I find ways to relate to people.  Or maybe they relate to me.  Anyhow, I end up hearing a lot of people's stories.  I have an ear for that.  And for those who know my own story, they have an ear for what I have to say.  We suffer so that we may support.  We endure so we can encourage.  I have developed entire relationships around this concept, and I do believe counseling is or can become a gift of mine as a result.

Sometimes, however, you find a story so great and troubling, that you do not know what to do.  Maybe it's a widespread global violation of a human right.  Maybe the individual is trapped by insurmountable circumstances.  Maybe it's a medical condition or other specialized problem to be handled by professionals but not by yourself.

There are so many things I want to do.  So many things I want to fix, but so many things are unfixable.  A very dear family friend is in surgery for cancer as I type this.  Another dear friend experienced lives across the country and experienced harassment at his own church.  Shoot, my own unsaved grandfather is in the hospital, and I have very little means of communicating with him and my family due to a language barrier.

Too much to do, and too little that can be done.  If I had a nickel for every time I asked someone for counsel and they looked at me, dumbfounded, and said, "Wow, I don't know what to say," or "Wow, that's tough," or "Wow, I probably would have sinned in your situation, so you're a better person than me.  Hang in there," I would be freaking rich by now.

Doing v. Fixing
However, I have been given a wealth of experience, and I will not be looked down upon because I am young.  I've been on both sides of the counseling table, and I know how this works.  So often we feel like doing equates with fixing and that's the first mistake.  Don't mix up the two.  Doing is listening and understanding, exhorting and encouraging, and praying.
  • Listening and understanding: Just be a friend.  That's it.  Listen and see from their perspective.  Don't even say anything.  Just sit.
  • Exhorting and encouraging: Do this AFTER Step 1.  You won't be able to encourage your friend if you don't know what they're struggling with and why.  But every struggle involves some sort of doubt, worry, and/ or lie.  Scripture is Truth.  Speak the truth in love.  (But part of loving is listening and encouraging first.)
  • Praying: It astounds me that people don't consider praying to be doing.  So often I hear the phrase, "I wish I could do more, but I'll pray."  PRAYING IS DOING!  What better way to do than to give the situation to the One Person who can actually change both external circumstances and internal realities.  Praying is doing.
Next Steps
Of course, after doing the above, perhaps the answer to prayer is some sort of intervention.  If you are called to intervene in a situation, than by all means, do so.  Don't sit back and say "Well, I've already done all this other stuff.  My job is done."  This isn't an excuse for laziness or shirking responsibility.  Do anything and everything you can.  Just start with the right definition of doing.