Christian Biblical Counsel: COUNSELING


Biblical Hope with Practical Help

by June Hunt

Do people periodically ask you for advice? Do you sometimes lack confidence that your counsel is the best that it could be? How can you be prepared when God guides you to give help and hope to someone in need? Never go against the Word of God, even if it means going against the grain of public acceptance. Regardless of what the world says is right, you will never go wrong when you stay true to God’s Word.

“Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked or stand in the way of sinners or sit in the seat of mockers. But his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night.”

(Psalm 1:1–2)

I.     Definitions

Are you prepared if God asks you to become His instrument of comfort and counsel in the life of another?

A. Criteria for Counseling

•     “What does the word counseling mean?”

—  Counseling is help and hope given by a knowledgeable person to another. The counsel given can range from general advice and guidance to personal comfort and encouragement.

—  In the Old Testament, the Hebrew word yaats means “to advise, counsel, consult.” It also refers to “those who give counsel.”

—  Isaiah 9:6 is one of the most well known Messianic Scriptures, describing the Lord as the “Wonderful Counselor” (yaats).

—  In the New Testament, the Greek word paraklesis literally means “a calling to one’s side” (para means beside, kaleo means to call) and refers to counseling, encouraging and comforting another.

“For just as the sufferings of Christ flow over into our lives, so also through Christ our comfort overflows.” (2 Corinthians 1:5)

•     “What qualifies you to give counsel?”

—  You already have relationships with friends and family.

—  You know their struggles.

—  Since it could take the professional counselor months to develop this type of relationship, you have an advantage with friends and family members.

“Perfume and incense bring joy to the heart, and the pleasantness of one’s friend springs from his earnest counsel.” (Proverbs 27:9)

•     “Who needs counseling?”

More than one-half of all people who see medical doctors go because of symptoms rooted in psychological or spiritual problems.

—  The one wanting to be wise

“The way of a fool seems right to him, but a wise man listens to advice.” (Proverbs 12:15)

—  The one wanting to succeed

“Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed.” (Proverbs 15:22)

B. Credentials for Biblical Counseling

•     “Who is qualified to give biblically correct counsel?”

Any Christian who has a personal walk with God, who is deeply committed to Jesus Christ and is led by the Holy Spirit is qualified to comfort and counsel others.

—  Anyone who has personally sought and received the comfort of God

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God.” (2 Corinthians 1:3–4)

—  Anyone who loves Christ and cares about the spiritual needs of others

“Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.” (Galatians 6:2)

—  Anyone who, because of daily study of the Word of God, is able to accurately handle the truth

“Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth.” (2 Timothy 2:15)

—  Anyone who is called by God to counsel others

“The one who calls you is faithful and he will do it.” (1 Thessalonians 5:24)

•     “What is the major responsibility of a person giving counsel?”

For counseling to be genuinely effective, you must have an authentic relationship with Christ, be living in fellowship with Him and seeking God’s will through His Word.

“I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” (John 15:5)

•     “What are the goals of biblical counseling?”

A biblical counselor who is sincerely serving Christ will seek …

—  To lead an unbeliever into a personal relationship with Jesus Christ

“If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it.” (Matthew 16:24–25)

—  To help those who are off course to get on a correction course in order to move toward wholeness and spiritual maturity

“My brothers, if one of you should wander from the truth and someone should bring him back, remember this: Whoever turns a sinner from the error of his way will save him from death and cover over a multitude of sins.” (James 5:19–20)

—  To present truth from God’s Word in order to convict hearts, correct error and set people free

“For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.” (Hebrews 4:12)

—  To present wisdom from God’s Word to enable believers to live in victory

“Listen to advice and accept instruction, and in the end you will be wise.” (Proverbs 19:20)

•     “What is Christ-centered counseling?”

Christ-centered counseling draws upon the benefits of Christ living inside every authentic Christian.

—  Each believer is a new creation.

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!” (2 Corinthians 5:17)

—  Each believer possesses all the power necessary for change.

