Promoting PErsonal Change, Centered on the PErson of Christ through the PErsonal Ministry of the Word
Biblical Counseling Coalition: Grace & Truth

Friday’s 5 to Live By

Friday's 5 To Live By

Each Friday our BCC staff links you to the top five biblical counseling and Christian living blog posts of the week—posts that provide robust, rich, and relevant insights for living.

5 Levels of Motivation to Change an Eating Disorder

Pastor Brad Hambrick, at his site, A Counselor for the Church, has been blogging on eating disorders, or, as he calls it, Gaining a Healthy Relationship with Food. In this post, Brad addresses 5 Levels of Motivation to Change an Eating Disorder.

Counseling and the Local Church

At his Counseling One Another site, Pastor Paul Tautges introduces readers to the Biblical Counseling Coalition’s latest book, Biblical Counseling and the Church. He writes:

“How can your church become a place to grow in grace? The newest collaborative book from the Biblical Counseling Coalition, Biblical Counseling and the Church, equips your congregation to be a family where every member is empowered to speak the truth in love so your entire church matures in Christ. Dozens of authors practically and relevantly describe the relationship between counseling and the local church. This comprehensive resource helps pastors, lay leaders, educators, and counselors develop a vision that goes beyond being a church with a biblical counseling ministry to becoming a church of biblical counseling—a church culture that is saturated by one-another ministry. I’m honored to have been part of this important project.”

You can read the rest of Paul’s thoughts at Counseling and the Local Church.

A Neglected Pastoral Priority

At his Practical Shepherding site, Pastor Brian Croft asks and answers the question, What Is the Most Common Ministry Priority Neglected by Pastors? What do you think it is? Find Brian’s answer here.

Staggering Under the Burdens

Julie Ganschow, blogging about loss, grief, and suffering, writes, “When your life seems to be completely out of control, please remember that it is never out of His control.” You can read the rest of her meditations on Scripture and suffering in Staggering Under the Burdens.

What Should I Do?

The ACBC has been leading the way in thinking biblically and relevantly about issues impacting our culture and church. In this podcast, they address the very complex and painful question, What Should I Do When My Young Son Wants to Become a Girl?

Join the Conversation

Which post impacted you the most? Why? What blog posts have you enjoyed this week that you want to share with others?

Topics: BCC Exclusive, Biblical Counseling, Eating Disorders, Five To Live By, Local Church Ministry, People in Need of Care, People Who Offer Care, People Who Train Caregivers, Prayer, Suffering, Transgender | Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Recommended Resources from ACBC on Homosexuality


A Word from Your BCC Team: The following blog was first posted at the blog site of the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors (ACBC). It is re-posted by the BCC with the permission of the author, Heath Lambert, and of ACBC. You can also read the original post at the ACBC site here.

Recommended Resources

Christians today live in a culture that is far more accepting of homosexuality than any other in history. This fact poses a significant challenge because a cultural embrace of sinful practices like homosexuality will lead to much pain in the lives of many people. But this challenge brings with it an opportunity for Christians to share the good news of Jesus Christ to a culture in desperate need of salvation.

One of the most significant opportunities that Christians will have to share this gospel of grace is through the ministry of counseling. The painful realities of homosexual sin will eventually settle into people’s lives, and sooner or later they will realize their need for help. When that happens, it will be our privilege to walk with people through a path of finding peace with God.

It is an urgent matter, therefore, that Christians be ready to know how to speak about the complex issues of homosexuality in a way that honors Christ and helps his people. The following resources are ones that we at ACBC believe will be the most helpful as we seek to do counseling ministry with people who struggle with homosexuality.


The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert by Rosaria Champagne Butterfield

This memoir recounts the story of a lesbian who came to know Jesus Christ through the faithful ministry of a Presbyterian pastor and his wife. The book deals honestly with the questions and struggles faced by this woman as she left a life of unbelief by the grace of Jesus Christ. It is an illuminating book that reveals the questions and difficulties of an unbeliever as she wrestles with the claims of Christ before ultimately being saved. It is a helpful book demonstrating the power of the gospel to save anyone who believes.


Is God Anti-Gay: And Other Questions about Homosexuality, the Bible, and Same-Sex Attraction by Sam Allberry

This is a very helpful and short book that seeks to provide biblically faithful answers to some of the most common questions asked by Christians on the topic of homosexuality including what to say and do if a believer confesses their struggle with same-sex attraction.



What Does the Bible Really Teach about Homosexuality? Kevin DeYoung

In this very helpful and accessible book a pastor explains the crucial biblical texts addressing the topic of homosexuality, defending why Christians have always believed this to be a sinful way of life. In addition to faithful biblical exposition he also engages in a winsome response to current objections about the biblical teaching.



God and the Gay Christian? A Response to Matthew Vines edited by R. Albert Mohler, Jr.

Some in our contemporary culture are arguing that Christians have misunderstood the biblical teaching on homosexuality. They contend that, rather than condemning homosexuality, the Bible actually embraces the practice. One of the most outspoken voices seeking to overhaul the Bible’s clear teaching on this issue is Matthew Vines whose own book goes through some of the biblical teaching on homosexuality to challenge the inspired meaning of those texts. In God and the Gay Christian?, R. Albert Mohler assembles a team of scholars to challenge Vines showing that the Old Testament teaches the sinfulness of homosexuality (Jim Hamilton), the New Testament is clear in its condemnation of homosexuality (Denny Burk), that Christians have had a consistent understanding of this issue in the past (Owen Strachan), and that in biblical terms there can be no such thing as a “gay Christian” (Heath Lambert).


