What I’ve observed is that many of us are "counselor happy," whether it is a casual discussion with a good friend or a session with a professional. I know I’ve been guilty of that many times. When something happens that is painful or confusing, or makes me angry, or causes me deep worry and concern, my first reaction is usually to pick up the phone and call somebody who’ll listen, hopefully someone who’ll understand and sympathize with me, agree with me, comfort me, tell me everything’s going to be okay—whatever my particular need is at the time.
I well remember when I was facing one of those personal problems that seemed very large at the time, and indeed was not insignificant. I immediately called my best friend, and shared my concern with her. Her counsel was good and she was most understanding. She helped me gain perspective, which I badly needed. But as the days wore on, I found that I was calling her quite frequently—using her counsel like a pain killer or a quick fix to get me through the problem. Once when I dialed her number, there was no answer, and I felt panicky—almost irritated with her for not being there when I needed her.
I put the phone down, and started pacing, trying to think where she might be that I could reach her. And in the midst of this miniature panic scene, the Holy Spirit so faithfully spoke to me in words that could have been audible, they were so clear. He said to me: "You know, Mary, if you would spend as much time talking to God about this problem as you do to your friend, you’d be a whole lot closer to finding the solution."
My heart was stricken, as I had to confess that I had talked with my friend longer about my problem than I had talked with God about it. And a passage of scripture came to mind, from Isaiah 9 which speaks of the coming Messiah, Jesus Christ. Verse 6 says that one of his names will be Wonderful Counselor. Some translations put a comma between wonderful and counselor, but scholars now agree that there is no comma in the original. So, one of the first names of our Savior we are ever given is "Wonderful Counselor."
As I remembered that verse that day, I made a promise to God that never again would I seek earthly counsel before I sought his counsel, and never would I spend more time with earthly counselors than I did with him. And once I went to my heavenly counselor, the peace of God began to enter into my soul. Of course, Prince of Peace is one of his names, too, and I needed peace that day. He gave me a quiet, inner assurance; I knew what he wanted me to do, and there was peace.
How did I know? I got quiet before him, gave him time to speak to me, turned to the Word of God and read, prayed and trusted him for guidance. And that still small voice within me, the Holy Spirit who dwells within each of us who are born-again, gave me inner knowledge of what I should do.
You know, as often as I’ve gone to my Wonderful Counselor, He’s never been unavailable. It just doesn’t matter when or where, he always answers the phone, he’s always there for me.
Have you ever thought "I wish I just had someone to talk to who could understand exactly what I’m going through, who has had an experience just like mine so that they could give me good advice." Well, our Wonderful Counselor always understands. You know, many earthly counselors can have difficulty relating to us, if they haven’t had similar experiences but not our Wonderful Counselor. We’re told in Scripture that he has suffered everything that we will ever suffer, and he is touched with the feelings of our weaknesses. You can never say to the Wonderful Counselor, "You don’t understand." Jesus always understands.
Another great advantage of this Wonderful Counselor is that he never charges for visits, regardless of how many we make! And yet he’s so glad to see us coming. Indeed, he has issued us a special invitation which says in Matthew 11:28-30 (NIV)
"Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light."
This is one Counselor—and the only one—who can guarantee the results. If we come to him, he has promised to give us rest. He says we can learn from him; he will teach us what we need to know about ourselves, about our relationships, about our feelings and emotions.
So often I say to him things like, "Lord, I just don’t understand why I react to these situations the way I do? Can you please help me understand me?" or "Lord, I can’t even verbalize my feelings. They are beyond my own understanding. Can you please unravel them for me?" And of course he can, because not only is he my Wonderful Counselor, he is also my Creator. Obviously, if he created me, he certainly understands what makes me tick! And so many times, as I’ve gotten quiet with him and asked these types of questions, he has shown me things about my own personality puzzle which I never saw before.
I guess earthly counselors would call it "getting in touch with your feelings," but I call it "getting in touch with your Creator." I don’t know what good it really does me to "get in touch with my feelings" since feelings have zero IQ—no intelligence. Those feelings can be totally inaccurate; they have been many times. How can I trust them, once I get in touch with them?
