WHOSE SIDE ARE YOU ON?
by: Daniel Kail, Pastoral Counselor
PRE-READ DISCLAIMER: This article is specifically about how we go about equipping ourselves through the counseling process to mature and become more Christ-like. Prior to beginning this process, or as part of it, we must accept God’s engagement and encouragement to be known within our own stories. An understanding and acceptance of God’s love and grace over our life is critical. It is dark and cruel to force obedience upon one’s self from a place of shame and guilt, for “it is the goodness of God that leads to repentance.” (Romans 2:4).
I have been blessed to be in counseling and helping professions for the majority of my professional career, which spans over 20 years now. When I found new identity, life and hope in Jesus about 10 years ago, it made sense to find ways to share that with others who are searching for meaning, understanding, and healing. And to be clear, God’s not done with me yet – I am very much an ongoing work in progress!
While inviting God into the counseling room brings supernatural comfort, safety and clarity, it also creates unique challenges. However, it is not God creating these challenges, but us. That is, the collective “us.” Our fallen and broken humanity. Though we proclaim our desire to seek and find God’s goodness in our lives, we often find ourselves operating more like Cain (Genesis 4:1-18) as we miss the mark with God, and become angry, vengeful or self-righteous. And as we attempt to justify our beliefs and behaviors before God and others, we look for reason upon reason as to why we are “right,” and others are wrong. Or worse yet, why God is wrong!
Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If any of you wants to be My follower, you must give up your own way, take up your cross, and follow me. If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake, you will save it.”
As Christian Counselors, we are called to challenge those misperceptions, false beliefs, irrational thoughts and counterproductive behaviors. At times, a hurting person may experience this tension in a manner that feels contradictory to what many believe counseling should be. There is an important (and difficult) balance of validation and understanding countered with personal sacrifice, and possibly realignment of one’s core beliefs.
We are in the best place to receive healing when we are open, vulnerable and willing to explore the masked parts of ourselves. Those who insist on their own way, particularly outside of God’s, often find themselves trapped in a state of disrepair, confusion, hopelessness and helplessness. And it is not that a counselor will have all of the answers, but rather an ability to ask the tough questions and encourage you as you wrestle with God’s truth.
Soon – and it will not be very long – the forests of Lebanon will become a fertile field, and the fertile field will yield bountiful crops. In that day the deaf will hear words read from a book, and the blind will see through the gloom and darkness. The humble will be filled with fresh joy from the Lord. The poor will rejoice in the Holy One of Israel. The scoffer will be gone, and the arrogant will disappear, and those who plot evil will be killed.Isaiah 29:17-20
A Christian Counselor is most certainly on your side, because God is on your side; God is with and for you (Romans 8:31). And a Christian Counselor (or faithful friend, pastor, teacher, etc.) will encourage you to be with and for God, and to find His design for you, which will likely be a difficult process. Again, let us follow Jesus here: “Jesus said to the people who believed in him, ‘You are truly my disciples if you remain faithful to my teachings. And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.’” -John 8:32-33
We will be wise to stop the process of perceiving our sin, conflicts and internal contradictions as unbearable things, but rather opportunities for healthy processing, maturity and growth. This current state of pain may very well lead to future redemption and glory.