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In Hope When You're Hurting, Drs. Larry Crabb and Dan Allender consider four key questions people ask: What's wrong? Who can help? What will the helper do? And, What can I hope for? In answering these questions, Crabb and Allender shed light on the strengths and weaknesses of different counseling models. They consider the psychological, medical, and spiritual aspects of emotional pain. They examine the role of the church as a vital agent for restoration and growth. And most important, they offer guidance, ...
In Hope When You're Hurting, Drs. Larry Crabb and Dan Allender consider four key questions people ask: What's wrong? Who can help? What will the helper do? And, What can I hope for? In answering these questions, Crabb and Allender shed light on the strengths and weaknesses of different counseling models. They consider the psychological, medical, and spiritual aspects of emotional pain. They examine the role of the church as a vital agent for restoration and growth. And most important, they offer guidance, choices, and hope for people struggling with spiritual and emotional pain.
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I arrived a few minutes before noon. Brian was already there, sitting by himself in a dark corner of the crowded restaurant, nervously tapping the fingers of his left hand on the table, his right hand holding his chin.
We began with a few pleasantries, ordered lunch, then spent a few minutes catching up. We talked about the usual sort of stuff-job, health, the Denver Broncos. We hadn't seen each other for nearly a month.
Then, with a noticeable sigh, Brian let me know he was ready. For what, I wasn't sure. When he called asking to meet me for lunch, I felt his urgency.
His eyes dropped to the spoon he had just picked up. In a flat voice, he said, "Mary's going to leave me."
A familiar sadness washed over me. I'd been here before. I've heard words of confusion and despair a thousand times.
When I was in private practice, I heard heartbreaking stories every day, one after the other. The suffering took its toll. I'm no longer in practice, but I still talk and share and listen. The stories keep coming, and hearing them has not gotten easier.
I never know exactly what to say. In many ways, I feel more adequate writing about counseling than doing it. The notion that trained therapists select their words according to a well-established scientific plan, like surgeons choosing where to cut, is an illusion.
Sometimes I just sit there and look at the people I am counseling. Maybe I'm trying to connect with who they are and where they are since I can't change what they're going through. Sometimes I look away. Connecting with them can be too heavy a weight to bear.
At the lunch table with Brian, I joined him in staring at his spoon. I knew Mary. I didn't like her. She struck me as an angry woman, hiding her fangs behind an unconvincing smile. I feared what would happen if I crossed her.
Whether therapist or friend, you can't always say what occurs to you. Speaking the truth in love does not give anyone license to share whatever he happens to think or feel. When Brian told me Mary was going to leave him, my immediate thought was "Good! I don't know how you've endured that woman for this long."
I chose not to share my thoughts. But I wasn't sure what I should say. I wanted to be authentic, helpful, and compassionate, but words that satisfied those criteria didn't jump out at me. Wisdom comes slowly, but I've learned that it comes more often when I tune into my passion to connect with hurting people instead of trying to figure them out. Connection, not analysis, seems closer to the center of my work.
Doctors diagnose, then prescribe. So do plumbers and car mechanics. But counselors relate, more like friends than our professionalism allows us to admit, and more like pastors than our billing habits suggest. We're people who pour the fullness of ourselves into the emptiness of another. Unfortunately, sometimes our souls don't feel very full.
"What led up to this, Brian?" I asked, not because I thought it was a good question. I just wanted to know.
"Mary and I have never been close. You know that, Larry. We've had a lousy marriage for years. If it weren't for the kids, I'd probably have left her a long time ago. You've never seen her when she blows up. It's unbelievable. I cannot please the woman, and I've never known how to reach her. I've pretty well given up, but there's the kids. I don't know what to do." His eyes returned to the spoon.
I still didn't know what to say. My initial confusion had advanced to a sharp feeling of inadequacy. I wished he were talking to Mother Teresa. With all those wrinkles that only compassion can produce, surely she'd know what to say.
Maybe he needed to tell all this to a professional. That was my next thought, which lasted for the second it took me to remind myself that I was a professional, highly trained, properly licensed, with a reputation as an effective therapist.
Funny how quickly my mind shifted from. Brian needing a godly person like Mother Teresa to his needing a trained expert.
But maybe that makes sense. Like most people, when things go wrong I want someone who knows what he's doing to fix it.
I remember years ago when our eight-year-old son Kenny was delirious. His fever measured 105 degrees. He was babbling nonsense like the chronic schizophrenics I worked with in locked wards of mental hospitals. He didn't recognize his mother or me.
I panicked. Was his brain damaged? Would he ever be normal again? Like Brian, I wanted help. Not knowing what to do, I wanted answers from someone who did, so I called our doctor.
Did my doctor feel the same inadequacy talking to me that I felt listening to Brian? I don't think he did. His medical degree better equipped him to advise a father distraught over a feverish son than my psychology degree prepared me to counsel a man whose wife was talking divorce.
I distinctly recall how good I felt when the physician took immediate charge. He asked specific questions, gave clear and firm directions, and assured me our son would be fine. We did what we were told, and Kenny fully recovered.
As I talked with Brian, I knew that despite my doctorate in clinical psychology, I wasn't the same kind of expert for personal problems as my physician was for physical ones. Something was different, and at that moment I wasn't sure I was an expert at all. But Brian wanted to believe I was.
That's to be expected. When any of us run into trouble we can't handle, we want to find someone with solutions. It's comforting to ask questions of people who have answers. It's maddening when they don't. When we hurt, we ask questions. And we insist that someone be able to answer them.
Excerpted from Hope When You're Hurting by Larry Crabb Dan B. Allender Copyright © 1997 by Zondervan. Excerpted by permission.
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