by Joe Duerr, PhD
Understanding the Attributes of God from a Counseling Perspective
Wrath is a direct response to sin by a perfect, holy, and just God. Not to be confused with the wrath of man, which is often found embodied in sin. We cannot expect a God is wholly good and just to accept that which is unholy. We are born into sin (Psalm 51:5) and continue under sin. Only in our faith in Jesus Christ are we justified (Romans 5:1), not by any works of a sinful man. From a counseling perspective, without the acceptance of one’s sins and the ability to truly repent and call on Jesus Christ as his or her Savior, a counselee cannot move forward and thus continue to be under God’s wrath.
Mercy has often been described as something received that one did not deserve. Often associated with forgiveness, mercy is an act by a loving God towards His people (Isaiah 55:7). Mercy is often seen through the compassion of God towards a repentant man. Time and time again in the Old Testament God continues to allow Israel to return to Him after going down wicked paths and then professing repentance. The mercy of God is not just on His elect – it is available for all mankind (Matthew 5:45). However, those who are not in Christ are still under condemnation of sin and death (Romans 8:1-2). The counselor needs to let the counselee know that mercy is freely available from a God who is patiently waiting on him or her to ask for His help.
Holiness can be seen as the one attribute that God wishes us to remember possibly more than any other. Isaiah refers to God as “the Holy One” more than thirty times in the Scripture. It is in this attribute that we see references to the Trinity throughout Scripture as well (see Isaiah 41:14; Acts 3:14; Ephesians 4:30). He declares Himself Holy (Leviticus 11:43-45). The holiness of God is seen in His inability to lie, to do evil, and to punish wrongly. God’s holiness allows us imperfect creatures to feel our own unworthiness and recognize our sins. This leads a counselee to move to acceptance and repentance in order to bring back the harmony of the relationship between them and God. Our view of the necessity of atonement greatly depends upon our views of the holiness of God.
Omnipotence refers to God’s ability to fulfill everything that He wills. His power is unlimited and without bounds (see Job 42:2; Genesis 18:14; Jeremiah 32:27) yet it is important to note that God cannot lie, sin, deny himself, or be tempted with evil. He cannot act in a way inconsistent with any of His attributes (Grudem, 1994). It is important for the counselee to understand that with God, all things are possible (Matthew 19:26). This becomes a pivotal belief in reaching out to an individual to allow his or her brokenness to reconnect with a loving and merciful God.
Omniscience refers to God’s knowledge of all things and is absolutely perfect in knowledge in nature (Psalm 147:4) and in the human experience (Matthew 10:29-30; 1 Corinthians 1:10-11). In Matthew 6:8 Jesus reminds us that the Father knows our needs even before we ask. God’s knowledge is complete – it never grows or has a need to grow (Grudem, 1994). This is why He is the ultimate Counselor and as human counselors we strive to know as much as we can about our counselees. The good news is God will share His wisdom if we would only ask (James 1:5).
Omnipresence means God is present everywhere at all points in time and in complete fullness of His being. There is no place where God is not present (Psalm 139:7-10). In His omnipresence we can find comfort from hurting and pain knowing He is near. We are also reminded that there is no hiding from God when we choose to sin. In counseling, it is important for those going through trials to realize they are never truly alone. Our God is there with us to chasten when needed, to sustain us, and to bless us according to His will.
Grudem, W. (1994). Systematic theology: An introduction to biblical doctrine. Grand Rapids,