Why is wise and healing counsel needed?
To help a person understand his heart
Proverbs 20:5: "The purposes of a man's heart are deep waters, but a man of understanding draws them out."
We need the definition of three key words to understand this concept.
- Purposes: plans, counsel, resolve, deliberation, determination. These are often in the deep waters of our soul, so deep we don't know what is in our heart. What do we need? A wise person with a bucket! What do we do with a bucket?
- Draws: To let down a bucket for drawing out water; figuratively, to deliver and draw out, lift up.
- Understanding: skillfulness in discerning between right and wrong. To be perceptive. It is to know how to use the knowledge one possesses. We need to continually work at understanding who we are at the deepest part of our heart. Proverbs 27:19 says: "As water reflects a face, so a man's heart reflects the man." If we can't understand ourselves, we need to get together with a wise person—one who will help us draw out our heart.
Prov. 18:14— "A man's spirit sustains him in sickness, but a crushed spirit who can bear?"
Prov. 13:17— "A wicked messenger falls into trouble, but a trustworthy envoy brings healing."
We need healing:because of the heartaches we face. Proverbs 14:13 affirms, "Even in laughter the heart may ache and joy may end in grief." A short chapter later, we read, "A happy heart makes the face cheerful, but heartache crushes the spirit" (Prov. 15:13).
We also need healing because of reckless words, which "pierce like a sword, but the tongue of the wise brings healing" (Prov 12:18). A deceitful tongue can also bring pain:
"The tongue that brings healing is a tree of life, but a deceitful tongue crushes the spirit" (Prov. 15:4). Have you experienced a crushed spirit? What great healing a righteous tongue can bring.
To bring healing and peace to the body
Proverbs 17:22; 14:30; 15:30;16:24; 12:20; Psalm 32
"A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones," says Proverbs 17:22. "A heart at peace gives life to the body, but envy rots the bones" (Prov. 14:30). And David laments in Psalm 31:9-10, "My eyes grow weak with sorrow, my soul and my body with grief. My life is consumed by anguish and my years by my groaning; my strength fails because of my affliction, and my bones grow weak." Clearly there is a connection between our spirit and body.
If we don't handle a crushed spirit, the effects will be not only emotional but physical. We know that is true of others, but how about ourselves? Are our hearts at peace? Can we bring God's peace to another?
Psalm 32 relates the physical effect of not just despair, but sin itself on David's body. Confrontation ("Yah-aatz") from the prophet Nathan was necessary, followed by David's confession. Only then did the physical effects of his sin abate. We need the wise counselor, the Lord, to bring healing and peace to the body. Are we wise counselors for others, or do we need that counsel ourselves?
Reflection:Continue to think in some practical ways about the above three reasons for wise, healing counsel. Write the following reflections in your journal.
First, take a moment to write a short review of the counselor who has been most effective in your life. From the five Hebrew words given to you, describe what kind of counseling you received.
Second, of the five kinds of counsel mentioned, which have you used to counsel another? Which do you feel the most comfortable offering to another? Why?
Third, read through Psalm 32 slowly. As you do, list the physical and emotional problems David was experiencing. What does this list say to you about counseling? About your unrepentant sin?
Every adult who has lived a normal life, lives with hurts most of the time. We may cover them up, but we still have them. Sometimes we have learned to live with them, and other times we ignore or bury them. They will, however, eventually weigh us down unless we acknowledge them and get healing and counsel. This is especially true of anxiety and worry. Therefore, another reason wise and healing counsel is needed is:
To help relieve anxiety, worry and fear
Matt. 6:31; 13:22; Luke 10:41;12:11,22,25,26; 21:34; 1 Cor. 7:32,33,34; I1 Cor. 2:4; 11:28; Phil. 2:20; 4:6; I Pet. 5:7; Ps. 94:19; Prov.12:25; Eccl. 2:22-23;11:10.
