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Counseling the Hard Cases | A Book Review

Childhood sexual abuse. Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. Postpartum Depression. Anorexia. Bipolar Disorder. Same-sex attraction. These are just a sample of the counseling problems discussed in Counseling the Hard Cases by Stuart Scott and Heath Lambert. This work is a compilation of stories written by a team of biblical counselors who relay personal testimonies of how God has worked in the lives of their counselees.

In their own words, Scott and Lambert’s goal for this book is to demonstrate the sufficiency of Scripture for all matters pertaining to counseling. Even the most bizarre and difficult cases can be worked through if the counselor is willing to patiently understand the problem and faithfully apply the truths of God’s Word.

One such example is that of Mariana, a woman who experienced severe sexual abuse as a child. Through counseling, she was able to experience the healing only God can offer. Mariana struggled with severe guilt and regularly used deception to manipulate others. However, as her counselor faithfully instructed her through Scripture, she learned God’s will for her life and gradually was able to put to death her sinful patterns and replace them with God-honoring habits.

Another key element of biblical counseling highlighted in this book, was the role of the church in the counseling process. This role was especially evident in the stories of Sarah and Julie who struggled with post-partum depression and addiction respectively. 1 Thessalonians 5:14 instructs believers not only to admonish the unruly, but also to help the weak. Churches have the opportunity to powerfully and pragmatically show love to their members by providing meals, financial support, child care and practical wisdom.

The greatest strength of this book was the way that the authors constantly pointed to God as the one Who makes biblical change happen. Success in counseling is not merely the result of the counselor’s great knowledge or giftedness. Rather, it is God who faithfully produces heart change in the counselee’s life. All glory belongs to Him!

Whether you are a new counselor seeking help in applying God’s truths to specific counseling issues, a seasoned counselor hoping to be encouraged by stories of God’s faithfulness, or someone who is skeptical about the sufficiency of Scripture for counseling, this book is an excellent resource which demonstrates what biblical counseling looks like practically as applied to real-life scenarios.


Helpful quotes:

1. “The book you are reading is an exercise in proving that the large, dynamic, adaptable, comprehensive, God-breathed worldview presented in the pages of Scripture is precisely what makes the Bible sufficient to engage the particulars of numerous and complex problems.”

2. “While biblical counselors should place appropriate attention on matters of the body, the central focus must always be the heart.”

3. “When you push past the scary headlines and read the details of the story, the frightening buzzwords give way to understandable themes: rest, nutrition, practice in acquiring skills, and—most importantly—Jesus’ power to slay sin and bring solace in suffering.”

4. “Gathering data in the counseling office is just as important (if not more so) as taking history in the physician’s office.”

5. “The Bible does not speak to OCD in contemporary medical terminology, but it does talk about the thoughts, motivations, and behaviors our culture uses to describe OCD.”

6. “The temptation when counseling someone like Jason is to see the blinking neon light of homosexuality as the issue and to miss the many issues seething in his heart.”

7. “Psychiatric medications are not the answer; however, they may be useful for a limited time and limited purpose. Biblical counseling provides answers that psychiatric medications cannot.”

8. “Biblical counseling must not only be church based; it must also be church driven and church saturated.”

9. “Sin is deep, change is hard, growth is progressive, love requires patience, and God alone transforms people in his time and in his way.”

10. “If God is not in first place, then our lives are indeed out of order, and some form of chaos is the natural result.”

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Theresa Egger
Theresa Egger is from San Diego, California and is currently a senior at the Master's University where she is pursuing a degree in biblical counseling. She is a member of Faith Community Church and is passionate about God's Word and serving His people.
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  • Mark W. Williams
    May 28, 2019

    I completely agree with Theresa: “this book is an excellent resource which demonstrates what biblical counseling looks like practically as applied to real-life scenarios.” It was very helpful for me when I was first introduced to biblical counseling. It was a great help to see how others have applied Scripture to these very difficult cases in order to feel more equipped to help those whom I was counseling.

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