“His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.” (2 Peter 1:3–4)

—  Each believer is to live totally dependent on Christ.

“I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” (Galatians 2:20)

—  Each believer has an assured hope of being conformed to the character of Christ.

“This mystery … is Christ in you, the hope of glory.” (Colossians 1:27)

•     “Who ultimately gives the only sure and certain counsel?”

Although there is wisdom in seeking counsel from Spirit-led Christians, nothing can replace each individual’s need for the divine counsel of the Holy Spirit Himself.

“The Spirit of truth … will guide you into all truth.” (John 16:13)


II.    Characteristics of a Biblical Counselor

Everyone has sincere opinions, but opinions aren’t necessarily right. In fact, we’ve all been sincere … and at the same time sincerely wrong! That is why we need to ask ourselves, What is my foundation for truth? The Bible must be your foundation for truth. If your thinking doesn’t line up with God’s thinking, change your thinking!

“The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of our God stands forever.”

(Isaiah 40:8)

Consider these questions:

•     Do you want to make mistakes? (Of course not.)

•     Do you want to give wise counsel? (Who wouldn’t?)

•     What is the actual source of wisdom? (God Himself.)

•     If you could think like God thinks, would you be wise? (Undoubtedly.)

•     Where are many (not all) of God’s thoughts? (In the Bible.)

Conclusion: The more you know God’s Word, the more you will know what God wants you to do, and the more you have God’s Word in your mind, the wiser you will be. When talking with a person about a problem, first ask yourself, Has God already spoken directly about this in His Word? If so, what has He said? If not, is there a general biblical principle that needs to be considered? The deeper your dependence on the Word of God, the wiser you will be.

“A man of understanding delights in wisdom.”

(Proverbs 10:23)

A. The Seven S’s of Spiritual Wisdom

With a heart of humility, realize:

#1  The solutions are not your solutions.

“The Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.” (John 14:26)

#2  The self-sufficiency you lean on should be replaced with Christ-sufficiency.

“I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” (John 15:5)

#3  The Spirit of Christ is your counselor, enabling you to counsel with truth.

“When he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come.” (John 16:13)

#4  The Scriptures will light the way as you help others walk out of darkness.

“Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path.” (Psalm 119:105)

#5  The success of your counseling is not dependent on your knowing all the answers.

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.” (Proverbs 3:5–6)

#6  The sin of another should never be confronted with a condemning spirit.

“In your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander.” (1 Peter 3:15–16)

#7  The secret of victory over sin is relying on the power of the indwelling presence of Christ.

“I can do everything through him who gives me strength.” (Philippians 4:13)

B. Attitudes that Make a Difference

The old adage is true, “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” Sincere care and concern for the person you are counseling has far more impact than knowing answers or giving advice. Your loving attitude and understanding heart will give power to the truth you share. Allow Christ’s love and understanding within you to draw out the hidden pain in another’s heart.

•     Respect is communicated by having a basic belief that everyone is created in the image of God.

“God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.’ ” (Genesis 1:26)

•     Attentiveness is communicated by closing the door to your own thoughts and focusing on listening and observing.

“I applied my heart to what I observed and learned a lesson from what I saw.” (Proverbs 24:32)

•     Availability is communicated by your willingness to give the other person your full presence and attention for an appropriate length of time.

“If one falls down, his friend can help him up. But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up!” (Ecclesiastes 4:10)

•     Empathy is communicated by entering into the other person’s world, both thinking the thoughts and feeling the emotions.

“Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.” (Romans 12:15)

•     Encouragement is communicated by maintaining a spirit of hope and optimism.

“Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.” (1 Thessalonians 5:11)

•     Sincerity is communicated by being yourself, being honest and being vulnerable to another.

“The goal of this command is love, which comes from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.” (1 Timothy 1:5)

“Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.”

(Ephesians 4:2)


III.   Causes For Negative Attitudes and Actions

Why do some people not try to change when what they are doing isn’t working? Why do other people give up on life and choose to commit suicide? Those who become trapped in patterns of negative behavior usually lose all hope of personal change. They don’t know what to do, much less why they do what they do. At the heart of negative behavior is an attempt to get legitimate needs met in illegitimate ways. Many people assume they are in a no-win dilemma from which they cannot escape.

