In Counseling

My husband and I are celebrating four years of marriage this week. We’ve talked about how it now feels like we have a little bit of mileage behind us, although four years isn’t a long time. Just that we’re out of the newlywed stage now and are also learning to be parents. Man, that first 2 weeks of parenthood was SO rough! Sleep deprivation is a horrible thing! Yet in those first two weeks we had to work like a team like never before and I was so thankful to have help! I literally could NOT have survived those weeks without my husband. His voice of reason that contrasted my hormonally-messed-up mind and his ability to calmly problem-solve and come up with a plan were invaluable. It has been a joy and a source of pride to see how God has really helped Matt shine in his new role as a father.

I could go on and on about what a good father Matt is, and maybe I will in another post. In thinking about our four years of marriage, however, one of the things I appreciate most about my husband is how he has counseled me and pointed me towards the gospel. We are currently going through a course on how to counsel people biblically and I am learning the importance of listening well and asking good questions, neither of which I am good at. But these are things that Matt has done well for me, and through these acts of love, God has been changing me, helping me see the root sin issues that are the actual causes of why I act and react the way that I do to life (see James 4:1-10). Most of the time I don’t see the root sin immediately. In the moment I may react to Matt in an unloving way or just be “in a mood” and not sure myself what I am feeling and why. But through talking things out with Matt after some time, I am beginning to recognize my ungodly motivations and desires easier and quicker, and am able to ask myself some questions about my motivations and the condition of my heart.

The point is, I’ve found that when I recognize the root sin, and not just believe that the way I react to life is only the product of factors like emotions, stress, or circumstances, I can gain victory through Christ by confessing the sin (my heart attitude toward God) and allowing Him to work through me to put sin to death, as in the “put off and put on” passages (Ephesians 4:17-5:2; Colossians 3:1-17). I can actually get out of a rut of always reacting a certain way and not knowing why when I let God’s truth instruct me and then run to Him for help, instead of trying to improve myself in my own strength and not getting anywhere.

So what are the good questions Matt asks me while he listens? Mostly variations of, “What do you mean?”, as I share how I feel and he wants to clarify. Also, “what made you react by doing such and such and how were you hoping to solve things by that? He also re-states what I say to make sure he’s hearing me correctly or so that I can explain it better. Most of the time the result is that I realize that I am putting my “kingdom” above God’s kingdom, and when I don’t get what I want, I react in an ungodly way (see again James 4:1-10). So that’s a question I’m trying to start asking myself as I’m deciding how to react: “Whose kingdom am I focused on right now?” When I remember that God’s will in every situation is for me to be conformed to the image of Jesus (Romans 8:29), I’m better able to trust Him in the moment and act in a more God-glorifying way.

Proverbs 20:5 states, “The purpose in a man’s heart is like deep water, but a man of understanding will draw it out.” This is exactly what Matt does when he listens and it is such a blessing to me. As Matt and I continue on this journey together, I too want to grow in loving him by listening well and asking good questions. For a really helpful resource for your own personal reflection, check out David Powlison’s X-Ray Questions.

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