Biblical Counselors and Bible Commentaries
Biblical counselors are probably not known for their use of commentaries on books of the Bible (though shouldn’t we be?). We are typically looking for books on depression, anxiety, addictions, and other fascinating topics. That being said, I cannot commend Paul E. Miller’s latest book, A Loving Life, enough. Anyone who is familiar with Miller’s earlier writings, Love Walked Among Us and A Praying Life will immediately feel at home here.
Here in his latest offering, Miller is pastoral and practical; eminently wise and insightful without coming across as esoteric or mystical. The book reads like a traditional commentary, and yet it manages to do so without reading like a traditional commentary. This is the strength of Miller’s writing. Weaving personal anecdotes and practical insights throughout, the exposition of Ruth unfolds more like a novel and less like an exegetical, Hebrew commentary.
The Story of Ruth and the Stories of Our Lives
Miller divides his book into four parts mirroring the four chapters of Ruth. Utilizing both brevity and clarity, Miller explores hesed love as the unifying motif in the book. Through the twists and turns of the book, he stops along the way to make application into every area of life. He writes in the introduction:
Whatever the source of the broken relationship, the result remains the same—the loneliness of a fairy tale gone bad. What do you do when you are abandoned by your husband? How do you survive when no matter how much love you pour into your wife, she becomes more demanding? How do you endure in love? How do you endure without love when you long to get married? How do you keep your spirit from shutting down?
Are these not the questions of life which biblical counselors face each and every day? This is the bread and butter of counseling—in the midst of disappointment, tragedy, suffering, heartache—who will I turn to? Whom will I follow, trust, and obey?
Biblical counselors speak often (and rightly so) of the sufficiency of Scripture. Observers often comment that the use of Scripture in counseling by biblical counselors often comes divorced from context and compassion. Here in Miller’s book, we have a wonderful example of using Scripture rightly to…
revive the soul.
make the wise simple.
rejoice the heart.
enlighten the eyes.
For Use with Counselees
Each of his chapters are short enough (3-5 pages) to assign for reading in a counseling context, and then to move through together in a session. I am imagining multiple situations in which the four chapters of Ruth could be an invaluable aid in counseling.
I’d encourage pastors, counselors and counselees to pick up a copy of this excellent book, soak in the truths of a Savior who lives, breathes, and is the definition of hesed love. An additional resource to consider, along the lines of what Miller has done, would be Brad Brandt and Eric Kress’ book, God in Everyday Life available here.