Applying the Word of God to Counseling

Counseling Insight

The right thing is not always the effective thing.

Problem: The brother or sister is angry because what you told them to do, believe, or say, on the basis of sound reasoning from the Scripture, “didn’t work.”

Analysis: Sometimes there is correspondence between what is right and what is effective. Sometimes there isn’t.

Not understanding this distinction is a fundamental problem in much pastoral counseling that goes on today.

Pastors often talk about what is the right thing to do in a particular situation.  Meaning: what is the “moral” thing to do, or the “Christ-honoring” thing to do, or the “wisest” thing to do, or the God-glorifying thing to do.  Counselee’s will often say that is what they want to know.  Often it is.

But often, counselees attach to the “right thing to do” other values or expectations that may be unfounded or mistaken. Often, a counselee is interested in, or assumes, that a decision that is “right or moral, or Christ honoring” is a decision

that will be the least painful,
that will give them the most peace,
that will cause this person to see how they are hurting others,
that will bring this person to faith,
that will get my husband to grow spiritually or my wife to quit nagging me
that will take the pressure and stress out of my life, etc.

These are two radically different ways of viewing the “counseling conversation.”  When we as pastors fail to comprehend or surface this for our people we are doing them a tremendous disservice.


  1. Make this distinction for your people.
  2. Remind them to live for the glory of God, no matter the effect of decisions.
  3. Make sure that they understand that the first goal of counseling is to learn how to live life in a way that pleases God.
  4. Remember, to not get stuck in the forest of a brother or sister’s problem.  Keep things moving in the direction of training them to Live for an Audience of One.
  5. Remind them that it may be too early to evaluate “if it worked.”

[1] Stimulated by a telephone counseling appointment at the office.   ©  2010 Marty Schoenleber

One thought on “Applying the Word of God to Counseling

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.