How can/should I counsel suffering people-Updated?

To answer before listening —  that is folly and shame (Proverbs 18:13 NIV).

McMinn (2011) writes, “Counseling, when practiced by those who respect brokenness as part of healing, is a reflection of redemption… Counseling mimics the gospel—people are broken, and broken people are restored in the context of a healing relationship” (pp.20-21). Often counselors are oblivious to this fact. I have to often remind myself when counseling a “broken” individual; their current “broken” state can be an opportunity to experience a healing relationship with God (Holland. 2015).

As I read this quote, I thought about David

If ever a person depicted brokenness in God’s word it is David.  The man after God’s own heart who committed adultery murdered Uriah, and all of his soldiers, yet he wrote Psalm 40. This psalm describes David’s brokenness and the absolute joy, and unabashed release he experienced when that brokenness took him to a place where joy and worship through song completed his healing.

I waited patiently for the Lord; he turned to me and heard my cry.

He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire;

he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand.

He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God.

Many will see and fear the Lord and put their trust in him (Psalm 40:1-3 NIV).

Counseling a broken person can bring about not just emotional, but spiritual healing.  When a Christian experiences that type of healing, through counseling, it releases the power of the Holy Spirit within them.  They go to their maker with a different perspective on life.  They also experience a closeness that they did not have before.  McMinn (2011 declared, “In our sickness and pain, we grope for answers, for better understanding, for meaningful relationships. Our sickness leads us to God. God can restore and use broken vessels for divine purposes” (Kindle Location, 482-483).

Peter is another example of brokenness  

He denied the Lord three times. But when the Holy Spirt came and healed that broken spirit within him that made him say, “I’m going fishing” he stopped fishing for things that swim in the ocean. He reaped the largest “haul” as fishermen would say when he gave that powerful sermon in the book of acts.  His address demonstrated that his brokenness resulted in a closeness with his Savior that he did not have when he denied him or when he almost gave up and went fishing. The inner peace and joy that a counselor experiences when a care seeker arrives at that point in their walk is indescribable. So is the restoration that the care seeker experiences when the healing begins and is completed.

A counselor counsels suffering people knowing that personal growth and a new person will emerge from the experience of sharing their pain and suffering with an empathic and compassionate listener (Nouwen, 1975, p. 45).  According to Nouwen (1975), healing is a humbling and demanding task that comes out of loneliness and occurs when solitude creates a place of solace where suffering people can reflect on their pain and suffering without fear (p. 81).  That is the essence of effective counseling. Our Lord said, “Cast you cares upon me for I care for you” comes to mind when the writer discerned the finals results of the steps to solitude born out of waiting patiently in loneliness, suffering and pain (1 Peter 5:7  (NIV); Nouwen, 1975, p.112). The counselor helps the care seeker to see the possibilities for change.

Is the point of counseling to remove all suffering?

The point of counseling is not to remove all suffering.  The way to the cross is lined with suffering and having arrived there the suffering continues as it perfects us into the spirit man that God wants us to be (“Week 3: 1 Christian Spirituality and the Ministry of Counseling,” 2015); Nouwen, 1975).  The counselor’s role then is to help the believer as he or she realizes the beauty of the walk and that there are points along that journey that will be painful, but pain leads us to intense prayer and solitude that results in a closer vertical relationship with God. C. S. Lewis proposed, “God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pain: it is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world” (Lewis, 2001, p. 91).  When we remove pain from our lives, we also remove the voice of God.  He tells us to press on to the grand prize for which He has called us (Philippians 3:14 NIV).

Our role is to be Jesus to the suffering and lead them to see that He and only He will lead them to complete recovery whether it is through Christian counseling or the use the of a psychologist and Christian counseling.

God’s word plays a part in this process too.  We must alway be cognizant of the fact that, “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness” (II Timothy 2:16 NIV).

Therefore, when you counsel my friends, counsel with a listening ear, be slow to speak, be slow to condemn, and be slow to present a solution to the problem. God already has one.  He is alrady working in the heart of the person who has come before you for counseling.  Be patient and allow the Holy Spirit to reveal the solution to the problem to the person while you gently listen and probe with the appropriate questions as needed.  Also pray without ceasing for the care seeker, that they will see the expressed will of God in their lives as they continue the counseling session.

As they seek Him first all things will be made clear to them.


Holland, W. (2015). Week 3: Counseling mimics the gospel [Discussion Board Post]. Lecture, Liberty University Integration of Psychology and Theology. Retrieved from
Lewis, C. S. (2001). The problem of pain [Kindle Edition]. Retrieved from
McMinn, M. R. (2011). Psychology, theology, and spirituality in Christian counseling [Kindle Edition]. Retrieved from
Nouwen, H. J. (1975). Reaching out: The three movements of the spiritual life [Kindle Edition]. Retrieved from
Week 3: Christian spirituality and the ministry of counseling. (2015). Lecture  1, Liberty University Integration of Psychology and Theology. Retrieved from Blackboard.Liberty.ed

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