When Counsel Hurts: Harmful Assumptions About The Wounds Of Others

Part of offering wise counsel to hurting people involves the acceptance that sin always complicates things. In addition to that complication, it also involves the acceptance that we approach every counseling situation with perspectives that are as limited as our ability is to ever know what happens behind closed doors. If we don't humbly acknowledge this deficit of understanding, we can easily find ourselves causing great harm by applying our own selected bandages of the Word to wounds we falsely assume we understand.

The limitations we face as we help others sort through their pain are demonstrated by the inconsistencies that so often mark our counsel. Our limitations are what have us telling a woman who is being emotionally abused that God has called her to endure suffering, even as we tell a woman being physically abused that God has not. That inconsistency is the result of our interpreting the severity of wounds through our own eyes, and then applying the bandage of the Word that fits our assumption.

As a counselor, I continually ask God to help me not to make assumptions that I don't have the ability to make. When a parent shares the behavioral challenges they are facing with their child, it's imperative that I remember my understanding is too limited to make a diagnosis that suggests the answer is found in a simplistic formula of applied discipline. When a friend shares the battle of depression they are fighting, it's imperative that I remember my understanding is too limited to make a diagnosis that suggests the remedy is found in the keeping of a spiritual fix-it list. And when a wife shares the deep hurt she is facing at the hand of her emotionally abusive husband, it is crucial that I remember my understanding is too limited to make a diagnosis of her wounds that assumes her calling is to endure suffering. The most I can do in any of these situations is to listen as carefully as possible to the whole matter as presented to me, unfold the entire box of bandages of the Word, and trust God to sovereignly apply them and bring healing in a way that may or may not look the way I think it should.

Upholding the purity of the gospel in counseling doesn't come from my being a crusader either for or against any use of meds, or labeling of disorders, or applications of psychology. It doesn't even come from my being a crusader against divorce. It's comes from my being a lover of the Word with a bold commitment to apply it without any tainting of assumption. It comes from my being a proclaimer of Christ & of His power alone to change lives and grow His children in grace. It comes from my being a warrior of prayer who trusts God to untie threads that are too knotted for me to unravel rightly. 

Counseling within the limits of my knowledge not only keeps me from making wrongful assumptons, but also it frees me from taking sides in broken relationships and making judgements about situations when I don't have the facts. It keeps me from standing as a proponent of the accuser or an opponent against the accused without being in a position to do so with integrity. Counseling within the framework of limited knowledge allows the offering of my support to those who come to me for help without setting myself against those who have not. 

The way I best demonstrate my unyielding belief in the sanctity of marriage is not by waving a banner for its cause. It's by humbly acknowledging that my arm of flesh is far too weak to uphold the great weight of its worth. It's by believing that its sanctity--it's holiness and and its sacredness--is far too glorious to be preserved by any earthly effort or human understanding. I have no interest whatsoever in standing on a political platform with arms raised in victory celebrating my strength in upholding marriage. May God keep us all from such displays of proud posturing that undermine the very weight of its eternal glory. 

We are a people in desperate need of a Healer to pull together the shattered pieces of our lives in a way that exalts His Righteousness and mercifully delivers us from all delusions of our own. I want my counsel to always come with the message that Christ alone sees the full measure of our wounds, and that Christ alone has a perfect plan for their healing. I want my counsel to always come humbly without any tainting of prideful human assumption.