I eyeballed this book for some time online before I finally pulled the trigger (or should I say, clicked the mouse) to purchase it. I’m certainly glad I did not let it fall off my radar. Fitting this book into your reading schedule this coming New Year will certainly be a blessing, especially because the holiday let-down which accompanies January tends to result in higher occurrences of seasonal depression and other psychological/emotional disruptions, either experienced by yourself or by ones whom you may be given the opportunity to minister.
Ed Welch’s book Side by Side: Walking with Others in Wisdom and Love is an extremely tangible guide designed to equip believers to be better friends in the context of providing biblical encouragement, support, prayer, and compassion. It’s a neatly-categorized 163 pages—the first part geared towards building evidenced and scriptural truth that we ourselves exist in a desperately needy condition; the second part unpacking the faithful application of needy people being desperately needed by others.
Welch’s aim, which encompasses the entire theme of the composition, is to expand upon the point that “Your neediness qualifies you to help others” (pg. 16). I’d consider this book to be a stepping stone before Paul David Tripp’s Instruments in the Redeemer’s Hands: People in Need of Change Helping People in Need of Change—Welch’s book being far more easily understood, received, and applied by the everyday Christian (don’t get me wrong, I adore that book of Mr. Tripp’s, although I read it first as a new believer and was often overwhelmed by its thoroughness, especially as it pertained to biblical counseling applications).
As a disciple of Christ who has been stretched by the Spirit to overcome tendencies of introverted seclusion, I have found this book extremely helpful in giving me guidance on intentionally reaching out to people more regularly, both for support during my own times of duress, but also for coming alongside those facing hardship themselves. I have already put into use several of the suggestions explained in part 2 of the book and look forward to growing in the ability to provide gospel-centered encouragement and fellowship. I’d recommend this book to someone who is looking for a simply worded, scripture-rich guide that helps them understand their own hearts more, and their Spirit-empowered ability to help others even better. Paul David Tripp reviews, “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!”
A few of my favorite quotes:
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. (pg. 25)
Sin weighs a lot, but those who can see their sins see something good. When we confess these sins, knowing that they are forgiven, we see something better—Jesus himself. (pg. 45)
Knowing others well enough to pray for them—that’s help at its most basic and at its best. (pg. 84)
When we get God’s story right, our suffering confirms that we belong to him; it does not mean that he is distant and unresponsive. Suffering is a time when he is most obviously at work, and our spiritual task is to turn to him rather than try and manage our world our own way. (pg. 109-110)
So many behaviors that we call addictions start in the wilderness—times when life seems too hard. Life is difficult, and we prefer to avoid pain. God is not giving us the deliverance we want, so we look for relief in idols. We cut, drink, turn to porn, eat, smoke, snort, inject, take pills, play video games, read fantasy—all of these reveal our modern idols. (pg. 143)
Mostly, spiritual power and growth feel like weakness, as if we just barely make it through the day. (pg. 151)
Hope is essential to human life. Without it we try to stay busy enough so that we are distracted by the bleak realities ahead. God’s master story, of course, is the story of hope. (pg. 158)
Each chapter of the book concludes with questions for personal reflection or group discussion and response. There are even a few reference diagrams included in the pages to further illustrate the points Welch is making. Side by Side offers the perfect amount of practical confidence, challenging believers to set aside their own suppositions of under-qualification in order to be more effective in encouraging others in Christ. Welch writes, “If you feel quite weak and ordinary—if you feel like a mess but have the Spirit—you have the right credentials. You are one of the ordinary people God uses to help others.”
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About the Author: Edward T. Welch
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 Small, Crossroads: A Step-by-Step Guide Away From Addiction, Running Scared: Fear, Worry and the God of Rest, Shame Interrupted, and Side by Side. He blogs regularly at CCEF.org.