(adapted from Church with Jesus as the Hero, chapter 11. Written by Casey McCall)
In counseling, listening is just as vital as speaking. It is generally assumed that a good counselor is one who is able to say all the right words, but the ability to speak wisely is predicated upon the ability to listen carefully. We must listen to the specific details of each person’s unique story in order to help them rightly apply the gospel to their lives. As sinners, each person’s rebellion manifests itself in very personal ways, leading them to worship specific false gods and conform to different false notions about the world, God, and self. As sufferers, each person has endured unique trials and lived through challenging experiences that have shaped and influenced their lives. We must never presume that everyone processes experiences the same way we do.
As sinful beings, every person’s story somehow competes with The Story that God is telling through Jesus Christ. We are all busy writing our own stories in which we rule and serve as the heroes. As we exalt ourselves in importance, we belittle and ignore God. Believing the satanic lie that our own stories will bring us freedom, we begin to experience misery when the promise of that freedom is never fulfilled. Instead of freedom and joy, our sin brings nothing but despair and desolation (Gen. 3:16-24). To alleviate our pain, we keep digging deeper, looking for something or someone to save us. Our own story cannot end well.
Our goal in counseling is to lead sinners and sufferers to exchange their false stories for the one true Story that Christ invites us to join. Yes, they are sinners. Yes, they deserve God’s wrath; but, God has provided a way out through Jesus Christ! Seeking out the specific stories of the people we are counseling enables us to bring the big story of God’s redemption in Christ from the realm of the abstract down into the reality of peoples’ lives.