Whoever dubbed our era “The Aspirin Age” wasn’t far off. We live in a time when huge numbers of the world’s population use medications to relieve heartache, much of which is stress related. According to a 2011 article, prescriptions for the treatment of depression increased by 30 percent between 1996 and 2007 among patients with no psychiatric diagnosis.1 But for the multitudes who are seeking inner peace, medicine cannot fully relieve the deep emotional pain of a troubled heart. That takes a friend who tunes in to our troubles, and precious few of us are even aware of other people’s struggles.
The importance of being sensitive to the needs of people around us can scarcely be exaggerated. Even though you may not be steeped in Bible knowledge, you should realize that God can use you effectively as a counselor, friend, and interested listener simply because you know the Lord Jesus Christ! Naturally, the deeper your knowledge of His Word, the sharper your discernment and the wiser your counsel will be. Job’s counselors, for example, dealt with him miserably and spoke unwisely. (You might take the time to read Job 13:3-4; 16:2; 21:34.)
Solomon, however, praised the value of a wise counselor:
A plan in the heart of a man is like deep water,
But a man of understanding draws it out. (20:5)
The thoughts and motives of a person lie deep within, and deep in this sense doesn’t mean “profound.” Think of a deep well or cistern, where reaching the water requires special effort and lots of energy. Similarly, reaching the thoughts and motives deep within a troubled heart requires special effort and lots of energy, but a wise, discerning, insightful friend can help us pull up our feelings and examine them honestly. As one experienced counselor remarked, “The issue is never the issue.” We think we understand our own thoughts and motives, but very often we’re driven by internal forces we do not fully understand.
At any given time, we might need someone to help us examine our inner self, or we ourselves might be in a position to help someone else do the same. Personally, I believe this is exactly what Paul had in mind when he wrote: “Bear one another’s burdens, and thereby fulfill the law of Christ” (Galatians 6:2).
From Living the Proverbs by Charles R. Swindoll, copyright © 2012. Reprinted by permission of Worthy Inspired., an imprint of Hachette Book Group, Inc.
Used with permission. All rights reserved.
In Embraced by the Spirit, we step away from the heat of theological battle that analyzes and criticizes and move quietly and closely to the One who has been sent alongside to help.