There are some situations where expert knowledge is essential to deal with specific issues, perhaps sexual dysfunction, violent pathologies or other disorders with physiological implications. But I wonder if we seriously undervalue the potential for ordinary conversations and friendships to bless others.
When I was spiralling down into anorexia (see my story here), it was incredibly difficult to get help. We knocked on scores of doors before I became critically ill, but the answer was always the same – “I don’t feel qualified to handle this. You need to see an expert’. Unfortunately however, the experts were under-resourced and over-subscribed.
I will never forget sitting in the office of a man who had been a pastor for 30 years. He had a counselling qualification from a very reputable training college. He’d been recommended by another pastor who also couldn’t help , but confidently recommended Le Grand Fromage of Pastoral Care. Having bared my soul many times before, I was feeling pretty fragile and more than a little crazy. But after hearing my story he too said that this was out of his depth.
“Oh. Ok. Can you recommend anyone else?”
“I’ll get back to you.”
Do you know what really made a difference? ‘Ordinary’ Christian community. Girlfriends and coffees and praying and church and more coffees and communion and laughter and did I mention coffees?
I’ve been to many 50 minute sessions with trained professionals. Some of those sessions were really useful. So if you can find good counselling, then go for it. Wear your gospel goggles, but go for it.
But never underestimate the power of the body of Christ. And never underestimate the power of the Spirit of Christ in you to help a hurting friend. You don’t need to give the answers, but you can give of yourself.