The BCC Author Interview Q & A with Bob Kellemen
As part of our BCC vision, we want to help you to get to know gifted biblical counseling authors and their books. This week we’re highlighting Bob Kellemen as he talks about his book God’s Healing for Life’s Losses.
BCC: “What’s the ‘big idea’ behind God’s Healing for Life’s Losses? What would you like readers to take away from it?”
BK: “In a biblical sentence: you can grieve with hope (1 Thessalonians 4:13). God’s Healing for Life’s Losses gives readers permission to grieve and offers a pathway toward hope. I want people to see their suffering from God’s perspective without denying the reality that suffering still hurts. What would I like readers to take away? The title and subtitle say it best. I’d like readers to walk away with God’s healing hope.”
BCC: “What motivated you to write God’s Healing for Life’s Losses?”
BK: “My ministry to real people with real hurts motivated me to write this book. People quickly grow weary of Christian books that pretend. They’re tired of Christian counselors and well-meaning friends who dispense far too much ‘happiness all the time, wonderful peace of mind.’ They’re also gravely disappointed when the answers to their questions about suffering reflect more of the wisdom of the world than of the truth of God’s Word. The purpose of the book is to assist people on their grief and growth journey to find God’s healing hope in their hurts and losses.”
BCC: “With all that’s going on in the world, why this book now? What’s unique about God’s Healing for Life’s Losses?”
BK: “Some grief books, even some authored by Christians, follow the world’s model of grieving—the typical denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance stage approach. They rarely seem to move beyond a ‘secular’ way of looking at grief. Other Christian authors seem to minimize the grief and hurt, and attempt to race people quickly to healing hope. So we end up either with secular help or shallow help.
There has to be a better way. Christians long for an approach that faces suffering honestly and engages sufferers passionately—all in the context of presenting truth biblically and relevantly. We need to be able to face life’s losses in the context of God’s healing. Jesus did. ‘I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world’ (John 16:33).”
BCC: “Who should read God’s Healing for Life’s Losses?”
BK: “Sometimes the minute we hear words like loss and grief, our minds focus exclusively on death and dying. God’s Healing for Life’s Losses focuses on any type of loss—from the grand loss of death, to the daily casket experiences of the loss of a job, the loss of a dream, the loss of a relationship… So anyone struggling with any life loss would benefit from reading God’s Healing.
God’s Healing for Life’s Losses also equips spiritual friends, pastors, and counselors. When we’re helping hurting people, it can get messy and confusing. A few ‘handles,’ a few ‘road markers’ on the journey sure would help. That’s what God’s Healing for Life’s Losses offers. It provides a ‘map’ without becoming a straight-jacket. It suggests eight ‘directional markers’ that become something of a GPS—God’s Positioning System—for the grief and growth journey. God’s Healing for Life’s Losses examines Scripture relationally and practically so that helpers grow in their ability to explore passages with hurting people—and do so in a natural, loving, caring, skillful way.”
BCC: “How will the grieving person benefit from reading God’s Healing for Life’s Losses?”
BK: “I weave throughout each chapter three stories: my story of facing the death of my father, a ministry couple’s story of facing an unjust ministry termination, and biblical narratives of suffering people in the Scriptures. These combine to ‘normalize’ the grief and growth process so readers understand that while their path is unique, it is not at all abnormal. Written in ‘gift book’ format for the person facing suffering, God’s Healing for Life’s Losses includes two built-in application/discussion guides (including a journal section). This makes it ideal for individual or group use.”
BCC: “How does the Gospel inform the way that we care for people who are grieving?”
BK: “I wrote God’s Healing for Life’s Losses as a Christ-centered, comprehensive, compassionate, and culturally-informed approach to grief and growth. ‘Christ-centered’ or ‘Gospel-centered’ must take priority. There is no hope apart from Christ. There is no healing apart from Christ. And there’s no way to look at life with faith eyes, especially in the midst of painful, confusing circumstances, if we can’t look to the Cross. The Cross of Christ and the Christ of the Cross are the final proofs of God’s good heart for us. The Gospel declares the affectionate sovereignty of God. God is a Rewarder.
The Gospel takes us not only to the past work of Christ, but also to the future. We must read the end of the story where we discover that God wins! Good triumphs over evil. Hope over hurt. Healing over pain. The Gospel allows us to experience creative suffering and it is the Cross that empowers us to transform suffering. One of the consistent messages of God’s Healing for Life’s Losses is that sanctification—our increasingly likeness to Christ—is a primary reason God allows suffering. Suffering is our opportunity to know God better and to reflect Christ better. That’s creative suffering, that’s Gospel-centered grief and growth.”
BCC: “What words of wisdom do you have for friends, counselors, and pastors of those who are suffering? How can we help?”
BK: “There’s a tendency, on the one hand, for helpers to rush in quoting Romans 8:28 and telling Christ’s story before listening to their friend’s story. So helpers need to listen, however, that’s not in some “clinical, analytical” sense. We need to listen empathetically. We need to enter the pain, hurt, and grief of our hurting friends. Of course, that’s going to elicit pain for the helper. So they will need to be taking their hurt, pain, and grief to the Divine Comforter. That’s the message of 2 Corinthians 1:3-11—the only truly effective comforter is the person who consistently turns to the Spirit for His comfort.
There’s another tendency, on the other hand, for helpers never to share scriptural insight. In our wise desire not to be trite, we end up not offering much of any biblical wisdom. Paul got it right in 1 Thessalonians 2:8 when he said that because he loved them so much, he gave them not only the Scriptures but his own soul, because they were dear to him. We must give people both our souls and God’s Scripture. Truth and love must kiss. This doesn’t mean ‘preaching at people.’ Rather, it involves the art of the ‘trialogue’—the helper, the person receiving help, and the Holy Spirit through God’s Word working together. It means having ‘spiritual conversations’ where you ask sensitive, caring, timely questions that relate God’s Word to the sufferer’s life. It means engaging in ‘scriptural explorations’ where you explore specific passages together and ask probing questions so that the person suffering can find biblical wisdom and comfort.”
BCC: “You emphasize that grief and growth are a relational process, not sequential steps. What do you mean by that and why is it so important?”
BK: “Grieving and growing are not a neat, nice, tidy package. Grieving and growing are messy because life in a fallen world is messy. Moving through hurt to hope is a two-steps-forward, one-step-backwards endeavor. Rather than picturing a linear, step-by-step route, imagine a three dimensional maze with many possible paths, frequent detours, backtracking, and even the ability to reside in more than one ‘part’ of the grief journey at the same time. However, positive movement is possible. In fact, it is promised. You can find God’s healing for your losses. You can find hope in your hurt—through Christ.”
BCC: “Thank you, Bob. It has been great to learn more about your Gospel-centered approach to grief and growth in God’s Healing for Life’s Losses.”