Twenty years ago, if I had been your biblical counselor, it would not have turned out well. At that time, I thought that if you just applied a Bible text, you would be fine. There was a little scope for you to adjust, but certainly not longer than a day. Not only would you be fine, but those around you would change as well, as a result of being conscience-stricken by your godly behavior, and your faith-filled prayers being answered. Oh what arrogance!
Sadly, there have been a few occasions when I sensed this same tone in others. At a conference, I once heard it taught that if you did not demonstrate the fruit of the Spirit at any given time, you were not walking with the Lord. There have been numerous times I have heard speakers teach on a passage of Scripture with an air of superiority, as though they had the answer. If the counselee would only apply this passage, the situation would be different. The insinuation is that the counselee is living in disobedience. The other insinuation is that the counselor would never be in the same position as the counselee because he or she has got it all worked out. Oh what arrogance!
The Painful Reality of Suffering
Suffering is real. We will all suffer in life and sometimes at the hands of others who are deliberately sinning against us. I have met with many women who walk with the Lord, trust him, deal with their hearts, and are still being treated badly by family members. I know of women who are constantly facing verbal abuse, slander, and lies by their relations. It hurts to be treated in this way. These women let the Lord change their hearts. They deal with the hurt, the resentful and angry thoughts, and being treated badly by others who believe the lies. Depending on the person, it could be that the counselee has come to the end of herself, and only the Lord can pull her through. The difficulty and pain involved in these situations can be immense.
The Example of Paul and Christ
Paul wrote that he was afflicted so that he could comfort others. His focus was on bringing people to know Christ. If there was deliberate sin, he would confront the perpetrator and call others to help that person. In the situations I am talking about however, we have people who are walking with the Lord and are suffering at the hands of others.
Our Lord himself was “a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief” We read, “surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows” (Isaiah 53:3-4). He did not have an air of superiority, as I often did. Rather, he left the glories of heaven, became like one of us, and carried our griefs and sorrows on the cross so that we could have peace and be healed.
Called to Encourage
What does it mean for us to demonstrate Christlikeness toward someone who is suffering at the hands of others? There could be many answers to this. One answer is that these people could be described as fainthearted or weak. Paul teaches us that we are to encourage, help and be patient with them (1 Thessalonians 5:14). This is vastly different than treating them as inferiors because of their life circumstances. Hopefully, over the years my arrogance has subsided and I have more of the care, compassion and love of the Lord toward my suffering fellow believers.