Giving Counsel: You Can't Say It All At Once!

When it comes to dealing with problems, I'm a "fixer." Recently a friend opened up to me about an area that she was struggling in, and my immediate reaction was to bombard her with applicable spiritual truths and advice. I only want the best for her, so I felt I should be doing everything I could to help her change in this area of her life.

She humorously describes this aspect of my personality as being "compassionately determined", but there is some truth there - and it's not always good! My motive may be right (love), but when I take a deeper look at my heart, I find something else - the thought that if only I can give the right advice, the right wisdom, I can fix the problem. Big problem there. I can't cause lasting change - in my own life, and least of all in another's. It's God who changes hearts! So when I do give advice or share applicable scriptural truth, I have to rely on God to do the changing. This usually means that I need to say less, and pray more. C.J Mahaney quotes some excellent advice regarding counseling others in a post on his blog:

In a nutshell, connect one bit of Scripture to one bit of life. In other words, always ask two questions for yourself and others: What is your current struggle? What about God in Christ connects to this? … Apply one relevant thing from our Redeemer to one significant scene in this person’s story. Bring one bit of Bible to one bit of life. You can’t say it all at once. (The Journal of Biblical Counseling, Fall 2003, p. 3)

We all need to receive or give counsel at some time or another. Proverbs 24:6 says, "For by wise guidance you will wage war, and in abundance of counselors there is victory."
Scripture has much to say on the duty of believers to admonish, encourage, and confront one another. (See Rom 15:14, 1 Thess 5:11,14, Gal 6:1)

I don't know about you, but this really humbles me to ask God for wisdom in understanding and applying His Word - for both my own life, and when I'm advising others!


Angela said...

I like to try to fix peoples' problems with Biblical advice, too, but like you I spend probably too much time talking and not enough time praying. Thanks, Stephanie, good thoughts today!

Anonymous said...

I am in the same boat with you! I almost laughed while reading this post because it truly describes me. Of course I was sobered at the same time. :)
I tend to fall into the trap of "this all rests on me" instead of walking under the counsel of my Father knowing HE will do the work in their heart.

I loved C.J. Mahaney's advice: one bit of Scripture to one bit of life. How many times have I tried to stuff the entire Bible down someone's throat! :)

Thanks again for your encouraging posts, Stephanie. You are a blessing!


Stephanie said...

I'm glad you ladies enjoyed this post. :)
It's good to know I'm not the only one who struggles with this...although it really can go two ways with me with me - I'll either try to "stuff the whole Bible down someone's throat" (love how you humorously worded that, Kaysie!)or I'll be too timid and not say anything at all. Balance is always needed. :)

Eve said...

When I first started my blog, I felt like I should know more before I attempted to help anyone. But twenty eight years saved should have taught me something. So I try and I think I have helped some. Just as your blog speaks to me. We all have a lot to share even if we are not a bible scholar.

E03 said...

this has totally been something that's been on my mind the past few days: i think that often i need to be quiet (others already know what i think of what they're doing, or the authors they're reading, or whatever) and pray. in the end, I don't want them to change to be like me...I want them to change to be like Christ!