Here is the text – I’d like you to read this and I’ll discuss just one verse in regard to Biblical Counseling:
And as he was setting out on his journey, a man ran up and knelt before him and asked him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone. You know the commandments: ‘Do not murder, Do not commit adultery, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Do not defraud, Honor your father and mother.'” And he said to him, “Teacher, all these I have kept from my youth.” And Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, “You lack one thing: go, sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” Disheartened by the saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions. And Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How difficult it will be for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!” And the disciples were amazed at his words. But Jesus said to them again, “Children, how difficult it is to enter the kingdom of God! (Mar 10:17-24 ESV)
This should be a familiar story to any biblical counselor. And while it provides a text full of wonderful teaching that can be applied to those who come to see us…and frankly, good teaching for us as biblical counselors as well, I would like to draw your attention to the emboldened portion of the text above. It says this:
And Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, “You lack one thing: go, sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.“
The context is this: Jesus has just been confronted by the Pharisees in an attempt to trip him up. He draws them to God’s Word in a masterful discussion of marriage and divorce. Afterwards he patiently explains it all to his disciples and then shortly after that, he indignantly has to correct his disciples as they were refusing children to come to him. So, context summary: Jesus is battling crafty, deceptive questions, teaching men things they don’t know, and then sternly correcting his disciples about their wrong-doing. Pretty much sums up our counseling experiences, doesn’t it?
It is in that context that the above text occurs. Jesus has just finished blessing the children and sets out on a journey when this rich, young ruler comes to him. He asks the familiar question, “What shall I do to inherit eternal life?” What Jesus does next is what I want us to focus on:
Jesus looked at him
All to often we hear our counselees situation, or read their request for help from a submitted form and already have built a response to “fix the problem” at hand. Mark says Jesus looked at this rich, young ruler. Why did Jesus look at him? What did he see when he looked at him?
One of the most important things you can do in counseling is to really see your counselee. They are not just a problem to fix and send away. They are not just an injury to heal or slap a bandaid on and move to the next appointment. They are real, hurting and struggling people. They are image-bearers. It doesn’t matter if their arms bear the scars from cutting or track marks from drug abuse. They are seated with you, by Divine appointment, so that you, through the Holy Spirit and his Word, might minister to them. See them in the eyes of a Sovereign and compassionate God.
Looking at your counselee also provides an opportunity to assist you in knowing the real story. The rich, young ruler no doubt appeared differently to Jesus than the blind beggar he was about to meet. Appearance and body language tell a greater story than words can. Be observant. Look at your counselee.
Jesus felt for him
Secondly, Mark records that Jesus “loved him” (ESV). The NASB says, “Jesus felt a love for him”. One of the blessings about really looking at your counselee is that you are given the opportunity to emote with them. You can feel the suffering, you can experience the pain, and you compassionately enter into the struggle of a sinful soul.
Can I just say, PLEASE do not be the detached counselor that only gives sterile hopeful answers to your counselee. I think that it would do good to use a phrase that Dr.Bob Kellemen has used in the past here, “…climb into their casket of suffering…” While a vivid picture, it is an accurate phrase. Enter into your counseling with your emotions as well. Don’t be guided by emotion, but allow your emotions to surface. Allow your love to compel you to speak truth compassionately, like Jesus did here. It’s okay to feel and be a biblical counselor.
Jesus spoke to him
Here’s the progression: Jesus looked, Jesus felt, and now he speaks. When you have seen your counselor in the place where they are at, and allowed yourself to feel for them, or with them, then you are finally ready to speak into their lives. Jesus spoke what the rich, young ruler needed. He spoke truth. It wasn’t received well, but nevertheless, Jesus said what the young man needed.
You too will be able to speak into the lives of your counselees as you see them accurately and allow yourself to feel for them appropriately.
See, feel, and speak.
It’s the 1, 2, and 3 of Biblical Counseling. May God use you mightily as you employ these methods into your ministry.