In a recent reading of Psalm 119: 89-96, I was reminded of an important lesson about the limitations of counseling. Meaning, counseling cannot provide all that is needed for the heart and mind. In a very real sense, if the counselor promised what our perceptions wish then one would endure counseling indefinitely. That is to say, the depths of the needs of our soul, the longing of our hearts and the problems we face in life are in a very real sense ‘endless’. In another sense, however, they also limited. They are limited in that one day we will die and thus so will our problems and concerns that led to us counseling. The reality of our need for help (in counseling) and the impending day of our death speaks to the ever present limitations we face on this side of Heaven.
SOME LIMITATIONS IN COUNSELING
Matthew Henry helpfully points out that the Psalmist’s encounter with various “perfections” were proven weak and unable to supply their ends to the overweening powers they displayed. “David defeated Goliath, he was more swift than Asahel, wiser than Ahithophel, fairer than Absalom.” In this examples, we learn that the “perfections” of the world are in fact ultimately limited. But if we are honest, this should feel somewhat left wanting, for the eternity has been placed in the heart of man (see Ecclesiastes 3:11).
This is why counseling exists. We experience lack in our lives; trouble and hardship and need help moving forward. The need for counseling proves the existence of our limitations. Yet, even counseling has limitations. Just as the counselor’s wisdom and knowledge is limited and constrained within the boundaries of the created order, any help that can be offered or received must come a source with limitless and boundless extremes. That is to say, we need counsel from outside the created order to not only correct the imperfection within the created order but sustain us in our weakness until we ourselves are perfected.
THE BOUNDLESS NATURE OF GOD’S HELP
The Psalmist ends an eight verse refrain with verse 96.
Psalm 119:96 – To all perfection, I see a limit; but your commands are boundless.Tweet
The commands of God are boundless, as the text says. This is the eternal reaching into the finite; limitation being eclipsed by the infinite. I believe this is what is needed in the counseling context. The problems we face need confrontation with that which is prefect: Perfectly good; perfectly holy; perfectly righteous and altogether lovely.
So, in this sense, the immediate takeaway is that this: There is no problem we can face on this side of Heaven which the Word of God cannot bear unto. Meaning, God can help us in any situation we face. No matter how great our problems seem; no matter how complex; now matter how traumatic; now matter how painful, God is able to supply what our souls needs (even in a boundless sense) above and beyond the best counseling.
THE NECESSITY OF GOD’S WORD IN COUNSELING
To cross the bridge into every day life where our physical needs are pervasive, where our troubles are persistent and our souls are ever presently needy, we must ask what will help us in the counseling context. What will ‘move the needle’ even a little bit further along in the right direction? Since we need counsel, what will really help us? How exactly do we “merge” the limitedness of ourselves (the counselee and counselor) with the eternal God who is above? The answer: The boundless Word of God.
The necessity of the God’s word in counseling cannot be overstated. If one reads the whole chapter of Psalm 119 (and many other texts), one of the things we learn is that God’s word is the balm for the soul. God’s word is true. God provides commands which, when followed, helps keep the finite creature near the infinite creator, and he supplies promises to accompany these commands. Every parent understands this principle. If a child refuses to be comforted, there is no way to comfort the child, and when a child honors their mother and father, they have supreme access to the comforts available to them in their parents.
A principle promise we pick-up in Psalm 119 is the comfort of God. And these comforts are experienced in the context of the Psalmist growing acquaintance and even love for God’s Word, His law, His precepts and His commands.
In a just a few verses previous, Psalm 119:75-76 and Psalm 119:50
I know, LORD, that your laws are righteous, and that in faithfulness you have afflicted me. May your unfailing love be my comfort, according to your promise to your servant.Psalm 119:75-76 (NIV)
My comfort in my suffering is this: Your promise preserves my life.Psalm 119:50 (NIV)
It is often the case that by the time folks make their way to the counseling office, they are overcome with trouble. The principle concern is often one of a need for deep comfort, a comfort that touches the deepest parts of our souls.
The most successful outcomes of counseling are ones that lead a counselee to realize that their ultimate, true and lasting comfort is in God and his Word not in the counselor (who is limited) or in the counsel they offer (which is limited). The best counsel counselors can provide is to wisely, winsomely, lovingly and boldly point needy souls back to the eternal God and his boundless Word. This is the necessity of the God’s Word in counseling.