As counselors, we engage with people every day about their deepest experiences of pain and struggle. We live in a broken world, filled with disappointment, problems, and difficulties. This is a predictable part of life. Jesus promised that “In this world you will have trouble” (John 16:33a). So this “promise” likely rings true for you. I know I have had my share of trouble in my life, and my guess is that you have experienced trouble as well.
I love it that the verse doesn’t stop there. After noting the inevitable reality of suffering, Jesus gives us reason for hope: “But take heart! I have overcome the world” (John 16:33b). The story does not stop with brokenness and pain. Your story—and those of others you serve—doesn’t have to stop there.
The overcoming life of Jesus gives us hope for healing, growth, and new life. His life is stronger than anything in this world. Sickness is terrible; Jesus healed. Physical needs are daunting; Jesus fed. Demonic possession is terrifying; Jesus set people free. Death catches up with each of us eventually; Jesus resurrected Lazarus. Clearly, this does not mean that all your troubles will go away. It did not mean that for Jesus. He was brutally killed, but then God raised him from the dead. “…Take heart! I have overcome the world,” is the message that echoes in fallen creation after the life of Christ.
As counselors and helpers, we have an opportunity to participate in this ministry of overcoming, each time we interact with the people who have been placed under our care. In my experience—of all the things that contribute to healing and growth, the most important is relationship. Brokenness occurs in relationship; healing also happens in relationship. That’s the reason why I love small groups so much. The relationship between the small group leader and the group members are powerful, but the group members also experience the healing power of relationships with the other group members.
Our goal in writing Helping Groups Heal is to help group leaders be more effective in leading their small groups. Leading small groups is difficult. Some basic foundational skills can go a long way in setting up a small group that helps its members to experience life to the full. Helping Groups Heal takes basic principles from group therapy and puts them into an easy-to-understand model that is consistent with a Christian worldview. My hope is that whatever type of small group you lead—therapy group, support group, or bible study—Helping Groups Heal will enable you to learn and develop skills that will improve your ability to lead your group members in their process of healing and growth.
Joshua Hook, Ph.D., is an Assistant Professor of Counseling Psychology at the University of North Texas in Denton, TX. He is a Licensed Clinical Psychologist in the state of Texas. His research interests focus in the area of positive psychology, specifically humility, forgiveness, and religion/spirituality. He is an active member of AACC and will be presenting at the upcoming 2017 AACC “Break Every Chain” World Conference. His recent book, Helping Groups Heal: Leading Groups in the Process of Transformation (Spirituality and Mental Health) is available here: https://www.amazon.com/Helping-Groups-Heal-Transformation-Spirituality/dp/1599474859