This is Not a Counseling Session
I sat across from the couple trying not to fidget, trying to keep a look of calm on my face, I was supposed to be the fella with the answers, the counselor. I wasn’t a Counselor.
I’d considered becoming a Counselor after Bible college. Karen thought I’d be good at it. But when I realized how much more schooling I would need, I decided against counseling as a full-time profession.
Years later, I became a family pastor. Yes, it is funny.
When the couple asked to meet with me, it was simply to, “talk through some communication issues.” The wife felt like she wasn’t always heard and the husband wanted to “do better.” I had the impression it would be a lighthearted session.
And it was. And then it wasn’t.
Everything was going great. We talked about love languages. We discussed carving out intentional time together. We navigated some of their parenting tensions. But after each subject, I would begin to conclude the meeting only to hear myself say, “I sense there’s more.”
It was starting to feel awkward, especially after the wife asked me what I meant by “more” and I didn’t know.
As a non-counselor in a counseling situation, I was simply doing the only thing I was truly qualified to do; follow the prompting of the still small voice of Holy Spirit. But it seemed to be causing some discomfort for all involved. Have you ever noticed how following the Comforter is almost always uncomfortable?
There was a definite tension in the room
I finally decided to ease the disquiet by closing our time in prayer when suddenly the husband started weeping. Just like that. Then, to both his wife’s and my surprise, he began to describe the affairs he’d been having over the last several years.
“Oh, that’s what, ‘there’s more’ meant” I thought as I sat trying not to fidget, trying to keep a look of calm on my face.
To be honest, I was a little overwhelmed. It was ugly, and sad, and heart breaking; his last several years had been “a living hell”. And this hell had been crushing this husband for years; and now it was crushing his wife. This hell had oppressed, and lied, and controlled, and demanded, and accused. This hell was marked by shame, and condemnation, and fear, and despair, and confusion, and separation, and sorrow—so much sorrow.
But I learned long before I was a family pastor who wasn’t a Counselor that I have one responsibility in every meeting. No matter the carnage, no matter the hell, I am the person with hope.
You see, years earlier I had learned that sovereign love is greater than every broken experience on the planet. Love can redeem every tragedy. Every horror, every “living hell” can be worked to good because love is sovereign.
While I sat listening and a little overwhelmed I reminded myself over and again, “Love is bigger. Love can redeem this mess. Love is more powerful. Love can forgive, set free, love can heal and restore and save this couple, their family, the legacy they were designed to live and leave.”
And then, over the next hour and a half, I spoke the measureless revelation of love over them. I gave them access to the whole story. With every word, I released grace. At every turn I revealed hope. The Holy Spirit was with me, Wisdom a close friend. And the power and authority of sovereign Love began to transform the atmosphere in the room.
Yes, there was a deep sadness, but hope was greater still as hearts softened and Heaven’s perspective began to reign.
I witnessed sincere repentance by the husband; the work of forgiveness in his wife, and then true, powerful hope and the beginning of restoration.
Then I sat in awe as the couple held each other weeping while recommitting one to another, their tears the testimony of sorrow and joy, evidence of the power of the resurrection life.
They laughed as they embraced. Sovereign Love had begun the glorious work of transformation. It was intimate and holy. It was a true miracle.
Here’s what I know to be true. If I hadn’t discovered His sovereign love in my own life, I would have been greatly offended by this man’s sin and been no help to this couple.
If I had given this couple the angry judge, the offended God I had been taught from pulpits my entire life, I may have achieved results, but intimacy would not have been one of them.
While an angry, or offended, or disappointed God may seem appropriate for this situation, it would have been destructive to the future of their marriage.
No, only the power and authority of sovereign love could save this couple. Only a God in a good mood could save them.
Not once did I identify the husband with his behavior. I treated him like a spiritual giant who had desperately missed the mark. I called him into his identity. Understand, I didn’t whitewash what he did. We went at it straight on, the broken, ugly, mess that he had made. This was uncompromising love, a forceful encounter with the power of mercy and grace.
And not once did I identify the wife with her experience as a victim. I treated her as a spiritual giant who could powerfully choose to forgive and restore. I called her into her identity. Understand, I didn’t ignore her pain and fractured trust. We went at it straight on, the broken, ugly, mess that he had made. This was sovereign love, a gentle encounter with the power of mercy and grace.
Here’s the deal, an angry judge is about punishment and performance. This God would have identified the wife with her pain and the husband with his guilt and shame. The only way forward would have been a husband seeking redemption through acts of slavery and a wife only feeling safe when she was in control. Their marriage would have become a prison of their own making; restored intimacy, an impossibility.
The whole point of marriage is intimacy. An angry God would have destroyed that.
Yes, there was a road ahead of them—a continued journey of choosing surrender, and forgiveness and trust. But what we experienced over the course of nearly two and a half hours was unbelievable; the power of sovereign love restoring the past and redeeming the future; the wonder of sovereign love saving a lost couple from “a living hell.”
I believe the power of sovereign love can restore your past and redeem your future; Our Father’s love is bigger than anything you’re facing today. He wants to transform you in the wonder of sovereign love. He wants to transform your relationships, your health, your finances. He is for you and His love is the answer to your every question.
This life isn’t about a conclusion—that’s a very finite thought. This life is about transformation. Our Father invites you into the revelation of His good love so you can be set free and transformed.
May you know His love more today.
Jason Clark is a writer, speaker and lead communicator at A Family Story ministries. His mission is to encourage sons and daughters to grow sure in the love of an always-good heavenly Father. He and his wife, Karen, live in North Carolina with their three children.
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