When I meet with people in my office for the first time, I ask them about any previous counseling experiences. Frequently they cannot remember the name of the person who counseled them a year ago. This is humbling of course, because we like to think we are unforgettable.
There are exceptions of course. Once in a while, someone will report that so and so was wonderful as a counselor. When I ask what was good or helpful, they say things like “good listener,” “offered perspectives,” or “gave us skills.”
One of the famous names of Jesus (given to him in the prophecies of the Old Testament and repeated by the angels at his birth) is Wonderful Counselor. Nelson’s New Illustrated Bible Dictionary defines “counselor” as one who counsels or advises. Certainly we see plenty of these in Jesus’ teachings. He was always listening, reading the heart of the speaker and hitting them between the eyes with his replies. The rich young ruler was asked to give all he had to the poor and follow him; Peter was called Satan for asking him to take the easy route; Martha was told to stop her busy work and sit down and listen. His Kingdom perspective lifted us above the daily grind to see the world from an eternal perspective. Amassing wealth and high positions are meaningless, or even hindrances, in this new Kingdom. He challenged us to find the blessing in being poor in spirit, meekness and mourning. He taught us how to live in ways that were often new and usually unexpected–count the cost, give more than people request, keep looking forward, live one day at a time, give up your life and you will save it–the teachings of his Kingdom turned everything upside down. He never once invited people into a marginal relationship with God but, taught them that there is nothing more valuable by comparison.
Interestingly, when he knew his time to leave this planet was just around the corner, he told his followers that a Counselor (the Holy Spirit) was about to come. His Spirit would lead them into all wisdom and give them power. While on earth, Jesus was in one place at a time, dealing with, healing or teaching those with him, then and there. Since the advent of his Spirit of holiness, we have his presence with us, simultaneously, wherever we go. As such, he empowers us, listens, changes our perspectives, and teaches us new ways of being and living.
Human counsel is inherently flawed. As a counselor I know that on my best day the words that come from me are a mixed bag. I pray true wisdom sticks to people and the rest is forgotten. It does not matter that people will not remember my name a few years from now. What matters is that they enter into a deeper relationship with the Wonderful Counselor who will never leave them or steer them wrong.
6 For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given,
and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Isaiah 9:6 New International Version (NIV)