about. 

We who are strong have an obligation to bear with the failings of the weak, and not to please ourselves. Let each of us please his neighbor for his good, to build him up. For Christ did not please himself, but as it is written, ‘The reproaches of those who reproached you fell on me.’ For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope. May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God.” (Romans 15:1-7, ESV, emphasis added) 

The counselor who wants to fulfill his/her God-given counseling ministry must have an open, honest, and loving relationship with the counselee and understand the hope that is brought into lives through the encouraging work of the counselor, but more importantly the Scriptures. In her excellent article, “Can I Become a Biblical Counselor”, Julie Ganschow writes: 

“You are ’qualified’ to be a biblical counselor if you have a desire to help people. There is undoubtedly something different about people helpers. Many are described as having gifts of mercy, encouragement, discernment, and compassion. Others are servants and givers, and still others are truth tellers who desire to redirect the sheep that have wandered off the path.”1Julie, Ganschow, “Can I Become a Biblical Counselor”, Blog (August 31, 2015) 

“Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another…” (Colossians 3:12-13a). 

The biblical counselor has a distinct and difficult role when it comes to sympathy and empathy with the suffering counselee. Due to the nature of the good biblical counselor who weeps with those suffering, he must be cautious to not allow a compassionate heart to overtake the role of speaking the truth, albeit in love. Jay Adams writes, “It is perfectly correct to care for the counselee and to seek his welfare; apart from such carrying in which the counselor may even ‘weep with those who weep and rejoice with those who rejoice,’ neither the ultimate goal (God’s glory) nor the overall objective (restoration) is possible.”2Jay Edward Adams, Ready to Restore: The Layman’s Guide to Christian Counseling (Phillipsburg, N.J.: Presbyterian and Reformed Pub. Co., 1981), 6. The other extreme is an uncaring counselor who simply preaches and teaches biblical answers without displaying the compassion of the Savior. Like the Good Samaritan, the biblical counselor is motivated by his compassion for the counselee’s suffering. (Luke 10:33). The biblical counselor is called to love the counselee and to show compassion that is empathetic and genuine (Philippians 2:1-5). 

And so, on counseling days when I just want to go home, when I have a tendency to see people as more of a nuisance than needy, I remember that – “…the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died; and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised. From now on, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh…” (2 Corinthians 5:14-16a). 

God has compassion, “As a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear him…” (Psalm 103:13). Jesus has compassion, “When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd” (Matthew 9:36). 

I am so thankful that, by the amazing grace of God, I do as well.