Counseling the Counselor
Counseling is by definition "professional guidance in resolving personal conflicts and emotional problems." While that seems to be a rather daunting description of what I find myself doing on almost a daily basis it's actually quite accurate.
One of the truths that's become abundantly clear for me in these years of helping people connect life and biblical truth is that I need the counsel that I give to others. Several years ago, while attending a conference on biblical counseling, one of the speakers delivered a message from I John which really reshaped my understanding of preaching, counseling, and the application of truth to my life personally. Essentially, Steve Viars makes the case that a biblical counselor isn't able to adequately help others until he or she is personally applying the force and weight of Scripture personally.
Since hearing those words the books I read and the articles I study have taken on a different process. At this point in my life I read to grow and learn. Also at this point, I'm studying and reading not only to help others but to help myself. It took me too many years to realize that the first person I need to counsel is me! Thankfully this discovery came with grace and care from above. It's yielded much fruit...and pruning.
In light of this lesson let me recommend three books I've read recently which have deeply impacted me and could possibly encourage you.
- Spurgeon's Sorrows by Zack Eswine - For those who know me you know I have a love affair with the writing and ministry of Charles Haddon Spurgeon. When I'm struggling personally I often find myself buried in Lectures to My Students or his sermon library. As I've read I noticed a theme of a gentle shepherd reaching out to those struggling to see the sun through the clouds. I wasn't able to put it all together until reading Eswine's work. In this short, readable work I was personally acquainted with "Charles", his personal struggles, his empathetic heart for the sufferer, and his pastoral instruction for those helping. This book is by no means a guide to overcome depression or overwhelming sorrow, but it is an interesting look into the life of one of history's greatest preachers and his struggle with a very common ailment in society, both his and ours. Toward the close of the book Eswine shares, "The sun may not rise for a few hours yet. But here amid the waiting hours, the sorrowing have a Savior." This book reminded me that the "man of sorrows" draws near to the sorrowful and will one day end the sorrow and restore everlasting joy.
- Trusting God by Jerry Bridges - This book had been recommended to me for several years. I'd thumbed through it, had a few highlighter marks in it, but never read it cover to cover. It's somewhat of the gold standard in the biblical counseling community when it comes to the application of the doctrine of God's sovereignty to all of life. After reading it thoroughly my greatest regret is that I haven't read it, digested it, and held on to it sooner. Bridges is a shepherd who carefully guides the reader through the deep waters of God's sovereignty in the midst of a broken and fallen world. That shepherd's heart comes through with crystal clarity when Bridges' states, "Let us not be guilty of breaking a bruised reed (a heavy heart) by insensitive treatment of the heavy doctrine of the sovereignty of God." I, for one, am thankful he was not guilty of that insensitive treatment. Personally, I was guided, cared for, and deeply encouraged as I worked through this book. After reading I was able to say with resolve, "I can trust God even when life hurts."
- Uprooting Anger by Robert D. Jones - The subtitle to this book is BIBLICAL HELP FOR A COMMON PROBLEM. I was hooked immediately and not just because I deal with angry people...but because I can be one. Jones runs the table when it comes to anger. He provides straightforward definition, biblical treatment, road map to recovery, and directly deals with subjects such as anger toward God, anger toward yourself, and helping others deal with anger. This book is full, rich, and was a gift to me. Really, though it's a help to all who read it. Jones' primary concept is that anger must be dealt with at the root. He states, "Simple: you must uproot your sinful anger, or its weeds will return. There will be no thorough and lasting godly change without root removal." What I enjoyed most about this book is it delivers the tools necessary to find the root of anger and rip it out!
I'm working with a friend to read more widely while at the same time continuing to grow in the field in which I find my work. Each of these books addressed issues I deal with personally as well as vocationally. I'm learning to address personal before vocational – and I assure you that ensures that I, too, am walking in the light!