"Anxiety" and "worry" are terms translated from the same Greek word. Some have differentiated them as follows. Norm Wright explains, "Anxiety is a feeling of dread, apprehension, uneasiness, shakiness, nervousness, disquiet, upset, but often without a specific cause. "It produces a sense of approaching danger, but does not always have a reasonable cause. The source of the impending doom is not clear" (The Healing of Fears). Worry is a state of being fretful or overly concerned; anxious expectation. It's asking, "What if?" and then answering. Worry is an attempt to move into the future and control it, "pre-imaging" the future. It means in Luke 12:39 "to be suspended in mid-air."
Anxiety can be a legitimate emotion when it is an expression of concern for self and/or for others—1 Cor. 7:33-34; 12:25-26; 2 Cor. 11:28. There are necessary concerns that each of us must attend to, and Paul expressed these for the church on numerous occasions. One minister has said: "Not all anxiety is destructive. There is a creative form of anxiety which causes a man to get out of bed in the morning and go to work. A mother answers the cry of her child in response to an inner anxiety... sudden danger stimulates the secretion of additional adrenalin into the bloodstream and prepares us for 'fight or flight.'" Norm Wright, Ibid, page 56.
However, anxiety has multiple crippling effects. It has outlived its value when the "worries of this life" begin to dominate our attention—Mt.13:22; Mk. 4:19. In fact, it will choke your spiritual life and the impact of the Word of God, like thorns wrapped around the neck.
A great deal of named emotion and tears (see 2 Cor. 2:4) result from anxiety, but it can also elicit crying and anxious feelings for no obvious reason. People suffering from this type of anxiety can have a sense that something is really wrong or about to go wrong, but don't know what (i.e., anxiety attacks). Read Ps. 55:1-5.
Anxiety weighs us down and can immobilize us—Prov. 12:25. Not only does it affect us emotionally, but it can profoundly affect our physical and mental health. John Altrocchi, the author of Abnormal Behavior, describes the physical effects of worry, anxiety and fear: "rapid and unusual strong heartbeat, rapid or shallow breathing, trembling, sweating, muscular tension, dryness of the mouth, changes in voice quality, and faintness. The anxious person may suffer other changes that he cannot perceive: heightened blood pressure, increased gastric secretion, and changes in the electrical resistance of the skin." (Harcourt Brace Jovanich, New York, 1980, pp. 42-44)
Gary Collins continues the recital of physical effects: "A degree of anxiety can shorten one's attention span, make concentration difficult, adversely affect memory, hinder performance skills, interfere with problem solving, block effective communication and arise panic." Wright adds the following symptoms: headaches, perspiration, weakness and fatique, shortness of breath, constriction in the chest, indigestion, diarrhea, menstrual irregularity, insomnia, and muscular tension (The Healing of Fears, Harvest House,1982, p.55)
Finally, the spiritual fallout of anxiety is severe. It causes us to misuse God's gifts, since the mind is so busy imagining the worst possible circumstance that it is not used to project vision, creativity, and ministry—Prov. 15:15; Matt. 25:24-25. Any thoughts toward God are short-circuited. Chronic anxiety keeps us from prayer and thanksgiving to God, restricting and choking our praise—Ps. 38:8-14; Phil. 4:6. It distracts us from from the friendship, instruction, and fellowship of the Lord—Luke 10: 38-41. (See Special Study.)
Being inordinately anxious brings on an inappropriate—and unhealthy—concern for the necessities of life (Mt. 6:25-34; Lk. 12:22-34). Here are the principles to remember:
Principle #1: Our life is superior to food—Matt. 6:25
Principle #2: Our body is more significant than the clothes which cover it—Matt. 6:25
Principle #3: We are much more valuable than all of God's creation, thus He will take care of us—Matt. 6:26. If the Heavenly Father takes care of animals, birds, and fish, will He not all the more take care of us? "Are you not much more valuable than they?" ( 6:32)
Martin Luther writes with great charm: "You see, He is making the birds our schoolmasters and teachers. It is a great and abiding disgrace to us that in the gospel a helpless sparrow should become a theologian and a preacher to the wisest man... whenever you listen to a nightingale, you are listening to an excellent preacher. It is as if he were saying, 'I prefer to be in the Lord's kitchen. He has made heaven and earth, and He Himself is cook and host. Everyday He feeds and nourishes inumerable little birds out of His hand.'" (Martin Luther, The Sermon on the Mount, 1521. Translated by Jaroslav Peliken; in vol. 21 of Luther's works, Concordia, 1956, p. 197.)
