Side by Side: Walking with Others in Wisdom and Love

Side by Side: Walking with Others in Wisdom and Love

by Edward T. Welch


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Written by a prominent biblical counselor, this practical book aimed at everyday Christians will equip readers with the tools they need to wisely walk alongside one another in the midst of life’s struggles.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781433547119
Publisher: Crossway
Publication date: 04/30/2015
Pages: 176
Sales rank: 237,363
Product dimensions: 5.20(w) x 8.20(h) x 0.70(d)

About the Author

Edward T. Welch (PhD, University of Utah) is a counselor and faculty member at the Christian Counseling & Educational Foundation. He has been counseling for more than 35 years and has written extensively on the topics of depression, fear, and addictions. His books include When People Are Big and God Is SmallCrossroads: A Step-by-Step Guide Away From AddictionRunning Scared: Fear, Worry and the God of RestShame Interrupted, and Side by Side. He blogs regularly at

Read an Excerpt


Life Is Hard

Life is too hard to manage single-handedly. That's why we are needy. Life is also good, but it is hard. There is never a day when we have immunity from difficult circumstances.

To admit that is not complaining. It is simply true. Jesus said, "In the world you will have tribulation" (John 16:33), and, if we stop to think about those tribulations, we realize they are unending:

• Our health

• Job and financial unknowns

• Local violence

• Broken promises

• Too much to do

• Our family's health

• Discrimination and injustice

• International terrorism

• Conflict with friends

• Mechanical breakdowns

Why do we bother identifying such hardships? We do it because human beings do best when they take their hardships public to God and at least one other person. When we survey the Psalms, we discover that this is God's desire for us.

To you, O Lord, I cry,
and to the Lord I plead for mercy. (Ps. 30:8)

Through psalms like that one, the Lord essentially says to us, "Come to me with your hardships. That's what children do with their Father." The hard things of life are important to God, and if they are important to God, they are important to us, and we will labor to put them into speech.

Life Organized

Where do we start? Since there is so much, it might help to organize the circumstances of our lives. Figure 1, below, is a way to do that. It organizes those circumstances, both good and hard, in a series of concentric circles. Think of it as an X-ray of ourselves and the world around us. The heart and the first circle (our body) represent us; the additional concentric circles are circumstances that surround us. They are the world in which we live.

Consider first a few of those circumstances that shape our lives. (We will deal with the heart in the next chapter.)

Our Body

Our body is an integral part of us, but it is also a kind of circumstance that affects us. It blesses us with health, and it brings hardships such as daily aches and pains, sleep loss, headaches, and the gamut of medical diagnoses. The body, including the brain, contributes to psychiatric diagnoses. If you're experiencing mania, certain features of depression, or attention deficits — the list can be long — there might be elusive yet physical problems coming at you.

Our Relationships

Relationships are where we find the best and worst of life. Here is the pleasure of growing and peaceful relationships, and here is where hopes are dashed and love is lost. Here is where we experience aloneness, victimization, and rejection. Whether or not we like it, we need people, but they can make life difficult.

Our Work

Work includes the job we have or would like to have, the futility of some work, and the money we earn. Money, in particular, can have a significant influence on our lives. Both poverty and riches leave us vulnerable. Poverty suggests that God is not with us, so we trust in ourselves, and riches suggest that we have what we need, so we trust in our money. Work and money shape our lives more than we know.

Spiritual Beings and the World

Spiritual beings are behind the scenes, but they pack a punch. Angels protect us, while spiritual beings in cahoots with Satan oppose us. These spiritual beings have power to afflict us physically, as we see with Job. But their primary weapons are lies, half-truths, and temptations, tactics that are much more powerful than any physical affliction.

The world is included among these influences. Scripture uses world in two different ways. Sometimes world means the inhabited creation, in other words, the earth. Other times, and the way I am using it here, it refers to Satan and those who stand hand in hand with his against-God ways. Together they create a chorus of voices that quietly yet powerfully speak against the character of God and announce that sin is just fine. You can hear the world especially in our culture's chorus about sexual license. This means that we are, indeed, vulnerable people who need God's power and protection (e.g., Eph. 6:10–12).

