Counseling is Devotional

Counseling is a journey that we walk alongside someone – we meet them in the wilderness of their life, we listen to their heart’s cry, we draw them out, and we talk together, pray together…It’s like walking them through a devotional, only that the words are not there right in front of you, but the Holy Spirit is with you, the Lord’s presence and Word with you, walking with you through the valley of life, and leading you to slowly raise your heads, fixing your eyes on Jesus Christ who sits at the right hand of the Father, interceding for you.

Then, together, we sing,

“My soul yearns, even faints,

for the courts of the LORD;

my heart and my flesh cry out

for the living God.

Blessed are those whose strength is in you,

who have set their hearts on pilgrimage.

For the LORD God is a sun and shield;

the LORD bestows favor and honor;

no good thing does he withhold

from those whose walk is blameless.”

(Psalm 84)

Our Helper in Temptations

Hebrews 2: 18

“For because he himself has suffered when tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.”

We face many temptations every day, each one screaming out to be our god and rule our heart and life. Many times we give in because we want it so much, because it feels so good, because we imagine how happy and satisfied we would be “if I could just have it.” Christian life is not an easy road; it requires us to say no to our desires many times a day. Some desires are not bad in and of themselves, but they could grow in such a portion that we want it more than God, and would do anything to have it fulfilled; we demand that it be given to us, be it love, money, sex, food, comfort, peace, etc.

These things happen in small things in the little moments, so we often don’t recognize what has hijacked and enslaved our heart. That’s why Jesus calls us to abide in Him, “If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.” (John 15:7) “Blessed is…whose delight is in the law of the LORD, and who meditates on his law day and night.” (Psalm 1:1-2) The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom and we grow in Godly wisdom by remaining in his Word. Through His Word, we get to know and be reminded again and again how God has sent his only Son to suffer and die for our sins, through many temptations and sorrows, and because He has defeated the devil who has the power of death, and has overcome the world without sinning, we have the greatest hope in Christ,. He is the merciful and faithful high priest and Lord to help us when we face various temptations. What temptation are you struggling with now? Give it to Jesus and ask Him to help you. He is faithful to deliver you and set you free. Trust Him.

Change from the Inside Out

Luke 21:1-4

“Jesus looked up and saw the rich putting their gifts into the offering box, and he saw a poor widow put in two small copper coins. And he said, ‘Truly, I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all of them. For they all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on.'”

Life could feel strange sometimes with all its ups and downs and the many unexpected turning of events. Maybe that’s why there’s the saying, “C’est la vie” (this is life). It’s easy to sing Hallelujah and praise the Lord when things are going really well, but much harder for many of us when things are tough, when sorrow and pain feel like an overwhelming wave that’s about to swallow you up alive.

The good news is that reality is more than what our eyes can see. When things are hard, the Lord hears our cry and answers from His holy mountain (Psalm 3:4, 18:6). Even when we don’t seem to see any change in our situation, the Lord is at work to deliver us, through which process He makes us more like Christ as He endures the greatest suffering to save us from our sins. The Lord works through the Holy Spirit to renew our mind day by day (2 Corinthians 4:16), leading us to the humble state where we could sing with peace and joy, “Lord, I do not have much strength left, but with the little strength that I have, I will worship you. May Your Name be glorified!”

He changes us from inside out, equipping us to look beyond what meets the eye, and see the invisible reality where Jesus sits on the throne and welcomes us in.

Our Comforter & Protector

Isaiah 4:6

“There will be a booth for shade by day from the heat, and for a refuge and a shelter from the storm and rain.”

Jesus has told us that “In this world you will have trouble.” (John 16:33b) so it shouldn’t surprise us when we face various trials and sufferings (i.e., the “heat”, “storm” and “rain”). We are often surprised and complain when we are met with such “heat” because we have taken our eyes off of God and fixed them on our circumstances.