Compassion without Compromise: How the Gospel Frees us to Love our Gay Friends Without Losing the Truth by Adam Barr and Ron Citlau

In this book, the authors engage in a defense of biblical sexuality that is both courageous and winsome. More than this, they also provide encouragement to the church that is wise, loving, and practical about how Christians can share the light of Christ with people who struggle with this sin.



Openness Unhindered: Further Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert on Sexual Identity and Union with Christ by Rosaria Champagne Butterfield

In this clear and hopeful book, Rosaria Butterfield provides much needed wisdom for the church on how to understand our union with Christ, the nature of same-sex attraction, the “gay identity,” repentance, and what it means for Christians to live life together.



Transforming Homosexuality: What the Bible Says about Sexual Orientation and Change by Denny Burk and Heath Lambert

Many voices today from inside and outside the church are making the case that same-sex attraction is not sinful. Burk and Lambert advance a careful biblical case that same-sex attraction is sinful, and show that there is hope for these desires through repentant faith in Jesus Christ. They also deal with the important topic of biblical change tackling popular myths advanced against change, and describing what the Bible says about how to walk with those struggling with homosexuality down a path toward transformation.

Topics: Uncategorized | Tags: , ,



If sleep were a spiritual gift, then my husband has it. Not only does he have the amazing ability to take cat naps just about anywhere he chooses, but I have never known him to lose sleep over anything. If he needs rest, he simply finds a place he can lay down or sit, closes his eyes, and within a few minutes he is out. His slow breathing (and sometimes snores) indicates that he is not just resting his eyes. He is asleep. Everything else will wait while he rests. I admit there I times I really envy him.

I am the total opposite. Not only do I need all the right conditions to go to sleep (peaceful surroundings, darkness, and a quiet mind), but I need all those conditions to stay there.

It is not only sleep that does not come easy to me, but rest is also hard. The demands of the many hats I wear can take over my life and I am continually busy with the next thing and thinking about the next thing after that.

As I sat one morning feeling familiarly overwhelmed and thinking of all I had to do that morning, that day, and that week, I wondered what I would say to myself if I had to counsel myself on this issue of resting in God. So, this blog post is written to me, knowing all I know about myself. You can listen in, but I write to me.

Dear Self,

You have a ministry and calling. You are a wife and helper, a mother, a teacher, and a friend. You are a part of the body of Christ and you need to serve and worship. You are tasked with the duties of planning, organizing, and leading in multiple areas of life. You are busy. You have many commands that the Lord has given to you and you desire to fulfill them. But he has also called you to rest.

Resting is trusting God. It is trusting God with all the demands and busyness. It is agreeing with God that you have limits. Rest says everything is not in your hands or in your control. Allowing yourself to live within your limits allows you to see God work despite your efforts but it also causes yourself to see that He will ultimately take care of all that He has given you. Rest trusts.

Resting is imaging God. When you rest you imitate God. Despite how life may feel, you are not busier than God. He will always have more to do than you do. Even at the very beginning, at the very unfolding of history we see a very active God setting aside time from his creative work and resting (Genesis 1-2). Rest imitates God.

Resting is obeying God. The demands of life are loud. They fight for attention every moment of the day. So much so that they can drown out the commands of our Lord. The reality that God has told you to rest can easily be forgotten. Obedience may feel more important to you when you are doing lots of work but setting it aside and remembering that he has called you to rest is also obeying Him. He has called you to rest. Rest is obedience.

“Yes, my soul, find rest in God; my hope comes from him. Truly he is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will not be shaken. My salvation and my honor depend on God, he is my mighty rock, my refuge. Trust in him at all times, you people; pour out your hearts to him, for God is our refuge” (Psalm 65:2).

Just like sleep, rest does not come easy for me. I never seem to have the right conditions. At times it feels like I don’t have the ability to simply rest. At other times I fight against it. But as I sit and counsel myself I agree that this is exactly what I must embrace as I juggle all the busyness of life. As you have listened to my own personal counseling session perhaps you too can relate?

Lord help me to trust you, to be more like you, to obey you, to rest.

Topics: BCC Exclusive, Christian Living, People in Need of Care, People Who Offer Care, People Who Train Caregivers | Tags: , ,

Is International Biblical Counseling Training “Imperialistic”?


“And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works…” (Hebrews 10:24).

The concept of “cultural imperialism” has been the subject of innumerable books and journal articles in the Christian missions community (and the missions communities of other religions) for many decades. There is general agreement on the basics: The Word of God is eternal, the gospel is unchanging, and believers of every culture are sanctified through the same biblically-prescribed disciplines of faith. Therefore, the discussion on this topic focuses on the application of those principles. And, throughout the history of missions the pendulum has swung from one extreme (obliterate every vestige of cultural expression to make the evangelized group “Christian”) to the other (allow even unbiblical practices and perspectives to remain in the evangelized group to avoid an “imperialistic” impression).

