I'm writing a paper for one of my classes at Palm Beach Atlantic University on the integration of faith and counseling. As a pastor, naturally I've given a lot of time and thought over the years to the issue of counseling: what makes for good counseling, what's the best approach to counseling, etc. I don't have all the answers but I'm taking classes in counseling to try to become better at it. I see counseling as a key part of my calling. To me, counseling is simply a way to help people grow. It's a kind of discipleship. Usually it focuses on helping people grow through pain or loss or conflict or whatever.
Trouble is, I only had one course in counseling when I was in seminary, and it was terrible. Most of us thought it was the worst class we ever had. Go figure. Now you see why I'm taking classes at PBA.
There's a stigma against counseling in some churches (not ours, praise God). Many Christians look down on it as a profession, because - well, there are a lot of kooky psychologists and therapists and psychiatrists out there who don't have a clue about anything and give counseling a bad name.
Many Christians look down on GETTING counseling, too, because - well, who wants to be known as someone who needs counseling, of all things? Counseling is for messed-up people, and we're not messed up. We have everything under complete control.
Yeah, right. Honest people know better. We're all messed up to some degree. Frankly, I don't know anyone who wouldn't benefit from counseling now and then. If you're in counseling, I say "way to go." If you stick with it, and you have a good counselor, you're going to grow. And that's what disciples are supposed to do. Grow.
Counseling, if it's any good, is hard work. You have to look at ugly things about yourself. You have to admit mistakes to people you love. You have to repent. You have to change patterns of relating to others. But the benefit is you get to unlock some things that have had a strangle-hold on you, and you break free.
One of Jesus' names is Wonderful Counselor. He is especially good at unlocking strangle-holds. But He frequently uses human agents to do His work. Counselors, like pastors and teachers and elders and mothers and fathers and good friends, are Christ's agents for helping people get free.
And free is good.