To venable (verb): To randomly muse upon this and that.

Archive for the ‘Counselling’ Category

Imposing A Narrative

What I am thinking of here is the issue of how we respond to peoples’ situations. This can be an issue for parents with their children, friends with one another, employers with their employees. In fact it applies in many situations. I want to think about how we interact we the situations of others.

General. In all situations we must impose the narrative of the gospel to understand the situation we are dealing with. The malaise of this world, as manifest in peoples’ lives, is caused by the entrance of sin into this world. The remedy for the issue of sin is the blood of our Lord Jesus. His salvific work to redeem lives, will work ultimately to retrieve this world form disorder and chaos.

There must be great wisdom and sensitivity in applying the gospel narrative into the situation with which we are interacting. Simplistic cause and effect reasoning are very much cautioned against in Luke 13:1-5. That passage reads:

There were some present at that very time who told him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. And he answered them, “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans, because they suffered in this way? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish. Or those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them: do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others who lived in Jerusalem? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.”

However, that passage also indicates that in a destabilized world, it is sin in the world that is the root cause and as sinners we need to repent. In all this our Lord is imposing a gospel narrative on the situation.

Specific. On the other hand when we come to deal with specific situations we need to be wary of imposing any pre-conceived narrative. I have been very much aware of this through my being afflicted with depression. People may or may not have been right about the narrative they were bringing to my situation. However, what took me aback, at times, was the unwillingness to actually establish with me what had happened to me. People either would not ask or, if they did ask, would not listen to what was said.

I am arguing that always before we jump to conclusions we should stop and consider what has happened. This means we actually listen to the person and find out what there experience is and what they have been through to get there.  For parents, I feel we will fulfill the requirement to not exasperate our children (see Eph. 6:4) if we follow this approach.

Always remember, as well, that even though two people are experiencing something identical that does not mean that the causes of that experience are the same. So don’t assume when you come across someone displaying certain things that you have seen in someone before that the cause is the same in both cases.

It is very frustrating to be on the end of certain counsel or certain views about your situation from people you believe have not taken time to find out about your situation.

So my conclusion is when interacting with any situation always impose a gospel narrative, but never impose a personal narrative.

Nouthetic Counselling and Depression.

From Wikipedia we get “nouthetic counselling” defined as a form of Evangelical Protestant pastoral counselling based solely upon the Bible and focused on Christ. It repudiates mainstream psychology and psychiatry as humanistic, fundamentally opposed to Christianity, and radically secular. Jay Adams who has been a key figure in driving forward this approach to counselling defines it as biblical counseling characterized by confrontation, concern, and change in the life of a Christian.

I would be a firm advocate of this approach to helping people move forward through the problems of life. To feel that we can move forward and live healthily and profitably without the informed wisdom of the Lord’s Word is a fundamentally flawed approach. The Word of God keeps us on the right track through all the pains and upheavals of life.

However, the problem with nouthetic counselling is when it overreaches itself. When it is concluded that all problems of the mind and emotions can simply be resolved by hearing the Word, believing it and responding to it in obedient faith, then there is a problem. Let me be clear we must hear, believe and respond to the Word with believing faith. However, it is dangerous to conclude that medication can be of no help in the mental and emotional realm. I have written here about my journey in taking antidepressants. My experience and the experience of many others is that the chemical input supplied by the medication provides the means of stabilising me mentally and emotionally so that I function.”normally”.

It is the medication that has been critical in bringing me through and out of the pit of depression. However, I am also aware that I need the ongoing application of scripture into my life to live godly in Christ Jesus through and out of depression and in all things.

Not Many Listeners.

One thing that has struck me during my recent struggles with depression, is that there are not many listeners around. The ministry of listening seems to be much undervalued and little practiced. I have written about this previously here. I want to encourage you as regards to the value of this ministry. I want to encourage you to the ministry of listening. I want you to think about the blessing that you can bring as a listener.

So many think that they cannot help other people because they will not be able to say the right thing to help someone with their problem. But that is not the best way to think about speaking with people who have issues in their lives. Rather, it is through being a listener to someone recounting their struggles and difficulties that you can be such a help. So very often it is in the speaking out of a matter that someone is helped. Your listening, not your speaking will be the key to helping someone. When someone talks something out they can very often sort something out. This is because the talking leads to sifting through the issue in their hearts and minds.

Moreover, the fact of having someone to listen to you can be such blessing because you realise that someone is out there who cares; I am not isolated and on my own.

In engaging in listening ministry the key is to be willing to be quiet; not to feel that you have got to interject and make your point. It is also important to be able to ask relevant questions. I suggest there needs to be a mixture of open-ended questions, which help people to work through their situation, and specific questions, which make people focus on the issues. Such questions as “What led to your problem?” or “How are you understanding matters now?” would be open-ended questions. Such questions as “When did that happen?” or Who said that?” would be direct questions.