Biblical counseling continues to gain traction in the nations of the world. (Overseas Instruction in Counseling—OIC alone has been involved in training in more than 20 nations in our first 9 years and we are encouraged by the growing list of nations from whom we’ve received inquiries.) So we must recognize that, as a part of God’s worldwide concern for the nations, biblical counselors face the same questions as our church-planting and church-strengthening missionary brethren.

The first two questions vivify Paul’s instruction in 1 Timothy 4:16.

What is your motivation, i.e., what drives your heart?

The easy part for biblical counselors is responding to the invitations that come to you through nationals who have heard of the modern biblical counseling movement through contact with American missionaries or through the websites of biblical counseling ministries. An American pastor with some biblical counseling training and whose church supports missionaries (or an American professor) may be asked to make a “missions trip” to conduct a weekend conference on a biblical counseling-related topic – marriage and family issues, emotional issues, addictions. This is a good thing. Your teaching will be helpful. But why should you go?

There can be only one correct answer: To glorify God be being of service to others. Any hint of superiority, any sense of swagger, any evidence of self-serving desires and your ministry opportunity is lost.

This question requires you to examine yourself.

What is your message, i.e., how are you doing it?

This article is being written in the days following our return from three weeks in Ukraine. The 30 graduate students in our Master of Arts in Biblical Counseling degree program (done in cooperation with the Kyiv Theological Seminary) and those we served in the places around the country we were privileged to visit on the weekends between classes continue to give us insight into their perspective on our presence. What do we hear? “Americans usually teach only foundational truths. They must think we don’t know anything!” This evidences that the foreign guests have both a cultural naiveté and a profound ethnocentricity. Worse, the perceived arrogance of this approach is both off-putting and disheartening for the nationals. We also hear, “Their jokes don’t work, their idioms don’t make sense, and their illustrations do not reflect our experience.”

This question requires us to examine our teaching.

What is your goal, i.e., what is your strategic objective?

One of the challenges of doing biblical counseling training in the nations is to identify the long-range goal of that activity. International trips require too much energy and too much expense to fail at this point.

Is the goal to simply expose national pastors to the concept of biblical sufficiency-based soul care? (I’ve described this activity in other places as “talking about” biblical counseling.) That’s a valuable objective. But what happens when those in your national audience ask for more information and/or training?

Is the goal to train some biblical counselors in that nation? Both those that are trained and those they serve will be helped. But what happens when others ask them for training?

Is the goal to train biblical counseling trainers? That is a commendable example of 2 Timothy 2:2 in action! But what accountability—and to whom—remains when you’ve finished the project?

OIC continues to press toward the goal of assisting nationals in the initial creation and/or continuing development their own culturally-sensitive and culturally-specific biblical counseling training and certifying organizations.

This question requires us to examine our long-range plan.

The Final Question: Should They Imitate Us?

And what should these “national organizations” look like? In my opinion the answer is this:

Whatever their own national leaders determine is culturally appropriate!

The organizing group of trained biblical counseling leaders should name the organization, create its documents, and establish its certification elements. All of these should be a reflection of their own culture.

To be clear, I have the highest regard—deep appreciation and admiration, even—for the founders and current leaders of the various biblical counseling organizations in America. These ministries are continuing to mature in the clarity of their vision as evidenced in the recent structural changes that have been made in them. But as far as I know—and I’m open to being corrected on this point—none of them have even one foreign national on their leadership team. While foreign nationals they’ve trained may hold their credentials, they are structurally and culturally American organizations.

So, if we impose our structures and practices on fledgling ministries in other nations, are we practicing a kind of cultural imperialism? Are we communicating that they must do it like we do it—that our training and certification criteria are right for them? Our precious friends in other nations would be excused if that is the way they interpret our actions.

This article, then, is an appeal, a “provocation” (see Hebrews 10:24, above), to encourage biblical counseling training in the nations of the world that results in thoroughly indigenous biblical counseling organizations. Let’s go to the nations, transfer the tool—the ministry skill—of biblical sufficiency-based soul care from our ministry toolbox to theirs, assist them in establishing their own biblical counseling training and certifying organization, and leave them to this good work.

Is this difficult? Yes. Does this require a significant investment of resources over an extended period of time? Yes.

But this approach extirpates our tendency toward imperialistic attitudes. Besides, they can do it better than we can in their nation!

Join the Conversation

How would you answer the title question?

What other specific steps could be taken to avoid this potential problem?

Topics: BCC Exclusive, Christian Living, Local Church Ministry, Methodology, People in Need of Care, People Who Offer Care, People Who Train Caregivers | Tags: ,

Before You Minister to a Same-Sex Couple


A Word from Your BCC Team: Today’s blog was first posted at Dr. Carson’s blog site and is re-posted by the BCC with Kevin’s permission. You can also read the original post at Kevin’s site here. Also, This blog first appeared as Afterwords: Before You Talk to a Same-Sex Couple… in the Baptist Bible Tribune October 2015 issue (Vol 66 No 2 p. 30).

5 Passages to Prepare to Minister

Are you prepared to minister to a homosexual? Can God use you to help someone committed to a homosexual lifestyle to repent and change? Many pastors, missionaries, students, and others in the church confess how hard it is to minister to a homosexual. They grieve the reality and depth of the struggle to serve homosexuals well. There is good news for you and them. There are five significant passages to help you prepare to provide hope for change in the gospel of Jesus Christ for any person living in a same-sex relationship. The key to your preparation is you—your heart, mind, and attitude.

