Sunday, December 2, 2012

Helping People Experience God's Love

I have helped many people yield to God's love. It isn't nearly as complicated as you might think. The two factors that have to be overcome include fear of the unknown and lack of knowledge about how much God desires to manifest himself in our lives.

I remember as a young boy I went to bed at night feeling deeply frightened after turning out the lights. I would see creepy shadows on the wall formed by streetlights, and imagine all types of weird monsters in the closet or under my bed. Finally my mother suggested a solution. She brought a black Bible into my room and laid it on my nightstand. "Here Dan," she said. "Now you know that God will be here with you in your room." Her technique and confidence, along with my new feeling of God's assurance won the day.

As a pastoral counselor you have countless opportunities to assure people of God's love for them. You can say, "God is going to help you through this current crisis because we are trusting in Him." Or, "I wonder what creative way the Lord will use to help you out this week."

When people express fear at the prospect of feeling God's presence, it is often because they connect it with ghost stories or the loss of control to an invisible force. Here is where people need to realize that in Jesus we see the face and hear the voice of Almighty God. From a child born in a manger, we hear the Lord of Creation speaking to us, usually gently through the voice of the Holy Spirit, about how we are to live and what we are to believe. Understanding that Christ is resurrected and that it's perfectly normal to hear his voice really helps people relax and recognize the Good Shepherd when He guides them.

If a person still doesn't feel comfortable with God, you may need to probe for areas of willful sin, where they are not really surrendering their lives to him, or where they are disobeying what Scripture teaches. A woman revealed to me in pastoral counseling something she had never told anyone: that a local physician had her visit his home each month to handle his sexual needs. For this he helped her out with her monthly condo payment. She had been benefiting from this arrangement for a year, and at first seemed shocked when I reframed it as prostitution. This went against her self-image as a very moral person in other regards. It took her a couple of months to part ways with the doctor, but a new peace of Christ came into her heart when she made the break.
Once you have helped a person deal with their reservations about growing in Jesus Christ, this opens up many opportunities for a closer walk with God. Since the Holy Spirit now lives within them, they can talk to God as they would a best friend, any time day or night. They can approach God boldly, as His much loved sons and daughters. "Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need" (Heb 4:16).

One day when President John Kennedy was in the Oval Office, a White House photographer caught little Jon-Jon, his three year old son, peeking out from under the desk, where he had been happily playing during a high level meeting.

But Kennedy acted like our Heavenly Father acts, making room for Jon-Jon in  his affairs of state. God loves us even more intensely. The Lord is never too busy to comfort us or give us a spiritual hug in the middle of the day.

Here are Scriptures that work well in pastoral counseling to drive this reality home:

"No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Romans 8:39).

"May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God" (Ephesians 3:19).

"For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline" (2 Timothy 1:7).

Most of all, persons in pastoral counseling learn from you, the pastoral counselor, that God is really there, and that He loves them as you love them.

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