The Triune God and His Kingdom

The circle that envelops everything is God himself. We live, in all ways and at all times, before God — Father, Son, and Spirit — and in his world (Acts 17:28). God is over all things and surrounds all our circumstances. He is sovereign and active, never asleep. God is in the details of daily life; he is in the broad strokes of history as he moves all things to a final climax, and we need him in order to "have life and have it abundantly" (John 10:10). He is by no means a bystander, off on the side, silently observing our troubles — though we could easily think such things. Instead, he created all things, so he owns all things.

We could add more circles. Ethnic and religious heritage is the circumstance of life for many people. We could also add our geographical and political environment, but those listed above can get us started. Life includes so many influences and hardships, and God is up to something in all of them.

Think about what you would jot down in those circles. What comes to mind? What is good, and, especially, what is hard?

Our task for now is to acknowledge some specifics of the fragility and uncertainty of our lives and the difficult circumstances we face and then to speak about them to God. Just speak. That is his desire — for us to speak honestly from our heart. We don't have to add requests. Just speak.

Discussion and Response

1) There are a lot of hard things coming at you. What are the top three? You could also take one from each of the categories that surround each one of us.

2) Take time to speak your hard things to the Lord-who-hears.


Our Hearts Are Busy

The circumstances of life are easy to understand, but it is at the center of these — our hearts — where things get complicated. Our hearts are always stirring with activity. They guide our thoughts and actions as we interact with all our circumstances: our body, our relationships, our work, spiritual beings and the world, and God. Here in the heart we find the very essence of who we are. Our hearts are seen most readily through our emotions but are also expressed in the good — and the bad — that we do. And our connection to God resides here. Yes, our hearts are busy.

Since Scripture itself is so interested in our hearts, it uses a rich and varied vocabulary to identify this controlling center of life. Spirit, soul, heart, mind, inner person, and conscience are the most familiar terms. Each of those words has a particular emphasis, but they have one thing in common. They all identify our spiritual center, that is, how we are connected to God, at all times, whether we know it or not.

It is tough to picture something you cannot see, and you cannot see the actual heart, but Scripture does provide images and analogies such as a fountainhead, a well, a tree, and a treasure chest.

A fountainhead is the real source of the more visible streams (Prov. 4:23), and a well has depths that must be drawn out (Prov. 20:5). They can yield either fetid water or living water (John 7:38).

A tree has roots that search for a life source (Jer. 17:5–8). Either those roots will find their rest in other people, which Scripture likens to being a withering shrub in the desert, or they will settle for nothing but the Lord alone, in which case they will be sustained through the most difficult times.

A treasure chest is where we put our valuables (Matt. 6:19–21). This is what we truly love. Some treasure is prone to rust and corruption — we can be sure that our fears would accompany such a treasure. Other treasure is stored away in Jesus and is secure.

These pictures capture how our hearts work behind the scenes, quietly determining the course of our lives, and have much more to do with God than we might realize. They can also be brought into the light and examined. One way to do that is by following our emotions.

Emotions Come from the Heart

Our emotions are our first response to the world around us. They appear without any apparent thought. Yet they are much more than mere reactions in that they say more about us than they do about our circumstances. Our emotions, it turns out, reveal what is most dear to us (e.g., Pss. 25:17; 45:1). That's why our emotions identify us. They are us. We recognize our friends by their passions and emotional responses. When our friends' emotions are blunted by head injury or intensified by side effects of medication, we say that they are not themselves. Our emotions point out those things that are most important to us.

When happy, we possess something we love; when anxious, something we love is at risk; when despondent, something we love has been lost; when angry, something we love is being stolen or kept from us.

