Today’s post is by Kim Shay. Kim and her husband live in southwestern Ontario, where she’s spent the last 22 years primarily as a stay-at-home mom while teaching the Bible to women and serving on the Women’s Ministries committee at her local church. Kim blogs regularly at The Upward Call; follow her on Twitter at @UpwardCall.
As Christian women, it is inevitable that at some point we will be in a position to counsel another woman. Whether it is in a formal setting or an informal one with family or friends, as women, we need to be prepared to answer questions and advise in a biblical manner. We want to avoid handing out platitudes or, worse, error. Women Helping Women: A Biblical Guide to Major Issues Women Face is a valuable tool in that process. The editors, Elyse Fitzpatrick and Carol Cornish, set out to provide tools to help women counsel other women in order that they may live abundantly in Christ.
Women Helping Women is organized in two parts. The first sets the foundation for the biblical model of counseling, and specifically, the need for women to counsel women. The second section provides guidance with regard to a number of potential counseling situations. While the book can be used as a reference instead of read from beginning to end, the first part is crucial, as it establishes the difference between biblical and secular counseling. Fitzpatrick opens the section by emphasizing that biblical counseling is about vision, faith and hope. She reminds the reader that biblical counseling, obviously, begins with the Bible:
We believe the Bible is sufficient to answer every problem and meet every need that we, as God’s children have.
The following chapters are an outflow of that foundation. One of the necessities of biblical counselling is that women are encouraged to see how sin affects their circumstances. If a woman is not willing to accept that possibility, she will continue to struggle with her situation. This approach is not the approach of secular counseling, which frequently directs the counselee to place blame for her circumstances. Yes, people will sin against us, and we may have no control over how someone treats us, but that does not give us the freedom to sin in our reactions. Many of our problems are of our own making or are made worse by our own sin.
Part two deals with the following counseling scenarios:
- teen mothers
- single women discontent in their singleness
- post-abortion women
- women in troubled Christian marriages
- women married to unbelievers
- women considering adoption
- women with children who have learning disabilities
- mothers of rebellious teens
- women who are divorced and single
- women who were abused as children
- women with addictions
- women with eating disorders
- women involved in sexual sin
- women in the afternoon of life
- women facing death and dying
There is also a chapter at the end with medical questions women commonly have. The book was written by a number of qualified women, and the last one by a medical doctor.
Whether you are formally counseling someone or just counseling your own child, this book offers a wealth of guidance on how to do that. Each chapter encourages the counselor to direct the women to the Word of God first and foremost. I appreciated the many suggestions that a woman memorize scripture as a way to put right thoughts into her mind. There is a continued emphasis on replacing wrong thoughts with biblical ones, and putting off the old man and putting on the new. Whether it is the post-abortion woman, or the woman in the afternoon of life, the counselor is directed to emphasize that our sufficiency is in Christ, not our circumstances nor in ourselves. The counselor is not guided to remind her friend that she needs to “empower” herself, but rather to yield to the power Christ. The counselor is repeatedly advised to invest in her counselee, developing a relationship based on selfless love. I really appreciated that reminder. Counseling someone involves getting into very personal, intimate details. If we go into that situation expecting thanks or pats on the back, we will not be a good counselor.
Women Helping Women was written in 1997, and it begs to be updated. I would love to see a second edition (the closest thing to one would arguably be Fitzpatrick’s Women Counseling Women: Biblical Answers to Life’s Difficult Problems). There is an excellent selection of other resources, but in the past fifteen years, many more resources have been made available which I think would be beneficial. For example, in the chapter on teen rebellion, one of the recommended reads is Tedd Tripp’s Shepherding a Child’s Heart. While I liked that book, I thought Paul Tripp’s Age of Opportunity more helpful, personally. I also felt that the chapter about children with learning disabilities could benefit from more recent information about situations such as ADD/ADHD and Asperger’s Syndrome. I also thought the book would do well to include a chapter dealing more specifically with anxiety and depression. All of the scenarios discussed in the book involve that, but many women have general anxiety whose cause they may not have isolated.
How would I guide my daughter if she came to me to say she was struggling with infertility issues? Would I have a clue? How would I guide a friend who confided that she was struggling with an addiction to online gambling? Before I read this book, I wouldn’t have had a clue. While Women Helping Women does not pretend to be exhaustive or a course in counseling (there are recommendations for women wanting to pursue further training), it gives the average woman like me the tools to answer questions biblically and responsibly as I seek to build up other women for the Kingdom of God.
Title: Women Helping Women: A Biblical Guide to Major Issues Women Face
Editors: Elyse Fitzpatrick and Carol Cornish
Publisher: Harvest House (1997)