Principle #4: Worry is futile—Matt. 6:27. Jesus proves worry is a worthless pursuit. It adds nothing of value to our life, and accomplishes nothing. If it profits nothing, why do it? In a survey of people who worry, some interesting facts were revealed.
We worry about:
- Things that never happen 40%
- Things that can't be changed by worry 30%
- Needless worries about health 12%
- Petty, miscellaneous worries 10%
- Real, legitimate worries 8%
There are many causes of anxiety, but a few of the most common and general sources for Christians and non-Christians alike are:
- Repressed anger
- Unrealistic standards set for us or by us
- Situations in which a person must make a choice
- Unresolved guilt
- A lack of faith in ourselves and/or God's purposes (We'll return to this)
Understanding the meaning, the far-reaching impact, and the causes of anxiety:
How then can we eliminate it in our lives and help others eliminate it, too?
Most of the following steps will be needed, though some overlap.
- First, pray about it. Focus on finding the root of anxieties and worries, asking that God will reveal what is in the heart, motivating anxieties—Psalm 139:23.
- Second, admit it and name it. Sometimes just verbalizing what has been hidden in our hearts is a major step toward a solution. For instance, two of the most common worries most of us have are rejection and failure.
- Third, share it—with someone who is kind (Prov. 12:25). Likewise, if an anxious person is confiding in you, be aware that your kindness—in words and actions—will create an environment for change to take place, and may even bring immediate relief and joy. Wise and kind words can be like soothing medicine on an open sore.
- Also, make sure you share it with someone who has a "bucket"—Prov. 20:5. You may need someone to help you discover what is at the bottom of your soul.
- Fourth, "faith it"—Matthew 6:30c. "Oh you of little faith..." is at the same time the crux of the problem and a clue to the solution. Uncontrolled worry and anxiety is "calculating without God, an absence of trust." Worry and anxiety is often dispelled by faith and trust. Examine your worry, and put it alongside God's promises. Evaluate it, and compare it to God's character.
- Fifth, cast it; pray about it; snap it; substitute for it; and don't fret it.
- Cast it on Jesus—I Pet. 5:7; Ps. 55:22; 94:19. By linking legitimate concerns to God, believers can experience God's care and life. "Cast" means to give up, or as one translation puts it, "Unload all your cares on Him." Cast actually means "having deposited with" and refers to a direct and once-for-all committal to God of all that would give a person concern. Why should we do that? Because he cares for us.
- If you're having trouble with this, do a couple of exercises:
- Review His Promises and character:—Is. 26:3;40:31;42:3; Deut. 33:27; Ps. 23:1,4; 46:1,11; 103:13; Rom. 8:28,31,38-39; Phil. 4:11,13,19; I1 Cor. 12:9.
- Review His names: Find a way to take your concerns, worries, and anxieties to the Lord by meditating on His names. This will help generate the faith and trust needed. Why not make up a "care bucket" for each name and put your concern in the one that meets your need?
Names of the LordJehovah-Tsidkenu Lord our righteousness
Jehovah-Mekaddishkem Lord who sanctifies
Jehovah-Shalom Lord our preace
Jehovah-Shammah Lord is present
Jehovah-Rophe Lord who heals
Jehovah-Mireh Lord who will provide
Jehovah-Nissi Lord our banner
Jehovah-Rohi Lord our shepherd
The Bread of Life—Jesus reveals God as the source of nourishment for our spiritual life; without Him, an aspect of our being shrivels and dies.
The Light of the World—Jesus reveals God as the One who enables us to see through the dark nights of our souls. He dispels our confusion and leads us from chaos to order. When every direction looks dark, He lights a pathway for us.
The Good Shepherd—Jesus reveals God as the One who will make us lie down in green pastures. Something will always "shepherd" or influence the direction of every person; we do not have the option of self-sufficiency. Most of the influences that control people's lives also damage and destroy them, but the good Shepherd lovingly cares for the sheep.
