I remember the phone call from Randy, my Pastor, like it was yesterday. On the other end of the line he said, “Are you ready to quit your day job? It looks like we might be able to seriously start a biblical counseling ministry.” Though I had recently moved back home to Maui after finishing a biblical counseling degree and ACBC certification, being able to do counseling ministry full time seemed like a distant, out of reach dream to me. Yet, that summer four years ago, the birth of a biblical counseling ministry at our church took place.
At that point, I had the naive notion that I would have an unbroken desire and zeal for ministry. In fact, I recall telling people that I was so excited to be able to study and minister God’s Word so much that I did not feel the need to take holidays. Fast forward to today, I still pinch myself thinking about the Lord’s kindness to allow me to spend my days pointing people to God and His Word. I have learned that I need time to rest and recharge. It is important for me to remember my human weakness, frailty, and need for utter dependence on God. Only God never tires or slumbers. He does not waiver in strength or zeal. But I had to come to terms with the reality that some days, I don’t desire to counsel.
If you had asked me four years ago if I thought I would find myself here, I would have overconfidently and pridefully rejected that idea. I have come to realize that my soul has been deeply affected by hours upon hours of listening and knowing the specific kinds of suffering and struggles that people I love have had to endure. There are moments in time when that initial zeal I had for ministry feels long gone. It is also notable to consider the challenges that our world is facing in 2020 and how this has taken its toll as well. This has led me to reflect on how I should respond when in-and-of myself I just do not desire to counsel.
Attend to Your Soul
Are you believing Jesus when He says, “Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me (John 15:4)?” As biblical counselors there is no substitute to spending unhurried time to taste and see the goodness of the Lord for our own souls. Choose to prioritize and delight in personal communion with the Lord, hearing the life-giving words of our holy and merciful God in the Scriptures, and responding with praise and singing, uniting the worship of your heart to sound lyrics and the melody of your voice. This may seem obvious, but I recognize that in the trenches of ministry, we can often neglect our source of life and the portion that can never be taken from us. Our counseling must be an overflow of our personal worship of God.
Evaluate Why and Realign Yourself to the Right Motivations
I am often discouraged in ministry because I have become distracted into allowing my reasons for counseling to be man-centered rather than God-centered. My sinful, short-sighted motivations include desiring to see instant results or to gain the approval of others (Galatians 1:10, Jeremiah 17:5-8). In addition, I can begin to desire counseling to be easy and comfortable. These competing desires in my heart chip away at the God-glorifying reasons that should be driving my heart instead (Philippians 3:7-8).
I must turn from faulty reasoning and remind myself once again of the truth that it is an honor and privilege to help point others to Jesus on a daily basis. What an amazing opportunity to help make disciples and fulfill the great commission of our Lord (Matthew 28:19-20)! He doesn’t leave us alone in this. He promises that He is with us always in this pursuit. How incredible it is to look another believer in the eye and in love to point them to truth that will impact this very moment as well as the next week, month, 10 years, 50 years, a million years, and throughout all eternity (2 Corinthians 4:16-18).
Lay Hold of the Grace and Strength in Community
Though the details of counseling must be kept between me and the Lord, I am thankful that I can be transparent and share my own personal weakness and weariness with a few faithful people close to me. As biblical counselors we are in as much need as the people we counsel for accountability and encouragement to persevere from fellow brothers and sisters in Christ. In addition, when I need help with counseling cases, I am quick to ask permission of my counselee to call another ACBC counselor who is not on the island in order to gain insight and wisdom for situations in which I feel ill-equipped to counsel. This serves to remind me of the fact that Jesus is the Wonderful Counselor who has instructed us to have an abundance of godly counselors to find wisdom, safety, and victory (Proverbs 15:22). This has helped to combat being overwhelmed and feeling isolated in counseling ministry.
Ask the Lord for Zeal and Gladness in Serving
And herein lies the need for God to grant endurance and perseverance (Galatians 6:9-10). One of my prayers in this season has been to ask the Lord to grant me obedience—to not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit and to serve Him with gladness (Romans 12:11; Psalm 100:2). God is entirely faithful to answer our heart’s cries for a deeper trust and obedience to him. He will Himself restore joy and renew zeal for His namesake.
In closing, if you are anything like me and have moments that when you do not desire to counsel, remember that our Wonderful Counselor can and will transform your desires and you will be able to cling to these comforting lyrics:
The night is dark but I am not forsaken
For by my side, the Saviour He will stay
I labour on in weakness and rejoicing
For in my need, His power is displayed1 City Alight, Yet Not I but Through Christ in Me
Fellow biblical counselor, may we labor on in weakness and rejoicing. May God receive all the glory as He displays His power to use weak vessels of mercy.