What is the goal of biblical counseling? Is it building ego, fostering self-confidence, exploring a person’s inner world and coming to terms with it, becoming better adjusted socially, getting in touch with inner divine energies, becoming happy or fulfilled, etc.? I believe that the goal of counseling is precisely what Paul lays forth in Colossians 1:28: to present every person mature or complete in Christ. Of course, this can’t and won’t happen until the return of Christ, but this is the aim of Christian ministry: to see individuals continually transformed into the image (or likeness) of Jesus. Evangelical Christians call this progressive justification or sanctification.
David Powlison in his book, The Biblical Counseling Movement: History and Context, lays forth several summarizing statements taken from Jay Adam’s understanding of sanctification which I believe are insightful and undoubtedly will invoke hope in the heart of the counselor and counselee. He writes,
If Jesus could love his enemies, counselees could learn not to be bitter or fearful. If Jesus could trust God, then depressed counselees could learn not to believe that God hated them or didn’t care about them. If Jesus could face betrayal and pain with resolute hope, then malcontents could learn not to grumble. If Jesus could devote his life to giving to the needs of others, then self-seeking counselees could learn to do likewise in some measure. If Jesus could eat and drink in a thankful, self-controlled manner, then counselees need not be either anorexic or gluttonous. If Jesus had hope when he faced death, then counselees need not fall into despair over life’s hardships.
In short, biblical counselors are calling individuals to “turn to God and his grace, and so to God’s way of living, thinking, choosing, and feeling.”