Counseling the Hard Cases: True Stories Illustrating the Sufficiency of God’s Resources in Scripture edited by Stuart Scott and Heath Lambert. Nashville: Broadman and Holman Publishers, 2012. 332 pp. $32.99. Purchase at Westminster for less. Or, you can purchase for the Kindle for $9.99.
Note: This was adapted from a review of a book for a seminary class.
There has been an erosion of the inerrancy of Scripture in many churches in the latter half of the 20th and beginning of the 21st century. This is witnessed in the varying perspectives of the authority of the Bible when it comes to counseling members of the church. Often, the pastor will delegate the counseling to the “professionals” who have been trained instead of seeking to tackle the problems himself using the Bible. Fortunately, Counseling the Hard Cases offers an apologetic for the continuation and revival of a biblically-based approach to counseling.
Each contributor has served extensively in the field of biblical counseling. Many of them are teachers and a majority of them have doctorates of varying degrees. In other words, these men and women are experts in their fields and while we may not attain their level of expertise as pastors or lay leaders, we do have the same Bible as our source material and can have the confidence that the Word of God will greatly aid us during our counseling.
Divided over eleven chapters with a lengthy introduction (chapter 1) and a few concluding reflections, editors Lambert and Scott offer ten different counseling situations that most pastors would not typically engage for the simple fact that the Bible does not necessarily speak to these issues. Chapter two is the first case and it comes out swinging as Laura Hendrickson looks at sexual abuse. Steve Viars deals with Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder in chapter three while Heath Lambert offers counsel on Postpartum Depression.
Chapters five and six look at paralyzing fear and anorexia – both seemingly difficult topics to counsel solely from the Scriptures. Chapters seven and eight deal with how to counsel two recently popular disorder diagnoses: Bipolar and Dissociative Identity. Kevin Carson looks at how to counsel those wrestling with homosexuality while Robert Jones counsels addictions and adultery. Jon Babler shows the reader that not every case is going to be a hard case even though it seems to be from the start.
I must confess that I was already in the “nouthetic camp” when I began reading this book. I was genuinely excited to see how the various counselors interacted with the counselees through the many different subjects. In that regard, each contributor, and therefore the entire book was successful in showing that the Bible is sufficient to counsel believers in most every area of life (there are some times where medical treatment must be sought and that should, of necessity, be out of the hands of the pastor or counselor).
I will be honest, there were many times I would find myself weeping while reading this book because of the sins that were committed by or against the counselees. Specifically, the sexual assault and the anorexia had me in tears. But as I would read the chapters, I would find myself “cheering” for the outcome to be the Lord’s grace and mercy shown to each counselee through His Word applied in their lives.
The chapter on counseling those wrestling with homosexuality hit close to home for me personally. I had a joint counseling situation where the counselee professed to be gay and Christian. The other counselor and I did not handle it very well and made some of the errors Kevin Carson warns against in his chapter. Needless to say, this chapter stuck out as evidence of one of the greater failures in my ministry.
Perhaps one of the key components of this particular resource is being able to “sit in” on the counseling sessions from beginning to end. It helps to see that the counseling is a process and it takes much time. Sometimes, the counseling will last longer than a year while other times it will last a few weeks. Most of the time, it seems that counseling individuals and couples will take a minimum of 3-4 months. This is a huge help as far as expectations are concerned for the pastor and for the counselor.
This book has already become an indispensable resource in my library and has given me great hope as a pastor whenever I find myself tackling these tough cases. I highly commend it to every Christian if for no other reason than it shows that the Bible is sufficient for life’s problems when properly applied.