I wonder how many of us who are involved in counseling think of ourselves as engaging in a dangerous profession? After all, I am sitting in a nice chair, inside a nice office, talking to people. How could that be dangerous?

There are an interesting couple of verses in Ecclesiastes 10,

“Whoever digs a pit may fall into it; whoever breaks through a wall may be bitten by a snake. Whoever quarries stones may be injured by them; whoever splits logs may be endangered by them” (vv. 8-9).

These words seem to suggest that there are dangers connected with our work and our lives of which it would be well for us to be aware. If whoever quarries stones may be injured by them, then what of the person who quarries sin and sorrow? If pits, walls, stones, and logs are dangerous, then how much more dangerous are abuse, addiction, rage, fear, and grief?

What sorts of dangers am I talking about? Have you ever heard someone’s story and wondered whether or not God is good? Or maybe you have even wondered if he is? When we sit with lives broken by others—lives full of abuse, victimization, oppression, and injustice—who of us has not questioned the goodness, the faithfulness, or the wisdom of God?

Danger: Slander

I believe one of the dangers inherent in our quarrying is that it can lead us to slander the character of God. We begin to define him according to the things we hear from others, rather than according to the things we hear from him. We begin to see God through the lens of sin and sorrow, rather than viewing sin and sorrow through the lens of his character.

Danger: Erosion of Faith

Not only can our work lead us to slander God, it easily can also lead to an erosion of faith. The great majority of us who enter the profession of counseling do so optimistically. We believe that help exists, that there is hope of change, and that we can help bring those things about in the lives of others. We encounter difficult cases, maybe even cases others have given up on, and believe we can make the difference. We ride emotional roller coasters, pull others back from the brink of suicide, go one more round of rehab, and begin to doubt that change will come. And sometimes, in some lives change does not come. Our faith wavers. Where is this God who redeems? Why has this person not seen or heard God and been changed? Perhaps even more devastating to faith are those who refuse all help and defiantly continue lying, seducing, or abusing others. Ravaging wolves are loose in the church, destroying others, seemingly untouched and unrestrained. Where is God? As Amy Carmichael says, “Oh, there are things done in the world today would root up faith, but for Gethsemane” (Mountain Breezes, 1999). One of the dangers of the work we do is its capacity to root up faith.

Danger: Self-righteousness

A final danger inherent in the work we do is the fact that sin is contagious. Spend five minutes with a group of critical people, and you will prove my point. Those who work with AIDS must keep in mind the fact that they can catch the disease they are trying to cure or ease if they are not careful. This principle is not limited to the physical realm. The roots of those sins we find abhorrent in others lie within us as well. If we are not aware of this, then we have fallen into deception and foolishness. And if we do not catch the disease with which we are working, then how supremely easy to become infected with pride and self-righteousness instead!

Let us not fool ourselves and think that functioning in a professional sphere with certain degrees protects us from danger. It is when we think ourselves safe that we are, in fact, in the greatest danger. May we stay vigilant, “dwelling in the shelter of the Most High…for it is he who delivers you from the snare of the evil one, and from the deadly disease” (Ps. 91:1-3, paraphrase).

 [Previously Published as “How’s Your Immunity System?” in Christian Counseling Today, 2001, vol. 9, no. 4]