Or look at guilt and shame. We might not say that they reveal what we love, but they certainly reveal what is dear to us. When we feel shame, we feel as though someone has taken off our human covering and left us naked. It separates us from relationships, and relationships are dear to us. When guilty, we feel like our relationship with God is potentially in jeopardy, and this relationship gets to matters of life and death.

What is most important to us? What do we love? What is most dear to us? We shouldn't be surprised that these questions get to the core of our being. They also point to where we are headed. All roads eventually lead to our relationship with God. Do we love what he loves? Is he most dear to us?

So track down those strong feelings, first in yourself and then in others. When do you notice yourself getting excited? What are your joys? Your sorrows? Watch friends light up when they talk about a child, a spouse, a musical group, Jesus, work, or a sport. We will hear them slow down when touching on something that is especially hard, as if they were suddenly carrying a weight. We might notice a flash of anger: "I will never be like my father." If we are trusted, we might hear of fears, hidden pain, and shame — matters that we prefer to keep private.

We could sum up our emotions this way: they usually proceed from our hearts, are given shape by our bodies, reflect the quality of our relationships, bear the etchings of both the goodness and the meaninglessness of work, provide a peek into how we fare in spiritual battle, and identify what we really believe about God.

One qualification: we could say that emotions usually reflect what is happening in our hearts. Occasionally, since emotions are given shape by our bodies, emotions can be unpredictable assaults that come from disordered bodies and unruly brains.

Depression, for example, might say that something loved is now lost, life has lost meaning and purpose, or something desired will never be possessed. But depression could also say, "Something is not right in my body or brain."

In other words, strong emotions are a time to ask, "What is my heart really saying? What do I live for that I do not have?" But we might not get clear answers to those questions. Sometimes depression is simply physical suffering. It says, "I feel as though I am numb inside." Either way — and this is important — difficult emotions are always a time to get help and pray for endurance in faith. A depressed person is suffering, and suffering leaves us spiritually vulnerable. It raises questions about God's goodness and care, and it whispers that we must have done something bad to deserve such suffering. Emotional suffering needs spiritual encouragement.

Good Comes from the Heart

Now let's go a little deeper. Our emotions can be right on the surface and obvious to us. But farther in is everything we would call "good."

This good, like our emotions, still expresses what we love and desire. But it points even more obviously to God. For example, parents love their children. That love, whether or not parents know it, reflects the love of God for his children, and it is good. There is good in every human being. Even the blatant narcissist has a softer, good side if we look closely enough. Since God created us, and created things always bear some quality of their creator, we are able to see good things in one another. It comes in so many forms:

• Neighbors help each other.

• Strangers return lost wallets.

• Employees work hard, even when the boss is on vacation.

• Spouses acknowledge when they are wrong.

• Car mechanics are honest.

When goodness is our response to Jesus — when we do good because of him — it can also be called "obedience," "faith," or an "expression of our love for God." This goodness is especially beautiful when hardships seem to rain on us, and, in response, we turn to the Lord rather than away from him. The good shines brightest in weakness. This is the essence of faith, and it compels our admiration. Anything we do because of Jesus — love, work, endure, hope — is very good.

Our eye for God's reflected goodness is important in the way we help, and we will come back to it over and over. Help includes seeing what is good in another person.

Bad Comes from the Heart

All, of course, is not well. Our hearts can be good, but they can also be very bad. They are both at the same time.

Although we prefer to keep this reality under wraps, there is little disagreement about the badness resident in every heart. We all know that we do wrong. We love ourselves more than we love others. Selfishness and pride are part of everyday life:

• Parents demean and tear down their children.

• Neighbors gossip.

• Employees defraud employers.

• Men love pornography more than they love their spouses.

• Contractors charge for unnecessary work.

Yet while we all acknowledge the bad within us, we are less willing to acknowledge that it is sin. Sin means that our badness is primarily directed against God, and most people are not consciously shaking their fist at God. Instead, we are not thinking about him at all. So how can bad behavior be sin?

