Counseling

Counseling Towards a God-Centeredness

April 26, 2024
5 minute read
Blog
Counseling Towards a God-Centeredness
Unless you’re doing premarital counseling, counselees are mainly coming in with some kind of problem or suffering. In general, that means that there is something very tangible that the counselee wants to change. That doesn’t necessarily mean that they want to change, but they definitely want something to change. For example, when a couple comes in for marriage counseling, they both want something to change. It may be that one spouse likes the way things are, and what they would like to change is their spouse’s view that something needs to change. Or both spouses might recognize there are issues and they want things to be different, but that doesn’t mean they themselves want to make changes. But let’s say you have a married couple that comes in and they actually both want to change and know they need to change. Does that mean that you have a couple that is God-centered in their pursuit of change? Not necessarily. They could be focusing on changing for their spouse. But scripture is clear that “whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please to him” (2 Cor. 5:9). In other words, whether we are dead or alive our goal is to please Jesus. 2 Corinthians 5:15 says it this way, “and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves, but for him who for their sake died and was raised. Again, the point is clear that a believer in Jesus Christ is to live for the Lord and him alone. As a counselor, how do you help counselees live God-centered lives? Here are a couple ways to seek to help your counselees develop God-centered living and thinking.

Make sure that you, counselor, live your life God-centered

This point cannot be emphasized enough. Counselor, you need reminded daily to live God-centered. I know that, because I need to be daily reminded to live God-centered. I also know that, because the apostle Paul knew that he and everyone else needed to be reminded daily to live God-centered. 2 Corinthians 4:16 says, “...our inner self is being renewed day by day.” This day-by-day renewal isn’t a natural thing that happens without effort on our end. It surely is the grace of God that works in us to renew us day by day, but part of the reason that we need to be renewed day by day is because we only get enough grace and mercy for today! Matthew 6:34 tells us “Therefore, do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.” The point is, you don’t have the inner self renewed for tomorrow's trouble. You can have the renewing TODAY, for TODAY’S trouble. Or to put it in Lamentations 3:23 language, you get “new mercies every morning”, but they are mercies for TODAY and NOT for TOMORROW. So counselor, make sure that you wake up every day and diligently seek the Lord’s face for the renewing that you need TODAY in order to live a God-centered life TODAY! If you’re living a God-centered life today, that will prepare you to live God-centered tomorrow. And the more and more you do that, the more and more you’ll be able to think and process things in a God-centered way. The more you process your own trouble, sin, difficulty, marriage, joys, and so forth in a God-centered way, the more you’ll be able to help someone else process their trouble, sin, difficulty, marriage, joys, and so forth in a God-centered way.

Make sure your counselee knows the difference between changing for God and using God for change

I wish this wasn’t a common problem. But sinful people are selfish people. And it is so natural in our selfishness to approach God and the Bible for our selfish desires, rather than for God and him alone. That means that many counselees come to counseling not because of their desire to change for God, but for their desire to use God for the change they want. In order to help counselees develop a God-centered approach to change—which is changing FOR God—you need to talk about that often. So for example, I oversee a men’s residential addiction ministry (Restoration) and I make sure that the main focus isn’t on not doing drugs, or simply repairing broken relationships with family. From the outset I have them memorize passages like 2 Cor. 5:9 and Romans 8:28–29 so that we can consistently talk about their past, their current trouble, repentance, and their effort to grow in terms of how it is pleasing to the Lord. That needs to be central rather than an afterthought or an assumed given. For example, with married men, I am very slow to talk about being a husband or a father. I want them to be a godly husband! I want them to be a godly father! But the only way they can ever be a godly husband or father is if they first learn what it means to be...well, godly themselves! And a godly person is someone who is God-centered. The biggest change a person could possibly make in their life is going from being self-centered—which everyone is born into—to being God-centered. That shift is miraculous, and most blind eyes, and calloused hearts have to have the God-centeredness of God and the Bible repeatedly put before them before they really begin to grasp the seismic shift it is to go from selfishness to God-centeredness.

Give them homework in Scripture to help them see the God-centeredness of God’s people

I recently had the privilege of preaching through Genesis 39 where Joseph is sold into slavery, God blesses him mightily in Potiphar’s house, then he is falsely accused by Potiphar’s wife of trying to rape her and he is subsequently thrown into prison, where God prospers Joseph. We are told in Genesis 39 that Potiphar’s wife spoke to Joseph, “day after day” trying to get him to sleep with her. But Joseph’s reason for not sleeping with her was, “How then could I do this great wickedness and sin against God (Gen. 39:9)?” Many people might read right through that and be amazed at his self-control of course, but how many are amazed by the reason of not wanting to sin against God?
  • Why doesn’t he say, “How could I sin against Potiphar, who has trusted me with everything?”
  • Or why doesn’t Joseph say, “How could I sin against you (Potiphar's wife)?”
  • Or why doesn’t Joseph say, “How could I sin against myself and my integrity?”
  • Or why doesn’t Joseph say, “I can’t do that because we might get caught and I could lose my position?”
There are tons of reasons Joseph could have chosen to not sleep with Potiphar's wife. But THE REASON he didn’t sleep with her was because he couldn’t fathom sinning against God! I wonder if we are teaching our counselees to think like Joseph in that regard? Or are we giving more motivations to our counselees along the likes of, “If you keep doing that it won’t go well FOR you.” There is certainly a place for motivations like that. After all the Bible does give us plenty of reasons and motivations like that (many examples in Proverbs). But Scripture is absolutely clear on the fact that our top and most central allegiance and love must be totally reserved, and without competition the Lord’s (cf. Luke 14:26, Matt. 22:37).

Help them tangibly see Jesus—the most God-centered human ever

This is not something that you can do in your own strength. This is something that only God can do. But I pray that God would use me to help my counselees see Jesus in such a way that he’s not just interesting, or just a factual/historical person, but in such a way that he is so tangible and real that they make decisions and speak and feel because that’s how Jesus would decide, speak, and feel. The only way you’re going to be helping them see Jesus is if you’re pointing to Jesus constantly with every passage you’re using with your counselees. This gets back to point #1—if we as counselors aren’t God-centered and living with Christ’s goal which was to do the will of the Father (i.e. to Please the Lord), then there is no way that we’re going to really be skilled at pointing people consistently to Jesus in our counseling. One very practical way to help them tangibly see Jesus, is to have them reading in the gospels.
  • Have them meditate on how Christ responded to accusations, how he responded to people not listening to him, how he responded to be who were just using him, etc.
  • Have them mediate on the various emotions of Jesus and what elicits those emotions.
  • Have them mediate on what would have happened if Jesus had cared more about being right than about pleasing his Father. Have them mediate on what would have happened if he cared more about pleasing his disciples, whom he loved a ton, more than loving and pleasing the Father.
Then then have them relate those meditations into the very issues and struggles they have had that have brought them into counseling. Have them pray over responding differently in the future, and journal about how they sought to live differently every day because of who Jesus is and what he has done for them.

Conclusion

Counselors, our task is pretty basic. Help people be as God-centered as Jesus was and is. I know that I can get so easily distracted from that being my primary goal and purpose for living—let alone counseling. How subtle is the temptation to just “be right” in counseling. How alluring is the desire to be seen as wise and smart by your counselees. I beg you counselors, as I beg myself, and plead with God daily, “help me, whether at home or away to be pleasing to Jesus and may you use me to help my counselees want the same thing for your glory!”
Photo by Aaron Owens on Unsplash
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