The Lord is faithful and good. He has promised us that when we put our faith in Him, when we fix our eyes on Jesus Christ, He will be our stronghold in distress, a shelter from the trials (Isaiah 25:4), and our very present help in trouble (Psalm 46:1). He will hide us in His shelter in the day of trouble, conceal us under the cover of His tent; He will lift us high upon a rock (Psalm 27:5), so that “A thousand may fall at your side, ten thousand at your right hand, but it will not come near you.” (Psalm 91:7)

No matter what you are facing today, know that the Lord, the Holy One of Israel is with you; He is watching over you, calling you to turn your eyes and heart to Him and Him alone, and He will take care of the rest for you. It is your heart that He wants, and He is Able to calm your storm, and place you on a dry land.

 

How to Act

Proverbs 19:2

“Desire without knowledge is not good. and whoever makes haste with his feet misses his way.”

Have you ever had a thought or idea (in life or ministry), which you were very excited about, and moved to act on it quickly without giving it careful considerations and planning, and ended up failing miserably?

I have done that many times. I used to be very proud of myself, believing that it’s a virtue called “quick to act”, the “opposite” of indecisiveness. The Lord is gracious to use circumstances to humble me, and now I call it my foolishness to act impulsively, without carefully considering all aspects and all people involved, the motive, and the potential short-term and long-term development and impact, etc.

As the Lord teaches us here: having the desire to do something, but without sufficient knowledge of what it is and how to do it is not good. A fool acts unwisely before thinking or planning the right course and misses the way and goal.

Even more importantly, we are to place our ideas and plans before the Lord, examining our hearts to see the motive of our desire – “is it aiming to glorify the Lord, or glorify me? What/Who am I worshiping in wanting to do this?” And we are to pray for God’s wisdom to help us move forward with His guidance in His timing if it pleases Him, instead of relying on our own strength and resources. Proverbs 16: 9 says, “In their hearts humans plan their course, but the LORD establishes their steps.” Nothing in our hearts and lives misses the eyes of the sovereign Lord, may Him keep our hearts pure, and our steps firmly established in Him!

How to Listen

Proverbs 18:13

“If one gives an answer before he hears, it is his folly and shame.”

Have you ever reacted quickly and emotionally to what another person had just said, without asking them what they really meant by what they said and getting clarification, but only found out later that you had misunderstood them, that they didn’t mean what you thought they meant?

I have done that many times. By God’s grace, He used a friend in my life to gently advice me not to assume what another person meant, but to ask more questions to understand them better. This is great wisdom for my personal life, but also a wonderful skill for counseling.

Listening well is so critical in our interactions with others. The Lord teaches us how to listen, “An intelligent heart acquires knowledge, and the ear of the wise seeks knowledge.” (v. 15) We are to listen with an open heart, open mind that is centered on Christ, and we are to take the active role, to seek knowledge – what is truly being said, and not what we think/assume is being said. May God give us wisdom and grace to listen well and love with kindness.

 

Our Whole Being for His Glory

Psalm 19:14

“Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart

be acceptable in your sight,

O LORD, my rock and my redeemer.”

We move and have our being in the Lord Jesus Christ. His Word searches the deepest place of our soul, even presumptuous sins we committed without knowing (vv. 12-13), just like the scorching heat of the sun reaches the end of the earth – nothing is hidden from Him (vv. 1-6). By His perfect grace, in this searching, testing, and refining, He revives our soul, makes us simple, rejoices our heart, enlightens our eyes, and guides our steps to follow Him faithfully, to the everlasting reward (vv. 7-11).

“For who is God, but the LORD? And who is a rock, except our God?” (Ps. 18:31) May He keep us and grow us through His Holy Word and Spirit, that everything we say, think and do will be suitable act of worship before Him, our Rock and Redeemer, our everlasting Joy!

The Lord Supports Us

Psalm 18:34

“He trains my hands for war,

so that my arms can bend a bow of bronze.”

The Lord had given David all the skills and knowledge to win the war, defeating his enemies who were like swirling waters that were about to drown him (v. 16b, “he drew me out of many waters”). He is doing the same for us today. He equips us, giving us all wisdom and skills needed to fight this war against our sin, against the devil and the world that’s under Satan’s influence. And his faithfulness and mercy will see us through to win this battle. He is the source of our strength, so that we are not fighting this fight on our own strength or wisdom (which won’t get us very far). We can rest in Christ, knowing that He is with us, He goes before us and with us, and He is faithful to his promise that “he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 1:6)