When do you need counseling? Whenever you need the Gospel

A pastor was preparing a younger minister to lead a church plant. The church planter didn’t think that training people in biblical counseling was a priority for the new church. The pastor asked him, “Well, then, how early should you start training your people to care for one another with the Gospel of Jesus Christ?” The church planter smiled slightly, and admitted “Immediately.”[1]

This anecdote illustrates the bias we naturally have against the term “biblical counseling.’ We suppose that any sort of counseling requires degrees, certificates and offices, and we suppose that other regular believers can’t provide us any help in the area.

But biblical counseling is applied discipling, in which one believer applies the Word of God to the particular issues and struggles that another believer faces. This is why many prefer to use the term “Gospel Care” to describe what happens in biblical counseling. In these terms, every believer should be both counseling others and being counseled.

Even if you aren’t put off by the term counseling, though, you might not know when your need for daily discipling and accountability with other believers becomes a need for applied discipling, “biblical counseling,” or “Gospel Care.”

Eliza Huie has written a helpful article entitled “Should I See a Counselor?” Here’s a summary of those things she suggests we look for in ourselves, and in others:

  • Do I need a fresh perspective? We all have a group of friends, family, or coworkers who serve as our “sounding board,” giving us feedback on our opinions, options, and choices. But sometimes we need a fresh point of view from someone who is not personally connected to your situation.
  • Are you feeling distressed or undone by something that has happened to you? Trauma in our lives or in the lives of those close to us can have significant effects: assaults or violence, surviving disaster, losing a family member, miscarriage, or job loss, for example. One experienced in soul care can help a believer process these events.
  • Are you reacting poorly to life’s pressures? Life is full of pressure, and we respond in different ways. If you are anxious, irritable, or discouraged in the face of pressure, Gospel Care can help. If you deal with pressure by abusing drugs or alcohol, bursting out in anger, or isolating yourself, talk with someone who can apply the Word to your heart.
  • Have friends or family members voiced concern? We become personally blind to our own struggles, and many times those around us are the first to detect them. If those who are close to you have expressed concern, seek a biblical counselor to help you evaluate those concerns.
  • Is emotional stress causing you to have physical symptoms? We are creatures of body, soul and spirit, and “a troubled spirit can lead to physical manifestations.” Frequently we turn first to medical professionals for relief from headaches, fatigue, or digestive issues, for example, but sometimes they provide no relief when the cause is spiritual, not physical.
  • Are your relationships strained? If you are having difficulties with those to whom you would normally turn for advice, finding relief can be difficult. A biblical counselor can help.

There are many occasions other than those listed by Huie for which we might need to seek Gospel Care. The “biblical counsel” that you need doesn’t need to be formal, with a pastor or certified counselor in an office, but it does need to be biblical.

 Much of the advice we get, even from other Christians, is not biblical, so be sure that those whose advice you seek are actually willing and able to give Gospel Care. You might even ask them, directly, “Will you apply the Word of God to my struggles? Will you “speak the truth in love” to me?”

Each believer should be willing to seek Gospel Care from other believers. Additionally, each believer should be willing to give Gospel Care to other believers. If you conclude that you need help to receive care, or want to improve at giving care, get help from others.

[1] Robert K Cheong, “Why We ‘Care’ Instead of ‘Counsel’ Each Other, JBC 30-2 (2016).

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