“For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing.”

(Romans 7:19)

A. What are the Definite Don’ts?

In order to have the maximum impact when seeking to help others, be discerning about the “Don’ts.”

The 6 Predominant Pitfalls

•     Don’t give false assurances.

—  Examples   (not good):


“Everything   will be okay.”


  “All will be   back to normal soon.”


•     Don’t minimize the experience.

—  Examples   (not good):


“Oh,   it’s not that bad.”


  “Soon it will   seem like nothing!”


•     Don’t fail to consult/refer to professionals. Physicians, professional counselors and crisis intervention services are often important allies in bringing healing.

—  Example: Child abuse must be reported.

•     Don’t take death threats lightly. Suicidal talk can be self-pity or self-destruction. Don’t put yourself in the position of being judge and jury.

—  Myth: “Suicide victims never talk about ending their lives.”

—  Truth: Almost all suicide victims gave verbal warnings.

•     Don’t drop advice.

—  Example (not good): “If you want to solve your problem, you should.…”

•     Don’t take over the role of “savior.”

—  Example: Be careful not to assume the role of a “substitute savior” in order to feed your own ego.

“The wise in heart are called discerning.”

(Proverbs 16:21)

B. Why Build Boundaries?

A boundary is an established limit not to be crossed—to both guard and protect. Like a lion’s cage, boundaries keep people away from harm and harm away from people. In relationships, boundaries are set to guard us and to protect us. In counseling, boundaries guard us from giving more than we should and protect us from others taking more than they should. Consider the following two questions:

Question: “I’ve been told that at times I help people more than I should. Why do I do that?”

Answer: Consider the following boundary issues:

—  Could it be that allowing a needy person to be dependent on you makes you feel significant?

—  Under the guise of being a “giving person,” are you being a modern-day martyr in order to attract attention?

—  Do you ever think, How could you do this to me after all I’ve done for you?

Examine your motives. Pray to discern what the driving force is behind your need to help.

“All a man’s ways seem right to him, but the Lord, weighs the heart.” (Proverbs 21:2)

Question: “How much is too much help?”

Answer: If you are working harder than the person you are trying to help, you are not really helping. Your “help” has become a hindrance. Bailing out a person who continues to have financial crises … or who continues a dependency on drugs … or who continues to land in jail … or who chooses to stay dependent on you … is not smart. Giving too much “help” prevents a person from gaining valuable insights—lessons learned only through painful consequences. Quit bailing people out! Reaping what has been sown is often the best motivation to change.

“Do not be deceived; God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows.” (Galatians 6:7)

Question: How do you know when to stop working with those whose lifestyles are destructive?”

Answer: You cannot do the work for others that they need to do for themselves … but you can give support. For example, if a man needs to build muscle, don’t do sit-ups for him. Expending your energy does him no good. He must do the sit-ups, but you can hold his legs. If, however, he refuses to exercise, don’t waste your energy. Stop trying to help him change until he proves he is serious about changing. You will know he is serious about change when he makes an effort to change.

“Each one should carry his own load.” (Galatians 6:5)

C. What Fuels What We Do?

From infancy through adulthood, our needs are the driving force behind our attitudes and actions. As children, we develop patterns of behavior based on what we think will meet those needs. Over time, we come to believe that the power to get our needs met lies within us. We assume our task is to discover what behaviors work and then master those behaviors. At the heart of this process is pride … living out of our own resources … living life independent of God. This self-willed living is the fuel for sin.

“The Lord detests all the proud of heart. Be sure of this: They will not go unpunished.”

(Proverbs 16:5)

The Heart of Pride

Where is pride hiding in your heart? At times, are you …

Puffed Up

Assuming you know what is best … believing you can solve all your problems without depending solely on God?

“Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up.” (1 Corinthians 8:1)


Assuming your ways are better than God’s ways … believing you can live as you choose regardless of what God says is right or wrong?

“For rebellion is like the sin of divination, and arrogance like the evil of idolatry.” (1 Samuel 15:23)


Assuming you are sufficient within yourself … believing you can achieve fulfillment and have purpose in life apart from God?

“We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.” (Isaiah 53:6)


Assuming you can shade the truth … believing you can violate your conscience and go against your commitments when it suits your purposes?

“He is a double-minded man, unstable in all he does.” (James 1:8)


Assuming you can justify your inappropriate attitudes and actions … believing you can shift the blame to something or someone else?

“All a man’s ways seem right to him, but the Lord weighs the heart.” (Proverbs 21:2)

Sizing Up the Situation

Strugglers who feel the pull of pride are not just the unsaved. Both Christians and non-Christians can be “proud of heart”—even while appearing humble.

“All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because, ‘God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.’ ”

(1 Peter 5:5)

D. Root Cause

Question: “Why did God give us these deep inner needs, knowing that our tendency would be to rely on people, possessions, position and power to meet our needs?”

Answer: Ultimately, people fail people. And things are just things. Yet we still live with wrong assumptions—wrong beliefs that keep us in bondage.

“There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death.” (Proverbs 14:12)

Wrong Belief: “The reason I have problems is that people and circumstances in my life have let me down—they failed to meet my needs.”

Right Belief: God did not create any person or position, or any amount of power or possessions to meet the deepest needs in my life. My needs are designed by God to draw me into a deeper dependence on Christ to be my need-meeter. The Lord may bring positive people and circumstances into my life, but ultimately only God can satisfy all of the needs of my heart.

“The Lord will guide you always; he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and will strengthen your frame. You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail.” (Isaiah 58:11)


IV.  Steps to solution

A. Key Verse to Memorize

“First seek the counsel of the Lord.”

(1 Kings 22:5)

B. Key Passage to Read and Reread

Proverbs 2:1–11

“If you accept my words and store up my commands within you, turning your ear to wisdom and applying your heart to understanding, and if you call out for insight and cry aloud for understanding, and if you look for it as for silver and search for it as for hidden treasure, then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God. For the Lord gives wisdom, and from his mouth come knowledge and understanding. He holds victory in store for the upright, he is a shield to those whose walk is blameless, for he guards the course of the just and protects the way of his faithful ones. Then you will understand what is right and just and fair—every good path. For wisdom will enter your heart, and knowledge will be pleasant to your soul. Discretion will protect you, and understanding will guard you.”

Walk in the Wisdom of God

W—   Write God’s Word on your heart—Memorize and meditate on Scripture.            v. 1

Base your life on God’s Word. Rely on it to guide your personal decision making as well as your counseling. Fill your mind with God’s thoughts and attitudes to the extent that they direct your life.

I—      Increase your understanding of God’s ways—Listen to godly counsel.   v. 2

Seek the wisdom of God through those who are rich in their intimate knowledge of Him. Diligently apply yourself to understanding God’s priorities and His views on the issues of life.

S—     Seek supernatural insight—Pray for discernment.  v. 3

Without ceasing, earnestly appeal to God for His insight and understanding regarding circumstances in your own life as well as in the lives of those you are counseling.

D—    Dig for the treasure of truth—Study the Bible.      v. 4

Engage in extensive inductive Bible study, digging out deeper truths from the Word of God. Through word studies and prayer, seek to discern the relevancy of those truths to your life.

O—    Open your heart to receive wisdom—Pray for knowledge and understanding.     v. 5

Expect the Lord to reward your passionate quest for Him by opening the eyes of your heart to see Him more clearly and to experience Him in a deeper, more intimate way.

M—   Marvel at God’s provision—Give the credit to God.          v. 6

Acknowledge that wisdom resides in the Lord and that He is the one who graciously gives it to you. You receive knowledge and understanding from Him alone.

O—    Observe God’s victory!—Give the glory to God.    v. 7

Literally, praise Jesus for the total and eternal victory He has secured for you in His death and resurrection. Thank God for giving you constant protection from the evil one.