The Resurrection and the Life—Jesus reveals God as the guarantor of our eternity. There is a life beyond this one, but that is of little comfort to us unless we know how to get there and that it will be heaven for us and not hell. In Christ we have that assurance.
The Vine—Jesus reveals God as the source of all life and vitality. He is not a remote source like the distant sun that shines upon and brings life to the soil. He is a source to whom we are vitally and organically connected as branches to the vine, and life flows from Him through us.
- Pray immediately about it as soon as anxieties begin in your heart—Phil. 4:6-9. The following card may be of help.
- Application :STOP/THINK /PRAYER Card
- Take a 3x5 card and write on one side, "STOP." On the other side write out "Phil. 4:6-9." Carry it wherever you go. When you begin to worry:
- Take out the card and look at "STOP." Say the word twice, out loud. (If you're not alone, say it to yourself twice.)
- Turn the card over and read Phil. 4:5b-9 twice. There is a significant difference in effectiveness when you read each side twice.
- Then pray about what you are worried about.Cast it on Him.
- Snap it.
- Application :RUBBER BAND SNAP
- Put a rubber band on your wrist. Every time a worrisome thought comes into your mind, pull the band away from your arm and let it snap back. (I thought of doing this for church services when people felt like going to sleep, but the noise and the bruises and bleeding would be too much.)
- Substitute for it—Matt. 6:33-34. Worry takes a lot of time and energy that could be redirected to a more constructive place, e.g., seeking the priorities of the kingdom of God. Therefore, "put off" worry, and concentrate on seeking "first His kingdom and His righteousness." Seek to have His kingdom come. Seek His rule inwardly (in you), outwardly (in others), and externally (forever and ever). Seek His righteous character and ethics
- Concentrate on the concerns of each day—Matt. 6:34. Why? Tomorrow will generate its own worries, let alone the ones we impose upon it. Each day has its own problems—so we don't need to live with tomorrow's problems, too. Take care of today's first.
- Don't fret it
- Application: PSALM 37—"Fret not..."
- Do as the definitions state! Read through Psalm 37 out loud and pray at each encouragement.
- "Fret" means to eat away, gnaw, to gall, to vex, worry, agitate, wear away.
- "Trust" means to lean on, rely on, be dependent, and be confident in.
- "Do good" refers to doing a good deed, but moving in a way that helps others. This takes the focus off you; it's good therapy.
- "Delight" means to rejoice, praise God.
- "Commit" means a complete letting go, the flinging of oneself upon God, releasing the burden to God. This calls for a total honesty between us and God. We are to acknowledge to Him exactly how we feel, attempt to give a full disclosure of our heart, naming to God each emotion we feel. Following that, we commit to Him our total burden, following the pattern of David in the Psalms (see Psalm 77).
- "Rest/be still" means to not be anxious, to submit in silence to what He orders.
- "Refrain from anger" means "don't try to find the solution to your need in your strength."
- Note on Anger:
This doesn't mean we never have anger or express it to God and others. To repress anger and not acknowledge it can be extremely harmful to us and others. Psalm 37 is encouraging us to refrain from allowing anger to drive us to bitterness, to hasty action, or to do harm to someone else. "In your anger do not sin. Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry" (see Eph. 4:26-27).
Therefore, we can express anger, but it is to be without sin, and we are to get over it as soon as possible. How do we do that? Initially we are to acknowledge it to God. After it is admitted to Him, then we can stay open to His redirection of that anger to a proper target. It might be to examine our hearts for our contribution to the situation, or it might be through godly and gentle confrontation. Whatever the case, we are to refrain from allowing our anger to destroy us, and it should always be turned into forgiveness and not bitterness.
- Sixth, address it—2 Cor. 2:4. Paul did a wise thing by addressing his worry and fear in a letter. Don't be so incapacitated by your worry that you do nothing; Ask yourself:
- "Can I prevent something harmful or sinful by my action?" Do it!
- "Can I better a bad situation by correction?" Do it!
- Seventh, choose it—choose the best thing—Luke 10: 38-41. Do a case study of Mary and Martha.