Your Responsibility: You Are the Guardian of the Soul

The author of Hebrews exhorts saved people to be submissive to those who rule over them. Why? Because the pastors in the church watch out for their souls and must give an account for how they minister to them (Hebrews 13:17).

As we prepare to help the same-sex couple, we initially recognize that whatever we do with and for this couple matters to God. God will hold us responsible for how we shepherd these souls. We cannot afford to allow our own opinions, prejudice, or past experience to distract us from the ministry at hand. God cares what we do in this moment of ministry.

Your Perspective: This Is a Sin Common to Mankind

Paul describes the situations within which we often sin as common to mankind (1 Corinthians 10:13). Paul helps us develop a biblical perspective when he describes all pressure-filled circumstances as typical to mankind.

For those of us who are heterosexual and monogamous, this helps us as we prepare to minister to the homosexual, since it is easy to think of the sin and the sinner practicing homosexuality as so different than us. Paul corrects our thinking and provides the proper perspective: these two people are committing sins which, like our own, are common to mankind.

Your Hope: Change Only Happens through the Gospel

Paul also provides us with our hope both for conversational ministry to this couple and for the couple’s situation. While writing to Christians in Corinth, he declares that homosexuals will not inherit the kingdom of God (1 Corinthians 6:9-11). He then provides the good news, “And such were some of you. But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God.”

There were former homosexuals in the church. However, the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ had changed them and placed them on the path of sanctification. As we prepare to minister to the one enslaved to homosexuality, our hope—and their hope—is the gospel. The gospel for salvation is the starting point. Because we love people and desire for them to be saved, we share the gospel. If they are saved, we share the gospel in love for sanctification. In either case, the hope for change is the gospel.

Your Pathway: Change Begins in Conversational Ministry

Paul reminds Timothy that the servant of God in conversational ministry must, in humility, be gentle to all, able to teach, and patient (2 Timothy 2:23-26). In our ministry to the homosexual, this is no different. Paul connects our attitudes and behaviors to God’s work of drawing the sinner to repentance.

We engage people with hope of them hearing truth and escaping the devil’s snare. As such, our words must reflect a genuine humility that manifests itself in Christ-honoring gentility, patience, and diligence. We seek to understand the person in this situation in relationship with God. We listen for what has captured this person’s heart. What functionally drives the heart? What is attractive about this sin? As we ask honest questions and humbly seek to interpret what we hear, we work hard to speak the truth clearly and lovingly in hope of repentance and change.

Your Agenda: The Goal Is Regeneration or Restoration

As we prepare to minister to the homosexual, Paul’s words reverberate deep into our hearts: “Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens and so fulfill the law of Christ” (Galatians 6:1-2).

If this person is not saved, we minister in hope of salvation. We want to see this person accept Christ and become usable in God’s kingdom. If this person is saved, we minister in hope of restoration, which means to bring someone back to a place of usefulness. We serve with an agenda of regeneration and restoration, although we sadly realize church discipline is necessary at times. Admittedly, this is hard. We love our church, our church people, our families, and Jesus Christ. We desire purity. However, we must love Christ’s agenda more—we pursue regeneration or restoration.

Can God Use You? Will You Let God Use You?

We began with a question: Can God use you to help someone committed to a homosexual lifestyle repent and change? That depends. God certainly wants to use you. People enslaved to homosexuality certainly need God to use you. Your community needs God to use you. However, it depends upon your preparation. The ultimate answer lies with you. Prepare now and prepare well so perhaps God will use you to see others changed for His glory.

Topics: Biblical Counseling, Homosexuality, People in Need of Care, People Who Offer Care, People Who Train Caregivers | Tags: , ,

BCC Weekend Megaphone Post: The ACBC Store


A Word from Your BCC Team: Sometimes on weekends we like to highlight resources. Other times on weekends we like to use our BCC “megaphone” to make you aware of other biblical counseling ministries. This weekend we do both in one post as we use our megaphone to make you aware of the Association of Certified Biblical Counselor’s resource store.

Visit the ACBC’s resource store for featured products, for training materials, for audios, for podcasts, for sessions for recent and past conferences, and much more.

Topics: BCC Exclusive, Biblical Counseling, Education, Equipping, Megaphone Post, People in Need of Care, People Who Offer Care, People Who Train Caregivers | Tags: ,

Friday’s 5 to Live By

Friday's 5 To Live By

Each Friday our BCC staff links you to the top five biblical counseling and Christian living blog posts of the week—posts that provide robust, rich, and relevant insights for living.

Looking Back and Looking Forward

We rarely highlight one of our own posts during our Friday 5. However, this week, we make an exception. Dr. Bob Kellemen, our founding Executive Director, is transitioning to full-time work as VP of Institutional Development and Chair of the Biblical Counseling and Discipleship Department at Crossroads Bible College. Read about Bob’s new ministry, and his reflections on his years with the BCC in Looking Back and Looking Forward.

The Christians Pledge of Allegiance

At Desiring God, Tony Reinke summarizes a recent sermon by Matt Chandler on The Apostles’ Creed. Pastor Chandler explains that when reciting the Creed, Christians were rejecting the story, the narrative, that the culture was telling. They were rebelling against the reigning cultural narrative. Read and learn more at The Christian’s Pledge of Allegiance.

