Tag Archives: ed welch

Emptying Ourselves

This post “Emptying Ourselves” is from Ed Welch of CCEF.

Emptying Ourselves

“Less of me and more of Christ.”

“I need to empty myself and be a vessel filled by the Spirit.”

These comments evoke John the Baptist’s words, “He must increase, but I must decrease” (John 3:30), or the Apostle Paul’s, “For me to live is Christ, and to die is gain” (Phil 1:21). And indeed, we hope that Jesus is more prominent than ourselves. We want our selfishness to be increasingly jettisoned, and we know that we will have more of Jesus when we see him face-to-face. But, we also have no reason to envision some kind of personal extinction as if we were possessed by or absorbed into Jesus. Somehow as we have more of Christ, we also become more ourselves.

I was out to dinner with my wife and some good friends recently. As I enjoyed edifying conversation and hearing about details from their lives, it was clear that this was much better than an evening alone with a piece of pizza and the New Yorker. Somehow, in fellowship with others, I came home more fully me. They sparked interests, gave new perspectives, let me see the work of the Spirit in them, and were people to love. I came home feeling a little more alive. I knew more of how I fit into the larger body of Christ. Fellowship makes us more fully ourselves.

I remember when I first noticed a fuller Moses while reading Scripture. Moses has an interesting biography, but you see him in his fullest form when he is engaged in relationships. Watch him engage with the Lord (Ex 33). Moses makes it clear that they were not moving if only an angel led them. It was the Lord or nothing. And then watch him as he stands on behalf of Miriam after her actions against him (Num 12). When you see Moses personally involved with the Lord and with his people, he so often looks magnificent.

We were made to lose ourselves but not by being identical to the Lord or anonymous to other people. We were created to walk with them, fit with them, complement and love them. Faith itself is relational engagement in which we know and respond to Jesus. And, when faith and love are animated in our relationships, we look more unique, more full of life because this is God’s intent for us and this is how the Spirit of God works among us.

Emotions are a Language – Ed Welch

Emotions are a Language

Ed Welch

Think of emotions as a language. They say something—something very important—and part of our job is to figure out what they are saying.

Sometimes the interpretation is easy. A friend says, “I feel so afraid.” She is saying that a threat looms to something that is important to her.

Got it. We hear her correctly. Now there is much we can do. We want to know more about the real or perceived threat, and we want to know how to bring God’s words to her heart. But the message is fairly clear.

Sometimes the meaning is harder to decipher. When my eight-month-old granddaughter cries, what is she trying to tell us? Since she does not have a large range of sounds, there could be a dozen different messages.

Leave me alone, I want Mom.

My leg is caught in the crib again.

I am hungry.

My brothers are trying to smother me with love.

I like hearing my noises.

Carrots are not among my favorite foods.

This is way too much stimulation for me.

My grandfather is the best.

And so on.

In a similar way, our emotional language is often not very precise. There are only eight or so families of emotions, and a lot gets packed into them. Sometimes we don’t even know what is going inside ourselves. The psalmist asks: “Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me?” (Psalm 42:5). If we don’t even know the emotional language of our own soul, how can we discern the intent of those around us? Is it shame that inhabits their fears? Is fear the core of their despondency? And though the meaning of their anger might seem obvious—“I AM NOT GETTING WHAT I WANT” (James 4:1-2)—anger can also be fear, self-protection, shame, despair, aloneness, and more. To complicate things a little more, a disrupted body and brain can send emotional signals that simply say, “I am sick.”

With all this in mind, here are a few clear guidelines.

  1. Scripture consistently identifies our emotions as matters of our hearts, which is another way of saying that they are important and we should pay attention to them. They usually reveal our true selves, and we hope to know each other in that deeper way.
  2. If someone close to us expresses strong emotions, we should do something. We might ignore the temper tantrum of a child, but if friends or spouses have shared that something is especially hard or good, we are moved by what they feel and want to know more. Otherwise, it might be the last time someone is willing to be open with you.
  3. Since emotions can be complex and give mixed messages, we hope to understand how and why someone feels as they do, in a way that they understand their own hearts a little better and feel known.

Figuring out the message in someone’s emotions may take time and commitment, but it is a great work of love and leads us in that process of knowing and being known, which is a key feature of the Kingdom of Heaven.

Related Article: How Pastors Counsel

How Pastors Counsel

A short reflection from Ed Welch: How Pastors Counsel

He is a pastor who schedules two full days of counseling each week, and he has done this for years.

“How do you structure those days?” That was my first question. I was wondering how many people he scheduled, how often, and if he does it alone or with other church leaders in the room. My question wasn’t that important. I was actually more interested in my next question about what he was learning as a result of those two days a week.

“I make appointments every hour and a half, and I speak with each person or couple for a little less than an hour.” That made sense. Counselors often write down notes after a meeting, or get a cup of tea, or check email.

Then he said, as if it were obvious, “I use that half hour to pray for the next counseling time.”

I had no more questions. I learned from him everything I needed to know.


Edward T. Welch, M.Div., Ph.D. is a counselor and faculty member at CCEF. He earned a Ph.D. in counseling (neuropsychology) from the University of Utah and has a Master of Divinity degree from Biblical Theological Seminary. Ed has been counseling for over thirty years and has written many books and articles on biblical counseling, including When People Are Big and God Is Small; Addictions: A Banquet in the Grave; Blame It on the Brain?; Depression; Running Scared; Shame Interrupted; and Side by Side: Walking with Others in Wisdom and Love. He and his wife, Sheri, have two married daughters and eight grandchildren. In his spare time, Ed enjoys spending time with his wife and extended family and playing his guitar.

How Pastors Counsel