Another reason wise and healing counsel is needed is:
To help calm fears
Proverbs 3:21-26—"My son, preserve sound judgment and discernment, do not let them out of your sight; 22] they will be life for you, an ornament to grace your neck. 23] Then you will go on your way in safety, nd your foot will not stumble; 24] when you lie down, you will not be afraid; when you lie down, your sleep will be sweet. 25] Have no fear of sudden disaster or of the ruin that overtakes the wicked, 26] for the Lord will be your confidence and will keep your foot from being snared."
What is fear? It is an emotional response of fright or alarm because of a real problem. Worry and fear are close cousins. "When the cause of worry is identifiable, it is usually called fear. The word fear comes from the Old English word faer meaning sudden calamity or danger." Wright, Ibid, p. 6. In the Greek the word can mean any number of things:
It can mean terror, fright, dismay, hence flight—Matt. 14:26; 18:4,8; 1 Cor. 2:3. It can mean moral cowardice, timidity—2 Tim. 1:7. It can mean contest, esp. with the idea of peril or danger—Col. 2:1. It can mean to act with caution, be circumspect, to act with pious fear—Acts 13:10; Heb. 11:7; 12:28. Or it can mean to be frightened outright/out of one's senses—Heb. 12:21.
Fear causes us to withdraw from the things we know we should do—Matt. 25:24-25 (i.e. the one-talent man). It causes us to think the worst will happen, even when others are not troubled by the same events and circumstances (Matt. 8:23-27). We fear disaster or harm may come (Prov. 1:33; 3:25; 91:5-6; 112:7).
Fear can cause one to not sleep—Prov. 3:24. It makes a person its slave—Rom. 8:1. It causes minor to major physical problems for the body—Ps. 55:5. It causes one to try to hide—Gen. 3:10. Perhaps worst, it causes the fearful one to sin because he is afraid of the response of people—1 Sam. 15:24.
We need to help people admit their fears. for until they are acknowledged, they will never be calmed. We need to pray for sound judgment and discernment, because though many fears are attached to real situations, the perspective of the fearful one may not be accurate. His/her "facts" may not even be accurate. It may take time to hear the perspective of the person regarding the source of his fears.
Pray for discernment as to the source of these fears. Is it a spiritual battle caused by the enemy of our soul? Is it possible there is a medical reason for the fears? Sometimes a swirl of emotions and fears results from a physical problem needing medical attention.
Whatever the circumstances of a person's fear, the wise friend will remind the fearful of God's gracious and loving presence. The promises of His presence can help a fearful person renew his/her confidence in the Lord. Listen to these promises:
Isaiah 40:28-29— "Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom. He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak."
Isaiah 41:10— "So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand."
Isaiah 43:2— "When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze."
Romans 8:38-39— "For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither heighth nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord."
Our goal is to restore a person's faith in the Lord and rekindle his/her love for Him. These are the beginning steps to reestablishing a person's foundations. Why?
- Faith in God diminishes fear—Proverbs 3:25; 29:25. Fear of the present can cause a person to feel all alone. Impending doom also seems right around the corner. So he needs to hear again that God is with him, that he can trust God to help him recover. There may be no explanations for what causes him such fear, but trust can cure a troubled heart. (See Prov. 3:5-6; Jn. 14:1)
- Love for God and from God casts out fear—1 Jn. 4:18. It may be that self-esteem has been destroyed, and his/her sense of God's love has not been developed. God's love, fully apprehended and returned, can cast out fear.
"Is God able to sustain me if that happens?"
"Has He helped anyone in the past with a similar problem?"
"Is He strong enough to bring good out of it?
The answers are obvious, but sometimes we have to say what we know, and purpose to believe it, before the calming of our fears takes place. So it's important that the wise counselor gently lead the fearful person to the place where he sees that his greatest need is to have faith in the Lord (See Matt. 8: 23-27).
On the other hand, God may want us to avoid our worst fears by taking wise action now. It may be that others may need to be consulted and help secured. If that is the case, our fears can act as a catalyst to get us doing something wise and appropriate.
To help a person become wise
Proverbs 12:15; 13:10, 20; 15:31-32;19:20.
