This is the first post in a new series written by one of our counselors-in-training, Judy Johnston.
As a mother, I perfected the art of lectures (picture my adult children nodding knowingly). I developed good lectures, pithy lectures, truth-filled lectures and yes, even guilt-inducing lectures. Did these lectures produce the fruit of repentance in the hearts of my children? Occasionally, by God’s grace, they did. But more often they produced distaste and rebellion. I wish I had known then how helpful the art of questions could have been to my parenting (except for maybe that one question no child can answer: “Why did you do that?”) Engaging and revealing questions could have helped me disciple my children with truth in a way that may have revealed my children’s hearts and opened their ears more effectively.
My need for wielding artful questions didn’t end with parenting. I’ve found it to be a hallmark trait for a good friend, a considerate spouse and a Bible study teacher. Now, because I am going through training to become a certified biblical counselor, I see it will also be a valuable tool in my counseling. Seasoned counselors role-modeled good questions for me in the training sessions. I encountered compassion-draped and discerning questions in books by Bob Kelleman. David Powlison’s heart-revealing X-ray questions convicted my own heart. So how do I learn to ask good questions?
Nothing brings this rubber-to-the-road question home like sitting in a room with a new counselee. After my first session, I asked myself, “How do I get to the heart of the matter? What do compassionate questions sound like? How will I listen well if I don’t know how to open the door to my counselee’s life with good questions? How will I discern the wrong thinking of my counselee if I haven’t honed the precise yet sharp-edged tools to separate out subterfuge from real attitudes? More importantly, how will I disciple my counselees to ask good questions of themselves so they will learn how to counsel themselves from God’s Word? How do I help them grow into discerning believers able to tell when they are veering away from the truths God wants them to live for and by?”
For answers, I look to the best question-asker of all time, Jesus. He is known for asking questions, one of the most revealing being: “Who do you say I am?” Can I use this question? I will need to if I am to discover what my counselee believes about Jesus. Their beliefs will guide their every decision, action and attitude. Will I ask every question Jesus ever asked? I better not. I need to understand the context of His questions to know how to rightly wield them. I certainly won’t need to ask, “Are there not 12 hours of daylight?” as Jesus did in John 11:9. But I may ask my counselee, “Do you understand what (Jesus) has done for you?” (John 13:12)
What I can do is learn from Jesus how to love others through probing questions. I can learn to hear and discern. As I ask questions, I can help my counselee flesh out how their story fits into God’s redemptive story. With tender questions, I will have the opportunity to introduce them to the trustworthiness of our God as revealed in Christ through the gospel. I can also learn from other biblical counselors like Julie Ganschow who saw the need for this art and crafted a wonderful booklet called “Questions on the Heart Level” to help me engage my counselees. Above all, I will depend on the Holy Spirit to supply the wisdom and discernment to care for my counselee in a way that encourages their faith in Christ and brings glory to our God.
Resources for Questions:
Gospel Conversations by Bob Kelleman
Seeing with New Eyes by David Powlison (Chapter 7: “X-ray Questions”)
Questions on the Heart Level by Julie Ganschow
Judy Johnston has recently joined the staff of Word of Hope Ministries as she completes her hours towards certification as a Biblical Counselor with the IABC.
Word of Hope Ministries provides training to local and distance men and women who are interested in learning more about biblical counseling, and potentially becoming Certified Biblical Counselors. We can mentor you through the entire process. Please visit our website to learn more: www.wordofhopeministries.com
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