It may have happened to you. Your friend needs a listening ear and vents to you about her boss, boyfriend, or family. Maybe someone you hardly know turns to you because you “just seem like such a good listener.” Before you know it, you’re her daily counselor. She calls you or buttonholes you in the employee lunchroom every day. Either way, you stand there wondering how you got into this position and pray: “Help God! I’m not a counselor! Tell me what to say.”
At first, it seems simple; you’re flattered that she’s chosen you. You may even dish out some sound advice. Before you know it, however, you’ve gotten in way over your head. What’s a girlfriend to do?
* Offering advice to someone who genuinely wants to change, who is actively looking for a solution, is easier than trying to help someone who just wants to complain.
Breaking your advice down into steps and weekly assignments, and working toward a conclusion is probably the easiest, most satisfying counseling that we laypeople can do.
However, what may seem like logical steps toward solving a problem to you may be an insurmountable mountain to climb for someone in the midst of the predicament. They say the definition of insanity is continuing to do the same thing and expecting a different outcome. Often people are just not ready for change. Sometimes misery is a comfortable place to be because it’s familiar. What you may think is a simple answer may not be interpreted as such.
* Suggesting that your friend talk with a professional is often the only answer.
If she talks about feeling suicidal, has uncontrollable fits of rage or an addiction of any kind, you’re probably not qualified to help her. (Tomorrow I will be sharing more about seeking professional help.)
However, when your friend is having trouble dealing with her children, communicating with her spouse, or relating to difficult people, maybe just having a friend listen is all the support she needs.
* When asked, “what should I do?” pointing to God is always the answer. No one can guide a person to truth like the Great Counselor.
Most good Sunday School-going children can tell you that the answer to any question in life is “read the Bible, witness, and pray.” In counseling a friend, that’s not bad advice either.
Unfortunately, the Bible has many gray areas. Modern life issues aren’t always black and white in God’s Word. For instance, the Bible does not say you shouldn’t let your daughter get her navel pierced. However, it does say in I Corinthians 3:16 and 6:19 that you should honor your body as the temple of the Holy Spirit. Some interpret that to mean no piercings.
* Whatever the issue, be careful to not be judgmental. Remember it is the Holy Spirit who chastens us.
What about those tough issues like emotions and appropriate behavior? Now you’re treading on thin ice, sister! Pointing to God and His Word is always right. If your friend really doesn’t want to hear that answer, pause and then point to God and His Word again. There is no better advice than divine counsel.
* Praying for God’s clear direction can dissolve any confusion.
Thanking God for all He’s done can put things into proper prospective. Reading the Bible can help her decide what to do next.
* You must guard yourself in every way.
Stay “prayed up,” stay in the Word, and keep your personal relationships healthy. If you find yourself bogged down by the burdens of someone who is regularly using you as a sounding board, it’s time to step back. If you don’t take care of yourself—if you don’t guard your own spiritual, mental, and physical health—you cannot even help your own family.
* Know when to say, “Enough is enough.”
“I’ve pointed you to the throne of God and His answers, but you continue to wallow in self-pity. I can’t let you drag me down with you.” This takes courage. It takes strength. It takes the boldness of Christ. It hurts to walk away from a friend—especially one in need—but you have to count the cost of being her counselor.
God does not want you to suffer by doing what you were not called to do. When amateurs try to wire a house, they get electrocuted. When amateurs try to fix the plumbing, their houses are flooded. If you truly feel called to counsel in the name of Christ, get training in the field of Christian counseling. You can only do so much as a layperson.
So about those tough issues . . . Lead your friend through Scripture and formulate prayers from specific passages. Write them on cards for her to pray, and pray for her daily. THEN, point her to a professional Christian counselor. That’s what you can do. That’s all God expects from you.