I’ve been reading through Scott Manetsch’s fabulous book about Calvin’s Geneva and his company of pastors, and these ten pastoral principles for suffering men and women by Simon Goulart recorded within it were worth jotting down:
1. The pastor should know and have true compassion for the person suffering.
2. The pastor should encourage the ailing Christian to adore the judgement of God and be mindful of his mercy.
3. The pastor should conduct a careful examination of the conscience of the suffering person, probing its condition, deportments, and passions, so as to apply the proper kind [of] spiritual consolation.
4. The pastor should have at hand a variety of examples of faithful Christians who faced similar afflictions and yet trusted in the grace of God.
5. The pastor should remind the afflicted Christian that other believers have remained faithful as they faced similar, or even worse, trials.
6. The pastor should listen to and affirm what the suffering person says, while gently expanding upon or correcting opinions that are confused or inaccurate.
7. The pastor should encourage the ailing person to draw God’s light from the darkness of his suffering. For example, if the patient complains of weak faith, the pastor should point out that even this desire for more faith provides assurance that God will fortify and increase it.
8. The pastor who instructs the suffering believer should employ sharp warnings, combined with consolation and words of praise—yet avoid all flattery and dissimulation.
9. The pastor who consoles suffering people should know Scripture well and be skilled in fervent prayer. Pastoral counsel should return regularly to these central truths: suffering is part of the human condition; God is faithful to his children; God promises to help believers endure temptation.
10. The pastor must employ the words of Scripture judiciously so that the afflicted person can feed on them and be strengthened by them.
(Taken from Calvin’s Company of Pastors, 295. Cf. Simon Goulart, Seconde partie des Discours Christiens, 299-301)