Dale Johnson: This week on a podcast I am grateful to have with us, Mrs. Susan Heck. She has been a certified member for quite some time. Many of you are probably very familiar with her material. She has written lots of books. She’s an author of one specifically that is Speaking The Truth in Love in a Post-Truth World that was published by Focus Publishing. She has written lots of Bible studies for women. She’s a constant speaker at different women’s events. You can find out a lot about her on her website, withthemaster.org. Susan, you’ve been around for a long time. We’ve only met recently, but I’m so grateful to hear of your ministry and the way that you’ve impacted not just ACBC, but God’s church in so many different places. So, thank you so much for being here.
Susan Heck: Well, thanks for having me, Dale. It’s an honor.
Dale Johnson: Well, it’s always good when we nail down and look deeply at passages of Scripture and this topic, the sovereignty of God when we can look directly in passages of Scripture and see the beauty and the grandeur of God. Oftentimes this subject comes up when trials are happening, when difficulty is happening because it’s in those types of trials that we as humanity question the sovereignty of God. You’re looking particularly at Psalm 145. So I want to hear a little bit about that. Why are the Psalms in your mind very important in counseling, especially when counseling others who are walking through difficulty?
Susan Heck: Well, I think they’re extremely important because as we counsel various types of people with different types of problems, we know that David wrote most of the Psalms and he goes through various difficulties in life. He has people that betray him. He has family that betrays him. His best friend betrays him. He goes through times where, you know, he’s fearing for his life. So the various types of trials that we see various different kinds of people go through, David seems to have the answers. He pours out his heart to the Lord. He tells the truth of what’s really on his heart. He speaks in truth and sincerity, but then he always comes to the end and he always seems to say, but I will trust in you. I will trust in you. So I think it gives us help and hope as we counsel people through the Psalms. They’re so encouraging to see real men of God who really went through real difficulties of life, but they come out trusting God and their hope is in God.
Dale Johnson: Yeah, I think that’s right. So many times when we read the narratives of Scripture, we dehumanize people. We sort of walk through their life super quick and we forget that, you know, they had sleepless nights. They had difficulty. They were emotional beings just like you and I and often responded to stress and difficulty and true fears that we have. We see that sort of fleshed out a lot in the Psalms. You’ve recently walked through a very difficult trial. So many of our listeners have been impacted, certainly, by the pandemic and COVID, and not just being ill–and some of you severely so–but some have lost their life. You’ve walked through a recent time where you’ve lost your husband, who was a pastor for many years. You served as a faithful pastor’s wife for many years. I want you to talk for just a second, in the way that the Psalms does, about how Psalm 145 ministered to you in light of your husband’s recent departure to glory.
Susan Heck: Well, it has ministered to me, Dale. I think about how God is even sovereign in that. A year ago, I picked this topic for ACBC this week and only God knew that He was going to call my husband home to Heaven right before ACBC. Seven weeks ago my husband went to Heaven and the Lord has used Psalm 145 to minister to me in various ways. I think of how the psalmist recalls God’s goodness and His faithfulness and His compassion, and His loving kindness. I’ve truly seen that exhibited in my life in so many ways that it would take the rest of our time on this podcast to tell you, but I’ve lived it. I was so thankful yesterday, when I was sharing this with the ladies, to be able to say, I’ve walked this. These things are true in Psalm 145. This is not a made-up myth. This is God’s inspired Word that has shown Himself strong on my behalf. I am so grateful I have sensed the peace of God in ways I never have in my whole Christian life. So Psalm 145 has ministered to me greatly in the last few weeks as I’ve prepared to teach this week.
Dale Johnson: You know, I find it interesting–and this happens to me quite a bit when I walk into the counseling room–the things that I say most effective, often, to the counselee is when the passages become real to me and not just something theoretical. It’s something that I’ve walked through where I’ve needed the truths from that passage to hold me close, to help me to understand God as a refuge, to keep me from sin, or to restore me after some sin and brokenness. This is exactly the way the Lord uses this. That’s an amazing thing that the Lord gave you this Psalm 145 that you’re preparing to teach at our National Conference in one of our breakout sessions. The Lord was readying you. What great care he gives to His children. You know, it’s different when you walk through something like that–the confidence that you have in the Bible when you walk into the room to help somebody, you know, even in some really difficult situations.
Now, I want to talk about the application of something like this. We talked about counselees, and we always want to help ourselves as counselors to grow in the Scripture and our knowledge of Scripture. How can we encourage other counselees to focus on God’s sovereignty? This is sometimes a hard transition because we’re dealing with difficulty in their life, sometimes very deep sorrow and struggle and difficulty. We don’t want to just throw passages of Scripture at them. So how do you take these ideas from Psalm 145? How do you introduce it to them? How do you help them to understand the beauty of God’s sovereignty in the middle of their trial?
Susan Heck: Well, I think that’s a very good question because, you know, I think about Job and his counselors that were miserable, and I have found through this trial in my life, I know that God is sovereign. I’ve seen it in my life throughout my pilgrimage as a Christian, but I think in trying to get our counselees to focus on God’s sovereignty, we almost have to help them in very simple steps, especially when going through a trial. For me, it was very interesting after the Lord took my husband, I looked at my speaking schedule and it was eleven speaking engagements back to back and I thought, how kind of God, how sovereign of Him, to give me something to do for Him and His glory. Now that He has taken my husband home, I have this work to do. I’m continuing to do the work that God has called me to do, that my husband wanted me to do. He supported me all these years–the 46 years we were married–to serve the Lord. He wanted me to use my spiritual gifts for the Lord’s glory.
