Answering Your Questions: How do I Encourage Someone to Seek Counselling?

How do you approach someone who you believe needs biblical counselling but is not seeking it?

Unsolicited advice.  Nothing is more enjoyable than a person who barely knows you, somehow finding out about a problem you have and dishing out a one-size-fits-all solution that fixes everything in your life.  “Where has this person been all this time?”  (I hope you caught the sarcastic tone!) The truth is, unsolicited advice, is rarely enjoyable. In our suffering, life feels out of our control, and we wonder who and what we can trust.  When an outside voice enters our space without invitation, it adds to the feelings of distrust. “This person doesn’t know me.”  “This person doesn’t understand my situation.” “Does this person have an agenda?” 

As helpers, when people reject our help, we wonder what we have done wrong, or we might fail to even comprehend what is going on with the sufferer because we just don’t have enough information. The reality is, that while we are suffering, we desire to be known.

Known by God

First, it is important that we have a God who knows us perfectly. 

Psalm 139:1–4 says, “O LORD, you have searched me and known me! You know when I sit down and when I rise up; you discern my thoughts from afar. You search out my path and my lying down and are acquainted with all my ways. Even before a word is on my tongue, behold, O LORD, you know it altogether.” (ESV)

God made us and he knows us. Though we may try, we cannot hide from God. If you know God, then you know that you are safe with Him, no matter how bad things get. God is the only one in whom we can place our full and absolute trust. Throughout Scripture, we are invited to place our trust in the Lord. This is because he is faithful and true. The Lord is uniquely positioned to offer us counsel – counsel that is ultimately best for us.

This perfect, trusting relationship is only possible because of the work that Jesus did for us on the cross, reconciling us to God. That is the standard: to be perfectly known and to be able to trust a perfect God.  So, when it comes to suggesting that a person seek counselling, you have to evaluate your relationship against this gospel-centered, redemptive framework. You want to build relationships that demonstrate that you don’t have a personal agenda for people apart from God’s agenda, and if you find yourself unsure of where to go, you can always say, “I don’t know if I have the right answer to this situation, but I know someone who does.  If you are willing, we could go inquire together.

Redemptive Relationship

The person you want to help needs to know that, even if you aren’t equipped to do all the counseling, you are in this with them as you help them seek wise, biblical counsel from someone else. The Gospel shows us that Jesus, the Son of God, humbled himself and became man (Phil 2:6-8).  Jesus chose to walk with those he wanted to save. Jesus had lunch with sinners and hung out with all sorts of people to be present and build relationships with them.  Those who met Jesus understood that Jesus cared about them. We too must be willing to come alongside those we want to help with our presence.

In 1 John 4:12, John reminds us that “no one has ever seen God”, but he also says that others will experience the love of God through us as we love others in the same way we are loved by God.  Our relationships grow in being redemptive to the extent that we incarnate our trustworthy God to others in our presence and love.  We should not just send them off to a ‘counsellor’, we should also be willing to walk with them on the journey. 

By God’s grace, I was privileged to witness this kind of situation in my own life recently. My daughter called me back at the end of January.  She was experiencing overwhelming stress and anxiety.  She was hurting and she needed to talk to someone.  At the time, she did not know Jesus, but she knew that I did.  In our conversation, it was clear to me that she trusted me during a vulnerable time (what an incredible honour it is to know that your child can trust you!).  As a biblical counselor, I could have attempted to handle this myself, but I felt it wise to suggest that she meet with a fellow female biblical counsellor I knew, one that I could trust.  I asked her if she would be open to it, and she said yes. 

She said yes because I knew her, and we had a foundation of trust. Over the next couple of months, she received the care of the gospel week after week as she opened up her life to this counsellor. Now, I am overjoyed to report, that she has become a follower of Jesus through the incarnational, one-on-one, personal ministry of the Word that she received. She loves Jesus because Jesus met her through this important, redemptive ministry that exalts him. She trusts Jesus more than anyone and her journey of transformation will continue through the power of the Holy Spirit. That is the redemptive power of the gospel. Praise God! I now have the privilege of building a new relationship with my daughter centered on Christ for the rest of eternity. 

Know the person, build trust, and walk with them as you point them to Jesus, the one whom they can fully trust.


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