October 27, 2017
Where the ministry of counselling happens:
“I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of his suffering,” (Philippians 3:10)
Counselling from a Christian point of view can be understood from this goal-statement that the Apostle Paul made in his letter to the Philippians.
A Christian counsellor is one whose self-understanding begins in knowing Christ. The person of the counsellor—an issue with which every counsellor must reckon, and which is attended to and shaped by training and life-experience—culminates in a self-identity of being in Christ, in knowing Christ. The ministry of Christian counselling begins with the person of the counsellor as one who knows Christ.
Knowing Christ happens specifically in knowing the power of his resurrection. In counselling, this is experienced in the application of skills learned, in the educated intuition that the counsellor brings to the counselling conversation, and in the sensed leading of the Spirit as the conversation proceeds.
Knowing Christ happens ultimately in the fellowship of suffering. This happens when the person who is suffering brings their suffering to the counsellor, who in the power of the resurrection enters into the sufferer’s suffering, and the sufferer’s suffering becomes the counsellor’s suffering. Sometimes this is called empathy or compassion. But it is more. It is thus in the fellowship of suffering, in identifying with the sufferer’s suffering, in becoming one with it, that Christ is known most fully.
It is here that the counsellor and the sufferer mutually become Christ to each other. The counsellor loses his or her life in order to identity with the suffering of the sufferer, and thus fulfills the law of Christ (Galatians 6:2). The sufferer, as the one with whom Christ identifies, becomes Christ to the counsellor (Matthew 25:40).
Knowing Christ happens most profoundly in the fellowship of suffering.
-Sam Berg DMin. Assistant Professor of Marriage and Family Therapy