When counseling, I have the privilege of entering into the story of another. These individual narratives, unique to the characters inhabiting them, involve a variety of movements. Though some are predicable, following the usual patterns and challenges of life, many are filled with unexpected plot twists that leave counselees feeling disoriented within their own storyline. This sacred storytelling often reveals a longing for trustworthy, reliable insight into their own purpose, propensities, and place in this world. These dear souls are longing for identity.
Scripture, counter-culturally, reminds us that our true identity will not be found in a greater knowledge of self but in a greater knowledge of the God who made us and the ways in which He moves in the world. Because God is Creator, He is the main character in the Biblical storyline. In order to rightly understand their created design, all other minor characters must orient themselves to Him. But while our counselees will naturally be more intimately familiar with the scenes populating their own story, they may not be aware or knowledgeable of God’s greater story, one that has been in motion long before theirs began. In order to better understand themselves, we must introduce those in our care to the overarching story, or metanarrative, of Scripture.
This metanarrative is an eternal epic which encompasses all other temporary, earthly tales. It contains four movements: Creation, Fall, Redemption, and Restoration. When counseling, we would be wise to consider whatever passage we are referencing within the context of this broader metanarrative.
For example, you may open your Bible to James 1:2-4 with the goal of offering a redemptive perspective on a counselee’s current season of suffering. And while you would be right to do so, it’s vital to remember the spiritual realities present in this text are informed by the four movements above. In Creation we remember the world has not always been as it is now. Everything God made, according to His original design, was perfectly good. But because of the Fall, the world is deeply broken, and humanity totally depraved, making sin and suffering normative. But because of the cross we can experience Redemption.
As believers who’ve been saved from the curse of sin, our suffering is not without purpose. Because of Christ’s power over sin and death displayed in the resurrection, God is using the very trials that painfully wear away at the core of who we are to renew and sanctify our hearts, transforming us bit by bit into the image of completeness, Christ Himself. As that redemptive process, for now, is experienced within the confines of a still fallen world, we hope in the final Restoration. For the Christian, redeemed suffering is, thankfully, not our permanent state of being. We await Christ’s glorious return when He will establish a new heaven and new earth, where we will inhabit perfectly good bodies and worship Him with eternally righteous hearts.
To help our counselees comprehend the full weight of these meaningful passages, we ought to keep the all-encompassing metanarrative of Creation, Fall, Redemption, and Restoration in view. By doing so we offer-up the sacred storytelling of Scripture and invite the listener to enter into a story far greater than their own. It is only when this happens that our counselees can find a sure place in which to situate their own identities: squarely within the eternal identity of God Himself.