“Don’t put a period where God has put a comma.”

but-god
The quote in the title is attributed to Actress, Gracie Allen. I believe it has implications for walking counselees through a fuller picture of the Gospel.
In Biblical counseling it is important to build involvement with our counselee by connecting with them and looking for where they are, where we want to go, and common ground in between. This can be difficult. Even with the most humble counselee, we are sitting with someone who is hurting, often isolated, and is struggling to see the Gospel.
Lately, I have been studying the book of Ecclesiastes. The author, Zack Eswine, points out that Ecclesiastes is a very unique book of the Bible for a number of reasons, but primarily because it is the one book that an unbeliever needs no context to relate too. While the Old Testament, The History books, The Gospels, and the Epistles, all need explanation and context, Ecclesiastes seems to use the language of disbelief. It is a man seeing the world around him, and even his own heart and life and questioning just about everything. It is real. Honest. Raw. Unfiltered. His thoughts are incomplete and jarring. We are more used to and comfortable with Paul’s way of laying out the Gospel in the epistles. For a few sentences, he builds tension and then uses the familiar refrain “…but now” followed by a run-on sentence that is beautiful, Gospel filled, and hopeful. This is not the way “The Preacher” speaks in Ecclesiastes. We see little to no Gospel hope, until the very end of the 12 chapter book.
Pastor Matt Chandler likes to say “The good news of the Gospel invades bad spaces.” He means that when there is bad news, the good news sounds like really good news! The Gospel is and means “good news,” but it starts with 2 pieces of bad news. There is a Holy God and you are not holy. These 2 things together are bad news, if you put a period there and do not go on. The good news comes in the “, but God.” Without Christ and his redemptive work on the cross, we are dead in our transgressions, without hope in this world and we should be deeply depressed, angry and anxious.
How is this concept of lament and reality helpful for counseling? Many of our counselees are only seeing the first 2 parts of the Gospel and are failing to know, or believe and live in light of the good news of the Gospel. We need to meet them there, in that space, the space before the comma. We need to lament with them, let them express the raw reality of the fall. This is the common ground we and God have with them. When they look at their life and see sin, suffering, confusion and fear and say “this isn’t the way it’s supposed to be” they are in agreement with their Creator!
Then, we walk with them as they encounter the God of all hope who makes a way for wayward sinners and sufferers to have life in him! We need to recognize and make space for our counselees to see the full picture of the Gospel. We need to tell them that while they think they are at their lowest point, that is precisely where the Gospel starts. It starts with the spiritually dead, being raised to life, by a great Savior.
Let’s allow people to fully express and lament the space before the comma, but let’s not let them put a period there. Let’s show them a full picture of the Gospel by showing them what comes after the comma. “, but God!”
Written by,
Jason Blackley
Grace Community Church

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