Book Review: 31-Day Devotionals for Life
31-Day Devotionals for Life. P&R Publishing. 2020.
It’s a normal Sunday morning. As a pastor, you’ve just preached and are standing at the back of the church, greeting members and guests. One particular member stops, looking particularly dejected, and asks if you could step off to the side.
“Pastor, can we meet? I’m struggling and need counsel.”
While our heart goes out, oftentimes our head is spinning. What is the nature of the struggle? How long has it gone on? Am I equipped to help? Sensing your responsibility for your sheep, you arrange a time to talk the following week.
There is nothing unusual about this illustration. This is normal pastoral ministry. We are appointed as God’s under-shepherds to care for his sheep. This involves strengthening the weak, healing the sick, binding up the injured, and bringing back the straying (Ez. 34:4). But as we do so, we find ourselves in search of tools to help us in this privileged task.
Regardless of the church, every pastor needs “go-to” resources they can give to those seeking counsel. Enter 31-Day Devotionals for Life.
How Are These Devotionals Useful in Pastoral Ministry?
31-Day Devotionals for Life are a series of monthly devotionals on all manner of topics a pastor might encounter while serving his congregation. Here’s their catalog as of this writing.
- A Painful Past
- Addictive Habits
- After an Affair
- Chronic Illness
- Fearing Others
- Marriage Conflict
- Parenting & Disabilities
- Toxic Relationships
These books are designed to give readers 31 days of 1-2 devotions, applying the Word of God to the struggle.
In our pastoral offices, we keep a stack of these books on various topics and give them away to members as we discover weakness, wickedness, and woundedness in their lives.
How Do These Devotionals Differ from Other Books?
There is no shortage of counseling resources available to pastors in Western contexts. There are book-length treatments and mini-booklets on an assortment of subjects, as well as training videos, curriculum, and counseling manuals. However, many of these resources are more informative than formative. That is, they exist more to educate and equip the mind than to shape and serve the soul. Don’t get me wrong—both are necessary. We need good counseling resources that help us think biblically about counseling. But we need more good counseling resources that actually help the person engage devotionally with the Lord, bringing their hearts to the Chief Shepherd through the Word and prayer.
31-Day Devotionals for Life provide that devotional engagement. They allow you as a pastor to give something to your church members that will get them immediately into God’s Word, that they may hear his voice concerning their challenge. Devotions also encourage readers to pray and take active steps of faith in addressing that sin or struggle, all infused with the grace of the gospel and compassion of Christ.
How Would These Devotionals Impact Your Church?
One might assume these devotionals apply an overly simplistic method of addressing soul struggles. Some have pejoratively called such Word-centered or Word-based counseling as a “take two verses and call me in the morning”-approach that does not deal sufficiently with all that people need by way of counseling.
While it is certainly true that people often need more than the Word and prayer, they will never need less than the Word and prayer. While our needs include healthy relationships within the church and (at times) medical intervention and other forms of treatment, those means can never supplant our need to draw near to our Father, by his Spirit, through his Son in Word and prayer (Heb. 4:16). These devotionals help to instill in our hearts that this is the first thing we do for help. God is—above all others—our “very present help in times of trouble” (Ps. 46:1).
Some years ago, I asked an older pastor what he did when a member approached him for counseling. He responded that once he determined the nature of the problem, he asked the person whether they had sought the Lord about it, and if they had, what that seeking involved. He asked them what Scriptures they had considered and what prayers they had prayed. If they hadn’t sought the Lord, he would compile a list of Scriptures for them to read and pray over and agreed to meet with them once they had completed the assignment.
Oftentimes, members never needed the meeting, although some did, and he was always eager to meet at that point. When I asked him why he did this, his simple answer was: “Always send your people to God first.”
31-Day Devotionals for Life will give you a resource by which you can do just that.