Counseling Among Women
One of my favorite past times among women is enjoying conversation over a cup of coffee as the details of life are shared, a time filled with laughter. But there are those days when life’s troubles take the forefront and conversations transition from the ordinary to extraordinary – Those conversations rooted in the confusion of our ever-changing world, questioning what we’ve known to be true. Each time the questions arise, “Where is God in this? Does God even care?” presents an opportunity for one another soul care and as Christians, God’s Spirit drawing us back to certainty of his never-changing truths.
The first service that one owes to others in the fellowship consists in listening to them…It is God’s love for us that he not only gives us His Word but also lends us His ear…But Christians have forgotten that the ministry of listening has been committed to them by Him who is Himself the great listener and whose work they should share. We should listen with the ears of God that we may speak the Word of God. – Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Life Together
Do not be conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. – Romans 12:2
As we consider the Bible’s shaping of our thinking and talking in the tough conversations God orchestrates, we should also consider the definition of counseling with Scripture. Simply put, soul care is giving attention to how you relate to God and others. The soul care that occurs whenever and wherever God’s people engage in conversations anchored in Scripture, centered on Christ and the gospel, falls under biblical counseling. The definition of biblical counseling and its practice involves the Word of God and the Holy Spirit.
Biblical Counseling is the Spirit-empowered process of one Christian humbly and compassionately coming along side another with careful consideration, to lend applicable words of hope, admonition and/or practical help through Jesus Christ and His Truth. – Stuart Scott, Professor and Biblical Counselor
A trained biblical counselor, I consider two objectives – to help people see Christ, and to help them deal with things that keep them from seeing Christ. When grounded in sound theology, dependent upon the Holy Spirit and prayer, counseling is in fact biblical soul care. When received rightly, counsel brings about hope, change, and usefulness.
Many people see mentoring, discipleship, and counseling as one in the same. Although it is true that counseling brings opportunity to follow with discipleship or mentoring, biblical counseling gives attention to heart issues in a way that is both practical and relevant, oriented toward outreach. And when related individually to a person who is struggling under the weight of difficulties and suffering, the counselor walks side by side (offering foundational tools for coping and growing). Therefore, counseling one another is ministering the Word of God with humility, compassion, and accountability. Unlike secular counseling, trusted friendships are cultivated in a casual setting while paired with the content of Scripture. A privilege of this growing friendship is to hear our friend’s story. This kind of counseling glorifies God in the details only He can accomplish.
Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. – Philippians 4:6-7
We are not designed to go through life alone, most especially during the hard times. Our world of uncertainty is a reminder of our frailty as humans and our experiences require that we all need help – It’s simply a part of being human. But most times, we as women are reluctant to ask for help when it goes beyond something physical. In the living out of our daily lives, God himself provides opportunity to both give and receive help beyond a meal or childcare. We need deeper help, help for our souls, especially in times of adversity. Rather than seeing ourselves as self-sufficient, God has given us his Spirit to teach us otherwise.
The try harder mentality is nothing new, it just looks different than in the times of Paul when he continued to go back and re-teach the churches he originally taught the gospel. The human flesh has a hard time believing that the Word of God is sufficient and the Gospel is the heart of what really helps us. Oft times when I counsel, I believe women expect a quick-fix formula that I didn’t give them, something more than the Word and the hope of the Gospel itself. We think our weary souls will find rest in these solutions, but they don’t. Trust me. I’ve been there and felt the heaviness of this life.
For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery. – Gal. 5:1
The Apostle Paul’s writings to the churches revealed the hearts of those who knew Truth but were looking for ways to do life on their own. They were adding works to the Gospel, which is no gospel at all. Some thought that one had to be circumcised to be saved. Others were being influenced and taught that practicing rituals was necessary to live the Christian life. Paul always pointed them to the sufficiency that is in Jesus Christ and reminded them that in sufficiency no one is justified by their own works, but Christ alone. We, as Christian women, would be wise to preach this Gospel to ourselves daily. Just like Paul taught the various churches, we need to be taught and reminded again and again that we don’t need to be under the bondage to do more. Jesus says we are to learn from him and rest will come.
