I go to counseling.
It’s a phrase that I never thought I would utter, especially in such a public way, but there it is. For a long time, I bought into the lie that as a pastor it was something I just couldn’t do – that if I needed counseling, it must mean that I was unfit to lead where God had called me to lead. Additionally, my pride kept me from it as I declared internally, “That’s not something I need.”
I was wrong on all counts. It didn’t make me unfit to lead. I did need it. I am better because of it.
You can probably tell from this post that I am going to encourage you to be in counseling. I think it is healthy for everyone, even if there isn’t some big issue that you can think of right now that you’re dealing with. It wouldn’t be fair to you though to give you this encouragement without a warning: it isn’t easy.
The counseling process has been extremely beneficial, but it has also been difficult. Often, I’ve thought that anything worth doing will be difficult at points along the way. To be physically fit takes sacrifice and effort. To be emotionally healthy takes as much sacrifice and effort.
Proverbs 27:17 tells us that we are to be in sharpening relationships and that these relationships sharpen us as “iron sharpens iron.” When a knife is sharpened, it is rubbed with a file and that file actually shaves down parts of the knife in order for it to become sharper.
The principle here is that the knife has to be willing to sacrifice part of itself in order to become better. Counseling has been a truly sharpening process for me. At times it has been very difficult, but in the end I’m better. I’m sharper because God has used this process to move me closer to what He has created me to be.
Here are some specific changes I’ve noticed as I’ve reflected on my own journey:
- I am better because counseling put me in a situation where I could be completely vulnerable with someone who isn’t in my context and who knows the right questions to ask to help me process the circumstances of my life.
- I am better because counseling is helping me discover “the stuff behind the stuff” in my life. Our tendency is to try and fix or treat the surface issues in our lives, rarely diving deeply into the unseen issues that are actually causing the problem. The result is never progressing. Through the counseling process, I’ve received the tools needed to dive deeply into the roots of “the stuff behind the stuff.”
- I am better because counseling is helping me understand the gospel more fully. Being in this process has helped move me toward Jesus and sanctification as I’ve understood more fully how He has made me and how I’m meant to function as one of His children.
- I am better because counseling is helping me understand the importance of my feelings – that they are a gift given by God for a specific purpose, and how I can experience them in a healthy way.
- I am better because counseling is helping me have authentic and healthy relationships, establish appropriate boundaries, and it has revealed the path to intimacy, providing me with tools to truly love the ones that I love the most.
I have been leading the LifeWay Students team for almost eight years and I continue to stay here because God has placed a calling on my life to serve, challenge and encourage as many student pastors as possible. To not encourage you to engage in the counseling process yourself would be a violation of my calling to serve, challenge and encourage you as a student pastor.
I share this with you today not because I have everything figured out or because I stand victorious at the end of some long pilgrimage. I am far from that. I share it with you because counseling has been the single most impactful part of my personal journey and I think it could be impactful for you, as well. If you need help with any one of these areas or you’ve been considering counseling, I eagerly recommend you give it a try.
The ball is in your court – I’m praying you will make this part of your journey, too.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Ben Trueblood is the director of LifeWay Students. For more on the conversation about student ministry, mental health, and more, visit studentministry.lifeway.com. Originally published on studentministry.lifeway.com. Republished with permission.)