F—     Focus on God’s faithfulness—Rest in the Lord.      v. 8

Make it your goal to hold unswervingly to your faith in Christ Jesus and to deal justly with everyone. Be assured that He will keep you on His planned course for you and protect your life.

G—    Grasp the goodness of God—Wait on the Lord.     v. 9

After pursuing wisdom God’s way, patiently wait on the Lord to give you understanding of what is right and just and fair for yourself and for those you counsel.

O—    Operate out of your identity in Christ—Rely on the Lord.            v. 10

Christ is wisdom to you. In faithfully pursuing a deeper relationship with Him and understanding of Him, His wisdom and knowledge will be released in you and through you.

D—    Delight in God’s protection—Trust in the Lord.      v. 11

Put a seal over your mouth and conscientiously practice discretion, and you will be protected. Likewise, apply the understanding God gives you, and it will guard you.

C. What Needs to Change?

Change is always both the by-product and the goal of the Holy Spirit’s work in the life of a believer. The Bible calls it “transformation.” Change is the expected outcome for all Christians as they are led by the Lord. God’s plan is that every child of His be conformed to the image of Christ … that we take on His moral character and accurately represent Him to the world. In this way, we will “glorify the Lord.”

“The Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we all … are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.”

(2 Corinthians 3:17–18)

•     Change your negative mind set.… That’s repentance.

—  Wrong thoughts keep us captive to wrong habits but anyone can change what they dwell on.

“Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.” (Philippians 4:8)

•     Change your negative actions.… That’s obedience.

—  A changed mind produces changed conduct.

“We have renounced disgraceful, underhanded ways. We refuse to practice cunning or to tamper with God’s word, but by the open statement of the truth we would commend ourselves to everyone’s conscience in the sight of God.” (2 Corinthians 4:2)

•     Change your negative attitude.… That’s compliance.

—  Adopt an attitude of cheerfulness, gratefulness, and a willingness to comply.

“Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” (Colossians 3:16–17)

•     Change your bitter feelings.… That’s forgiveness.

—  List the sins your offender has committed against you and release the pain into the hand of God, and then release your offender to God.

“If you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” (Matthew 6:14–15)

•     Change your negative words.… That’s confession.

—  Words have the power to either change the situation or the way you look at the situation, which will actually change you.

“Whoever desires to love life and see good days, let him keep his tongue from evil and his lips from speaking deceit; let him turn away from evil and do good; let him seek peace and pursue it.” (1 Peter 3:10–11)

•     Change your negative thoughts.… That’s renewal.

—  Develop the ability to think about your situations in the same way as God sees them.

“Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” (Romans 12:2)

D. Practical Counseling: How Do I Do It?

Be wise in how you walk through the doors of opportunity God brings your way. You may spend many hours helping the heart of a friend, or you may sow only a few seeds in the life of one who crosses your path. Don’t try to accomplish too much too fast. Pray continually that God will direct both your words and your ways.

“Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.”

(Colossians 4:5–6)

Physical Preparation

•     Provide a private, relaxing place to talk.… safe for all parties involved.

•     Eliminate distractions.… TV, music, others voices or annoying noises.

•     Prevent interruptions.… Hold phone calls, activate answering machine, utilize a “Do Not Disturb” sign, attach notepad by door for messages.

•     Avoid physical barriers.… Don’t sit behind a desk.

•     Change lighting to reduce glare.… Adjust blinds, curtains or overhead lights as needed.

•     Keep counseling aids handy.… Have Bible, paper, pen and referral telephone numbers handy.

•     Place facial tissues and drinking water within reach.… Replenish prior to meeting.

“The wisdom of the prudent is to give thought to their ways.”

(Proverbs 14:8)

Personal Nonverbal Nurturing

•     Smile upon greeting.… A friendly face can disarm a fearful disposition.

•     Shake hands or use another appropriate greeting.… Human touch conveys warmth and care.

