For counselors who profess Christ it is sometimes difficult to remember that God is at work in the world. Spending day after day with clients who come into sessions with little to no change in their lives, and carrying the same brokenness around with them. It is easy to question where God is in all of this mess, and it is easy to feel like we’re alone in the trenches with our clients, getting covered in the slime of a more-than-difficult situation. Sometimes it feels like our client is in another trench and No Man’s Land is in between us with every attempt to cross the distance rebuffed by machine guns, razor wire, and artillery fire.
The truth is that we aren’t alone. Proverbs is a book about wisdom; it’s purpose is to give us an understanding of what is the right way to live. It begins by grounding the entirety of that way of life in the reality that God is King of the Universe by stating “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge” (1:7a TNIV). Take a moment to listen to the writer’s examination of the life that is in rebellion:
…if sinful men entice you, do not give in to them. If they say, “Come along with us; let’s lie in wait for innocent blood, let’s ambush some harmless soul; let’s swallow them alive, like the grave, and whole, like those who go down to the pit; we will get all sorts of valuable things and fill our houses with plunder; cast lots with us; we will all share the loot” – my son, do not go along with them, do not set foot on their paths; for their feet rush into evil, they are swift to shed blood. How useless to spread a net where every bird can see it! These men lie in wait for their own blood; they ambush only themselves! Such are the paths of all who go after ill-gotten gain; it takes away the life of those who get it. (1:10-19)
There are some clients that we work with who fit this description; they are actively pursuing ways of life that are harmful not only to others (including their own families!) but to their very life. In the end the way that they get what they want takes away their ability to enjoy life. The cure for this brokenness is wisdom. What’s interesting is that the writer of Proverbs doesn’t want us to get wisdom as a possession but to meet Wisdom as a person and follow where she leads us. She (Wisdom) is shown calling “out in the open” (1:20), “in the public square” (1:20), “on top of the wall” (1:21), and “at the city gate” (1:21) inviting people to change their ways and “live in safety and be at ease, without fear of harm” (1:33).
So is Wisdom a real person interacting with all parts of human affairs, from the public square to places of leadership (“at the city gate”)? We should answer this in the affirmative! James D. G. Dunn says this about Wisdom: “What pre-Christian Judaism said of Wisdom and Philo also of the Logos, Paul and the others say of Jesus. The role that Proverbs…ascribe[s] to Wisdom, these earliest Christians ascribe to Jesus” (Christology in the Making , 167). Jesus is the Wisdom of God, the one crying out in all parts of human existence for us to change our way of life and follow him. What makes this even better news is that while Jesus has ascended to the right hand of the Father, he sent us his Spirit:
I have much more to say to you, more than you can now bear. But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the 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. He will glorify me because it is from me that he will receive what he will make known to you. All that belongs to the Father is mine. That is why I said the Spirit will receive from me what he will make known to you (John 16:12-15).
As Christian counselors we have this hope: we are not alone in the battlefield of difficult counseling; the Spirit is active and present in that time and place calling out for a response. If our ears are open to hear the Spirit’s counsel in order to do “what is right and just and fair” (Proverbs 1:3), and to “get guidance” (1:5) for where to go in a difficult counseling session then we may find that our own feelings of inadequacy and frustration disappear. It doesn’t mean that our client will change; the Spirit respects their right to stay the same more than we ever could. It does mean that we can leave the changing and healing to the Spirit’s work between us because he knows our client far better than we ever will.
Use your skills, training and experience, and in the midst of all that let Wisdom lead the way.