We've talked a lot in this season of the podcast about having life-giving conversations, choosing what we circle around in conversations, and choosing authenticity over negativity. Another HUGE part of developing these deep relationships with your people is how we counsel each other when we get into that vulnerable, authentic place. Once you've gotten to the real and the raw, there's a temptation to counsel out of our own experience instead of God's Word.
"For we are the circumcision, who worship by the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh-- though I myself have reason for confidence in the flesh also. If anyone else thinks he has reason for confidence in the flesh, I have more:
But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ" - Philippians 3:3-4, 7-8
If we are those who worship God, there is something we put our hope in and point our friends to. It isn't our own ability. It isn't our knowledge. It isn't our own wisdom. It isn't our own counsel. If we are those who worship God, we bring God to our friends, not just our good advice. Pushing each other to Christ is the greatest thing we can do for each other.
WE WANT TO FIX IT
There is a pull to solve each other's problems and fix them rather than point them to Christ. We may be able to put a band-aid on each other's issues, but what if we pointed our friends to the ultimate physician instead of our quick fixes? Going to Jesus is where you start to see supernatural life change.
I've seen this trend happen in front of me, and I've seen how the opposite completely shifts things. The first bible study I ever wrote was called Stuck: The Places That Make Us Stuck and The God Who Sets Us Free. I taught for the first time in my home church because I knew I needed it and my friends needed it. So we sat in a little cafeteria of our church plant. There were about 150 women all different ages that came. We had these conversation cards and the whole time, whenever we would ask these really deep questions, we would all end up counseling each other. They would tell each other how they handled situations from their own experience instead of pointing to the Word of God.
THE REAL SOLUTION
After that, I completely rebuilt the way I did Bible study. I set a lot of ground rules. I put scripture at the center. Every time you started the small group, even if you had been in it 4 or 5 times, you had to read the ground rules together. The ground rules are still: we don't counsel each other with human wisdom. We point to the word of God.
The amazing part was that it was so awkward, felt so unnatural, and hard because we weren't counseling each other from our own experience. Paul talks about this in 1st Corinthians 2 when he says there's a lot of human wisdom, but it is completely different from supernatural, spiritual life change that God wants to bring about in our lives. When we go to spiritual people about spiritual problems and don't give spiritual answers, we're missing the best parts. It's that those things are incomplete. There are self-help.
IS GIVING ADVICE BAD?
People are so hard on self-help. There is some truth in self-help, but it's very limited. I believe all truth is from God. If it is true, it's from God. There is something useful and helpful about counseling. There is something useful and helpful about medicine. But self-help and counseling won't solve the biggest problems of our lives and souls. We have bigger issues than essential oils and self-help books can solve. We have to realize that God doesn't just want to solve our physical ailments and emotional issues, but he wants to actually go deep and solve everything that God built within us.
It requires believing that God is the answer to our problems. It shifts from a natural answer to a supernatural answer. Pushing people to God is pushing them to faith. And pushing them to believe that God can and will move into the places that we're so stuck. That is the path to true freedom.
IT TAKES BEING UNCOMFORTABLE
We so often want to jump to solutions. We feel uncomfortable sitting in hard places, so we skip through it and go straight to fixing. We often jump to our own advice because we aren't willing to be uncomfortable, listen to God, and let the Holy Spirit guide our answers. If you're sitting down with a friend, and she's sharing some hard, vulnerable things, how do we choose God's Word over our own advice?
Oftentimes, we can do a lot of harm by slapping a Bible verse on someone's suffering. The best thing you can do is just sit with them. Weep with those who weep and celebrate with those who celebrate.
I had to confess this to my small group today. I always want to jump in and fix things. Instead, I want to be someone who waits and listens. Who trusts the Lord and the Spirit for the right response. To do this, we have to understand what the person is feeling. We figure that out by asking questions and really listening. Empathize with them. We have to wait for the person to share the real things they're feeling, and they can't do that when we jump to a fix before they have a chance. Most people tell you their problems because they want someone to sit in it with them. God will give us the words to say, but it takes patience, relationship with him, and waiting.
There is no one-size-fits-all remedy for any problem. This applies so much in parenting. I need God everyday to show me how to handle situations, discipline my children, speak to my children, spend time with my children. And it's all in different ways for each of them. How I hang out, discipline, or speak to Cooper isn't the same way I hang out, discipline, or speak to Kate. Each one of them is unique and needs different things. So how do I know what to do? I'm always asking God, "what do I do? Help me! Tell me what to do!" That's not an easy answer, but this is how we're meant to live. Dependence on God. He wants us to have a relationship and be dependent and wait on him. It's not easy, but it works.
We're looking at a culture who desperately wants answers. They want to know God. They have a hunger for God. They hope a God exists. If we limit ourselves to clickable statements and quick fixes and 4-step answers, we built a life that is independent from ever needing God.
Self-help is great. But when you face the dark night of the soul, when you lose a husband or a child, when you're going through tremendous suffering, self-help isn't going to fix it. There will only be God. There is something we miss when we try to solve every problem with worldly answers and don't wait on the answer he can bring. I've watched it happen. God's supernatural power can give hope to desperate people. I want to live that story. I want to preach that story. I want to be a part of that story. To watch God move in that way, we have to get out of the way with our own advice and wisdom, and let him transform our lives and the lives around us with his truth.