“Wise Counsel or No?”

Years ago, around the time Nathan and I had been married three years, we hit a VERY rocky patch. You know, that’s kind of down-playing it. Maybe it’s more accurate if I say we hit a VERY mountain-sized-boulders patch. I’ve written previously about how we came within mere centimeters of actually beginning the process of divorce. During this time, we opted to separate in an effort to get our heads on straight, and I went to stay with a single friend for a week. By the grace of God, this friend of mine was one of moral character and uprightness. She knew Jesus personally, and the advice she gave came from that place. But y’all, she was out of her league, as would be anyone who was attempting to help someone through a major life event they’ve not had any personal experience with. Not to be repetitive but it’s literally BY THE GRACE OF GOD that she helped me wade through that difficult season. And I don’t mean that negatively in ANY way! Now that she’s been married for several years, I feel certain that if we talked to her right this very minute she’d attest to the fact that she was blindly trying to be my friend and my helper while not having any personal experience to pull from. The bottom line is this: it’s nearly impossible to help someone, to lead them well through a complicated set of circumstances that you’re personally unfamiliar with. When I think back upon this portion of my life, I’m yet again brought to my spiritual knees over the goodness of God and His hand over every single part of my life, but also, it reminds me of the necessity, especially for Christians, of choosing wise counsel when the bumps in the road start looking more like hills and mountains. 

It’s one thing for those of us who consider ourselves Jesus followers to be knowledgeable. It’s important that we know the Word. It’s crucial for our personal relationship with Jesus and the spiritual warfare we face. We cannot worship God accurately and fully if the only thing we know about Him is what we see in our limited experiences. However, knowledge is only part of the equation. Wisdom, our ability to take it one step further and successfully apply what we know, is what best indicates our spiritual maturity. And as we learn from various spots throughout the Bible, it’s this application of our knowledge–wisdom–that we should truly seek. 

I love Psalm 1:1, but it’s in looking at a few translations that its point really gets best made. Let’s start with the ESV. It confirms, “Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked…” Simple enough. But let’s look at the NLT translation in an effort to deepen our analytical understanding, “Oh, the joys of those who do not follow the advice of the wicked [ungodly].” And last but not least, we get even more detail with the AMP version, as it calls those who avoid bad and/or misguided advice as fortunate, prosperous, and favored by God. Y’all, sign me up! I want to be considered all those things! I want anyone who looks at my life to see it as fortunate, prosperous, and favored by God, and if I was a betting woman, I’d bet those descriptions sound pretty good to you, too. So, how do we get from where we are now to there? We get smart. We increase our knowledge, but we also increase our wisdom. And when we come upon difficult decisions or circumstances we feel unequipped to handle, we seek WISE counsel. 

There is a two-step order to seeking wise counsel, and despite the fact that goldfish now out-perform humans with regard to attention span (it’s fact…look it up), I am pretty certain we can handle two steps. If you cannot, I can tell you with full confidence, this is not the blog that’s gonna help you with that. Peace be with you. 

Step one in seeking wise counsel is to seek the wisest of all counsels ever created: God. In asking God to help you with your conundrum, it’s imperative that you spend time with Him: read His Word (so much wise guidance there!), talk to Him during prayer time, just like you would any friend. Ask Him for His wisdom because He’s already promised that all you have to do is ask and it will be yours (James 1:5). But don’t forget, when talking with Him, to ask Him to lead you to others who also seek Him and His Word and who could provide you with wise counsel. Proverbs 1:5 promises, “A wise man will hear and increase in learning, and a man of understanding will acquire wise counsel.” 

After seeking God and leaning on Him to direct you toward those who will spiritually hold your hand and walk you through your trial, as redundant as it might sound, step two is simply to reach out to whomever it is God’s suggested to you. BUT. Satan’s not going to sit around quietly while you make great strides to fix whatever he’s attempted to break in your life. He’s far too involved and cunning for that. You can bet that he’ll do his absolute best to steer you off course with regard to whom you seek for advice and guidance. Good news! There’s a way to evaluate whether or not a person you’re considering is, in fact, a worthy helper. The Bible tells us in Galatians that a righteous, godly person is known by his/her spiritual fruits, and because God’s awesome like that, He’s given us a list of those identifiers: gentleness, kindness, love, joy, peace, patience, faithfulness, and self-control. Therefore, when seeking help, if the person you plan to consult doesn’t display at least a few of these fruits in a variety of areas of his/her own life, perhaps they’re not your best option. 

