I received this book back in May. It's now November. So I'm ridiculously overdue with this review, but there's a good reason. I really READ this book. I mean, seriously. I picked it up to review it and was in tears by the end of the first chapter. Just then, my husband (a pastor) and I were facing some daunting personalities and conflict at our church, and I went from absolutely discouraged to "I need to read more NOW" in the space of about 5 minutes. The Gospel does that for a person, and the authors do a fabulous job of explaining not just the Gospel OBLIGATIONS, but just as important, the Gospel DECLARATIONS. The former tell us what to do; the latter, which MUST come first, tell us who Christ is, and who we are.
The authors write for the counselOR, but address the reader much of the time as a counselEE, which I found eminently helpful. COUNSEL, in the title, can be taken both as a verb and as a noun. Their work does remind the counselor how the Gospel can be applied to every category of "issue" you'll encounter in the counseling room, but it first counsels the counselor, helping the reader apply the Gospel to what they're facing right now. Early on, the authors explain the two sides of the "Gospel-deficient" coin: "Sad moralists" apply the Gospel obligations without any of the declarations. They get trapped in legalism and, eventually, begin to deceive themselves that their obedience gains them favor with God. They see most often how far their practice deviates from the perfection God seeks to build in them, and only end up discouraged and defeated by their sin and pride. On the other side of the coin, "happy moralists" remember many of the Gospel declarations, but don't follow through with the Gospel obligations. They rejoice in who they are in Christ, and think that position is "enough," and that their practice doesn't need to change. These get trapped in license and a lack of understanding of what it cost God to give them that position. As one of my counselees puts it, they "trample on grace." Everyone fits into one of these categories (most of us will swing back and forth according to our individual areas of sinful bent), so the authors spend the rest of the book applying the Gospel to these two extremes in the "big-box" arenas of emotions, relationships, growth in Christ, and life purpose and focus.
I picked up COUNSEL FROM THE CROSS to read through it quickly enough to get a sense of it and write a knowledgeable review, and realized I needed to slow waaaaaay down. I needed to let the truth of the Word soak into my spirit, warm me, recharge me, kick me in the pants a few times, and remind me of the goodness and unfailing love of the God I serve. As a Biblical counselor and teacher, I've already been using the material, and look forward to getting this book into the hands of the women I meet with on a regular basis as soon as possible, beginning with going through it (again) with a counselee this winter. I highly, highly recommend that you allow Mrs. Fitzpatrick and Dr. Johnson to offer you "counsel from the cross."