Tag Archives: Biblical Womanhood

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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More

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“…I cannot read the Bible without desiring to see many believers more spiritual, more holy, more single-eyed, more heavenly-minded, more wholehearted than they are in the nineteenth century.  I want to see among believers more of a pilgrim spirit, a more decided separation from the world, a conversation more evidently in heaven, a closer walk with God….”  ~J.C. Ryle, Holiness

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Although these words were originally written about the church in nineteenth century England, this is my prayer for the Christians of twenty-first century America.

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Lest They Become Discouraged

 

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This trend of sharing less-than-favorable information with, well, essentially, with the world, is not limited to our husbands.  Our children can also be the victims of our snarky comments, and tendency to over-share.  Often the kid-version is a “cute” (but potentially embarrassing) anecdote, or a bit of gossip couched in a “prayer request.” 

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And, it starts before the kids are even born with more than a few whiney status updates about morning sickness.  Eventually, those progress to complaints about the aches and pains of late pregnancy, accompanied by the impatience of waiting for baby to finally make an appearance.  That morphs into subtle protests about newborn-induced sleep-deprivation, exasperated comments about the 2-year-old’s temper tantrum at the grocery store, the 5-year-old’s difficulties with friends at school, the sibling squabbles, and the teenager’s sullen attitude toward…well, everything.

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I know that life as a mommy isn’t always perfect.  There are difficulties.  Some days are just plain hard.  And, I’m not at all suggesting that we should not be able to look to friends (both flesh-and-blood and the online variety) for encouragement, support, prayer, or a hug.  And, I realize that sometimes these comments are simply the result of sharing “real life.”

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But, just like with our husbands, these online communities can appear to offer a “support group” of sorts, where other mommies are quick to commiserate with our plight, and offer words of sympathy, and a ready chorus of “I know what you’re going through.”  Again, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing.  Sometimes the support, encouragement, and prayers of others are very much needed.

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But, sometimes, hard as it may be to hear (read), we need to be exhorted us to take our eyes off of ourselves and our difficulties, discomforts, and frustrations, and think about what our words are doing to our children’s reputations.

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“Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb a reward.” ~Psalm 127:3

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Scripture calls children a blessing – a reward! Is that how we see them?  Put another way, do our online friends know that we see them as blessings?  Or do they only know the difficult, problem-causing, undisciplined children that we complain about multiple times a day?

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“Fathers, do not provoke your children, lest they become discouraged.” ~Colossians 3:21

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When I was a teenager, my parents and sister decided that it would be funny to share my (naked) baby pictures with my friends.  Although the nickname stuck around longer than I would have liked, in the grand scheme of things, the humiliation was relatively short-lived. 

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Today, the internet has taken the embarrassment-potential, and the shelf-life of that humiliation to a whole new level for our children.  Now, every potty-training accident is reported in real-time.  (I’ve even seen some moms live-blog their child’s potty-training escapades!!)  Every disobedient act is broadcast.  Every teenage crush, romance, and break-up is documented.  And, the naked baby pictures?  The world has now been invited to view every goofy and embarrassing photo in your collection.

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Beyond the embarrassment factor, sometimes, I just have to cringe when I read what moms write about their kids.  Because, some comments reveal more than just “real-life” parenting moments and missteps.  They reveal a consistently discontent, frustrated, complaining spirit that, honestly, leaves me wondering if this mom even likes her children…let alone thinks of them as a blessing or a reward!

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Some kids may still be young enough for mom to “get away” with this.  But…does that make it right?

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My daughter is only in the beginning stages of learning to read.  She is still a long way from entering the online world.  But, sometimes I do wonder what she would think if she could read my status updates on a regular basis.

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Would she be unduly humiliated by information that I have shared about her – her personality, her character, her behavior, her mistakes?  When I complain about how boring, how difficult, how unfulfilling, it is to be a mom, should she conclude that she is a burden, an inconvenience, a hindrance?  Is she free to share her heart – struggles, concerns, and joys – with me?  Or, should she worry that whatever she says or does is fair-game, and may very well end up as blog fodder?  And, not to pick on the pastor’s wives (again), but if your kids already have to wonder whether or not they are going be next week’s sermon illustration, shouldn’t we, as their moms, give them a little break in our online world?

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One fact that these hastily typed statuses and tweets often overlook: Children grow up.  Quickly.  They grow out of “phases.”  The “terrible two’s” don’t last forever.  But, apparently, tweets do.  Now, every snarky comment, every cutting remark, every negative or discouraging observation, is being saved for posterity. 

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I lived through the embarrassment of having my naked baby pictures shared with my friends.  And, mercifully, most have forgotten about it. 

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Will our children have the same opportunity?

