Better Counseling Through Job the Patriarch (Part 2)

We’re taking a little break from the sacraments and looking at the subject of counseling others.  What do you look for in a good counselor?

In the last post, we uncovered the following principle of counseling from the book of Job:

Principle #1: Good Counselors Refrain from Simplistic Diagnoses of Problems

There’s more where that came from!

Principle #2: Good Counselors Interpret Experience in Light of Revelation

While the practice of refraining from simplistic diagnosing of problems emphasizes the negative aspect of counseling, positive encouragement for counseling can also be found in Job.  When people come to others for personal help with their struggles, those who strive to be good counselors must emphasize the consistency of God’s character.  An examination of Job’s behavior during his plight reveals a suspicion that God is conducting himself in ways contrary to his revealed character.  In Job’s first reply to Bildad, he implies that God has embraced unjust practices: “[God] destroys the guiltless and the wicked” (Job 9:22b).  From Job’s perspective, his friends’ concept of God’s dispensing of perfect justice doesn’t square with life as he has experienced it.

Ironically, Job’s friends are correct in continually defending the exacting justice of God.  For example, Job’s fourth counselor, Elihu, vividly argues that God “will not do violence to justice” (Job 37:23b).  Certainly, while Job’s friends are deficient in their understanding of the relationship between sin and suffering, they are extremely lucid in their articulation of the constancy of God’s character.

In the end, Job is awoken to the twin realities of the supremacy of God and the flimsiness of man’s contention against him.  After being subjected to direct interrogation by God concerning his incomparable power as the Sovereign Creator, Job confesses the inappropriateness of, among other things, his complaining spirit to God: “I have declared that which I did not understand” (Job 42:3b).  Clearly, the assurance that God superintends the world with justice comes only by way of supernatural revelation.

However, Job’s error in this matter is the judging of revelation in the light of his experience, rather than vice versa.

Personal counseling with others often raises significant questions concerning the character of God.  Questions abound which concern how one integrates the truth of God’s character with tragic events.  Job’s misunderstanding was to draw “hard and fast” conclusions about God’s character on the basis of his experience.  I have learned through Job that the practice of good counseling encourages those who receive counsel to take three steps:

(1) face your doubts honestly,

(2) encounter God’s unchanging character,

(3) choose to let God be the final interpreter of your life, rather than yourself.

Where do you go for help in interpreting your own experience?

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