Above all meditate and learn from the example of our Lord in Luke 24. I have written here previously on this. On the road to Emmaus we see our Saviour as the perfect listener.

So please please think about how you can be of much service to the church and people generally through the ministry of being a listener. And dare i say, any engagers in this ministry will be so valuable to the Lord.

Make Sure You Listen.

Are you a listener? If not you could well be messing your life up. Listen here to two eminent men commenting upon listening.

Tim Challies has written here about “Why people aren’t Christians”. One of the reasons he states is that, They don’t stop talking long enough to listen. He expands upon this by saying:

I have noticed this with a surprising number of people. They have told me the worst possible news – that our future state depends upon doing enough good deeds to balance out all the bad ones. Meanwhile, I’ve got the best possible news – that they can give up that impossible pursuit and, by grace, receive the merits of what Christ has already done. But they won’t listen. In fact, they won’t stop talking long enough for me to tell them that. And when I try to get a word in edgewise, they cut me off and talk even more. What should be an exchange of ideas and information becomes a one-way torrent and they never get to hear the news that could change their lives. Perhaps they aren’t Christians because they won’t stop talking long enough to hear the news that could transform them.

Sir Alex Ferguson in his book on leadership entitled Leading says on P.13

Many people cannot stop long enough to listen – especially when they become successful and all the people around them are being obsequious and pretending to hang on their every word. They launch into monologues as if suddenly they know everything. Putting these megalomaniacs to one side, it always pays to listen to others. It’s like enrolling in a continuous lifelong free education, with the added benefit there are no examinations and you can always discard useless comments.

So take stock here Philip and ponder upon whether or not you are a listener. If you are a poor listener or worse still, a non-listener, you may be seriously prejudicing your future:

I have written previously and mused on similar issues here

Are You Interested?

Last week was a big week for me; I was in Ethiopia. It was my first time ever in Africa and, all in all, it was a big week. Upon returning to the UK it has been curious to observe responses (or non-responses) from people I have met. Through being away I have lots that has impacted my heart, mind and general well-being. There are things I am interested to share with people. But how many people are interested?

First of all, I want to concentrate on how we show interest in people who have things on their heart that they want to talk about. Perhaps they have been on holiday or simply something big has happened to them. What we need to be is prayerfully sensitive in all our dealings with all people so that we can discern whether people have things in their recent experience they want to talk about. Is there something this person would be encouraged by if I asked them about it? Ponder upon what has been in their life recently. This requires the ability to listen and to ask appropriately probing questions which display your interest.

Generally, if someone does not ask about an experience then the assumption is that they are not interested in what has happened to the other person. Questions do not have to be complicated. Just a simple “How did you get on on your holiday?” can be sufficient.

After asking the question then there is the responsibility to lovingly listen. It may be that you have to shut someone down if they are going on ad nauseum. But strengthening of relationships and encouragement can all ensue from taking an interest in someone and what they have experienced and then listening well.

Secondly, what about the situation from the perspective of the person who has gone through a big experience. For such there is the need to discern who is interested. Some people are not interested and it can be insensitive to dump all your experience on that person. Others are interested, but you need to be careful about how much and what to share with that person. You need to be careful you do not become the “party-bore” who everybody avoids because they have heard it all before and more.

At the heart of all these situations is love. Love is interested in others. And love wants to share life with others.

Reaching Conclusions.

A couple of times recently I expressed a viewpoint during conversations about two different issues. It was intriguing and perplexing to observe what followed. As the conversation developed I mentioned something else which appertained to the issue and the immediate response was to conclude that my point of view on the issue was because of the certain experience I had related.

This was all quite perplexing because in both instances the conclusion was wrongly made. I did not hold the point of view because of the connected experience. This made me think of two things;

  • We need to be careful not to be too swift to draw conclusions about why someone holds a certain point of view. If you want to know ask them. Don’t just leap to conclusions.
  • Be careful about a ‘one cause’ conclusion. In virtually every point of view that someone has on a matter, there have been more than one contributing factor to them reaching their conclusion. So we need to be careful about looking for simplistic answers to why someone holds a certain position.

Above all in these matters stop and listen.


Well, there are not may of them around are there? Who are they? They are listeners. Not many will stop, be quiet and listen to others. What I am referring to here is listening with interest to the person in front of you. It is about giving them your attention.

This of course flows on from what I talked about yesterday. People who need to talk need to have those who will listen. They need to find those who are interested in them. So often you can start to broach an issue in your life and you know that the person is not interested and so you back off.

Alas so many people are just interested in being speakers. They just want to be heard. They want to have their say. There are lots of talkers and not many listeners is my observation. In fact to find someone who will really listen when you are beset by deep issues is a rare thing.

Here is a ministry that is really needed therefore. So why not pray to the Lord today and ask Him if He will make you a listener. No doubt, you will soon find much to do and be a blessing to many.

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