This is where things get murky, and we need the light that Scripture brings. Though we live before God, we are not always conscious of God. When a teen violates a parent's directions, it doesn't always feel like an act of rebellion against the parent. It typically feels simpler — the teen just wants to do what he or she wants to do. The disobedience is "nothing personal," but it is personal. The same is true for us. When we sin, it is against God, even if it doesn't feel that way.

Then there is more conscious bad behavior. A man had to choose between cocaine and his wife: "It was clear to me that there wasn't a choice. I love my wife, but I'm not going to choose anything over cocaine."

There is the heart in action. That man loves his desires above his wife. That's clear. You know it, he knows it, and it is bad. Now peer just a little further in and you discover that he loves his desires above the Lord — he is committed to manage his life his way rather than submit to the Lord. He won't be conscious of that, but he might acknowledge it when he hears it.

We are, indeed, needy people.

Spiritual Allegiances Come from the Heart

At the very center of our hearts is our connection to God. Here are the roots of the tree, the spring at the bottom of the well. Whether or not we know it, we are religious through and through.

We could call it "worship"— that's what is happening in our hearts. Who we love above all else is who we worship, and who we worship controls us.

Whether or not we realize it, our hearts know a lot about the true God, and we take our stand for or against him. That knowledge is not always obvious to us, but it is there. It is as if we retain some vague awareness of the love songs that God sang to us before we went our own way, and when we hear them again, they evoke something familiar and right. He is our Father; we are his children. We live coram Deo, before the face of God. There is no such thing as independence. Even if we run away, he is our Father. Even if we apply for legal emancipation, we cannot escape. Here are just a few ways we know this:

• Our hearts recognize his voice. We know love because he is love. We want justice because he is the righteous judge. We are drawn to compassion and mercy because he is the compassionate and merciful God (Ex. 34:6).

• Our hearts have the "work of the law" written on them (Rom. 2:15), and that law reflects God's character. We have a conscience that condemns the wrong and approves of the right.

• Our hearts are never fully at rest until we rest in him.

• Our hearts are at their best when we love and worship the triune God above all else and follow his commands.

What confuses matters is that the sins of others, the lies of the Evil One, and our own sins can distort this knowledge.

Fearful people know God, but they see first the masks of those who have hurt them.

Those who feel guilty might assume that God is like a mere human being who forgives begrudgingly and with strings attached.


Excerpted from "Side by Side"
by .
Copyright © 2015 Edward T. Welch.
Excerpted by permission of Good News Publishers.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

Introduction: Side by Side: Needy and Needed,
Part 1 We Are Needy,
1 Life Is Hard,
2 Our Hearts Are Busy,
3 Hard Circumstances Meet Busy Hearts,
4 Sin Weighs a Lot,
5 Say "Help" to the Lord,
6 Say "Help" to Other People,
Part 2 We Are Needed,
7 Remember: We Have the Spirit,
8 Move toward and Greet One Another,
9 Have Thoughtful Conversations,
10 See the Good, Enjoy One Another,
11 Walk Together, Tell Stories,
12 Have Compassion during Trouble,
13 Pray during Trouble,
14 Be Alert to Satan's Devices,
15 Prepare to Talk about Sin,
16 Help Fellow Sinners,
17 Keep the Story in View,
Conclusion: A Community Works Best Side by Side,
General Index,
Scripture Index,

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher

“The task of counseling is the task of loving others well. This book will help you to know what the love of Christ looks like, how to extend it to others, and how to accept it from others as you live in relationship together.”
Heath Lambert, Executive Director, Association of Certified Biblical Counselors; Associate Professor of Biblical Counseling, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary; author, The Biblical Counseling Movement after Adams

“There are two things that Welch’s book does very well. It demonstrates that no one gives grace better than a person who is convinced he needs it himself and that God makes his invisible grace visible by sending ordinary people to give extraordinary grace to people who need it. Welch not only reminds us all of our call to friendship ministry but also unpacks for us what it looks like. Every Christian should read this book!”
Paul David Tripp, President, Paul Tripp Ministries; author, What Did You Expect? Redeeming the Realities of Marriage

