I very much like Paul David Tripp’s idea of building redemptive relationships with people rather than using people or manipulating people, especially as we engage in a personal ministry of “counseling” with them. Redemptive relationships are marked by love and are demonstrated in ministry as we seek to “enter the person’s world.”
Tripp points out that entering another’s world is more than just understanding their situation or circumstance; or figuring out what their problem is; or who is involved. Rather, “An entry gate into their world is a particular person’s experience of the situation, problem, or relationship.” We don’t ask “what are the problems?”, but rather, what are they “…struggling with in the midst of the problem or situation? Or, “What has this person in its grip right now?” And truly identifying with how they feel, or experience, the situation before trying to address how to fix things or give advice.
The entry gate is not what you think the person is struggling with; it is the struggle the person confesses. People will tell you how they are struggling, and their struggle will give you common ground with them and a door of opportunity into a deeper level of ministry"
In other words, to love another well requires us to care deeply about a person, their emotions, their state of mind, their fears, their anger, their hurt; and to do so before trying to solve their problem.
I fear that many of us offer care that doesn’t cure because, from the outset, our eyes are so focused on the problem that we miss the person and the struggles within.
One of the most common struggles in crisis is the feeling that you are all alone. Because of this, it ‘so very discouraging when people throw quick answers at you and walk away. It feels as if they have quickly let go of your life and gone back to their own. This is why it is so important to incarnate God’s ‘I will be with you’ promises from the outset….We offer people a living, loving presence that puts real flesh and blood on the presence of the Lord.
Of course there is much more to personal counseling or caring ministry, but I have worked with enough people to know that there is a difference between counseling a “problem” to be solved and counseling a person in crisis. The first tends to be more about me and my skill and telling you what to do; the second is more about me loving you as we work through the process. Of the two, I’ve discovered that entering into your world of struggle, hurt, fear, is more redemptive and effective than giving advice. I wish I practiced it better. Sadly, the church is often where we find fixers rather than lovers. Those more concerned that you get your emotions together and behave right and say right things than they are with the fact that you truly are struggling.
Instruments in the Redeemer’s Hands is an excellent resource by the way.