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“Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.” ~Ephesians 3:4

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Filed under Biblical Womanhood, Life in Ministry, Mommyhood

Known in the Gates

Although I fully intended to continue this “series” shortly after I started it, the time frame has now stretched from a few days to a few weeks.  I suppose I could just forget about it, because, by now, everyone else probably has. But, it is a topic that I still feel needs to be addressed, so I am going to continue on with it. 

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A few weeks ago, I posted (here) about how our online conversation can either exhibit “the works of the flesh” or, “what is proper for women who profess godliness”.

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Today, I want to look specifically at how “women who profess godliness” are actually professing something entirely different in their online communication.

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“However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband. ~Ephesians 5:33

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Occasionally, I will see a woman post something praising, thanking, or encouraging her husband.  One sweet older lady (in the Titus 2:3 sense) I know has purposed to intentionally look for her husband’s good and exemplary qualities, so that she can thank him publicly (online).  I have seen other women occasionally thank their husband for a sweet gesture (alone time, taking care of the kids, cleaning out the garage), or gift (birthday, anniversary, or no-special-occasion).  Some will post kind words about their husband’s character, or simply say, publicly, “I love you.”

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All of this is wonderful.  But, sadly, it is not the norm.

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Instead, daily status updates and tweets chronicle a much different version of marriage.  Every disagreement, every bad day, and (way!) “too much information” is shared over these social networking sites.

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Some ladies post humorously veiled jabs at husbands who “forgot to take out the trash…again!”  Dads who do not want to get up in the middle of the night are publicly shamed, as their wife “jokes” that “the baby would starve if his father was in charge of midnight feedings!”  Others get a little snarky about how daddy is “just another one of the kids that I have to clean up after.”  Of course, most usually include the obligatory smiley face, “LOL,” or “Just kidding!” to indicate that the statement was made in jest. 

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But, frankly, I don’t care whether the statement was made in jest or not.  I do not find remarks like this the least bit funny.  Because, instead of respecting, and publicly building up and praising our husbands, posts like this insinuate that the man many women refer to as “handsome husband” (HH) or “dear husband”(DH) online, is, in actuality, an insensitive, incompetent, lazy…well, jerk.

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Am I wrong?

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“Her husband is known in the gates when he sits among the elders of the land.” ~Proverbs 31:23

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Have you ever stopped to think about your husband’s reputation among your online following? 

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We may not have city gates, but our husbands are known among our internet followers…for better or worse.  What we say has a direct impact on how others perceive him.  In real life, your husband may be a great guy – a strong spiritual leader, a hard worker, attentive to you and the kids.  But, many (maybe even most) of your followers may not know him in real life.  So, they never get to see those great qualities.  All they know – all you ever tell them – is the negative. 

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Maybe your list of online followers does include real-life friends.  And, just because I feel like picking on people today, pastor’s wives, do your followers include members of your congregation?

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Online communities, while offering a sense of camaraderie and fellowship, can also create a perceived sense of anonymity, and an “escape” from reality.  So, it may be tempting to forget that, not only are we are writing about real people.  But, other real people are reading our words.  Even within our virtual worlds, there are still real-life consequences – all the more reason to be circumspect and discreet in our online “speech.” 

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Personally, I find it very difficult to believe the woman who is hanging on her husband’s arm on Sunday morning, gushing about how wonderful he is, when throughout the week, she has posted nothing but “jokes” (at his expense) and mean-spirited, snarky comments concerning his attitude, his character, and his work ethic. 

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Of course, some women go to the opposite extreme.  Technically, I suppose you could say that their comments are positive.  But, I have found myself thoroughly embarrassed – both for them and their husbands, by the sheer amount of private information that they are willing to divulge about…their…how can I say this discreetly?…marriage relationship.  Yet another awkward Sunday morning scenario in the making….  While I’m glad you have a healthy relationship, no one needs all the details.

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Think about it:

Does your husband have reason to be embarrassed and ashamed because of what you have said about him, or about your relationship in your various online forums? 
Or, is your husband confident that you are “do[ing] him good and not harm” (Prov. 31:12) in what you share about him online?

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Stay tuned…there is more to come!

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Filed under Biblical Womanhood, Marriage

Overlooked

“I have had a deep conviction for many years that practical holiness and entire self-consecration to God are not sufficiently attended to by modern Christians in this country.  Politics, or controversy, or party spirit, or worldliness have eaten out the heart of lively piety in too many of us.  The subject of personal godliness has fallen sadly into the background.  The standard of living has become painfully low in many quarters.  The immense importance of ‘adorning the doctrine of God our Savior’ (Titus 2:10), and making it lovely and beautiful by our daily habits and tempers, has been far too much overlooked.  Worldly people sometimes complain with reason that ‘religious’ persons, so-called, are not so amiable, and unselfish, and good-natured, as others who make no profession of religion.  Yet sanctification, in its place and proportion, is quite as important as justification.  Sound Protestant and evangelical doctrine is useless if it is not accompanied by a holy life.”

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~J.C. Ryle, Holiness (from the Introduction, pg. XVI)

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