Everyone needs help from time to time, especially in the midst of painful circumstances and difficult trials. In this short book, a highly respected biblical counselor and successful author offers practical guidance for all Christians - pastors and laypeople alike - who want to develop their "helping skills" when it comes to walking alongside hurting people. Written out of the conviction that friends are the best helpers, this accessible introduction to biblical counseling will equip believers to share their burdens with one another through gentle words of wisdom and kind acts of love. This book is written for those eager to see God use ordinary relationships and conversations between ordinary Christians to work extraordinary miracles in the lives of his people.
The book is divided into two main parts: being needy and being needed. The first part guides you in sharing your burdens; the second part guides you in bearing the burdens of others. We benefit from the thinking that the author has done from counseling for over 30 years.
God has given us each other. The church is the display of his glory and manifest wisdom on earth. We walk together. We live life together. This is how we are to be about the biblical mandate of living the "one-another" life.
Part 1, begins in the right place, with us. It talks about why our life is hard and the circumstances that bear on us. Then he goes straight to the heart - "in the heart we find the very essence of who we are". Moves from emotions of the heart to the idols of the heart. Chapter three is excellent on thinking about suffering and our response to it. Its not an in-depth analysis on the subject but focuses on reminding the essentials for the context of this book. He then models scripture and shows why and how we need to cry out for help - first to God and then other people.
Part 2 has tons of nuggets along the way. Like I said before Ed surely seems to have thought through this and done this before. We get to glean and learn from his experience. He has some good examples of how to talk to others. Chapter 9 is all about asking the right questions to get to know others. One thing that I have benefited from (and have been sorely lacking personally) is to see the good in others. Part 2 starts with the basic "moving toward one another" and incrementally grows toward the serious topic of "talking about sin". Two main topics suggested in our walk with others are suffering and sin, suffering being the easier part and sin being the one that needs to be handled with much wisdom, love and care.
This books reads with simple constructs and makes it easy to think as you read along. Some of the content is not new in its "data" value but the "wisdom" is in the way its addressed and applied to this context. I've had many "aha", "why didn't I think of that" and other moments. For a while, I thought every elder should read this book but now I think every Christian should read this book! I'm grateful for this book and its author.
One theme of this book seems to be intentionality. As in Acts Barnabas exhorted the church to be purposeful in “cleaving to the Lord” (Acts 11:23), so also this book exhorts the reader to be purposeful and intentional in fostering faith-based relationships. I really like how he ended with the gospel in the final chapter; “keep the Story in View.” The simple and concise discussion questions at the end make it a great read for two believers to read together.
I’m going to write a paragraph out that I highlighted from the book that I found especially refreshing:
“All things amiss now are to be gathered in under the activity of King Jesus. Everything will be made right. Something is afoot. Not only do we personally know forgiveness of sins; we are also brought into Gods plans to restore justice, beauty, reconciliation, and mercy. When we come to Jesus, life is suddenly jammed with purpose.
There are ways that we participate in those purposes even now. We have been brought into Gods reclamation project, and simple acts of love, which echo Gods justice; beauty reconciliation and mercy, are now incorporated into his kingdom plans. Everything done because of Jesus contributes to these final purposes. Death does not diminish them.
This hope strengthens us in the hardships and drudgeries of everyday life. Knowing where all things in heaven and earth are headed, we can wait and persevere (1 Thess. 1:2), and that endurance or perseverance is key to a life well lived. Without it we are left with grumbling, addiction, or despair. With it, we look ahead and tell a different story than the present distress tries to tell.