Book Review: The Biblical Counseling Guide for Women

Biblical Counseling Guide for WomenIn the forward to The Biblical Counseling Guide for Women, Martha Peace says, “John and Janie Street have made it abundantly clear that there is great hope no matter the kinds of problems women struggle with. They have laid out clear, biblical plans of action for issues women face today.” (pg. 9)

I honestly could not say it any better. This is exactly what they have done!

The authors describe the purpose of the book in this way:

“This book is written to assist Christian women who possess a high view of the sufficiency of God’s Word and its ability to adequately address the most serious personal struggles women will face. Women who trust His Word will benefit greatly from its narrative.” (pg. 11, emphasis mine)

A high view of the sufficiency of Scripture, and a desire to understand what God’s Word says about our sin, our struggles, and our suffering is essential to fully appreciate, understand, and benefit from the wisdom this book has to offer.

In this book, John and Janie Street address issues that most women have probably struggled with, to some degree, at one time or another: anger, anxiety, appearance, depression, grief. But, it also deals with much harder, perhaps more “hot button” topics that, by the grace of God, many of us may not have experienced: abuse, chemical dependency, eating disorders, panic attacks, PTSD, and transgenderism.

Each topic is introduced with a fictional account of a woman who is struggling with a particular issue…whether as a result of her own sinful choices, or those of someone close to her. Although the scenarios presented are fictional, that can be difficult to remember at times, because they come from years of counseling and pastoral experience, and are written in such a way that they could easily be factual. In my limited counseling experiences, I have rarely seen women, even professing believers, recognize their sin so quickly, or so completely, and respond so humbly to biblical counsel and correction. But, in each case, is assumed that each of these (fictional) women have a high view of God’s Word.

“The truth of God’s Word slices and dices your behavior and peers into the most shameful recesses of your heart (see Hebrews 4:12-13). Our hearts are resistant to this type of spiritual heart surgery. Thus we must pray that God will help us to humbly repent of this sin (Psalm 51:10).” (pg. 30)

This is what makes their quick, humble, repentant responses not only realistic, but a helpful example to follow when we find ourselves in similar situations. Because, without that perspective, many of these issues could easily be, and often are addressed indefinitely, without any sort of real hope or resolution.

“Too often we use the term hope carelessly because it is used to express uncertainty….However, when your concept of hope is anchored in biblical promises, all ambiguity and doubt is removed. Biblical hope is backed up by the very character of God. Unlike ‘I hope so’ hope, it is absolute and full confident assurance.” (pg. 161)

I have taken several biblical counseling classes (in college, at the graduate level, and for “personal enrichment”), I have read numerous books on biblical counseling, and I am currently, albeit slowly, pursuing certification in Biblical Counseling. So, I consider myself to be fairly well-acquainted with the philosophy and procedures behind biblical counseling. And, as a pastor’s wife, I am also familiar with the great need for this type of counseling in the church. And, because of my background, I assumed this would be an “easy read.”

This book is not, nor is it intended to be, a cold, comprehensive, clinical textbook. It is interesting and engaging. And, it accomplishes its stated purpose of pointing the reader to the insightful, practical, and authoritative answers in God’s Word in a compassionate, personal, thought-provoking way.

I am not a naturally empathetic person. But, as the authors unpacked each chapter, I was able to put myself in the place of both the counselor and the counselee. Whether the situation was one that I had personally experienced, or not, there were many characteristics, struggles, and habits that made it surprisingly easy to identify with, and genuinely empathize with both sides of each story.

But, this book goes far beyond these relevant and relatable introductions to each topic.

“When a true Christian goes through such a traumatic event and asks the hard questions….her search for answers should drive her toward greater faithfulness to study God’s Word. It is in the pages of the Bible that she will learn God’s character: that He is good and without sin (Psalm 119:68), that He never tempts His children to sin (James 1:13), and that He is the protector and refuge of all who call upon His name in saving faith (Psalm 125:4-5).” (pgs. 255-256)

After each topic is introduced, the authors then go on to identify the problematic thoughts, patterns, behaviors, and lifestyles, pointing the reader back to the truths of Scripture in a practical, realistic way. I have not personally experienced the pain of a pornography-tainted marriage, or the betrayal of adultery. But, I have experienced the pain of being sinned against in other ways by people I love and care about. I have not struggled through post-traumatic stress, panic attacks, or battled an eating disorder. But, I have reacted to my circumstances in sinful anger, anxiety, pride, and self-sufficiency.

At the very beginning, the authors suggest having a Bible close at hand as you read, to consult the many Scripture references found throughout its pages. So, I found myself taking much longer than I had originally intended to read this book. I took time to reflect on, and answer, the discussion questions at the end of each chapter. And, I tried to implement the authors’ suggestions to write down lists of my own fears, worries, and sinful behaviors or attitudes that needed to be “put off.” At the same time, I created corresponding lists of things to “put on” in place of sinful thoughts and attitudes.

The very first chapter, on Anger, immediately caught my attention. I do not like to think of myself as an angry person. (Who does?) But, as I read, I could see myself in many of the sinful attitudes and (re)actions described. Specifically in this:

“Listening is hard to do when you’re angry, because true listening involves submission…. To listen carefully, you must not continue to speak. This is difficult for angry people to do, as they are continually engaged in spewing out their opinions and attacks. Oftentimes angry people say they are listening, but at the same time, they persist in defending their viewpoint, often pointing out how another person also perceives the situation as unfair, jaded, or misconstrued – and it is clear that they are not really listening.” (pgs. 31-32)

That was a not-so-pleasant, but much needed, moment of conviction for me. And, it was what caused me to choose to slow down, and read this less as a “textbook” for my dealings with “other people,” and to treat it as more of a personal improvement project.

Elisabeth Elliot often said, “The difference is Christ in me, not me in a different set of circumstances.” And, this book can help to turn our eyes off of the temporary circumstances and solutions of this world, and back to the lasting hope that can be found only in obedience to God’s Word.

“The goal is not simply a short-sighted attempt to get a woman out of her problems, even though, when a person follows Christ’s admonitions, her problems will often eventually be resolved. However, some problems will not go away, even after you have faithfully obeyed Christ. Some of life’s difficulties may even get worse….How can you, as a godly woman, learn to please God in the midst of your problems? This must be the pursuit of a woman who is a committed Christian.” (pg. 15)

The genuine compassion, biblical wisdom, and practical suggestions presented in this book make it an invaluable resource for the church today. This book is for women who want to live a life of obedience and faith, as they learn to please God in the midst of their struggles and problems. It is for women who wish to grow in their ability to disciple and counsel other women in their church, in the model of Titus 2. It is for mothers who are teaching and training their children to love and serve the Lord in spite of their own sin and failures. And, men, do not be dissuaded by the title! As a pastor’s wife, I can confidently say that this book should be in every pastor’s library as well.

I will add that I have had the privilege of knowing John and Janie Street for close to 18 years. So, I may not be seen as the most unbiased reviewer. But, I do not believe that should be considered a negative. My husband and I have personally benefited from their teaching, their biblical counsel, their godly example, and their faithful ministry in so many ways. And, because of that, I could not be more thrilled that this resource, and the wisdom and experience of its authors, is now available to so many!

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