When People are Big and God is Small: Overcoming Peer Pressure, Codependency, and the Fear of Man, by Edward T. Welch, 1997.
This was my first Biblical counseling book to read by Welch and I am incredibly glad that I chose to read it. I went into the book expecting to be enlightened about the approach used in counseling those people who deal with peer pressure and codependency issues and what I came away with was the recognition that I have a large bit of repentance and change that needs to be made within my own life. I am a big people-pleaser, this I have always known, but I never really recognized how ingrained that mentality can go. As I was reading portions of this book, I was having to circle portions of the text and write notes outside the margins saying “This is me” or “I do this all the time.” How being a people-pleaser, in the end, is just another way of doing things because I want (or fear, depending on how you look at it) the approval of people. I am more concerned with how I am viewed by others than how I am viewed by God.
Most of the book is looking at the masochistic cycle that self-help books and self-esteem psychology place people in. How those very things that are put out there to help people deal with what they feel they lack (and, therefore, need to be happy) are actually making things worse and placing people under the fear of others. Welch looks at the psychology of need, in that we, in American culture, view ourselves as empty cups that need to be filled. We find anything and everything, most especially other people, to fill our empty cups. Welch systematically dismantles this form of psychological needs through Scripture and shows that people must stop allowing their emotions to dominate their view of their brokenness. Instead of concentrating on what we lack, and, therefore, need, we are commanded by God to love others and to love and fear Him. In the end, its not about us, we must love. We are not to expect, need or demand to be filled except by the overfilling love of God.
However, most of the book looks at how we come to know the full love of God by understanding what it means to have a fear of the Lord, instead of man. We are to be terrified at his wrath and judgment, on the one hand, and to be in awe and worship of his grace and love which saves us. Both His love and justice are part of understanding what it means to fear Him. To only have one aspect is to not have a proper understanding our reverence for our God. His exegesis and explanation of how our doctrine of God and doctrine of man really does play out in our everyday lives. If we have an impotent view of God then we will begin to fear people instead because we think they are the only way that we can be fixed or changed. If we have a strong reverence, or fear, of God then we will not be afraid of others, but instead free to love them, because we were first loved. I had never in my life thought about how the fear of God would play into how I live my life in accordance with others. I came to the realization that I still make God weak in my life and I still seek others’ approval and, ultimately, fear their criticism when I am not approved of by them. This concept is freeing to think about. If God is the only one that I fear (both in trembling and worship) then I no longer fear anything else. His love and mercy becomes enough for me, I no longer need the approval of others. I am free to love them without demanding my needs to be met. After reading this book, I just pray that I can come to understand God in this way, both trembling before Him and worshiping Him in awe. What a beautiful picture of the God we worship who is mighty to save and overflowing with love beyond all knowledge and measure.
I sincerely recommend this book to everyone. It is that important for you all to read it!