Biblical Counseling: What to Expect, which was written to acquaint those who are considering biblical counseling by explaining some of the key elements of the process and to offer them hope that no matter what their problem, Jesus Christ has a solution. In this article I would like to cover two more of the dozen expectations you may read about in the booklet.
You should expect to see good results from biblical counseling
No matter how difficult your struggle might be, you should have hope that, if you are in Christ, you can change.You should expect to see results because, as a Christian, all the conditions for you to change have been met by God. Of course, if you expect God to bless you, you must be willing to do what the Bible says you, as a Christian, ought to do.
To begin with, you are a renewed person—someone who has been regenerated (quickened) by the Holy Spirit. The Spirit of God actually liveswithin you, making you capable not only of change, but (as I have just said), of changing in ways that please God. You are able to develop “proven character” (which brings about hope) because the love of God has been poured out within your heart through the Holy Spirit who was given to you (cf. Romans 5:4–6).
Then, there is the fact that you (not to mention your counselor) have been given the sufficient Word of God which contains everything you need for life and godliness (cf. 2 Peter 1:3). “The law of the LORD is perfect (complete), restoring the soul” (Psalm 19:7). The Spirit, working through the Word, is the means that God has ordained to bring about lasting change in the hearts and lives of His people. (I will say more about this in a moment.)
And, if that’s not enough, now you also have a counselor who will, presumably be ministering to you through the Word in the power of the Spirit. As a fellow member of the body of Christ, he is a vital part of the hope you should have as you consider the abundant resources God has given you to change. The Bible says that we, as Spirit-filled believers, are all “competent to counsel” one another (Romans 15:14).
Let’s zoom out a bit to consider one last item that virtually all earnest obedientChristian counselees have going for them. The big umbrella under which a Spirit-filled biblical counselor operates is the local church. The local church is a vital part of the process of change. It provides, among other things, biblical teaching, opportunities for corporate worship, loving Christian fellowship, The Lord’s Table, accountability, a variety of role models, prayer support, and church discipline. All of these things contribute greatly to every believer’s sanctification (the transformation into the image of Christ). If you are not regularly attending a Bible-teaching church, your counselor will be encouraging you to do so.
You should expect to gain an eternal perspective about your problem
Your counselor will do his best to help you solve the temporal problem that compelled you to seek his help in first place. But he is obligated to do more than that. He is going to offer you something more than you may have asked for. He is going to help you learn to live in light of eternity. That is, he is going to help you interpret and respond to the problems you face with a view toward heaven—your ultimate home where there will be no problems because you (and everyone around you) will be perfect.
Don’t worry. Your counselor is not going to minimize your problems or somehow spiritualize them by focusing all your attention on “the great by and by.” He really will help you deal with the actual, tangible issues you face in “the nasty now and now”—and he will do so with great specificity and in very concrete terms. It’s just that he knows that because, as followers of Jesus Christ, we don’t live for this life but for the next one, he will want to keep you from placing all of your trust in temporal things (things that can be taken away or destroyed). He will want to help you avoid the misery that comes from placing too much value in the things of this life and not enough on the things of the next one.
Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal,but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. (Matthew 6:19-21)
Present suffering, if experienced as a result (for the sake) of righteousness, will result in eternal rewards and happiness (cf. Matthew 5:10; 1 Peter 3:14). Your counselor knows that the present cost of being faithful and obedient to Christ will be immeasurably repaid throughout eternity. Not all marriages will be restored, not all of the people in our lives will stop causing us some measure of daily misery, not all of our own struggles with sin will be eradicated in this life, not all of our circumstances will improve as we wish they would because we live this life in a world filled with sin. Your counselor will do his best to refocus your attention on Christ and the glory you will share with Him in heaven. This eternal perspective will give you lasting hope.
Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. (1 Peter 1:13).
So you should expect your counselor to challenge you, in one way or another, to joyfully endure whatever life-long suffering God may choose for you in light of the great eternal hope Christ has set before you as laid out in His Word.
I would like to leave you with one final thought. Please keep in mind that your counselor has many tasks to perform while he is counseling you. He or she must be able to accomplish several things in any given session. Consequently, he may not be able to do all that he would like in any given session. In fact, there may be times when he is so concerned about one part of your problem that he will be temporarily distracted from (or lose sight of) his overall counseling agenda. For that reason, if you believe he is failing to do what has been outlined in this booklet or is not meeting some other expectation that you have, please tell him. He is a fellow sinner, and although he has been trained, he is not immune to the noetic effects of the Fall (the effects of sin on one’s mind). He may need your help, on occasion, as much as you need his.
Or, find an answer to your dilemma. Some people come for counseling not because they need to change their thinking or behavior, but simply because they need to make wise decisions about a particular course of action they must take.