•     Situate chairs in close proximity.… If at a 90 degree angle, turn your body to face the other person.

•     Slant your body slightly forward.… Leaning signifies, “I’m interested in what you are saying.”

•     Sustain good eye contact.… Refuse to be distracted. If necessary, move to another location.

•     Stay open and approachable.… Don’t sit with folded arms or clenched fists. Folded arms signify, “I’m not convinced you want help.”

•     Show a nod of head occasionally.… This simple movement signifies acceptance versus rejection.

“A cheerful look brings joy to the heart.… A cheerful heart is good medicine.”

(Proverbs 15:30; 17:22)

Probe for the Real Problem

•     Call the person by name.

—  Examples: “Hi, Dave! Come on in.” “Hello, Carol, please have a seat.”

Use the person’s name several times during the session.

•     Don’t engage in small talk or surface chitchat.

Off-the-subject comments will delay getting to the point, can increase anxiety and may decrease the person’s willingness to be vulnerable. Such small talk can be interpreted, “You don’t really care about my problem.”

•     Ask a direct question.

—  Example: “How can I help you?”

•     Don’t ask, “What’s your problem?”

This negative approach can imply that something is wrong with the person. It assumes that there is a problem when, at times, there actually isn’t.

•     Realize that the presenting problem is often not the real problem.

The presenting problem is that which the person feels is the cause of the trouble. However, as you probe with pertinent questions and bring to the surface valuable answers, the person usually discovers the presenting problem to be peripheral, not the root cause.

•     Above all else, communicate hope.

“Are you aware that God is still at work and He has a personalized plan for your life?” In the Bible, the Lord says, “I know the plans I have for you … plans to prosper you and not to harm you. Plans to give you hope and a future” (Jeremiah 29:11). For many who are hurting, the most helpful discovery is the realization that there is genuine hope.

“We have this hope as an anchor for the soul.” (Hebrews 6:19)

“The purposes of a man’s heart are deep waters, but a man of understanding draws them out.”

(Proverbs 20:5)

Past Experiences

•     Ask background questions regarding family, home, school, dating, work.

—  Example: “Let me ask a few questions to get to know you better.”

•     Ask open-ended questions that cannot be answered with yes or no.

—  Example: “How do you express your anger?”

•     Encourage further talk.

—  Example: “Could you tell me more?” “Go on.…” “M-m-m.…”

•     Listen to what feelings are being shared. Ask about them.

—  Examples:


“When   are the times you feel lonely?”


  “Why do you   think you became angry?”


•     Listen to what is not shared. Notice if one parent is not mentioned at all.

—  Example: “What role did your father have in your life?”

•     Don’t ask a question that contains the answer.

—  Example: “You’ve been struggling with bitterness, haven’t you?”

•     Explore messages received during childhood and youth from significant people (parents, siblings, other relatives, friends, etc.).

—  Example: “What messages did you get about yourself from the things your mother said to you and the things she did?”

“Whatever is has already been, and what will be has been before; and God will call the past to account.”

(Ecclesiastes 3:15)

Pose the Question:

“Why Do We Do What We Don’t Want to do?”

We have all been created with three God-given inner needs: the needs for love, significance, and security.

•     Love

—  to know that someone is committed to your highest good

“My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.” (John 15:12)

•     Significance

—  to know you have meaning and purpose for your life

“I cry out to God Most High, to God, who fulfills his purpose for me.” (Psalm 57:2)

•     Security

—  to feel safe and accepted

“He who fears the Lord has a secure fortress, and for his children it will be a refuge.” (Proverbs 14:26)

Plan to Meet Needs

While everyone has been created with three God-given inner needs, no single person is designed to meet all our needs. If a person could meet all our needs, we wouldn’t need God. The Lord planned that He would be our need-meeter. The apostle Paul revealed this truth by stating, “What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death?” (Romans 7:24). His answer was strong—“… Jesus Christ our Lord!” (Romans 7:25).

