As a Pastor, How Do You Counsel Believers in Private?

A man holds the Holy Bible in his hands.
A man holds the Holy Bible in his hands.
By CCD contributor: Gao Bang September 11th, 2020

A believer was waiting for me after almost everyone else had left the church after a Sunday service.

A few months ago, Lan came to the church. After I preached a sermon, she would talk with me. The moment I sat down, I listened for a good while to her innermost thoughts and feelings. She poured her heart out about how she suffered in her marriage, family difficulties, and the hopelessness of life. 

This time she seemed to be depressed. I shared some encouraging words and listened, and then I prayed for her. 

For a long time, I realized that I was doing more and more counseling after I had finished preaching. More people needed counseling. The sermons and teaching that I gave from the front of the church could not meet their demands. They needed the comfort and help of personal counseling. Maybe counseling will be a necessary ministry in the future. Counseling covers a variety of skills that include understanding principles, knowing how to give proper direction, knowing how to observe and understand what is needed. 

Maybe Lin needed someone to listen to her instead of someone teaching her or providing counseling. As I listened to her stories in silence, her thoughts ran wild and turned to a different topic even though many problems remained unsettled. Despite the confusion during our conversation, I felt that she was gaining better control of her emotions. 

I found that listening provided a powerful means of giving good replies in this situation. I affirmed what she was saying to show that my understanding of her problems came from my heart. By showing this The understanding I believe that she felt her problems were being recognized. 

Maybe I could not completely identify with her experiences, but my partial understanding and recognition of her problems gave her a feeling of respect. I know that what she needed at that moment was not someone to tell her what to do, but sympathy. 

Romans 12:15-16 says, “Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. 16 Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited.”

I found that I couldn’t do anything when she, feeling wronged, could not help but cry after winning my recognition. However, I could tell her that we pray that God would help and provide guidance as he is concerned about all our hardship. Her heart was being healed. It took her a long time to feel the empathy being shown her and until she calmed down. 

It was not good for me to give concrete guidance to her or leave her alone. The better way was to lead her in a prayer and entrust everything into God’s hands. What was more, I could encourage her and provide hope through God’s word and the testimonies of others who have gone before her.  

Hebrew 12:1-2 records, “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”

When our minds turn to God, I believe God’s working because only God can provide comfort. I saw her nodding in silence with firm eyes. She seemed to have enough hope and faith to move on. 

Every time that she displayed an emotional change, I was inspired and moved. With God’s help I moved ahead on the road to help her find healing. Every act of counseling is a journey of the heart. Every burden goes to a gain that I summarize how to deal with believers and I can help walk from weaknesses to strength and helplessness to help.

More than that, an experienced counseling team should be established. Pastors should consider how to bring help and comfort to their congregations through sermons and teaching, but also through personal counseling. Maybe one counseling session can save a fragile soul. 

- Translated by Karen Luo

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