People come for secular and pastoral counselling with all kinds of expectations. Some expect nothing really, except perhaps a mystical fix to all their problems. Others expect a listening ear—and clearly nothing more. Then there are always those who, like Nebuchadnezzar, expect the counsellor to “just know” what the problem is. On the other side of the spectrum are those who expect only a listening ear—and clearly nothing more—as they pour out one complaint and opinion after another as though speaking is sufficient counselling.
What does God expect of counselling? What ought Christians to expect from their pastors when struggling with a decision, a sin, or a trial? What should the world be expecting from their secular counsellors?
The answer is a lot simpler than we think. If you need help, then expect help! Expect to be helped with something that helps!
In Biblical counselling the expectations are 1) that the problem will be clarified, 2) an objective standard will be followed, 3) and practical instruction will be given.
- The problem will be clarified. This means that the person seeking help must speak (Pro 28:13), and the counsellor must listen with careful analysis (Pro 18:13). Expect from the counsellor to sift through all the perceptions and opinions of the problems and draw out some key heart issues than are to blame (James 4:1).
- An objective standard will be followed. This means that all the thoughts and opinions and feelings of both the person seeking help and the counsellor will be submitted to the Word of God (Heb 4:12-13). This is what gives true Biblical counselling the upper-hand in all counselling that relates to the psyche and mental well-being of man. Expect from a Biblical counsellor NOT to use psychologised labels, NOT to recommend medication for mental problems, NOT to justify your excuses, NOT to insert his own opinions. Instead, expect from a Biblical counsellor to give you Bible verses, to expose heart-causes for our thoughts and behaviour, to prescribe righteousness as the way to success.
- Practical instruction will be given. Prescribing righteousness in a practical helpful way is where the counsellor’s expectations come to the front. Biblical counselling is a two-way session. The person who needs help ought to expect help from the counsellor, but then the counsellor should expect willingness to change from the person needing to change. Biblical counselling has all the answers, but it requires implementation. In your expectations of Biblical counselling, expect to be expected to change! It is only those who live and walk by the Spirit who get to enjoy the fruit of the Spirit (Gal 5:22-25).
We all, at different times, and for different reasons, need counsel. Don’t settle for something less than the best. Expect the problems to be clarified, expect objective standards that supersede man’s vantage point, and expect to change in practical ways. Call your pastor/elders. Tell them what you expect from them, and learn to overcome the struggles of this life with the eternal counsel of God.