As one of the more recent additions to the counseling team here at the Chapel, I’ve been struck with the collision of these two ideas frequently. On the one hand, I know the Holy Spirit is the one who works in people to transform their hearts. On the other hand, I know I have a responsibility to work hard and hopefully not mess up terribly. When people come to see me for a counseling problem – a real person with a real problem, expecting me to actually be able to help them and at the very least have a clue – there’s a terrifying moment of feeling inadequate in my level of wisdom and Scriptural understanding.
If you know me well, then you’ll know that I make it no secret that at times, I tend to struggle with pride. I want to be awesome . . . I want people to think I’m awesome . . . I want them to tell me they think I’m awesome! The way this has reared its disgusting head as I stepped into a counseling role is that I was terrified of messing up, I deceived myself into believing that people are wholly dependent on me (my great knowledge, wisdom and advice) to rescue them, and I wanted glory upon glory to come flowing out of everybody’s mouth about the incredible ways I’ve helped them.
As self-incriminating as this article is (do I really want it to be posted on the internet?!), my point is to encourage and challenge others in ministry who might struggle with similar fears and temptations. God is so good, and he’s gently reproved me with his Word, allowed me to see how he works and learn to say no to my sin.
There have been weeks of counseling when I’ve been on my knees, begging God to help me with his perfect wisdom to lead his people, as Solomon did in 1 Kings 3, to later that day watch God use my mind and my mouth in amazing ways (that were never my idea at all) to love, understand, teach and challenge my counselees. And there have been weeks when I’ve been more confident in my own strength and have gone into a counseling session feeling pretty proud of how legit and cool I am, only to have my counsel fall completely flat and ineffective. One of my counselees is nearing graduation, and I’m amazed at how different the girl I met at the first session is from the girl walking into the office now! Sometimes I sit and wonder — how is it that we got from there to here? And through my prideful failures and my humble effectiveness, I’ve learned: I hardly have anything to do with it at all! The work of heart transformation is entirely a work of the Holy Spirit through the Word, and he doesn’t need me to be awesome! My responsibility is to love the Lord, submit to him, love his people, love his Word and study it, and lovingly speak what is true to my counselees. Any fruit that comes of my ministry is up to God, and it is a joy to watch him work!
“Thus says the LORD: ‘Let not the wise man boast in his wisdom, let not the mighty man boast in his might, let not the rich man boast in his riches, but let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the LORD who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth. For in these things I delight, declares the LORD.”
— Jeremiah 9:23-24