by James Rudy Gray
We live in a society that places a high premium on success. In fact, we are so success-oriented, that many have come to believe it is the only thing in life that matters.
For God's people, however, success is not the question; faithfulness is. God's requires His people (as stewards of His blessings) to be trustworthy or faithful. When it comes to counseling, faithfulness is what separates compassion and care from manipulation and pressure.
A counselor's best counsel may be rejected. Our best endeavors may fall short. It is certainly possible that we will not see husband and wife reconciled. We might do our best and yet a drug addict or alcoholic still continues in their destructive cycle. We may pray diligently and work sincerely and yet see no real or lasting change come. That is part of life in a fallen world, and counselors must learn to accept the disappointment that comes with it.
Counselors often only get half of the story at best. What about the husband who seeks earnestly to reconcile with his wife? He seems honest and genuine, yet, when you learn more, you realize he has hurt her physically, been sexually unfaithful to her, and now she has a restraining order against him. She has an attorney and wants nothing to do with reconciliation. What can you do? Typically, when an attorney has been obtained, the hope of a marriage making it goes down considerably. These situations test us as counselors and demand the best from us, yet it is often not enough. The question to ask ourselves in those trying circumstances is not how to succeed but how to do your ministry faithfully.
Counseling involves helping people. Some people want to be helped; others want to use you to get their way. A number of years ago, I agreed to counsel a young man who the judge believed was already an alcoholic. After three sessions he was to appear before the judge. I was asked to write a report on how he was progressing. I did. I did not fabricate or falsify his condition and wrote the report with the understanding that he needed to stay in counseling. The judge dismissed his case, and the young man and his parents never attempted to get any more counseling for him.
I felt used. I asked myself if I had been faithful to do what God had given me the opportunity to do. I could not change this person-only God can do that. I could not force him into further counseling-only recommend it was needed. What happened to him? Regrettably, he fell back into his old lifestyle.
A counselor must not only be faithful in the discharge of his responsibilities, but he or she must also be faithful to the truth of God's Word. We listen to a troubled heart in an effort to better understand the person. However, we listen to learn and to help, not to empower a person to continue wrong behavior or sinful ways.
As we analyze our work, we must also investigate our motives. We are people-helpers but we are not little gods or assistant gods. We will fail. When we fail because of our own mistakes, we can either pass them off or learn from them. The biggest mistake we often make is the failure to learn from the mistake. We should also examine the case and ask the important question, "Was I faithful to God, His truth, and in working to help this person?" If we have been faithful, we are not a failure, even if the desired outcome of our counseling has not been achieved.
Faithfulness is what God requires. It is the best we can give those who come to us for help. Faithfulness is the principle of sanity and the anchor of responsible intervention for those who counsel.
May God help us to have faithfulness to His Word and our calling as our primary goal.
James Rudy Gray is certified as a professional counselor by the
National Board for Certified Counselors, and is a member of the
American Association of Christian Counselors. He pastors
Utica Baptist Church in Seneca, S.C.