Come to me all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. – Matt. 11:27 & 28
As we serve within a community of believers, our willingness to acknowledge neediness becomes an asset. There is no point in reading the Bible if we are unwilling to do what it says. Whether acting as a counselor or a counselee in the body of Christ, we are participating in the common good. God provides opportunities for counseling among women as we live and as we serve.
To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. – 1 Cor. 12:7
His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, by which he granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire. – 2 Pet. 1:3-4
The Bible brings the flow of the message into our thinking and talking. Everyone who knows Christ needs to pass on God’s truth to others, and it is especially true during times of hardship. Our love of fellow believers is the evidence of our being a member of God’s family.
so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him: bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God; being strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might for all endurance and patience with joy; giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance ofthe saints in light. – Col. 1:10-12
Love is not merely an emotion. It is action. We must be doing something for others and sincerely involved in the process. We are to think more highly of other women and look out for their needs and interests. With God’s help, counseling by the mature Christian woman can assist others to overcome struggles, establish practical life skills, and teach them how to grow in grace and knowledge.
Do nothing from self-ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, – Philippians 2:3-5
I myself am satisfied about you, my brothers, that you yourselves are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge and able to instruct one another. – Rom. 15:1
May we faithfully carry out counseling God’s Word among women for the sake of His church. When we begin to expose the myth that we have all of life figured out, we remove the mask of perfection and begin to share one another’s burdens. God is honored when we lay aside pride and admit we, as His Church, do not have immunity from difficulties. Life is too hard to manage single-handedly. God made us to best function in community. Strengthening faith and relationships builds up the Church in true worship of God.
I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world youwill have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world. – John 16:33
When it comes to giving wise counsel, we need to develop the art of good listening. It is the fool who has no desire to understand. Instead, she loves to talk. A poor listener does not engage in the conversation, lacking interest in understanding. She is quick to give advice or counsel merely to hear her own voice. The Proverbs are full of wisdom:
If one gives an answer before he hears, it is folly and shame. – Proverbs 18:13
A fool takes no pleasure in understanding, but only in expressing his opinion. –Proverbs 18:2
The privilege of going further into each other’s lives will take a little time. That time could come from accumulating minutes before and after events which gradually move a conversation to even deeper matters. Short conversations become longer ones and longer ones require new skills. If we are to help others we need to grow in these skills. 2 Peter 1:3-4 proclaims the sufficiency of Scripture; we have everything we need to live a godly life – the Holy Spirit living in us with divine power, and the written Word that teaches us how to be like Christ and to escape sinful lifestyles. The Christian life is about growth. Growth in knowledge of God’s Word is no exception. Skills of application develop with familiarity.
A poor listener will not hear what others say and is frequently argumentative. The Apostle Peter has been described by some as the disciple with the foot-shaped mouth. Peter was hasty in speech, often speaking without thinking. So many times, while he walked with Jesus, he said foolish things that he soon regretted. The greatest of these was when he denied Jesus three times after the arrest. He lived with the shame and regret of his words until after Jesus rose from the dead and came to him as he was fishing.
Good listening is vital to both parties in counseling. It can be extremely helpful and humbling to wait courteously until the other person is finished speaking. You may learn, in the meantime, that what you would have offered is covered. Good listening requires attention – Listening is an art. It’s something that must be cultivated, practiced and learned. Whether the counselor or counselee, we should listen carefully to the choice of words, asking questions for clarity. This will indicate to the speaker that you really are listening and care about what she is saying.
Listening is incarnational. Listening is how I enter someone else’s world. It is not complicated, but it is hard. It requires dying to self in order to love God and love others well. In order to listen well we need something that can motivate us to die to ourselves without simultaneously causing us to cave back in on ourselves through self-pity or martyrdom. The more we rely on what Christ did for us and treasure the gospel until we emulate it, the more naturally we will treat others as God has treated us. – Professor Brad Hambrick, Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary
To counsel rightly, we are called to reflect Christ as we deliver the private ministry of the Word. Godly counsel is neither angry, lacking compassion, or legalistic. The counselor’s own gratitude and thankfulness for God’s undeserved grace and love overflows into attitude of counsel. The counselor should speak Truth in love to counselees with gentleness. Counseling among women does not always deal with sin issues nor should it ignore sin. Counseling that is biblical will address both suffering and/or personal sin for the counselee’s good and freedom. Purpose in biblical counseling among women is to build up the church, evangelize the lost, and ultimately glorify God.
Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. – Ephes. 5:1
Whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked.– 1 John 2:6
So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. – John 8:36
The Bible teaches when God saves someone, he cleanses them from their sin – past sin, present sin, and future sin, as the Lord Jesus Christ bore our sins in His body on the cross. Thus, begins a transformation of our life from darkness to light. This transformation will end ultimately when He gives a new, sinless body in heaven. Although our position in Christ has changed, scriptures consider this work a process, sanctification. Sanctification is defined as the continuing work of God in the life of the believer, making him or her holy. The basic idea is to set apart.
To open their eyes, so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me. – Acts 26:18
Counselors recognize a progressive sanctification, progressing throughout the rest of life. This is a life-long process of being transformed into more of Christ’s image. The believer will still sin, but it should be less and less as she matures as a Christian. Progressive sanctification is a work of God helping and convicting you while at the same time, your responsibility is to discipline yourself. In this process, God often chooses to use difficult people and circumstances to accomplish the work.
And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. – Rom. 8:28 & 29
Many times, we are aware that changes need to be made in our lives and we confess the sins to God. But, we might find ourselves committing those same sins again and again – Habitual sin is especially difficult because we automatically respond wrongly, without thinking. Putting off our old ways of thinking and acting and putting on new ways which mirror Christ require God’s help. Therefore, it is important to learn exactly what God teaches us about establishing new habit patterns which in many cases involves counseling.
And have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator. – Col. 3:10
Even the saved must grow but when counseling reveals an unregenerate heart, it presents opportunity for evangelism. Jesus summarized his teachings by an ultimate love for God and devoted love to those around him. The gospel needs to be passed onto others yet, counseling and evangelism are ministries that too often remain segregated. Many times, it seems counseling is only for people inside the church with problems, and evangelism is only for people outside the church who don’t yet profess faith. However, the gospel love must be communicated anytime in any situation God presents.
For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.” – 2 Cor. 4:5 & 6
While moving all things for His purpose and our good, God is by no means a bystander silently observing our troubles. Our sovereign God is over all things and circumstances – God is in the details of daily lives.
that they should seek God, and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him. Yet he is actually not far from each one of us, for “in him we live and move and have our being”; as even some of your own poets have said, “For we are indeed his offspring.” – Acts 17:22-28
Therefore, we can trust that our God is up to something in all our difficulties. When we take our eyes off His great love, his purposes, we lose focus. We revisit those questions, “Where is God in this? Does he really care?” Relying on His voice, his counsel through the pages of Scripture, we bring glory to the Father.
Let me now affirm that one another soul care is not reserved for the experts but rather any mature believer. Ordinary Christian women have been given power and wisdom by way of Scripture, through the Holy Spirit and are called to love others. By way of the Spirit, she handles the Word respectfully, dealing with encouragement for suffering and trials and giving direction for problems and issues.
So, being affectionately desirous of you, we were ready to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves, because you had become very dear to us…we exhorted each one of you and encouraged you and charged you to walk in a manner worthy of God, who calls you into his own kingdom and glory. – 1 Thess. 2:8 & 12
A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have lovedyou, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another. – John 13:34 & 35
It takes courage to approach a sister in Christ, admitting our needs. And it is out of obedience, we are compelled to move toward others with help and hope, rather than back away. May we be faithful in seeking God’s solutions to life’s problems as we engage in one another soul care.
If you enjoyed reading this post, you will also enjoy https://debbieswindell.com/2019/05/20/do-you-listen-wisely/
For additional reading on biblical counseling, see https://debbieswindell.com/category/biblical-counseling/
Note: this blog post was adapted from the 2019 Mujer Conference at Iglesia Bautista Melquisedec in Zacatecoluca, El Salvador.