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Counseling from Psalm 33

Truth in Love 351

Using Psalm 33 is helpful for all counselees because it points them to where they need to place their hope.

Feb 21, 2022

Dale Johnson: Today with me on the podcast I have Hannah Carter. Hannah just finished her MDiv at Southern Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky. She has missionary experience—five years on the field in Central Asia—and she works there as a Senior Administrative Assistant to the dean in the Billy Graham School at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary there in Louisville, Kentucky. She learned biblical counseling under Dr. Stuart Scott. It’s so fun to talk to her, especially because I get to work closely with Stuart and I get to tease him a bit about, you know, his training and the way he’s gone about training. It’s wonderful to see so many disciples that he has made, and this is going to be a fun conversation for us to talk through. We talk a lot about theory. We talk a lot about methodology. We talk a lot about critiquing other secular methodologies in biblical counseling. This is going to be a fun conversation where we get back to the Scriptures and we begin to build and edify from the Scriptures in how we do counseling, and you see the beauty of a passage of Scripture come out.

So Hannah, we’re going to talk today about Psalm 33, but before we get into that, it is often that some of our counselees walk in and they’re not sure what to expect. This whole biblical counseling thing—what are we to do? Maybe they’ve never been to any type of counseling and so they’re sort of unsure. What do you say to a counselee who comes in who feels maybe intimidated by the Scripture? Maybe they feel like they don’t understand it. How do you help them? 

Hannah Carter: Yes. First, I would say that God doesn’t hide Himself from those who seek Him. Deuteronomy 4 teaches us that when we seek the Lord, we find Him when we search for Him with all of our heart. So, for the counselee, if they come with a learner’s heart and an expectation that God can help them, then God will surely supply their need. Through His Spirit, He will bring clarity. Also, we want to just help them not be dependent on themselves to figure out the text, or even how to deal with their problem. God’s Word is clear and it’s also very ensuring, direction and help. Proverbs 2 says that if you call out for insight and raise your voice for understanding, then you will understand and fear the Lord and find the knowledge of God.

So for those that are struggling with being intimidated by the Scriptures, we can just help them slow down and guide them through the passage, asking questions of the text so that they can gain a better understanding. 

Dale Johnson: Some of that is, as you’re engaging them, you’re learning what they know about the Scriptures. You’re learning oftentimes what they don’t know about the Scriptures. Listen, this is not the time to condemn people or chide people because they don’t know the Scriptures. Well, praise the Lord they’re asking questions. They’re looking in the right place, and my goodness, we need to be there to help them out. So let’s slow this down a bit. Sometimes we get in this mode of, we’re just going to move through this and we’re going to help them with the particular problem that they have instead of slowing down and truly seeing an opportunity for discipling someone, not just fixing this problem, but helping them to learn to live life even beyond this problem.

So what’s the counselor’s role, as you see it, in equipping the counselee to study Scripture on their own? 

Hannah Carter: Yeah, that’s right. The counselor’s role, you know, as a biblical counselor, really in its deepest form is intense discipleship. So we not only want to help them see God’s Word as helpful to give instruction for their problem, but we also want to help them relate with and know the holy and mighty God on a deeper and richer and fuller level, helping them to relate with Him and see the rich truths in His Word and all the promises that He gives us. The counselor can do this in very specific ways by walking through a passage during the session and pointing out different things that will help them see more of who God is, but also instruct them in how to live for Him.

Also, they can give the counselee homework. I particularly like to use the Psalms just because they’re simple, they’re hope-giving. They’re also songs of worship and praise to our God. So, in the beginning, I’ll take a Psalm that I know specifically speaks to God’s character on a certain level, and then take them through that Psalm, asking three certain questions. The first question is, who is God? What characteristics of Him do you see in this passage? The second is, who is man? What things do we see man doing and so forth in that passage? And then three, the response. In light of who God is, what is man doing and what should man do in light of that? 

Dale Johnson: I think that’s a beautiful model even to help people to become familiar with the Scriptures. Often people don’t realize in the Psalms how raw those Scriptures are, telling us the beauty of God, but talking about the raw details of difficulty in life, the raw emotions, and the responses, sometimes good and sometimes not so great, but the anchoring character of God. I think that’s a helpful model.

We mentioned at the beginning Psalm 33. You’ve talked a little bit about Psalm 33 being sort of a go-to passage and I think it is a good model. So first of all, why Psalm 33? Second, what about Psalm 33 really is helpful for all counselees? 

Hannah Carter: Psalm 33 is one of my favorites. It is a hymn of praise to God. It starts out with an offering of worship. It has four characteristics and attributes of God sandwiched in there, and then it ends with the resolve to trust God and worship Him. Those characteristics that we see are Him as Creator, Him as sovereign Lord over all things. He is Judge, but He’s also Savior. So building that hope that we have in God, putting our hope not in our own strength as the psalmist teaches us, but our hope being in the Lord. He is our only deliverer in all things.

Using that Psalm is really helpful for all counselees because it really points them to where they need to place their hope. In the midst of the most difficult of situations, or the most hard relationship struggle that they’re facing, their hope can be in God alone. He’s the one that delivers and keeps them alive in famine and so we can wait, we can trust, we can hope in our God because He’s the one who saves. 

Dale Johnson: Now what I love about what you’re describing here is, I teach in academia and so you get these young counselors who are trying to learn how to go about doing counseling and they get so fearful about, you know, data gathering. They sort of get a handle on that. This is how we should do that. Man, when I watch you counsel, they’ll say, you seem to have an idea of where to go even in the first session. It’s interesting, you can take something like Psalm 33, which you know has rooted truth that’s going to be very applicable to really almost any situation, and it helps to right the counselee’s mind and orient it properly to God first and then helping us to understand how we should respond to God.

