One of the advantages of working at a large church, as we do, is that we encounter a broad and diverse group of issues, clientele and ages and stages. It gives us a long view on many of life’s struggles. Yes, it poses some additional stressors in that expertise in all areas is not possible. Hence, reliance on the Holy Spirit becomes essential – and also a healthy ability to laugh at oneself.
For us the long view means that we are able to observe the tragedies of abuse, conflict, divorce, abandonment, controlling behavior, emotional and financial dyscontrol etc. while they are current, as well as the results in people’s lives many years afterwards. This is probably the best reinforcement for us as counselors to remember, to hold to our over-goals for our clients when they come in with the complaint “I’m not happy.”
What are over-goals? They are the goals we hold for our clients beyond the goals that they initially express for themselves.
- An emotional over-goal might be to grow in maturity even if the path leads to having to make uncomfortable decisions.
- A spiritual over-goal would be to become more formed into the image of Christ even if it means embracing sacrifices.
- A relational over-goal might be to reconcile broken relationships through forgiveness even if the process is awkward and difficult.
Everyone wants to be out of pain and “happy”, me included. But often there is a high cost to achieving the kind of happiness I desire.
- Will I abandon my family – wife, husband or children because I don’t desire to carry responsibilities and honor my commitments any longer? Am I too proud or stubborn to try to reconcile a broken and conflictual marriage?
- Will I spend money I don’t have and “hope” to figure out a way to pay later?
- Will I engage in behaviors that are against my, God’s and societies moral codes for temporary pleasures?
- Will I always follow the easiest path I can find, rather than the best?
Making good choices are often the results of having a long-view perspective. I encourage clients to “play the movie forward”. Where will this decision lead you? Into potential trouble down the road? Regret? Bankruptcy? Loneliness? Away from God and significant or beneficial relationships? Or will it likely produce the kind of results you will be proud to claim?
We can’t live a perfect life and shouldn’t try to – only Jesus did that. But we can live a thoughtful one.