I spend a fair amount of time in pastoral counseling. Subjects range from addictions to marital strife to emotional turmoil.
I believe being “available” for that type of ministry is exceedingly important.
In some sessions, I feel more than capable to do what I’m doing. On other occasions, frankly, I feel over my head & out of my league.
But it has put me to thinking recently: what do I or any pastor offer that is in any way unique from the type of therapy for which people can and often do pay good money?
Aside from the obvious answer that there is no fee for what we do.
So the answer emerged rather quickly. It’s Scripture.
Now be sure of this: I do not simply believe that there is a magic verse for every problem and once you apply that verse the problem is solved. Life is more complex than that, and most of the books of the bible are not designed to be used in that way.
Yet if I can direct people towards the lifelong task of having their identities, values, and decisions shaped by an engagement with the living word of God, then they will experience the preventative medicine that much of Scripture contains.
So in counseling I can do a passable job of exploring the role of someone’s past in explaining their problems in the present. And I can also help a person realize that their subconscious plays a much larger role in determining behavior than they realize.
But by virtue of my training and vocation, I can do a much better job of leading them into an interaction with Scripture that will mold their character from the inside out.
I suspect that’s at the heart of what it means to be a pastoral counselor in the first place.