I think sometimes it’s just helping them see, now how has God been faithful to you? What do you see that He has done in the past and the present that gives you confidence in the future that He is sovereign, He’s ruling over your life? So I think with some people you don’t just throw it in their face like, oh well God is Sovereign. I remember one time coming home from a lady who had just died of cancer. I’d stayed with her for two weeks and I told my husband, I really don’t want to go into church tonight, but I will, and the first thing she said is, why are you crying? She’s in heaven. I thought, wow, that’s a strange thing to say to someone who’s hurting. So I don’t think we can do it right then, but as we walk with them through the trial, we can point out how God has been sovereign and He will continue to be sovereign, the ruler over their life, over every blessed event and every circumstance.
Dale Johnson: Yeah, I know for me, when I hear about the sovereignty of God, particularly when trials are happening, there’s a comfort and there’s a place at which we need to wrestle with that because when difficulties happens, especially when we’re talking about life and death issues, that foundation is shaken. We’re humanity. We’re dust. We are frail, and these things are difficult to walk through.
Susan, even in what you just mentioned, you described a massive distinction between us as biblical counselors and secular counselors. Secular counselors would never be transparent in a situation like this where we’re sharing the beauty of the experiences that the Lord has given to us and how we’ve seen the Lord come through as a comforter, as we’ve seen Him be our strength in difficulty, as the sovereignty of God has ministered to us well. I think even as we grow older and we experience the difficulties of life, that increases our ability to have the knowledge of God, not just existential, intellectual knowledge, but experiential knowledge that He has proven himself true and faithful in a different way. Even the way you describe that, dealing with the counselee is you being transparent. You’re not keeping some code of ethics of a dual relationship. You’re being a Christian. You’re sharing your life with them and discipling them in the way in which God has taught you, and that’s the beauty of Christian ministry and one of the massive distinctions of biblical counseling. I’m so grateful for you being willing to share that.
Now, I also want to ask you specifics, maybe, about Psalm 145. What are some key things that you would pull out that really have anchored your heart in moments of difficulty?
Susan Heck: Well, I like David’s responses in Psalm 145. Just what he does–He determines to make God’s name known even though he’s going through difficult times, and I think we do need to make His name known. He purposes to pray, call out to God, and to do that in sincerity and truth. Lord, this is what really is going on. One of the things I brought out too is that David sings. He says I will sing of your righteousness. So, one of the things that has been a blessing to me in the last seven weeks is to play music and, you know, music is the window of your soul, and to recall good theological hymns and modern songs that are good and theological, not the trite music of our day. That has ministered to my soul, and David really brings that out. I will sing of your righteousness. I will extol you. I will pray. I will recount these things and remind myself of these things.
I think as we go through Psalm 145 and look at those 16 attributes that David so beautifully sets forth, we have to respond to our sovereign Go in these ways. To me, it has been a great joy and hope to do that and to see how God has enabled me to do that, and I know He can do that for all who are going through difficult times.
Dale Johnson: I couldn’t help but think of Philippians 2 when you’re describing all of that, where the Lord tells us through His Word that we’re to have the mind of Christ and we’re to prefer others as more important than ourselves. Even when we’re walking through trial, that’s exactly what you pointed out with David. It wasn’t about him and his life, it was about what the Lord was doing and how we use our life for the glory of the Lord. Some people may say that that’s impossible. How can we do that? You know, we’re a culture that’s so driven by circumstances and the things that are going on around us, and we feel like we’re sort of at the mercy of those circumstances, but what you just described was something radically different where, yes, the circumstances are difficult–we don’t deny that–but we anchor ourselves into the truth of God. Think about what just happened to the purpose and the value of life, that God is now entrusting you with something to where you can display His goodness through the middle of something that changes the way that we see life. Thank you for sharing this.
I want to give you an opportunity to talk about a couple of resources. I know in studying passages of Scripture, the Lord has given lots of people through church history wisdom to help us understand these things. So share with us some resources that you found helpful and supplemental to the things you talk about in your workshop.
Susan Heck: Well, I think Steve Lawson has–I think it’s about 20 weeks–of videos our church went through. They’re profound on the attributes of God. Of course, the classic is A.W. Pink. It’s a little more meatier on the attributes of God. Then I was thinking recently, especially for women, of Martha Peace’s book, Precious Truths in Practice: Holding Fast to God When You are Overwhelmed. She deals specifically with some attributes of God in her book, especially for women. So, I think her book is really practical, and one thing Martha does is she has a great chart. You know, I’m thinking this, and I should be thinking this as we consider the attributes of God, as we go through trials in life. So, those are just a few of the things that I found to be helpful, and you might have some more in your arsenal.
Dale Johnson: I think that’s great. Now, what I want to do before we go is, I would love to allow people to get connected with you. I mentioned your website, withthemaster.org. You’ve written several things that are posted there. It’s a place you can find that information. I mentioned one of the particular books, Speaking the Truth in Love in a Post-Truth World. My goodness, we need that right now. But you mentioned that you’re doing quite a bit of speaking and you speak to women in different places. If somebody wanted to get ahold of you and said, you know what? We’ve got a women’s ministry event coming up and we would love for Susan Heck to come and share. How would they get in contact with you?
Susan Heck: Well, then get on my website and all the information’s there–my phone number, my email, everything’s on there.
Dale Johnson: Very good. Well Susan, thank you so much for not just this year at our Annual Conference sharing, but also for two things: Faithful ministry alongside your husband in the church for many, many years. I think that speaks more volume than any platform could ever give. The second thing is your involvement in ACBC and NANC for years and years and years. You’ve been a faithful lady who has taught women, discipled women, and trained women how to do this ministry of counseling, and we’re grateful for the work that you’ve done. Thank you.
The Sovereignty of God as Seen in Psalm 145 Breakout Session by Susan Heck