•     Love

“I [the Lord] have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with loving-kindness.” (Jeremiah 31:3)

•     Significance

“ ‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’ ” (Jeremiah 29:11)

•     Security

“The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.” (Deuteronomy 31:8)

Present How to Be Set Free

Realize that you can be set free from anything that has you in bondage … anything that is keeping you from being all that God created you to be.

“Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

(John 8:32)

F—     Face the truth of your own negative behavior.

“Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts.” (Psalm 139:23)

R—    Recognize which inner needs you are trying to meet by your negative attitude or action (love, significance or security).

“Surely you desire truth in the inner parts; you teach me wisdom in the inmost place.” (Psalm 51:6)

E—     Exchange trying to meet your own needs by allowing God to meet your needs.

“My God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:19)

E—     Experience the inner power of Christ to be your source for change.

“I can do everything through him who gives me strength.” (Philippians 4:13)

Claim the truth that you have died to living life out of your own resources. You now live in reliance on Christ … because Christ is in you. He is your source of freedom.

“So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.”

(John 8:36)

E. The Christian’s Identity

“I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”

(Galatians 2:20)

The most wonderful and freeing component of Christ-centered counseling is an understanding of the Christian’s identity in Christ. Realize the resources that are available to every believer:

•     The Presence of Christ is within you …

“Christ in you, the hope of glory.” (Colossians 1:27)

•     The Power of Christ works through you …

“His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness.” (2 Peter 1:3)

•     The Character of Christ is reproduced in you …

“For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son.” (Romans 8:29)

•     The Life of Christ is reflected through you …

“For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that his life may be revealed in our mortal body.” (2 Corinthians 4:11)


Selected Bibliography

Anderson, Neil T., Pete Vander Hook, and Sue Vander Hook. Spiritual Protection for Your Children. electronic ed. Ventura, CA: Regal, 1996.

Benner, David G., and Peter C. Hill. Baker Encyclopedia of Psychology & Counseling. 2nd ed. Grand Rapids: Baker, 1999.

Collins, Gary R. Christian Counseling: A Comprehensive Guide. Rev. ed. Dallas: Word, 1988.

Crabb, Lawrence J., Jr. Basic Principles of Biblical Counseling. Ministry Resources Library. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1975.

Crabb, Lawrence J., Jr. Effective Biblical Counseling. Ministry Resources Library. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1977.

Crabb, Lawrence J., Jr. Inside Out. Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress, 1988.

Crabb, Lawrence J., Jr. Institute of Biblical Counseling: The Training Manual. n.p.: Institute of Biblical Counseling, 1978.

Crabb, Lawrence J., Jr. Understanding People: Deep Longings for Relationship. Ministry Resources Library. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1987.

Crabb, Lawrence J., Jr., and Dan B. Allender. Encouragement: The Key to Caring. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1984.

Discipleship Counseling Services. Discipleship Counseling Training Student Manual. Dallas: Discipleship Counseling Services, n.d.

Hunt, June. Counseling Through Your Bible Handbook. Eugene, Oregon: Harvest House Publishers, 2007.

Hunt, June. How to Forgive … When You Don’t Feel Like It. Eugene, Oregon: Harvest House Publishers, 2007.

Hunt, June. How to Handle Your Emotions. Eugene, Oregon: Harvest House Publishers, 2008.

Hunt, June. Seeing Yourself Through God’s Eyes. Eugene, Oregon: Harvest House Publishers, 2008

McDowell, Josh, and Bob Hostetler. Josh McDowell’s Handbook on Counseling Youth: A Comprehensive Guide for Equipping Youth Workers, Pastors, Teachers, and Parents. Dallas: Word, 1996.

McGee, Robert S. The Search for Significance. 2nd ed. Houston, Tex.: Rapha, 1990.

Wright, H. Norman. Crisis Counseling: What to Do and Say During the First 72 Hours. Updated and expanded ed. Ventura, CA: Regal, 1993.[1]


[1] Hunt, J. (2008). Biblical Counseling Keys on Counseling: Biblical Hope with Practical Help (2–18). Dallas, TX: Hope For The Heart.

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