After a particularly fruitful session this week, it occurred to me how similar what I do in a ministry session is to the approach you find in a collection of the Psalms. The basic format of many of those recorded interactions between man and God look something like this: The writer tells the Lord what he sees in life – then pauses and asks the Lord what He observes about the same situation – then the writer listens and receives the truth he needs.
For example, consider Psalm 73. In the first 22 verses, the writer, Asaph, tells the Lord (in no uncertain terms) what he sees when he looks at his situation at the moment. His observations are direct, detailed, and thoroughly communicate Asaph’s dissatisfaction and disappointment with the apparent unfairness of life in general and his life in specific. There is no doubt how Asaph feels about what he experiences; he describes himself as having a grieved heart and an embittered spirit, to the extent that he is senseless and ignorant, like a brute beast before the Lord (verses 21-22). For 22 uncomfortable verses, Asaph tells the Lord what he sees in life.
We all seem to do this first part pretty routinely (and we would do well to be as honest and transparent as Asaph as we do). But after telling the Lord what we see and what we want, we tend to walk away – and this is where Asaph really shines. He shares – and then he stays and listens to hear what the Lord would share about what He sees. Interestingly, as we read the rest of Psalm 73 Asaph does not get answers or insights about the specifics he listed in his complaint. Instead, he gains truth that encourages, strengthens and sustains him as he discovers that the Lord is right there in the midst of it all, holding his hand, guiding him, giving him strength and provision for his life – and that is enough for Asaph.
The same format works today – if we do the complete process. Say someone comes to the office with “an anger issue” and as we talk and pray we discover that the real issue is a lingering feeling that he is a failure (the anger is simply a reaction to people who seem set off that sense of being a failure). So we follow the emotion to its origin, perhaps a scene of divorce where he, as a little boy, believes his parents broke up and one of them left because he failed to “do everything he should have.” As we journey with this man we would encourage him to describe to Jesus what he sees in that memory, what he observes as he looks and listens around the moment, including all the feelings and beliefs he has about what is happening. When he is done sharing with the Lord we would then encourage him to let the Lord share with him by specifically asking, “Lord, that is what I see here. What do you see here?” Usually the Lord has a totally different perspective, one rooted in truth and reality, that brings encouragement, strength, peace and calm.
It is intriguing that as much as we would like to have “the mind of Christ,” we rarely ask Him what He thinks and sees. Like Asaph we are quick to tell the Lord (and others) what we see but our view is usually limited, even tainted. However, a radical and wonderful thing will occur if we will simply sit down, be quiet, ask the Lord about His perspective and then listen intently. I see it all the time. It is freeing and healing.
Consider wandering through Psalm 73 (and others like it) and see if you see the pattern. It might be worth trying someday soon.