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Walking on Water When You Feel Like You're Drowning

Review of the book written by Tommy Nelson & Steve Leavitt

In the twenty-four years I have had the privilege of serving on a Pastoral Team, I have spent countless hours ministering to people as they shared their problems, concerns and burdens. I have heard stories of grief, anger, confusion, sadness, loss and depression. For many years I felt the pressure to "fix" them. After all, they called me. They trusted me. They thought I could do or say something that would make them better. If they left my office and were not "fixed", would they think less of me? Would they think they wasted their time, or even worse, question if there really was any hope for them?

I assume every Pastor can identify with this pressure. Sometimes the desire to "fix" is driven by pride. yet, more often, it really is a sincere longing to help a hurting member of the flock. To be sure, there are many times in counseling situations when I have taken people immediately to a passage of Scripture and given them answers. I have had multiple conversations that were centered on spiritual struggles where clear direction was easy to give. Does God love me? Doe He hear my prayers? Should I stay in my marriage even though it is very difficult? These questions and many like them are very real, very personal, but have clear Biblical answers.

Pastoral care becomes more difficult however, when dealing with depression. Many times our spiritual condition intersects with our physical health and emotional stability. People face obstacles that need Biblical guidance and prayer, but also often need sound medical advice. If someone came into my office and disclosed to me that they had cancer, I would absolutely pray with them and share Scripture. I believe there is much to be gained by going to God's Word in the midst of a crushing diagnosis. However, I would not expect them to be "over" their cancer when they left my office. I would also encourage them to see the best oncologist possible. It seems when a problem can be seen on an X-ray or an MRI, a Pastor feels comfortable with his role. However, when dealing with depression or anxiety, sometimes we are at a loss.

In their book Walking on Water, Tommy Nelson and Steve Leavitt provide sound wisdom in ministering to Christians who are battling depression. Filled with Scripture, this book is written from a God-centered world view. The Biblical teaching offered continually drives the reader to the Scripture for a rock on which to plant their feet. Great insight into the physiology of depression is also given. As a pastor, my calling is to pray for a weary soul and give Scriptural encouragement and answers. However, my training is not in the medical field and there are occasions when making a referral is the wisest choice.

To neglect the importance of God's Word when ministering to someone battling depression is to make a critical mistake. Yet, to quote Scripture to someone injured in a car wreck and not call an ambulance is also a bad decision. I believe Walking on Water is a great resource to help Pastors understand how to give solid, Biblical responses to the hurting in an encouraging way. This book also will help each reader understand how to utilize the great gifts of medicine, trained counselors and medical professionals.

Tommy Nelson, Pastor of Denton Bible Church, writes from a personal perspective. He has dedicated his life to studying the Bible, living it and passing it on. Yet, depression struck him and left him "out of commission" for several months. Did he forget the Bible? Did he lose everything he had studied and believed? No, rather, he had a real problem that needed to be addressed. In reading this book, you hear from one who has both suffered from depression and counseled those going through it. I found my own heart reassured of my need to be grounded in Scripture to be a ready help for those who come into my office asking, What does God's Word say about my pain? I also was reminded that it is not in my power to "fix" them. As a result, I more fully understand what they are facing and feel better equipped to guide them down the path to recovery.


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