Why did I become a counselor?
Before I knew Christ as my Savior and Lord, I was drawn to counseling because I saw the struggles and pain of my peers and others (I myself struggled as well). I observed that people felt helpless and didn’t know what to do, and in some cases, that their ways of coping could become self-destructive. I tried to care for and help them, but found myself limited; I was also ruled by sin. After I became a follower of Christ, I realized that the Triune God, the Creator, Redeemer, and Sustainer, is the only One who can make the ultimate change in people’s lives. And I realized that God is the ultimate source and cause of our step-by-step growth. I also discovered the importance of intentional relationships (such as friendships and fellowship in Christ) and wise counsel in the context of church life. In Christian communities, counseling can be both formal and informal. It is a form of shepherding care. I enjoy the process of walking alongside people, listening to their life stories, meeting them in their vulnerability and weakness, and connecting their stories with the redemptive story of God. I also view counseling as a great honor because I am being allowed into someone’s world, I am being given the gift of trust, and together we are seeing Jesus and His grace at work.
What are the unique features of my counseling?
First, as you know, my counseling is not about me, but about Christ and His purpose being worked out in and through our lives as I walk alongside with my counselees. With that said, in counseling, I believe that change or Christian growth is progressive and incremental, and that it often occurs in seemingly insignificant moments — ultimately it is God’s extraordinary work in ordinary moments. And I walk with my counselees, step by step, to help them take small and specific steps towards growth/change. Christian growth is less about speed, and more about direction: moving towards Christ – the patient and righteous Lord who is loving and holy, gentle and lowly; the King who came to earth and went not to a throne but to a cross; the Suffering Servant who laid his glory and power aside and laid down His life for us; and the Prince of Peace who reigns in our hearts and relationships. As a counselor, I am a pointer, and Christ Himself is the point. To my counselees, I am also a fellow pilgrim in this world. To those counselees who are believers, I am a sibling (a child of God) in Christ, and also a sufferer and a sinner. I need Christ and His Gospel as much as my counselees do. In the counseling process, I imitate the love of God in Christ and invite people to pursue a deeper relationship with Christ as I care for them.
Additionally, I patiently listen to my counselees and seek to know them and their stories well. I recognize that each person is physically-embodied, socially-embedded, and spiritually-embattled. By depending on the Holy Spirit, I serve as a tangible vessel in God’s hands, and seek to provide practical care and point them to Christ, his love, and his purpose in the midst of their suffering and sin, their pain and struggles. I do this so that they may be touched and gripped by God’s love in Christ for them, grow in their love for God and others, and seek God in a meaningful and refreshing way. Thus, as they know God more and stand in awe of Him, they will be moved and helped by the Spirit to grow.
Lastly, I walk people to the mirror of God’s Word and help them to look at (or revisit) their struggles through the lens of His life-giving wisdom. For example, many people feel ashamed of their weakness, or feel guilty on account of their distress. However, the Scriptures (especially many of the Psalms) give voice to your distress. And weakness is the doorway to the strength of God (as Dr. David Powlison once articulated, based on 2 Corinthians 12:9). Also, God shows us many beautiful and complementary truths, or nuggets of wisdom, in His Word (all the Scriptures in the Bible are all coherently connected; a “fancy” way to say it is “the Whole Counsel of His Word,” as in Acts 20:27). For example, love and truth are inseparable; graciousness and holiness are inseparable; God is both tender/gentle and mighty; Christ is both the Suffering Servant and the victorious/mighty King; to lose is to gain, to die is to live. However, quite often, we live as if these complementary truths are fragmented or separated. In counseling, I hope to point my counselees to who God is and His complementary truths which may be used by the Holy Spirit to renew their minds, nourish their bodies and souls, deepen their relationships with the Lord, and bring them true cleansing, healing, comfort, and hope. I pray that my counselees may flourish in Christ as they live out their faith in their specific contexts, and the Lord may be glorified.
What is biblical/Christian counseling?
(Note: in our ministry context, the terms of “biblical counseling” and “Christian counseling” can be exchangeable.)
Biblical counseling is both an attitude and an action: a loving, honest, and humble attitude rooted in who God is and who we are in His presence; it is also the action of the personal God in people’s real lives through the tangible instrument of a counselor. As some of my former professors have said, biblical counseling seeks to know someone well and to know Christ and His Word well and bring them together (credit to Drs. Edward Welch and Darby Strickland).
The gospel shows us that Jesus takes the initiative to pursue sinners, compassionately and truthfully. And God accepts his people (as saints, sufferers, and sinners) despite the way we are. He receives us only in Christ and for Christ’s sake, and He does not mean to leave us the way He found us (credit to Dr. Sinclair Ferguson). He is committed to our growth and godliness in Christ, and He is attentive to every detail in the lives of His children. His faithful and sacrificial love purposefully and gradually transforms us into the likeness of His Son for His glory.
Why is counseling a relationship?
You probably have seen this picture before: when you go to a park or a church, you see a baby boy (or a baby girl) being held by his (or her) parent on their shoulders or in their arms. In this baby’s eyes, you notice a sense of safety, stability, contentment, and sometimes joy… I think it’s an image of the Good Father’s relationship with His children. Godly, healthy, and solid relationships provide us with a certain kind of stable ground and nourish us. (Sadly, in many people’s lives, this kind of relationship was or has been absent…)
Counseling is a relationship because God created us, as communal/relational beings, for community. Moreover, God Himself is a community (the members of theTriune God, three Persons in One, are in intimate communion and fellowship with one another). Each human person is ultimately dependent on God vertically, and we also need each other horizontally (we are interdependent). The blessing of grace and growth comes best through a redemptive community (the body of Christ — a local body of His Church and meaningful fellowship with believers) and intentional relationships (such as a gospel-centered counseling relationship) with fellow saints.
When we think about the Cross, there is both a horizontal and a vertical dimension. In the counseling process, there is the horizontal relationship between the counselor and the counselee, and the vertical relationship between God and the counselee (also, the vertical relationship between God and the counselor). In the counseling relationship, as I know my counselees more and better, in reliance on God’s wisdom, I compassionately speak hope and truth back into the specific details of their lives and point them towards the cultivation of their relationship with the Lord. I do this in order that they may grow in their dependence on Him, taste His goodness in the midst of their suffering, receive forgiveness, renewal, healing, and steadfast love from Him, and abide and rest in Him with satisfaction and hope.
What types of clients do I work with?
I have a heart for those who feel weak and alone and those who are perceived by others as weak and lonely. As God’s Word says, “For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, so that, as it is written, ‘Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.’” (1 Cor 1:26-31).
Specifically, I provide counseling services in both English and Chinese (Mandarin). I focus on counseling women of diverse backgrounds and in different stages of their lives. For example, I walk alongside women who struggle with difficulties such as depression, anxiety, traumatic experiences, betrayal, grief, shame, guilt, and loneliness. I particularly enjoy working with college and graduate students who face both challenges and opportunities in their academic, personal, interpersonal, and career contexts. Occasionally, I also work with teenagers and couples. No matter where you are in your relationship with God, it will be a delight and honor to work with you and walk alongside you.
Where can I meet?
I serve in our Christiansburg and Roanoke offices. I also work with people virtually. I look forward to meeting with you, getting to know you, and growing with you in Christ!