But for sure I can trust the Creator of the Universe, especially since he loves me and wants only the best for me. As incredible as it may seem, it is true that the One who created me is willing—yes, even desires to be my own personal Wonderful Counselor.
Am I saying that we should never seek earthly counsel or help – professional or otherwise? No, there are times we need others’ help and advice. And there are times when people have particularly difficult problems, perhaps relating to their past, where a biblically sound counselor can be of help. I know that God uses people to help us; he has in my life many times.
But I do believe that most of us run to an earthly counselor before we really seek the help of the Wonderful Counselor. If a professional counselor advised us to see them three times a week for an hour each time, we’d do everything possible to keep the appointments. But how many of us would be willing to spend three hours a week seeking God’s guidance, asking our Wonderful Counselor to speak to us, through quietly sitting before him, meditating on his Word, praying, and being in an attitude that gives him an opportunity to give us inner guidance?
Earthly counselors may be helpful—again, if they are biblically sound—to help us see some things about ourselves that we need to see but they can never heal us. Only the Wonderful Counselor has medicine that can heal the wounds and stop the bleeding. It’s called the Balm of Gilead, and he can apply it to our hurts and give us peace. No one else is qualified for that kind of treatment.
As a matter of fact, frequently the wrong kind of earthly counsel can keep you totally self-focused and make you bitter and vindictive. I’ve seen people who’ve gone through much earthly counseling and found themselves much the worse for it—depressed, bitter, hateful people, full of self-pity and hopelessness.
Counsel based on God’s Word will lead you to acceptance, and away from self-centeredness and anger. The Wonderful Counselor will heal you of bitterness, instead of creating it. He’ll teach you forgiveness, and this brings release and freedom from depression. He’ll show you how your past, or your present circumstances, as bad as they seem, can be used as an instrument of good in your life if you will allow it.
Be sure that if you ever do seek counsel from a professional, or even casual counsel from friends, you make certain the counsel is biblically sound. Not all Christians give biblically sound counsel. In preparing this message, I called a friend of mine who is a Christian counselor, and he told me that in many cases he cannot refer people to Christian counselors he knows, because they do not give advice that is based on biblical principles.
My friend confirmed my suspicion that many of the Christians he sees in his practice are often not willing to go to their Wonderful Counselor. Perhaps it’s because they can’t touch him or see him or hear an audible voice, but they seem to doubt his ability to give them counsel. Jim says he sees his job as getting Christians to learn how to turn to the Wonderful Counselor to find their help and their healing. He knows that he doesn’t have solutions, only Jesus does.
I challenge you today, as I continually challenge myself, to determine that by God’s grace, you’ll learn to go to your Wonderful Counselor. You’ll make a commitment that before you ever run to someone else, you’ll run to Jesus. And whatever time you spend with earthly counselors, you’ll spend more time with Jesus, talking about the problem, giving him a chance to talk to you.
One verse I often recall is found in 2 Chronicles 20:12 (NIV1984) "O our God…For we have no power to face this vast army that is attacking us. We do not know what to do, but our eyes are upon you."
Do you feel like an army is attacking you today? Do you not know where to turn or what to do? Have you been hoping somebody, somehow could help you? Will you turn your eyes on Jesus? Tell him, as Jehoshaphat did long ago, that you simply don’t know what to do, but you will come to him for counseling, and you will spend the time necessary to seek his face, to fix your eyes on him?
It will not happen with one quick fix. We don’t expect earthly counselors to help us in one quick session, yet often we rush in and out of God’s presence without ever really getting to know him, just looking for that instant cure, an immediate end to our pain. But we must develop a relationship with our Wonderful Counselor, and that takes time. We must be consistent and give God time to speak to us. Turn off the radios, tune out the noise, get up early enough that you miss the household hustle-bustle, if necessary. But spend quiet time with your Wonderful Counselor. I promise you, you will find rest for your soul, answers to your questions, and guidance for your future. Jesus promised it, and he cannot lie.