Preparation Precedes Blessing

by James Rudy Gray

I believe there is a principle that can be stated simply: "Preparation precedes blessing." In virtually any endeavor in life, preparation comes before accomplishment, success, or victory.  It is true in business, government, the military, sports, and also in counseling.

A pastor or counselor who is called to help a person through a difficult time of emotional distress must be prepared. If counselors are not qualified to handle the level of dysfunction or difficulty they are faced with, they should refer their clients to a more qualified professional.

However, what about those times when you can help someone, but you may not feel as though you are being as effective as you would like? This is where preparation precedes blessing. We should be personally, spiritually, emotionally, and mentally prepared for each counseling session. How? We must be sure that we have an adequate history of the person and a confident understanding of the real issue. Remember, often the presenting problem is the symptom while the real issue is not willingly revealed. 

Once we have determined what the issue is (which is over half of the challenge), then we can proceed to helping the person learn to help him or herself through the means of God's grace. Does the Bible teach anything specifically related to the issue? For example, many people are really hurting themselves with excessive worry. The Bible has a great deal to say about worry. When the counselor approaches a counseling session with the background of prayerful and thoughtful preparation, the session can be much more productive and constructive.

It is not a bad idea to prepare some questions in advance. The temptation for many pastors, after determining the counselee's root problem, is simply to tell him what to do. That can often lead to bigger problems. It may be good preaching but it is not good counseling. A leader in his church came to a counselor about a moral problem in his life. This man's wife had died about a year earlier and he had met a woman about his age that was divorced. Their relationship led to an immoral affair. This man was guilty. He felt guilty. He came to a Christian counselor for help. Instead of simply saying, "This is sin. You must repent," the counselor asked the man if he thought his behavior was right or wrong. "Wrong, for sure," he replied. "If it's wrong, and I agree with you, then what do you think you should do next?" Again he replied, "I need to break this off right now." The counselor supported his conclusion and encouraged him to take the right action. It is important that people who come to us for counseling do not become dependent on us to do for them what they must do for themselves in order to be healthy. 

Preparation for counseling involves knowing the person and having insight into their besetting problem. Understanding human personality is helpful. Testing can be very beneficial.  The Myers Briggs Type Indicator is a good basic instrument for determining a person's personality preferences. This understanding can be significantly beneficial to counselees, especially married couples. Many pastors could become qualified to administer this personality indicator through some specialized study. However, even if testing is not possible, it is still good to read and study about the human personality.

Preparing for a counseling session includes being spiritually prepared. The Holy Spirit is not simply a tool for counseling. He is the resource and power for real change. The power of prayer, God's Word, and His Holy Spirit must never be underestimated.

Remember, preparation precedes blessing.

               James Rudy Gray, who pastors Utica Baptist Church in Seneca, S.C., is certified as a professional counselor by the National Board for Certified Counselors, and is a member of the American Association of Christian Counselors.

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