5 Ways to Encourage Your Pastor

Pastor Brian Croft, in honor of Pastor Appreciation Month, blogs about How to Encourage Your Pastor.

13 Foundational Realities of Change

How does Christ change us and what is our role in the change process? Paul Tautges summaries answers to this question from Stuart Scott’s plenary presentation at the ACBC conference in Stuart Scott: 13 Foundational Realities of Change.

Testimonial from a Biblical Counselor

A student of CCEF shares her testimony about their training ministry in her life. Read her testimony in Diana Bauer: Biblical Counselor.

Join the Conversation

Which post impacted you the most? Why? What blog posts have you enjoyed this week that you want to share with others?

Topics: BCC Exclusive, Five To Live By, Local Church Ministry, People in Need of Care, People Who Offer Care, People Who Train Caregivers, Sanctification | Tags: , , , , , ,

12 Pillars of Faith for Parents of Children with Disabilities


The society we live in expects life to be trouble-free; there is an assumption that we somehow have a right to an easy life. This mindset is reflected in the answer to a typical question. “What is the number one question an expectant parent is asked? ‘Are you hoping for a boy or a girl?’ And what is the typical response? ‘It doesn’t matter as long as my baby is healthy.’ That seemingly innocent exchange may reveal a foundational belief that resides in the hearts of many of us—that there are few things worse for a parent than having a child who is not healthy.” (See, Steve Viars, Your Special Needs Child.)

Sadly, this mindset is not only prevalent in the unbelieving world but also in the professing church. Therefore, believers need a theology of disability that both glorifies the Creator and honors the incredible value of every human life. As a father who lives in the world of special needs, there are 12 biblical truths that have become important for me to continually meditate upon. These form theological pillars that uphold our faith.

1. God is sovereign over all (read Psalm 103:19 and Ephesians 1:11).

There is nothing in our lives that falls outside the umbrella of God’s sovereignty. Everything that occurs falls within the counsel of His will and His kind providence.

Personal Takeaway: We must release our desire for control.

2. God is the wise Creator of all—even the disabled (read Exodus 4:11).

Regardless of secondary causes (genetics, injury, Satan’s attacks, etc.), God—the sovereign God—is always the primary cause. As God made clear to Moses in Exodus 4:11, He is never ashamed to take credit for all those who have disabilities.

Personal Takeaway: We need to trust His wisdom.

3. God fashions each child with His purposes in mind (read Psalm 139:13-17).

A common question parents of disabled children ask is, “Where were you, God, when my child was developing that you did not correct it?” God’s answer is, “I was right there, in the womb, forming that precious boy or girl exactly as I had planned.” The womb is the Divine Artist’s studio.

Personal Takeaway: We need to trust God’s good purposes.

4. God’s ways are good, wise, and kind (read Psalm 145:17).

No matter what man’s definition of “good” is, the ways of the Lord are always good. He always acts in kindness toward His children.

Personal Takeaway: We need to believe His Word, not our feelings.

5. God is not using my special-needs child to punish me for my personal sin (read John 9:1-3).

As was the case with the disciples, the fallen human mind has the tendency to always form a connection, a cause-and-effect relationship between suffering and sin (someone must be blamed!). Granted, all suffering results from sin in the generic sense—from the original sin in the Garden of Eden. However, not all personal suffering is the result of personal sin. There is a massive difference.

Personal Takeaway: We need to remember that we live in a fallen world in which we will experience all kinds of suffering until the curse is finally removed when redemption is complete (see Romans 8).

6. God uses physical and mental disabilities to remind us of our greatest disability: We are all spiritually disabled.

Apart from our union with Jesus Christ and the ongoing work of the Holy Spirit:

  • We are each blinded (Romans 1:21-23; 2 Corinthians 4:3-4; Ephesians 5:11-12).
  • We are each hearing-impaired (Zechariah 7:11-12; Romans 11:8; Isaiah 6:9-10; Hebrews 5:11).
  • We are each mentally-disabled (1 Corinthians 2:14; Ephesians 2:3; 4:17-18).
  • We are each helpless (Jeremiah 13:23; Romans 5:6-8).

God’s gift of disability is a gracious means of reminding us of our own deficiencies. If any of us thinks ourselves to be healthy, fully well, and wise then we are deceiving no one except ourselves. We all live in a constant state of desperate need.

Personal Takeaway: We need to constantly run to Christ and find our soul’s rest in Him.

7. God’s grace is sufficient for any trial (read 2 Corinthians 12:9-10).

No matter the trial, no matter the need, the grace of God in Jesus Christ is sufficient to strengthen and sustain those who truly belong to Him. When your 24/7 attentive care for a child with disabilities leaves you in deep weakness and exhaustion, realize that it is then that God’s strength is perfected in you.

Personal Takeaway: We need to be dependent.

8. God’s goal is to reshape us into the image of His Son (read Romans 8:28-30).

All things do not work together for good. No, read the verses above, again. It is not that all things somehow work out in the end; it is God who actively works all things together for good. No difficulties (and God really means none) escape His control. God’s wisdom enables Him to work out any and all suffering and evil toward the goal of His glory and our Christ-likeness. Our sanctification—becoming like Jesus—is of immense, personal interest to the Lord.

Personal Takeaway: We need to be Christ-centered.