Prov. 19:20—"Listen to advice and accept instruction, and in the end you will be wise." Prov. 12:15—"The way of a fool seems right to him, but a wise man listens to advice." Prov. 13:10—"Pride only breeds quarrels, but wisdom is found in those who take advice."
Our main goal in the encouragement of a friend is not to keep him/her dependent on us. No matter how good it may feel to have someone listen and take our advice, what we are after is to get our hurting friend strong—so strong that he can stand on his own and be able to share the wisdom of experience with others (see 2 Timothy 2:2).
What will help us do that? Answer these questions:
- Do you listen to counsel? I'm not asking if you talk to individuals. I'm asking, do you listen?
- Do you listen to the preaching of the Word?
- Do you know the book of Proverbs?
- Do you listen for principles and concepts from all the input that you are receiving?
- Are you conscientiously attempting to learn about your own problems and those of others?
If we are to be effective counselors and help our hurting friends stand on their own, we are going to have to make the acquisition of wisdom a priority of our life. The principle is this: only what we are becoming can we share. Therefore, if we are becoming wise, we can help others to become wise as well.
To help a person plan his steps
Proverbs 15:22; 20:18; 16:9; 19:21. Prov.15:22—"Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed." Prov. 20:18—"Make plans by seeking advice; if you wage war, obtain guidance." Prov. 16:9—"In his heart a man plans his course, but the Lord determines his steps."
When we want to know God's will, one of the wisest things we can do is to seek the advice of someone we respect and who is wise. What can such a person do for us?
He/she can listen to us and help us clarify our needs—Prov. 20:18. He can enable us to see errors in our thinking—Rom. 12:3; 1 Cor. 3:18-20; 10:12; Jas. 1:7. A counseling friend can help us to focus on the essentials and simplify the options—James 1:26-27; Phil. 3:4b-16. He can also point us to others who might add insight—Proverbs 15:22. Finally, a good counseling friend will not only give insight, but will encourage verification of his counsel. Whether he/she sees that insight as coming from the Spirit (i.e. a word of knowledge or wisdom—1 Cor 12:8), or from personal experience with God and His Word, he/she will want you to verify if it is from God and is thus true.
He will tell you that everything he says should be weighed in the light of Scripture (2 Corinthians 14:29; 2 Timothy 3:16-17). A good counselor will assert strongly: "Don't take what I say as the last word. Check it out, weigh it, and test it. Hold on to the good and throw out the bad. In other words: BE A BEREAN—Acts 17:11; 1 Thess. 5:19-22).
A good counselor will also remind you that it is your decision to make and that it must bear witness in our heart by the Holy Spirit as well (Acts 15:28; 10:19; 13:2,4; 21:11). He will encourage you to wait on God for confirmation or fresh insight.
So please don't receive counsel from someone just because he/she seems spiritual or sincere. Put it in "reservation" until it seems good to you, the Holy Spirit, and His Word. If giving counsel, don't assume the place of the Holy Spirit.
A good counselor helps one to make plans concerning the future, but he reminds the one seeking direction that it is the Lord who directs his path. Therefore, even though we make plans, we should be open to the Holy Spirit to redirect our steps once we get moving—Prov. 16: 9: Ps. 37:5; 1 Cor. 4:19; Acts 16:6-7; 20:22-23. (See also: Finding God's Will.)
A wise person will also help us to know how to find God's will ourselves through study of the Scripture, and through waiting on God. He'll foster spiritual maturity—the ability to seek and know the mind of God.
We obviously need wise people to help us find our way. In addition, good counsel is desired to help a person deal with past circumstances of abuse. (See booklet entitled Battered, by Robert C. Stone, or Questions About Battering on this website.)
Sound counsel will sharpen the one being counseled and the one counseling—Prov. 27:17: "As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another." We get sharper by helping others sharpen up their lives. Some of the best advice you'll hear will come from your own lips as you are helping another. The process can be painful, however, because we often can't help another without revealing some area we need to work on, too. In addition, just listening to another person's hurts and problems makes us more sensitive to problems we may not have experienced ourselves.
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