Where do you go to get perspective when you don’t understand your circumstances or what is happening in your life? I take James 1:5-8 at face value and get on my knees. If I am willing to stay there until God answers, he usually does… just never quickly. He wants to make sure I really need to know. In the process, I gain confidence that he cares and that he will answer. Certainly, we want our international student friends to have the same joy and confidence as they come to know Christ personally and learn to follow him prayerfully.
At times, however, the Lord desires us to seek perspective from others in the body of Christ—pastors, elders, teachers, counselors, older friends and peers—or possibly from non-believers. Sometimes the question we have requires specialized expertise like from a physician, accountant, or lawyer. Proverbs 15:22 NLT reminds us that “Plans go wrong for lack of advice; many counselors bring success.”
Put yourselves in the shoes of an international student newly here. Who do they ask for help or perspective—especially if the question is a heart issue or deep sadness? Who can they trust? How much will help cost? The unknowns are paralyzing for that student. We desire to be the kind of friend that student will feel free to come to and ask.
But wait… before helping that student, do YOU have friends you can go to and ask anything of: deep issues, hurtful issues, or sin issues? Those kinds of friends, mentors, and counselors have to be developed over time. Some people are more fortunate than others and have people in their world who they naturally feel close enough to and can go to any time. But most of us have to develop those kinds of relationships. It takes time. We must learn that these special people really care, will take the time for us, will listen without making judgments, will sufficiently know God’s Word to be a real help, and are willing to speak into our lives regarding some of the hard issues.
Seeking to develop these kinds of relationships in our lives will not always be easy. People will let us down, hurt us by acts of commission and omission, and we will have to deal with that through grace and personal forgiveness. But it is worth it! We need these kinds of people in our lives!
Accountability partners can sometimes serve more than one function for us. Prayer partners can also. Mentors and counselors can help with perspective. Life coaches can use questions to give us insight into our own thinking. Best friends can be a help, and others have a reputation for listening well (e.g., cab drivers and hair dressers). Self-help groups which focus on specific issues (e.g., grief, job loss, or difficult children) give us access to folks who have gone through what we are facing. The people who know us the best are our spouse and our parents. Often these get overlooked as sources of perspective and counsel. They sometimes tell us things we wished we had not heard just because they do know us so well!
It is said that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Therefore, time spent in study of the scriptures, in memorization, and in meditatation on them when the going is good is worth the investment for when times are tough. II Timothy 3:16-17 NLT reminds us that “All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It straightens us out and teaches us to do what is right. It is God's way of preparing us in every way, fully equipped for every good thing God wants us to do.”
The bottom line here is Jesus first… all others second… when we need perspective and guidance. We need it… and we need to teach it to the international students we hold dear.
Principles cited in this blog: We need Jesus for counsel and comfort, but we also need people we can go to for perspective, hearing us out, and providing wise counsel. Time spent meditating on God’s Word prepares us for difficult times. It takes time and intentionality to develop the depth in relationships for them to be there when we need them.
Application for ISI ministry: The students we care so much about need to learn these things from our example and our teaching. Much of this may be more caught than taught.
Next blog topic: Transculturalism
Doug Shaw with Derrah Jackson
 “If you need wisdom - if you want to know what God wants you to do - ask him, and he will gladly tell you. He will not resent you’re asking. But when you ask him, be sure that you really expect him to answer, for a doubtful mind is as unsettled as a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. People like that should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. They can't make up their minds. They waver back and forth in everything they do.
(James 1:5-8 NLT)