9. God disciplines those whom He loves (read Hebrews 12:3-13).

God only disciplines those who truly belong to Him, but spiritual bastards remain peaceful on their road to destruction. God’s desire for us to become like Christ leads Him to develop a personal training program for each of us. He corrects, guides, and trains us as we need. Our trials are not punitive. No, Christ took care of all our punishment already. Suffering is part of God’s training program to conform us to the image of His Son.

Personal Takeaway: We need to be submissive to God’s training strategy.

10. God created us with dignity (read Genesis 1:26).

When the triune Godhead held a conference before the world was created, they decided to set humanity apart from every other created being. We alone possess immense value as God’s image-bearers. Every child, whether “healthy” or “disabled,” is of immeasurable worth in God’s eyes.

Personal Takeaway: We need to be thankful for every image-bearer for each one is priceless.

11. God redeemed us to live in community (read 1 Corinthians 12:14-25; Romans 12:10-11).

The church is not like a body; it is a body. It is a living organism with many parts, each of which is of equal importance and value, though prominence of function differs. The church needs the disabled, weaker members, in order to function as God designed. Without the disabled included in church life, to the fullest degree possible for each, the church itself becomes dysfunctional.

Personal Takeaway: We who have special needs’ kids need to humble ourselves and let others serve us and our family.

12. God-ordained suffering for our life in this fallen world is “light” compared to the weight of glory that one day He will reveal to us (read Romans 8:18-25; 2 Corinthians 4:17-18).

When compared to eternity in the presence of the Creator who became the Savior, all suffering and disability in this life will barely be visible. The brightness of the glory of God will dispel all shadows of doubt.

Personal Takeaway: We need to keep our eyes on Jesus and look for the Lord’s return.

May these pillars in a theology of disability be, for us, a comforting and stabilizing foundation for vibrant faith!

Topics: BCC Exclusive, Parenting, People in Need of Care, People Who Offer Care, People Who Train Caregivers | Tags: , , ,

A Grief Like No Other: When a Friend Loses a Child


When my older son was 11 years old, he lost his best friend to cancer. Sitting here at my laptop, exactly four years later, I still feel the sting of a mother’s grief as sharply as if it had happened yesterday.

His name was Josh. I am using actual names in this article, because they were real children. With real names. Who really mattered.

So many of my friends have gone through the unspeakable agony of losing a child—whether in utero, in infancy, or adolescence—but this is a lonely, solitary agony that even those closest to the parent cannot really shoulder. We want to enter into grief with a friend, and yet cannot fully. Empathy is the closest we can come.

There is something inherently selfish even in the most compassionate of us that stops us from really experiencing, even vicariously, what a parent is going through in this kind of loss. There is no real comfort we can provide; and we don’t even want to contemplate the full horror of their experience. Our human instinct is to detach. Emotional detachment is necessary in medical fields, and even to a certain extent in the counseling office; but it never feels quite right—especially when you are a parent.

Professional Detachment vs. Personal Involvement

As a medical interpreter in Boston, I occasionally see pediatric cases (which are rarely terminal). These children are usually flown here to receive medical treatment not available in Bulgaria. Two years ago, I had a late-afternoon pediatric assignment when I was a bit impatient to get home and make my 8-year-old daughter’s birthday cake for her party the next day. I had no idea that within a few minutes I would have to tell a woman, just like me, that her daughter was dying.

The little girl’s mother had come alone for a consult with the oncologist while the child, also 8 years old, received a blood transfusion at another hospital. She and Natalia might have been friends. It took nearly an hour just for Mom to give the medical history, and as I interpreted the painful details of the little girl’s neuroblastoma treatment, my heart broke. Her cancer was so advanced that there was nothing more that could be done. The oncologist advised Mom, with tears in her eyes, to take her back home to Bulgaria.

In 15 years as a medical interpreter, this was one of two times where I cried. (The other was a phone call. I had to tell an 18-year-old MIT student’s mother that her son had been killed in a motorcycle accident. His name was Georgi, by the way.) But the problem was, there was nothing I could do. I hugged her in the elevator, told her “I’m so sorry,” and drove home. I couldn’t even let myself dwell on this poor mother’s plight, because I wouldn’t have been emotionally available to my own children. It was an unpleasant feeling, and I felt mildly selfish for forcing myself to “detach.”

It’s different when the grieving parent is a personal friend. It may not be different “biblically,” but it’s still different. When a woman from church buried her 18-year-old son several years ago, I found it difficult to make eye contact at the funeral or casually ask “How are you?” afterwards. Stephen should have been a college student. Josh, my son’s buddy, passed unexpectedly just before Christmas. The grief that consumed the parents, siblings, and our church family was so raw and heartbreaking the natural instinct was to withdraw, even while wanting to offer comfort.

“I am a parent. I don’t want to feel this horror; I don’t want to go there in my mind. The Bible tells us there is comfort. Let’s remind each other of that. It is not ‘spiritual’ to feel this grief, especially when we know the child is in heaven. No pain. At all costs, stop the pain. We do not grieve as the pagans do; we have hope.”

As Kate, who lost her 1-year-old son Alex to a heart defect said, “It still tears you apart.”

