Recently in preparation for a Sunday School class about how the gospel meets reality, I realized that there are a handful of questions I am asking regularly in my various encounters with God’s people. At times, I feel like a broken record. I find myself saying and asking the same things over and over.
While I have no intention of oversimplifying the role of pastoral counselor, sometimes it is as easy as listening and asking good questions. Sometimes, a good question is a probing question — looking for more information or helping the person or helping the person make a discovery. Other times, a good question may be merely rhetorical.
If you are a Christian, I contend that you, too, are a pastoral counselor — at the very least, to yourself, but also to your spouse, kids, extended family, friends, neighbors, and fellow church members. Given that we are all called on, from time to time, to have meaningful and distinctly Christian conversation with other believers, I thought it would be a good idea to share with you my list of common questions.
- What does God have to do with this?
This is a great question to ask yourself or someone else in order to provoke them to thought in a difficult situation. This is where your theology and biblical literacy is very helpful. It is a somewhat rhetorical question aimed at helping remind that person that God does indeed have something to do with it, whatever it is, but it is also a provocative question meant to lead the person to consider how God factors into their circumstances.
- Have you asked God what He thinks?
Sometimes we jump to conclusions. Sometimes we make rash decisions. Sometimes we just don’t understand why things are happening. In my experience, it is so often the case that we don’t ask God what He thinks. We don’t pray before making big decisions. We don’t ask for and trust in the Lord’s insight on things, but rather we rely on our own understanding. What if it occurred to us regularly that we are weak, needy, and dependent creatures who fully rely on the grace & mercy of our Creator? Wouldn’t we then pray more often? Our prayers are not primarily a duty. They are the rational (and commanded) response of our knowing God and knowing ourselves. We need Him — it’s good to remember that.
- Is Jesus still on the throne?
Hard things happen in life — all the time. This world is broken, and until Jesus returns, it will continue to be that way. But when things get hard, do we believe and remember that our God is still sovereign? Is God in control of that hard thing in your life? Is it part of His plan? These are rhetorical questions. It is always good to remember that the answer is YES. Your Heavenly Father is in control. Jesus is still seated at the Father’s right hand and interceding on your behalf. Jesus has died on the cross for your sins. The Holy Spirit remains inside you. The gospel is still true. Nothing that happens to you will change that fact, and nothing can snatch you out of the Father’s grasp.
- Where are you headed?
This is a good question on a couple fronts. First, it is good to consider that, as Christians, every step we take is a step towards heaven. Every moment of life brings us closer to the time when Jesus returns to usher in the New Heavens & New Earth. The world we are destined to live in is going to be glorious, wonderful, fantastic, exhilarating, beautiful, blissful, and downright awesome. It’s not going to be ethereal or intangible, but real and amazing. That’s where you’re headed if you are a child of God. Pretty sweet, huh? It changes your perspective to consider where you’re ultimately headed. Secondly, this question reminds you of the importance/significance (or lack thereof) of this momentary life. Scripture aims to keep us primarily focused on eternity and not our temporary/worldly concerns. How much does physical or relational suffering really matter when you are living for eternity? It is so very helpful to remember that Jesus promised to wipe away every one of our tears and make all things new!
Go ask people these questions. I think you’ll find that they are relevant questions in almost every meaningful conversation you have.