So, as young counselors, I will often get them to utilize something just like Psalm 33, a go-to passage that helps to reorient that person’s life appropriately to who God is. So I love that, and you need to have some of these things as a counselor in your tool bag. You need to have these things dwelling in you richly so that when you respond, you’re responding with the beauty of Scripture and not just your opinion. I love this, Hannah. I think this is helpful.

Now, as we take a step back for a second, we’re talking about studying. It’s always a good warning—We’ve even done a recent webinar on this topic—It’s always a good warning for us as counselors to recall how to handle Scripture rightly. Sometimes we can be guilty of taking right truths, but often using it from wrong texts. I think it would be good for all of us as biblical counselors to constantly revisit hermeneutics and how we understand passages, and how we apply those passages. So what are some of the ways that you study Scripture so that you don’t mishandle these Scriptures and therefore teach your counselees to mishandle them as well? 

Hannah Carter: Yeah, so first, we want to understand the genre and how it operates. There are different genres throughout Scripture. Some are narratives, some are letters. The Psalms are wisdom literature. Then within wisdom literature, for instance, with this particular Psalm, it’s also poetry, and so there are different particular things that you want to look out as you do in that way. But as a whole of Scripture, we want to read the large context. We want to understand things appropriately before. We don’t want to just take one verse and administer it to someone without understanding the context it’s in.

Some things that are helpful that I’ve utilized are some simple commentaries. I’ve also just listened to a lot of different Bible-teaching podcasts that help expositionally teach the text so that you can gain an understanding. Sometimes I’ve even read through something and studied it and asked someone else that may know more, maybe from Hebrew or Greek, to really make sure that I’m not training others in something that’s wrong. So, there are different ways to do that, and just appropriately handling the text is helpful for the counselee. 

Dale Johnson: That’s right. I think it demonstrates that we as counselors need to be constantly growing, constantly learning, hearing from good Bible teachers, listening to the way the Word is handled rightly, being encouraged by that, even, you mentioned, having the humility that as we’ve studied a passage to talk about that. That’s a part of what we’re to do as believers to encourage one another with the truths of Scripture and even correct each other when necessary. This is a part of the humility that’s necessary to grow as a biblical counselor. So, think about this. This is often sort of an overlooked piece. It’s like, okay, we teach you how to counsel. We give you the passages and it’s sort of plug and play. Listen, that’s not the life of the biblical counselor. A biblical counselor has to learn to study the Scriptures. I can remember early on in my counseling when people would come with problems and I thought, Lord what am I going to tell these people? I don’t know what to say about that. It would force me back to the Scriptures to study. Okay God, what do you say about this? We do have to study well.

So for you, when you’re preparing to study the Scripture or you’re helping a counselee to learn to study the Scripture, what are some of the best ways that you prepare your heart to study the Scripture, to have ears to hear well. 

Hannah Carter: Yeah, I think first and foremost is just through prayer. There are different passages that I utilize, and they’re simple, but simple is also very good and it can help you get deep. I’m thinking of Psalm 86 which says, unite my heart to fear God’s name. Also, there are other passages that the Lord can lead you to, you know, open my eyes to see the wondrous things in your Word. Within the Psalms, there are titles that you can look at. So, for instance, Psalm 33, it says steadfast love of the Lord. So we can even ask before we read through, Lord, will you direct my heart and help me to see your steadfast love in this?

Another way that I also just prepare is through prayer, but also in my own personal struggles as I’m looking to the Lord and relating and loving and cherishing Him, and trusting Him, I just dig deep in His Word. A lot of times, more or less, the Lord will use that time that I’ve had with Him, as I’m gleaning through His Word to try to grab promises and hold to His truth, through my difficulties He is preparing me to then help someone else in those same similar difficulties. So it’s just a really sweet time so that we don’t miss, you know, cultivating our time with the Lord so that we can then help others. 

Dale Johnson: Now, I pray for all the listeners that you don’t excuse what Hannah’s saying because of simplicity. I think this is really important that it’s when we meet with the Lord, we have confidence in the Scriptures in what the Lord has done in us and for us, it changes the way that we counsel. When I walk in the room, I’m confident in what the Lord can do and will do because I’ve seen Him do that in me.

I’ll even add a couple of things to that, Hannah: Confession, where, when I’m studying the Scriptures and confessing before the Lord what He’s revealing about me personally. Another way is what Psalm 100 talks about, just singing. I know you can’t imagine me singing, but it’s a really fun thing to do when I’m by myself—but truly just adoring the Lord, putting these things into musical opportunities to sing before Him, and that is something that’s preparation for studying the Word to hear what He has to say so that you can have something to truly have confidence in and feed the counselee.

Hey, thank you for doing this. This has been really great. Again, we talk a lot about critiquing this and that, and it has its place. I mean, Colossians tells us to do that, warn against empty philosophies and vein deceptions. We need to be constantly saturating our self with the Scripture. So, thanks for reorienting us back. Psalm 33—what a beautiful picture of the glory of God, the character of God, and how we should be constantly rooted in Him. I love the grace with which you describe meeting with a counselee who may be intimidated. Walk slowly. Walk cautiously. Give them the gentle truths of Scripture so that they learn how to trust God and understand Him. Hannah, this has been great. Thank you.