ourlivesfirstThis post is an excerpt from In Our Lives First: Meditations fro Counselors by Diane Langberg. It is an excellent devotional for anyone who is counseling or other forms of ministry. This post is shared with permission in hopes that more people will benefit from Dr. Langberg’s writing.

She survived the tragedy of September 11th. It was quite a story and she told it well. She talked about running down halls and sidewalks, watching people trampled. She remembered the young and wealthy dropping their expensive briefcases and computers as they fled. What was gain they counted loss.

She said that while she was fleeing for her life she felt afraid and anxious (of course). She tried very hard to remember some Bible verses. She wanted to comfort and reassure herself with them. Nothing came to mind, for her brain was not working as well as it usually did. She said this, “I could only remember His name, but it was enough.”

I do not think I will ever forget that. Briefcases and computers, the stuff of busy lives, dropped and forgotten. Only He remained. And He was enough. How easy it is to lose that lesson in the midst of our busy lives. Money, work, schedules, deadlines, reputations, such things seem so crucial. But when life is threatened, they cannot save. Nor can they comfort. I pray the lesson will be burned in my soul so that I will live out of a heart that knows He is enough.

It seemed like a lot to learn from one woman’s story. She, however, had not finished teaching. Have you ever noticed that the important lessons are often taught by those who have no knowledge that they are teaching? Our clients, for example. I went up to her after she finished her story to thank her for taking the time to tell it to us. She seemed surprised that I would thank her. She made a startling statement: “I am so grateful you came. I could not believe that you wanted to come just to listen. So many counselors only want to talk. They don’t want to listen because they don’t want the truth to get in the way of their counseling.”

Words are the stuff of the trade. Words are how we do therapy. We need to know how to use them well. Words need to be under our command. It is easy, however, for those things we set out to master, to master us.

Money is like that. We set out to earn money, to own lots of it. What happens? Often those who “own” the most money are owned by that money, aren’t they? Do you suppose words can do the same thing? I am afraid so. We teach and cease to be students. We listen and learn about various disorders and having mastered the information we then cease to listen to our clients and simply wax eloquent about what we have learned. When that happens, we have become those who “do not want the truth to get in the way of our counseling.” We cease to enter each new life with the humility that says “I do not know you.” Teach me what it is like to be you. I want the truth of your particular life to impact me and shape the way I respond to you. When we no longer do these things, we cease to be like Christ.

God in Christ did let the truth of our world and our lives get in the way of His response to us. The truth of our world shaped His response to us. He entered into our experience with humility. He became flesh and learned what it is like to be us. He listened by becoming like us. He allowed who we are to impact Him and shape His response to us to the point of death. The truth determined His response. May we as counselors learn to listen to others as our God has listened to us, with humbly entering into and being impacted by the truth of our lives. It cost Him. It will cost us as well.

For further thought:

Ask the Lord to show you where you are prone to stop listening and learning.

“The Sovereign Lord has given me an instructed tongue, to know the word that sustains the weary. He wakens me morning by morning, wakens my ear to listen like one being taught.” Isaiah 50:4

Previously published as “Only His Name.” Christian Counseling Today, 2002, vol. 10, no. 1