‘Comfort’ is a relative word when we are talking about the loss of a child. There is no substitute love, no biblical promise, no futuristic hope of glory strong enough to wipe out the aching, relentless pain of emptiness when the child you carried, nursed and nurtured is suddenly gone. Sometimes all you can do as a friend is to be there–not run from the other parent’s pain, not deny it, not gloss over it with spiritual-sounding platitudes. Months after Josh died, after the cards stopped coming and the meals were no longer delivered, his mom and I cried together over the phone. “I just miss him so much…this wasn’t supposed to happen,” she said.

Never Minimize Grief

I have always been struck by the scene in John 11, where Jesus wept with the two sisters, Mary and Martha, over the death of their brother Lazarus. Even knowing He was going to raise Lazarus and the story was going to end “happily ever after,” so to speak, the Savior of mankind was moved so much by individual, human grief that He chose to fully enter into it. There is not a human emotion Jesus has not fully experienced, and this fact alone brings us a measure of comfort in our own pain. Notice He never minimizes their pain; our Redeemer is moved by His children’s suffering. God never says “pull yourself together” or “just get over it.” And neither should we–grieving is a long, lonely, and highly personal process.

There is a tremendous desire for the parent to rejoin their child in heaven; the best thing you can do for a grieving friend is sit quietly with her in the waiting room. It’s not much, but with a burden they are carrying alone they need not be alone in their grief. Two years later, after having moved away, Josh’s mom wrote me:

“Mom to mom…I am pressing on. I have really hard days and some good ones. God has been extremely kind in all the blessings He has brought our way, yet I seem to be half here and half fixed on heaven. God says his people perish for lack of vision…I have been asking Him for His vision so I can bring glory and honor to His name. I have changed, but I know God is strong and able to still use me. Marie, some days I miss him so much that I feel like my heart will burst. Surely God had a very good reason for this plan…I know one day I will understand and even praise Him for it.”

The Lonely, Secret Pain of Miscarriage

One might rationally ask, “How is it possible to love someone you have never known?” Any mother who has carried a child, to full term or not, knows that love for a child is not “rational.” In biblical Greek, there are four different words for “love,” and one, “storge” (στοργή) describes nurturing, parental love. It is rarely used in ancient works, and then almost exclusively as a descriptor of relationships within the family. Modern ultrasounds allow us that wonderful moment when you see and hear your 8-week baby’s heart beating deep within you, but from the beginning of time God has planted that deep, loving parental instinct within us as a reflection of His own heart. It cannot be explained, or rationalized.

Losing a child through miscarriage is a unique loneliness. There is usually no grave, no memorial service, no cards or sympathetic phone calls. One has to “keep it together” and go on as if all is normal. But it’s not normal, and it never will be again. Life has been turned upside down, even if no one else sees it. You have lost a part of yourself that can never be replaced; a wound that only God sees. You grieve because you never held that child, never knew him or her, couldn’t even give the gift of a name. And there is guilt—“Was it my fault? Did I exercise too much? Was I eating enough? Maybe God is punishing me…”

And the nagging questions about God’s goodness: “Why does He give someone a child, only to take it away again? He could have done something to prevent this from happening. He did nothing. Is He really ‘for’ me? How can I trust that God will always be faithful, even when I am not?” The death of a child—at any age—is a tragedy, and if a friend confides this “hidden” loss to you, the best thing you can do is to understand that and allow her to grieve.

Comforting a Friend in Any Affliction

The hardest thing about trying to help a friend who has lost a child is that even with all the biblical truth and promises of God’s goodness we have, the pain never really goes away. It dulls, but it stays with the parent and nothing we say can “make it all better.” Like with depression, the most important thing your grieving friend needs from you is to know that you care. And you will not leave her, no matter how long or difficult this season is. When you don’t know what to say, it is a good time to say nothing…sometimes tears are the sincerest reflection of one’s heart.

It is not necessary (or wise!) to be like Job’s friends—offering advice; admonishing her for a lack of faith, telling her grief is unspiritual. On the contrary, 2 Corinthians 1: 3-4 tells us plainly that God Himself comforts us in all of our afflictions, so that we may in turn comfort others with the same grace.

Not preach.

Not lecture.

Just comfort.

God knows exactly what it feels like to lose a Son. While it may seem He is silent, the sure and simple knowledge that He is there, and He cares about the grieving heart is exactly what a parent going through this tragedy needs to know experientially. Don’t worry about saying the “right thing.” Even on the worst days, His personal love is like a cushion that protects us, so that nothing can hurt quite as much. By being available, just to listen…to empathize…and yes, even to cry together—on a small scale, you are able to demonstrate the caring heart of Jesus to your friend in their loss.

Topics: BCC Exclusive, Biblical Counseling, Grief/Loss, Parenting, People in Need of Care, People Who Offer Care, People Who Train Caregivers | Tags: , , , , ,

When Your Song is a Lament, Sing it with Your Whole Heart


Sometimes life in this broken world is overwhelming. If we didn’t find it so from time to time, there would be something wrong. We were made for a world that was wholly different than the one we live in. When this world fails us, God is pointing us to Himself and the world that will come again. It’s not that we endure ‘here’ until we arrive ‘there;’ but suffering in this world will help us learn to live ‘here’ in light of what is coming.

