A Needed Disappointment for the New Year

We are addicted to self-sufficiency. Without even realizing it we are all junkies for independence. The beginning of the new year is often a time when this becomes even more evident. It’s the time when we are bombarded with encouragement to reflect and resolve. The hope is that in the New Year we will reach a greater level of self-improvement or attain a lasting commitment to live better. The turning of a year seems to put us on a quest to become all that we wish we could be.

I am not at all opposed to the New Year being a time of reflection and goal setting. I do this every year and find it helpful. In fact, I have already spent time considering what I things I hope to try to start or at least do differently this year. It was in my New Year planning that I stumbled on a much-needed disappointment from a passage of Scripture. The message I read loud and clear was: I cannot do it! I am insufficient!

Before you stop reading and before you think the Bible throws a wet blanket on all the New Year’s resolutions, let me explain.

In our effort pursue a change, develop a skill, or embark on a new self-improvement routine, God holds out this necessary disappointment. He gives a needed reminder that provides warning and perspective. It is possible that all our resolve and effort could be in vain. Here is what I read.

Unless the Lord builds the house,
    those who build it labor in vain.

Unless the Lord watches over the city,
    the watchman stays awake in vain.

It is in vain that you rise up early
    and go late to rest, eating the bread of anxious toil;
    for he gives to his beloved sleep. Psalm 127:1-2

Three times he says these efforts are in vain. He doesn’t say our efforts are bad, just that there is a way to do them that will prove pointless. When we seek to do anything in our own strength independent of God, no matter how good that thing is, it is in vain. We cannot do it. Why? Because we are insufficient.

We are not able to become our best selves on our own. Our best life comes in complete dependence on the God who made us. Yet we still try. Self-reflection is helpful and plans for personal improvement can be beneficial, but this can also lead to more striving, specifically when we resolve in our own strength.

So, in this dawn of a new year, embrace not being enough. Feast at the table of dependence where our heavenly Father provides all that is needed. With this mindset move toward your plans with open hands. Lay your resolves and aspirations before the Lord and remember that unless the Lord builds the house, we labor in vain.

Motivation, self-reflection, planning and goal setting can be fruitful. But in our own strength these all miss the mark and we end up only feeding our natural disposition to make much of ourselves rather than making much of Christ. Instead plan with a dependent disposition. Embrace the needed disappointment that your efforts are insufficient on your own and instead look to the Lord to establish the work of your hands.

The Whole Life book.

Join the journey!

Order THE WHOLE LIFE today at New Growth Press.

There may not be a more needed book than this one. We live in a culture that is always on and constantly going. We are surviving but exhausted, pushing through but wearing out. Join me on a journey of exploring what it looks like to live a whole and balanced life. Watch this short video to learn more about The Whole Life book.

Making Your Counseling Experience More Effective

Counseling is an important decision. Once you begin, it is helpful if you are committed to several practices during the counseling process. Below are a few suggestions that I have found to be important in cultivating the most effective counseling experience.

Be Honest

This may seem obvious. Why would someone invest time and, in some cases, money to meet with a counselor and not be honest? It might surprise you to learn why this happens, but what may be even more surprising is discovering that you might relate to these reasons. Honesty is not just about what you reveal but also about what you conceal. You may feel you are being honest because what you shared in your session was the truth. However, what was not shared can be equally or even more integral to present an accurate picture of the situation. Candor is risky but necessary in counseling.

One reason people may withhold information is fear of man, a temptation common to all. It is not that you are afraid of your counselor; rather, you may be afraid of giving your counselor reason to dislike you or think poorly of you. Another common reason for withholding information is pride. Pride encourages the keeping up of appearances. Even in the midst of seeking help from a counselor, the desire to save face can sabotage your steps toward help and healing if you are tempted to be less than entirely honest.

Scripture tells us that keeping silent about our sins or transgressions before God will bring misery (Ps. 32:1-8). We must be honest before God, but we should also be honest with those who God provides to help us. In counseling, lean into honesty and participate in the accountability and wisdom that can come from trusting your counselor enough to be fully honest.

Slow Down

Those who are curious about the counseling process may ask how long it will take. They want to know how many counseling sessions will be necessary until they feel better or until their situation will change. This is not an unreasonable question, but it often reveals an incorrect view of counseling and the process of change. It is important to remember that you are not a problem to fix or solve. You, like me and everyone else, are a complex individual. Your situation is complex. You deserve the attention of careful exploration. Counseling deals with the deepest issues of the heart; it takes time to draw out what is there (Prov. 20:5).

God is not in a hurry. He knows what you need and knows the best timing to bring about what is required. You are going to counseling because you desire change, and change is a process in which you learn more about yourself and God. The process of slowly uncovering fears, desires, and beliefs is necessary. It is the process that is often the point. It is in the process that you begin to see what God is teaching you. Trust the process and avoid the rush to get through it.

Pray

The Bible says that prayer is powerful in its effect (James 5:16). Prayer changes things, and one of the most important things it changes is your own heart. Pray before, during, and after your session. Pray for your heart to be changed through the time with your counselor. Pray that you would be sensitive to God and His Word. Pray that God would encourage and strengthen you as you seek to work through the challenges you face.

Pray for your counselor, too. I feel so strongly about this that I considered making this the only point of this post. Counselors fight their own battles with fear of man in the counseling room. They, too, can be tempted to rush toward change and overlook moments where a long look at Jesus is once again needed.

Your counselor is human, just like you. They have good days and bad days. Your prayers for them are invaluable. Pray that they would be fully dependent on the Holy Spirit. Pray that they would counsel out of a life that is abiding with Jesus. As a counselor, I have been shown many kindnesses by those I counsel, but the thing I am most grateful for is prayer. Make it a priority to pray for your counselor (1 Thess. 5:25).

Certainly, there are more things you can do as a counselee to maximize the counseling process, but if you take these three things to heart and revisit them often, you will get far more out of your counseling sessions. So, if you are currently in counseling or if you are thinking about starting counseling, commit to these things and consider sharing them in a conversation with your counselor to talk about how you are doing in each of them.

Questions for Reflection

  1. As a counselee, are you committed to being honest, slowing down, and praying throughout the counseling process? What other practices help make your counseling experience most profitable?
  2. As a counselor, what other practices of counselees have you found helpful for them to cultivate the most effective counseling experience?

This blog post written by Eliza Huie was originally published on the Biblical Counseling Coalition (BCC). Visit the BCC for helpful information and resources related to biblical counseling.

When You Don’t Know What To Do

There have been times in my life where I have felt overwhelmed by what I was facing. The circumstance or situation felt too big or too difficult and I really had no idea what to do. My guess is that I am not the only one who has felt that way.

We face things in this life that lead us to that hopeless place where we cannot see a way through. Life can be that hard.

Let me tell you what has transformed my heart and given me hope in the midst of those “I don’t know what to do!” times of life. Take a listen to this ten minute podcast as I share what has helped me. I hope and pray it will encourage you when you find yourself in that place.

God’s Grace in Your Suffering by David Powlison- Video Review

This excellent resource brings compassionate wisdom to those facing trials and suffering. Author, David Powlison offers hope on every single page of this very readable book. Check out my review here and then go order it from Crossway today!