This post was written by Sharon Dickens, 20schemes Director of Women’s Ministry.
This is part 2 of a 2-part blog series on the issue of wisdom and counselling written by Sharon Dickens (20schemes director of women’s ministry).
In the first part of Dumb Yet Dumber, we were thinking about who is the source of our wisdom. If you missed it, click here and give it a read.
We all know who we should be relying on and where the source of our wisdom comes from, but we can easily fall into a few pitfalls we struggle with and need to look out for:
Wise in our own eyes
We aren’t created to be wise while being disconnected and detached from God. Yet we still try! We think we can rule our own world—we think we are sovereign. As humans, we try everything possible to get wisdom outside of God: the latest self-help book, legalistic rules, fancy programmes, TV chat shows (Jeremy Kyle’s TV version of counselling), life coaches, internet forums, Google, etc. Our lists are endless. I spent time with someone the other day, and on telling me they were ill, I said “You’re not google-doctoring, are you?” Turns out that not only were they google-doctoring, but actually disregarding their doctor’s advice in favour of their own internet solution. Now I’m not saying that these things don’t have something useful for us, but they in themselves don’t make us experts or wise. When it comes to doing life with people, we need to help them recognise the ways they are wise in their own eyes, and when they are foolish because of their sin, and point them to Jesus in repentance and prayer.
The fool replaces God with idols
“Whenever counseling forgets the idols of the heart and focuses solely on horizontal human problems, needs, and difficulties, then counseling itself becomes part of the problem, not part of the solution.” –Paul Tripp, Wisdom in Counselling, (p. 8)
We are idolatrous, continually chasing, serving or being ruled by inferior god replacements, which can have eternal consequences. We are self-deceived as we believe that our fake idols will satisfy, but they never can. In fact, I think they leave us wanting more, and what satisfaction we get never lasts.
“When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures. You adulterous people, don’t you know that friendship with the world means enmity against God? Therefore, anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God.” (James 4:3–4)
Are you this type of person, buying the fakeness of idols instead of God? What’s more important to you than God? What do you love too much to repent of?
Faith, not legalistic programme
“Legalism, in rejecting grace, erects a human second-best standard that I can keep.” –Paul Tripp, Wisdom in Counseling, (p.12)
Sometimes our solutions are just as unhelpful. It’s not just our sin and trials causing problems, but sometimes what we do about it can be a problem for us also. I am particularly thinking about our habit of creating a bunch of rules to help us deal with the problem, trading idolatry for legalism. We try and plug the gap with a bunch of rules instead of seeking real heart change. Now hear me well, I’m not saying that some good, helpful habits can’t be part of the solution. It’s just not the whole answer. So, for example, if your quiet time is sucking and your relationship with God feels distant, then the self-discipline of reading your Bible daily will help create a helpful habit, but it’s not going to solve and restore your relationship with the Lord if you’re just ticking the box. You need to be both reading and applying the Word to your life.
Get to the heart of the matter
“The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?” (Jer. 17:9)
“The foolishness lives in our behavior because it first lives in our hearts.” Paul Tripp, Wisdom in Counselling, (p.7)
The heart is the issue. We need to get to the heart of the matter, and we do this through consistently teaching the Word of God and who Jesus is.
Jesus’s main ministry to his disciples was to teach them about Himself. He taught them the Word. He taught them about the Kingdom of God and what it looked like. He taught them about who He was and why He had come. He gave His disciples difficult things to think about. He fried their brains. But He didn’t hold back from the tough or difficult stuff to stomach. He loved well enough to ask the hard, painful, challenging questions that got to the heart of what was really going on. We need to follow His lead.