“Welch builds a vision of a Christian community that moves beyond platitudes and empty promises to deep, scriptural, Christlike relationships. You will find this book to be a helpful primer on how to ask for and provide help in the midst of an age of separation.”
Elyse M. Fitzpatrick, counselor; speaker; author, Found in Him

“Finally! I’ve been wanting a book that helps normal, everyday Christians know how to help friends who are struggling. Ed Welch has given us this in his short, well-written, biblically sound, and Christ-exalting book. I’m planning to buy a bunch of copies and give it out to our church members.”
Deepak Reju, Associate Pastor, Capitol Hill Baptist Church, Washington, DC; President, Board of Directors, Biblical Counseling Coalition

“Ed Welch calls us back to the biblical model of one-another care with user-friendly wisdom that neither overcomplicates nor oversimplifies what it means to be a biblical encourager. I highly recommend Side by Side for every believer, every small group, and every church committed to being equipped to encourage one another in Christ.”
Robert W. Kellemen, Vice President, Institutional Development; Chair, Biblical Counseling Department, Crossroads Bible College; author, Gospel-Centered Counseling

Side by Side is a simple, insightful and practical guide to walking with people through times of trouble. This book will help churches to become communities of honesty and healing. You should read it—others will benefit, and so will you.”
Ian Smith, Principal, Christ College, Sydney

Side by Side is a very practical and thoroughly biblical guide meant as much for the average church member as for pastors and caregivers. Ed demolishes the myth that counseling can be done only by the professionally qualified. I wish this book had been written long ago.”
John K. John, Executive Director, Biblical Counseling Trust of India

“This book of practical spirituality will produce many more helpless Christians, but also many more helpful Christians. It made me feel both more needy and more needed. A rare double blessing!”
David P. Murray, Professor of Old Testament, Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary; pastor, Grand Rapids Free Reformed Church, Grand Rapids, Michigan; author, Jesus on Every Page and The Happy Christian

Side by Side is an expertly executed physical-therapy treatment for the disabled body of Christ. With biblical precision and practical compassion, Welch assists the attentive and teachable to work spiritual muscles left unused by many. Finally, someone has offered the people of God a ministry tool for mutual burden bearing and spiritual body building.
Joseph V. Novenson, Pastor, Lookout Mountain Presbyterian Church, Lookout Mountain, Tennessee

“Ed Welch skillfully provokes and counsels Christians on how to relate better with others by recognizing they are needy and needed. He puts his arms around church members who want to be more than spectators, around friends who want to grow in wise love for one another, and around parents who want to be more effective with their children. I wish I could have read this book as a young person—life would have been much richer both for others and for me.”
Bruce K. Waltke, Professor Emeritus of Biblical Studies, Regent College

“We are needy people who share the same nature with many others in need of help. God’s grace does not make us self-sufficient but enables us to help others. Welch develops this principle beautifully in this book. Side by Side is not only a book for individual profit, but one to be used as an instrument for the growth of the church and the equipping of God’s people.”
Valdeci Santos, Vice-President and Professor of Biblical Counseling and Missions, Andrew Jumper Graduate Center, Brazil

Side by Side is a practical book about us needing others and others needing us. It pushes us to go further in our relationships and offers concrete ways to do that. It is a book about being companions and allies in Christian living. It is a book, finally, about being good Christian friends. I’d love every member of our church to read it—we would be a stronger community as a result.”
Steve Midgley, Executive Director, Biblical Counselling UK; Senior Minister, Christ Church, Cambridge

Side by Side simply made my ministry approach and the necessary in-reach method more pertinent to successful personal outreach and up-close-and-personal discipleship.”
Dallas H. Wilson, Jr., Vicar, St. John’s Chapel, Charleston, South Carolina

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