Sunday, August 14, 2011

Seeking Wise Counsel

There are some things Doug and I aren't great at, or have flubbed over the years. We're lousy at keeping our master bedroom clean, and we have made some short-sighted financial decisions that cost us more than a pretty penny.

But one thing we've (in my opinion) done well over the last 11 years of marriage is that we regularly seek wise counsel.
Of course we read Scripture, and seek to line up our lives with what we find there, and we don't just fly off and talk to large swathes of people before talking things through together just the two of us.

But we have found it extremely valuable to proactively pursue the advice and counsel of godly people God has put in our lives.

We actively ask for the input of people we respect and love, that are farther down life's roads than we are. If we're talking about parenting issues, we listen to people whose parenting we've watched and admired. If we're talking about life decisions, we talk to people who are wise and who live thoughtfully and intentionally. Sometimes we'll read an article, listen to a sermon online, or talk to similar-aged peers about it, but honestly, that's not often. We've just gained so much by seeking out the godly counsel of wise believers, that it's become a regularly-walked path in our lives.

For example, when I received a perplexing and very important letter from a friend a couple years ago, and didn't know how to respond, I talked it over with Doug, we gave it some thought, and then I called Angie, my dear friend and wise mentor. She offered some really great insights and helped me to walk through the issue in a way that led to the continuance of a peaceful relationship with that friend. When Doug & I have weighed job decisions, we make time to talk with friends around the world who have shown themselves to have godly priorities, who consistently make wise choices with their lives. Their advice has been so relevant and so helpful; we always walk away with something to consider or discuss.

We don't just have these conversations if we happen to be around them... we intentionally choose to ask for input, and deliberately seek it out from friends we respect.

One thing to consider is where you're getting your advice... sometimes a group of young moms can end up talking circles around something, whereas a mom with a couple decades of experience can put that same issue in perspective quite easily. Sometimes we miss big Truths because we're getting input and advice from people who are just as clueless as we ourselves are. So, I'd encourage you, in your decisions, to seek out people who have proven themselves wise... not over weeks or months, but over years and decades. Don't just seek a stamp of approval for what you are wanting to do... talk with godly friends before decisions are made, and go into these conversations with an open mind!

Ask-- what is the likely "fruit" of following the advice of the person(s) I'm listening to? Remember that old saying, "consider the source"... a bunch of moms on an internet message board may or may not have good advice, but if you carefully watch two or three moms in real life, and you see their children in living color, you can much more easily discern the value of the advice they're dishing out, for good or for ill.

Be discerning as to where your advice/decision-making process is coming from. Are you simply "following your gut"? Are your priorities coming from Scripture? Is your advice coming out of culture? Is it coming from wise, godly counselors? Think carefully about what is influencing the decisions you make.

Reaching out to, and implementing the advice of, wise counselors has been a significant part of our married life... some of our very best friends are people who have proven themselves to be wise advisors. Sometimes life gets messy, or you're so deep in the midst of a problem that you can't see your way out. It is such a gift to have trusted people to whom you can turn when things get murky, and that's a benefit of the Body of Christ. We can turn to people within the Body and learn from one another!

Pray, talk things over with your spouse, parents, or trusted friends, and see what God would have you do. At the end of the day, counsel is just counsel. No one else can make a decision for you or live your life for you... so, once you've sought out wise counselors, and they've offered you insight, prayers, and advice, you still have to walk forward, ultimately, with prayer and in faith.

I don't want to overstate the importance of godly friends and counselors, and yet, I think it's extremely beneficial and biblical to have a number of wise, experienced, advice-givers in life.

The Bible has a lot to say about counsel. I'll close by sharing some verses:
  • "The fool is right in his own eyes, but a wise man listens to advice." ~Proverbs 12:15
  • "Who is this who darkens counsel without knowledge?" ~Job 38:2~ (This if from God, talking to Job. It is a serious thing when counsel is offered without knowledge to back it up... and yet, it happens all the time-- we must be discerning to the advice we heed!)
  • "Jonathan, David's uncle, was a counselor, being a man of understanding..."~1 Chronicles 27
  • "Listen to advice, and accept instruction, that you may gain wisdom in the future." ~Proverbs 19:20
  • "Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked..." ~Psalm 1:1
  • "I bless the LORD Who gives me counsel..." ~Psalm 16:7
  • "In an abundance of counselors there is safety." ~Proverbs 11:14
  • "The sweetness of a friend comes from his earnest counsel." ~Proverbs 27:9
  • "His name shall be called Wonderful Counselor..." ~Isaiah 9:6


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