The four elements of this framework are commendation, comfort, conviction, and challenge. This is not a formula for counseling. Though I will present these components in an order, there’s no strict progression. Each conversation may have a different combination of these four elements. They may focus on only one or two of the four. These four elements are not so much a pattern or a formula as a multifaceted perspective by which to view the counseling task.
That sort of flexibility is exactly what we see in Christ’s counsel to the churches. Two of the seven letters lack any words designed to convict (Smyrna and Philadelphia). Wiith other churches (Sardis and Laodicea), Christ leans hard on convicting language and nearly eliminates commendation. Why the variability? Because the particulars of the situations vary. It’s often when we as counselors either rely too much on specific methods, or we try too hard to force one particular element.. We can become slaves to our own comfort or pride rather than servants of Christ.
The fourth component of this framework is challenge. By challenge, I mean helping others come up with a plan for how they can begin to think, feel, and act in harmony with their design according to Scripture.
Jesus does not leave the seven churches to fumble for a way forward. Rather, he exhorts them clearly. He tells those in Sardis, “Wake up, and strengthen what remains and is about to die. I have not found your works complete in the sight of my God. Remember, then, what you received and heard. Keep it, and repent” (Revelation 3:2–3). Action words saturate this small section: wake up, strengthen, remember, keep, repent — a biblical battle plan if ever there were one!
A challenge helps others walk away with an action plan; it gives them some assurance that this week can be substantively different than the previous one. Nearly all of my counseling has some challenge at the end — a plan we devise in accord with Scripture about how we are going to move forward rather than spinning our wheels or moving backward. I have needed to learn over the years to have realistic expectations for these plans: often, growth happens gradually, one small step at a time. But without challenge, growth is far less likely to happen.
Portions of this posting are excerpts from an article by Josh Squires, found at https://www.desiringgod.org/articles/how-might-jesus-do-couneseling
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