Change - The first step in problem solving

By Rick Thomas

Trained for change - When a person comes to counseling it is easy to expect change to take place. Both the counselor and the counselee can think this way. This is reasonable. However, it is imperative the counselor and the counselee realize where change comes from and who initiates change in a person’s heart.

This simple truth is easy to forget: God changes hearts, while providing the empowering grace needed to grow a person into Christlikeness. While there is a responsibility on the counselor to counsel well and the counselee is called to respond to the counseling, the impetus for change comes from the LORD. Counselors must guard their hearts from becoming perplexed and frustrated when a counselee is not changing according to their preconceived timetable.

If the counselor does not guard his heart, he can lose faith for the process. He can even become impatient, rude, harsh, or unkind. I know this because I have done these things. If a counselor does not adjust his thinking, he may also become cynical, suspicious or, even worse: he can gossip about his “stubborn and resistant counselee.” In any discipleship situation it is absolutely essential the discipler’s theology informs the discipleship process. If not, the discipler can be tempted to lose hope and even sin during the process.

An essential theological question to ask yourself, as it applies to your understanding of discipleship, is your view of the doctrine of repentance. More specifically do you believe repentance is a gift from God? And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will. (2 Tim. 2:24-26 EVS).

A counselor’s paraphrase - If you believe repentance is a gift from the LORD then you are aware it cannot be conjured, contrived, forced, manipulated, or artificially applied to anyone willy-nilly. Repentance cannot be willed into the heart of an individual regardless of the care context. Armed with this understanding of repentance being a gift that comes from God, you know the implication is that God might not grant this gift during a counseling session. To be totally honest, He might not grant repentance at all. Repentance during the counseling season is a timing thing. Will God give the gift of repentance while you are counseling the counselee?

God granted me the gift of repentance while I was a rebellious 25-year old. If you had tried to counsel me as a rebellious 15-year old kid, who had just landed in jail, you could have potentially been frustrated by my rebellion, stubbornness, and self-deceived thinking. The good news would have been how the watering and planting in me would not have been wasted (1 Cor. 3:6). As I look back on how it actually went down, I can see how human effort was subordinated to God’s kind gift of repentance. When, oh LORD? - Repentance is a mystery, only properly understood in the mind of God. It cannot be willed by the counselor no matter how adept he is at counseling or how much he cares for the counselee.

Call to action • When you think about the gift of repentance, what goes through your mind? • How do you normally respond to those who do not change the way you expect them to change? • Is there someone in your life who is not changing? How are you responding to them?