Submit to and trust the Lord
I think satnavs are a great invention. They taught me a very simple but effective lesson about submission and trust. After you plug the address in and the satnav calculates the route, wee Sally satnav (That’s what I call mine) starts to tell you where to go. Now if you want to get to your destination, all you have to do is follow the instructions and trust the computer map is right, and eventually you hear “you have reached your destination”. The problems occur when I think I know better or don’t trust the computer—I always end up lost and miles out of my way. Eventually I’ll end up swallowing my pride, admitting I don’t know where I am, and doing what wee Sally satnav has been telling me. When I do this, I arrive at my destination. It’s pretty much the same with life—when we think we know better and don’t trust God and His Word, we end up lost and miles away from where we should be. We need to remember that He knows everything and knows best. We need to trust and obey Him if we want to reach our eternal destination.
“The key to wisdom is not knowing everything God knows, or memorizing the entire Bible, or mastering theology, or divining the secret will of God so I can figure Him out and know what He’s going to do next. The key to wisdom is, rather, an active, practical, functional reliance on Christ. Wise people take their reliance on Christ to everything they do: work, marriage, and their understanding of their own identity.” (Paul Tripp, Wisdom in Counselling, p.10)
We can’t understand life without Christ, simple as that. Yet for some idiotic, sinful, and unhelpful reason we all still attempt to look at life’s struggles through anything but the lens of Christ. Then we wonder why we have a distorted view of what’s going on. We need God’s wisdom. Without it we are, and will always remain, fools.
Watch who you talk to. How to spot wise counsel
I’m a fairly private person; I don’t trust and spill my guts to just anyone. Not everyone is trustworthy, not everyone is helpful, and not everyone gives good solid advice. There are those, even Christians, that gossip, tell you just what you want to hear, and give completely unhelpful and unbiblical advice. The trouble is they don’t walk around with a sign that says, ‘Fake Friend’. So how do you spot someone who will give you wise counsel?
“A good definition of godly wisdom . . . would be: hearing and doing God’s Word. God’s Word is a divine prescription for how to be finally cured of all unhappiness. Wisdom is the practical knowledge of how to attain that happiness. Therefore, wisdom is hearing and doing the Word of God. But the only people who will do this are the people who are humbly relying on God for help and who fear to seek happiness anywhere but in him. Therefore, the fear of the Lord is the beginning and spring of all true wisdom.” –John Piper, Get Wisdom (p.4)
What we should be looking for is people who:
- Rely on God’s Word—A wise counsellor will be someone who not only listens to that Word, but applies it to their life also. They will be faithful to His Word, will not twist it, deviate, or leave out the bits they don’t like or seem hard.
- Fear the Lord—Fear of the Lord is like always keeping in your mind what it actually means to be living without God and facing eternity without Him (the reality, not the lie we tell ourselves). They would be the type of Christian to find their refuge, joy, and hope only in God. They keep their minds fixed on Him.
- Have humility—The humble person recognises their need and is depending on God for everything. The humble person is teachable, open to change, will listen to and respond to wise counsel. They know they aren’t the answer, but Christ is. Therefore, they always point to Him, not only in their words but by their actions also.
- Obey—The obedient person not only hears God’s Word, but obeys it.
- Submit and Trust—They know who’s in charge and trust Him no matter the circumstances, completely relying on Him for everything.
- Pray—They will be praying for the wisdom to see life with the right perspective. They will be praying that they submit, hold fast to God, and love and trust Him well. You know that they will be bringing you and your struggles to the Lord.
What does a person who struggles need? They need Christ—we have nothing to bring to the table but him. To quote a verse from ‘How Deep the Father’s Love for Us’:
They need Christ because he knows and understands everything. He is the very definition of wisdom. They need his forgiveness, deliverance, restoration, power, reconciliation, and grace. Sometimes the words we have seem insignificant compared to the depth of pain we hear as people talk. We think there is nothing that is going to take away the sorrow, and we can easily doubt the sufficiency of Christ in these moments. But the grace of Christ will heal, comfort, strengthen, deliver, restore, reconcile, and enable someone to endure to the end.
The wisest thig we can do is point them to their Saviour.