On Counseling

lucyMy first semester of college overwhelmed me. A potent cocktail of 17 credit hours, 800 miles from home, and 15 freshman pounds had me on my butt by October. I broke out in hives. I didn’t get a lot of sleep.

My freshman mentor, a pleasant older professor with white hair and a quick smile we’ll call “Dr. Smith” saw the cracks in my glass and approached me after class one afternoon.

“I’m the student counselor here at LeTourneau University. Come to my office tomorrow. Let’s talk,” he said.

I’d never been to a counselor before, but I went anyway, albeit unsure.

It was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. He helped me work through some serious issues I never knew I had. He guided me into God’s grace and truth.

Since that time, I’ve gone to counselors off and on when I needed it. Each of those experiences has not only taught how to help myself, but how to minister to others. I want to share some of that wisdom with you now.

Listen. At my first meeting with Dr. Smith, he spoke for maybe five minutes of the hour-long appointment. He let me unload for the rest of it. As ministers of the gospel (whether or not we’re pastors) we too often jump to preach and give advice. Sometimes people just need to unload, and when they do unload, you’ll often see the deeper issues that they’re fighting. You’ll be able to address those issues quickly with truth and grace after they have spoken.

Point Out The Good in People. In a more recent session, I was telling my counselor about some struggles at work—a project that wasn’t going as planned. I mentioned I was going to have to scrap it and tell my boss that we needed to take a different route. I was feeling very stressed about the whole thing.

My counselor stopped me and said, “That takes a lot of courage, you know. Most men would fudge their bad work and try to get by, but you’re owning up to it, taking responsibility for it. Don’t sell yourself short.”

He could have driven by and tried to address the stress problem, but instead he encouraged me and pointed at something good in my character rather than dwelling on my character flaws. I needed that.

Speak Grace and Truth. Each meeting I’ve had ended in this way. None of my counselors fluffed me up with empty encouragement. Rather, they simply pointed out a flaw in my thinking and then reminded me that God was in my corner. I had to rely on His grace to get past the stumbling blocks in front of me.

If you find yourself struggling, don’t be afraid of counseling.

It doesn’t mean that you’re weak or sick; it means you’re flawed liked the rest of us. Sometimes we get hung up and we need a professional. That’s ok. Be humble and submit to someone else’s aid and expertise. Find a reputable Christian counselor and get some help.