It is an unparalleled tragedy to live in this ‘valley of the shadow of death’ as if this was all there is. In all of life, God is pointing us to something greater; to Himself. However, there is a very real danger that we’ll miss seeing God; that our circumstances won’t move us toward Him in love, but away from Him. Our response to our suffering will have significant impact on the effectiveness of the work God seeks to do.

We Might Miss Seeing Him: By Giving All Our Attention to the Circumstances

The things that come at us in this world—loss, disappointment, physical pain, rejection, intentional cruelty—can at times be so overwhelming that we fail to look beyond them. We might be tempted to believe we can’t look beyond them or even that there is nothing beyond them; that our suffering is all there is and ever will be.

We Might Miss Seeing Him: By Fleeing the Sorrow and Longing

It takes great courage to face the painful circumstances we experience in this world. We are tempted to steel our hearts from the ache and stoically soldier on. Perhaps we are afraid; afraid that if we turn towards it we will be pulled into it’s vortex with no way of escape. So we get busy. Or we hide away. Or we attempt to anaesthetize ourselves with drugs or alcohol or vocational success or recreation or possessions or …

We Might Miss Seeing Him: Because of Flawed Theology

Sometimes the lies are easier to believe than the truth. “My suffering is unique; no one understands.” “I deserve to suffer more than others.” “God is not powerful enough to change this.” “God doesn’t care about my suffering.” “I am without hope.”

Where Does My Help Come From?

So exactly how do we navigate the valley of the shadow of death with God in full view so that the trials and suffering of this world aren’t moving us away from God, but rather, toward Him? Thankfully, our gracious God wants us to know. One of the ways He shows us is by letting us inside the stories of fellow travellers who have also struggled. In His account of history, we have the privilege of hearing the heart cry of men like Job, Elijah, David, Paul, and even His Son. There is great comfort in knowing that others have journeyed this road before us. There is even greater comfort in the revelation of God’s intimate interest in their (and our) suffering.

Draw Near

So often, our responses to suffering are an attempt to move us away from it, and in the process we move away from God. Anger. Busyness. God-replacements that we hope will numb the pain. Over and over again in the Scripture, we encounter people who struggled and moved toward God instead of away. So many of the psalms take us into the inner battles of men who wrestled with the circumstances of life. They were confused and angry, but they didn’t let their emotions keep them from seeking God. They sought—and God met them, patiently reorienting their perspective until they understood the truth and were able to see God’s goodness even in deep trials (i.e. Psalm 3).


Job had an ash heap (Job 2:8), Elijah had a broom tree (1 Kings 19:5), David had a cave (Psalm 57 and 142), and Jesus had a garden (Matthew 26 and Hebrews 5:7-8). When life was overwhelming, they got quiet. They stopped and waited for God. And God met them, cared for them, answered the cry of their hearts.

For some He revealed Himself to them in new ways; others He comforted. He didn’t give them all they asked for because sometimes ‘no’ is the right answer, but He was there to walk with them through the pain.

Here’s the key. Wait. We don’t know how long Job was in the ash heap or Asaph was in God’s sanctuary (Psalm 73) before God was able to change their perspective on the suffering of this world. It can be a slow process, but these, and many other stories like them, are telling us about the kind of God He is. He meets people where they are. He doesn’t condemn them for being there but He doesn’t leave them there either. He speaks truth to replace the lies. And the whole process is powerfully infused with love that then grows in the hearts of those with whom He meets. Not only is the relationship comforting; it’s transformative.

Let Others Join You in the Ash Heap

Independence is our banner and it is our curse. Culturally we are proud of our ability to ‘go it alone,’ but God doesn’t mean for life in Him to work that way. I don’t believe it’s a stretch to say, “It won’t.” In the Garden of Eden, God created Eve ‘because it was not good for the man to be alone.’ God Himself exists in relationship and as His image bearers, we are given two commands that summarize the purpose of our existence: be in loving relationship with God and with each other. God is most glorified when we are learning to live in loving relationship with Him and with others.

It’s risky business to share your ash heap with others. Inevitably, you will encounter some counselors like Job’s. However, there is a greater risk than this. When we shut others out, we reject the ministry God has ordained (2 Corinthians 1). We might be safe from potential hurts but we are also cut off from the ministry of comfort He seeks to provide.

Sing Your Lament Until You Don’t Need To: When You Can, Sing Praises

Gifts of grace come to all of us. But we must be ready to see and willing to receive these gifts. It will require a kind of sacrifice, the sacrifice of believing that, however painful our losses, life can still be good (see Jerry Sittser in A Grace Disguised, p. 79).

God is calling us to humble ourselves under His mighty hand. In that place, we remember that He is God and we are not; that He is good and all He does is good (Psalm 119:68). And He calls us to draw near to Him, to wait on Him and promises to respond by drawing near to us. There, in His tender care, He shows us that lament and praise, like sorrow and rejoicing can coexist; that even though life is hard, when our hearts are near to His there may be a lament, but there can also be a song of praise.

Join the Conversation

What does it look like, sound like, and feel like in your life to lament like the Psalmists?

How can we invite other to lament like Jesus?

Topics: BCC Exclusive, Grief/Loss, People in Need of Care, People Who Offer Care, People Who Train Caregivers, Suffering | Tags: , , ,

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The BCC exists to strengthen churches, para-church organizations, and educational institutions by promoting excellence and unity in biblical counseling as a means to accomplish compassionate outreach and effective discipleship.