In this final segment of this topic, we will look at the common mindsets of the counselee and some basic principles for help.
The desire for happiness and respect are general attitudes that counselees suffering at the hands of others may have. I was concerned that there may be more specific issues that the counselor must deal with when coming alongside those suffering injustice. Rather than relying on my own personal experience, and to make sure I obtained a broader sampling, I asked the seven ACBC certified counselors on staff at Clearcreek Chapel in Springboro, OH to list characteristics of those they have counseled whose presenting problem is injustice. In addition to these seven, I asked a dozen counselors, at random, at the 2017 ACBC Annual Conference in Jacksonville, Florida the same question. Their responses below are similar to David Powlison’s list in his article on Suffering and Psalm 19.
- They are seeking sympathy that they have been mistreated.
- They generally expect that you will justify their anger against the perpetrator.
- They have a strong desire for justice.
- They have a sense of being a victim.
- They hope/expect that you will assist them explaining why God allowed it.
In some cases the counselee may even perceive injustice that isn’t there. It is important, then, for the counselor to work through what these specific attitudes reveal about the heart of the counselee.
Even though working through these attitudes will bring specific issues to the surface, there are some summary truths that will apply to many, if not most, counseling situations.
The following are 10 summary truths that all counselees suffering from injustice at the hands of others must understand.
First, you are suffering for righteousness sake. “But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled…For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God’s will, than for doing evil.” (1 Peter 3:14,17) and ” Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” (Matthew 5:10-12).
Second, God will provide strength in the midst of suffering. We remind ourselves of the words of the Apostle Paul in 2 Corinthians 12:9-10, “But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” This was Paul’s response to suffering at the hands of Satan.
Third, teach the one suffering injustice God’s goal for her in this situation. “Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I keep your word… It is good for me that I was afflicted, that I might learn your statutes… know, O Lord, that your rules are righteous, and that in faithfulness you have afflicted me.” (Psalm 119:67,71,75).
Fourth, we should exalt Christ in suffering, “as it is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be at all ashamed, but that with full courage now as always Christ will be honored in my body, whether by life or by death.” (Philippians 1:20) and must magnify God, “In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 5:16).
Fifth, we must obey God no matter what the cost, “Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego answered and said to the king, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter. If this be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of your hand, O king. But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up” (Daniel 3:16-18).
Sixth, you need to change to exalt Christ, not just to change the oppressor, “So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please him.” (2 Corinthians 5:9) and “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” (1 Corinthians 10:31).
Seventh, pray for the abuser! Jesus forgave, “Two others, who were criminals, were led away to be put to death with him. And when they came to the place that is called The Skull, there they crucified him, and the criminals, one on his right and one on his left. And Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” (Luke 23:32-34). Stephen forgave,
Now when they heard these things they were enraged, and they ground their teeth at him. 55 But he, full of the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. 56 And he said, “Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.” 57 But they cried out with a loud voice and stopped their ears and rushed together at him. 58 Then they cast him out of the city and stoned him. And the witnesses laid down their garments at the feet of a young man named Saul. 59 And as they were stoning Stephen, he called out, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” 60 And falling to his knees he cried out with a loud voice, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” And when he had said this, he fell asleep. (Acts 7:54-60).
Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?” 38 And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.” 40 And with many other words he bore witness and continued to exhort them, saying, “Save yourselves from this crooked generation.” 41 So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls. (Acts 2:37-41).
Eighth, do not be anxious, “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble” (Matthew 6:34). “The often – repeated phrase “do not be anxious” is the theme. The Lord is issuing a cease and desist order against anxiety based upon the sovereign care of a loving and omnipotent God.”
Ninth, delight in the Lord and his word, “I would have perished in my affliction if your words had not been my delight.” (Psalm 119:92).
Finally, take comfort and peace in God’s sovereignty, “The Lord has established his throne in the heavens, and his kingdom rules over all” (Psalm 103:19), “So then he has mercy on whomever he wills, and he hardens whomever he wills” (Romans 9:18). “God’s sovereignty is the only safe harbor when we are assailed by the winds fear, doubt, and worry.”
Other Key Passages from Scripture for the Biblical Counselor
Psalm 3. In Psalm 3 we see David’s response to the unjust oppression of his son Absalom (2 Samuel 15-19). David recounts his predicament, the rising oppression and slandering words against him. But then we see a great peace. God is close and personal and answers David’s cry. Through David’s unjust suffering, God provides rest and sustains with strength. David can confidently go to prayer because he knows that salvation belongs to the Lord and that God blesses his people.
Psalm 3:3-7; 4:1, 3-8; 5:1-3, 11-12; 6:1-3, 6-9; 9:1-2, 4, 7-10; 10:1, 14; 16:1-2, 5, 7-9, 11; 18, 27:14. These are just a sampling of verses from the Psalms. They confirm truths about God, his grace, mercy, and goodness. Phrases such as, “you have given me relief when I was in distress”, “You have put more joy in my heart”, “in the morning you hear my voice”, “the Lord has heard my plea”, and “I will recount all your wonderful deeds”.
We must trust in God, not in ourselves. “It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in man. It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in princes.” (Psalm 118:8-9), “Let the house of Aaron say, “His steadfast love endures forever.”” (Psalm 146:3), and “Thus says the Lord: “Cursed is the man who trusts in man and makes flesh his strength, whose heart turns away from the Lord.” (Jeremiah 17:5). “We cannot expect God to prosper anything which intrudes itself into his place, and detracts from his honor… We must make God the great object of our trust, even though the usual human instrumentality of help may be at hand.”
1 and 2 Thessalonians (1 Thessalonians 2:14-16). “It should be noted that Paul never says that Christians should actively seek suffering. Christians are, however, to welcome persecution if the alternative is being ashamed of the gospel (2 Tim 1:8). In his remarks on suffering, Paul again presents us with a classic “theological tension.” Although the suffering of Christians is ordained by God in a general sense (Phil 1:29), particular instances of suffering are something that Paul and others can legitimately seek and pray to avoid (Acts 22:25-29; 2 Cor 1:8-11; Phil 1:19; 1 Tim 2:1-4; cf. Matt 10:23; 24:9, 15-22). The deciding factors as to whether one should embrace suffering or avoid it are (1) God’s will (Phil 1:29-30), (2) the effect on others’ salvation or sanctification (Phil 1:23-25; Col 1:24-25; 2 Tim 2:8-11), and (3) the glorification of God (2 Cor 4:15).”
 David Powlison, “Suffering and Psalm 119”, Journal of Biblical Counseling (Fall 2004), 12.
 John MacArthur, Anxious for Nothing: God’s Cure for the Care of Your Soul, 2nd ed., The Macarthur Study Series (Colorado Springs, Colo.: Victor, 2006), 17.
 Elyse Fitzpatrick, Overcoming Fear, Worry, and Anxiety (Eugene, OR: Harvest House, 2001), 128.
 Jerry Bridges, Trusting God: Even When Life Hurts (Colorado Springs, Colo.: NavPress, 2008), 203.
 Robert Plummer, “The Role of Suffering in the Mission of Pail and the Mission of the Church,” The Southern Baptist Journal of Theology, 17.4 ,2013), 14-15.