Now please hear this: we are not seeking PERFECT wisdom in fellow humans. That’s a fool’s errand due to its non-existence. However, it’s crucial to note that godly, mature, self-controlled adults are successful in at least some of their long-term relationships. Let me say it like this: 

Seeking wise counsel for help with marital trouble? Seek it out from those you KNOW have a solid, God-centered marriage, NOT because someone’s Facebook or Instagram posts look good. Remember, we are seeking substantial spiritual fruit, not decoration. 

Are you perhaps seeking wise counsel for an issue with your troubled teen? Seek it from someone who has successful young adult/adult children. Does this include your sister who has a four and an eight year old? No it does not. What about your grandmother? God bless her but also no. She didn’t raise kids in this world. Yes, seek her input assuming she’s godly and wise, but don’t stop there since, no disrespect intended, her parenting relevance is nil. 

What about work troubles? Seek wise counsel from a godly, like-gendered co-worker whose work ethic, attitude, and behavior as a whole you respect. What about that mouthy co-worker who will jaw all day about how awful your company/boss/other co-workers are while offering zero Bible-based wisdom? Surely you know the answer to this one. Yep, correct–you shut that mess down. There’s zero wisdom in that person. 

In closing I’d like to share one last story. When my daughter was little, maybe two or three, we were trying to teach her how to properly use 911. We wanted her to understand when it was okay to call 911 and when it wasn’t, so we played a game called “911 or no?” We would give her a scenario, and she would have to tell us whether it was okay to call 911 or if not because it wasn’t considered an emergency. We’d range from statements like “You’re home alone with Mom, and she falls and hits her head and won’t wake up” (911!) to “You really wanted peanut butter and realized you’re out” (NO!!). In the spirit of our fun-filled “911 or No?” I’d like us to play a version of that today: “Wise Counsel or No?” I’ll give you an example of a person and a smidge of detail about his/her life or personality, and you tell me if they would be wise counsel or not. Here we go…

*Your BFF’s first cousin who always has the BEST hair in all of her Instagram posts, leading you to believe girlfriend must obviously have it together? NO!!!

*Your high school classmate who may or may not have lost a tooth or two to a former meth habit that may or may not still be “former”? NO!! Even if she posts pretty Bible verses despite spewing f-bombs in everyone’s comments? STILL NO!!

*Your adorable hairdresser who knows her Bible both in word AND in action and spends time daily in the Word? YES!!! (assuming she has some solid fruit-producing experience in the area in which you’re struggling)

Yes, this is really dumb. And yes, it doesn’t seem all that complicated–because it’s not. But how often do we intentionally seek out advice and help from those we know will back up our opinions. We don’t want actual wisdom; we want our own opinions mirrored back at us. How dare someone tell us that we, too, are responsible for the state of our marriage! How dare someone claim that not providing consequences for my kid might be the reason he’s got problems with authority as a teenager! How dare someone not tell me that all I do is perfect and everyone else is the problem! 

All I’m saying is this: the next time you have a problem you’re unsure of how to handle, be intentional in seeking wise counsel. Get off Facebook and open The Book. Seek God first, and then turn to someone you KNOW is godly. Someone whose life is proof (notice I said life, NOT social media posts) that he or she bears the Fruits of the Spirit. God will most certainly make these people available to us, and not to step hard on one more toe as I end, but if you can’t locate any of these godly, wise people within your circle, maybe that in and of itself speaks volumes. God wants to help you find those who can steer you and your decisions toward Him, but He’s a gentleman and will not force Himself and His ways upon you. Seek Him, friend, and the wisdom and counsel that He provides. Please pray with me. 

Dear God, thank You so much for the Word You’ve given me as a constant guiding light in my life. Father, I want to make wise, Bible-based decisions for my life and the life of my family, but I desperately need Your help to do so. I am seeking You, Lord, as the Bible recommends, for help with ____________. I am very unsure of how to walk through this trial, Lord, and I need Your guidance on who to consult. Provide me with wise counsel, Lord. Remove those from my life, my ear, my circle who don’t give advice based from Your Word. Close my ear and my mind to their jabber so that I’m not distracted and confused by counsel that doesn’t come from You. Thank You, God, for hearing my prayer. I am excited for those whom You’ll bring into my life. Help me not to miss them. In Jesus’s mighty and holy name I pray. Amen.