As we take people by the hand to lead them to encounter God in the midst of their problems, who exactly is the God they encounter? For many people, their problems are so huge that they have not been able to see past them to look at God. For others, they view God as the problem: since God is sovereign, how come He has sent me this pain? For some, they view God as far away: God exists, but my problem is not something He cares about. He must be busy with other things, and all my prayers and attempts to read His Word have not made my situation better.
A number of key aspects about the character of God can be brought into the counseling conversation. First, God makes Himself known to us in Christ. He is the God Who speaks to us through the Biblical authors (Ephesians 1:1) and makes known the mystery of His will to us (Eph. 1:9), a will that we pray for the Father to continue to open our eyes to the spirit of wisdom in Christ (Eph. 1:17-18). While the counselee comes to us because he or she wants to know something, God comes to us and says He can be known.
Second, God accomplishes His purposes toward us in Christ. Sometimes it will take a lifetime to see this, but the truth is just as powerful—whatever happens is not outside God’s control but inside His plan to care for me, a Christ-follower (Ephesians 1:11).
Third, God lavishes grace upon us in Christ. God reveals He is up to something in our life. The big picture of the letters to us in the New Testament open and close with the message that God is sending His grace, mercy and peace upon us. Sometimes what a counselee needs most to see is that big picture. You are not too bad to receive grace, and you are not too good to need grace. Rather, we have been born in sin, but God is rich in mercy because of His great love with which He loved us (Eph. 2:1-4).
Fourth, God’s power works in us as He worked in Christ. The help that we need to be able to effectively counsel people with complex problems is the very same power that raises the dead back to life! Far too many times we come across counseling problems that seem hopeless and require nothing short of a miracle. The power to work that miracle is found in God, and is exceedingly great toward us who believe (Ephesians 1:19-20). With God, no situation is truly hopeless.
Fifth, the Lord Jesus invades human history to make peace. The very presence of conflict and trouble in this life is proof that we need a king to bring peace—and we have just that sort of king in Jesus! (Eph. 2:12-13)
Sixth, God will bring wrath on those who are outside His kingdom (Eph. 2:1-3; 5:5-7). This is important for counseling. On the one hand, it is a comfort to those who have been unjustly treated or abused. On the other hand, it is a warning to those who must repent of their sin and status as those fighting against God’s will.
Seventh, God indwells us in Christ through the Holy Spirit. The fact that you are “in Christ” is mentioned 10 times in Ephesians 1:13-14. The truth that Jesus is powerfully “in you” dominates the prayer of the Christian in Ephesians 3:16-21. However, such a wonderful reality is not likely the constant experience of the person needing counsel. This “reality gap” is described in Ephesians 3:14-5:2. That section plots the course of our journey in the Christian life. It shows us more and more how to experience the reality that we are united to Christ by faith as we are “imitators of God as dear children” who “walk in love, as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us.”
Eighth, God and His children will inherit each other in Christ. God makes peace between humanity so that people from Jewish or Gentile cultures and nations will become members of a new nation that is in Christ. Rather than both Jews and Gentiles being lost and hopeless because of their sin and rejection of the Messiah, they are reconciled to God in one body through the cross (Ephesians 2:14-18). From this unity with each other they have access by the same Holy Spirit to the Father.
Finally, Biblical counseling will remind people that heaven is NOT a lonely place. We can START with God when we sort through our problems because we know we will also END with God, encountering His presence for eternity. In this world we may have trouble and loneliness and brokenness. Yet in Christ we are “no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints” and we are being fitted together like bricks in a building—a building in which God the Holy Spirit lives forever (Eph. 2:19-22).