Love Must Be Tough

Love Must Be ToughI read Love Must be Tough (LMBT) about 20 years ago and recently reread it. Dr. Dobson, the author, is a Christian psychologist and was a host on a popular Christian radio show beginning in the late 70’s and into 2000. His book, LMBT, provides helpful direction for troubled families, and in particular married couples.

You can make it, and even though it feels like God is unconcerned, He really does care!

When Dr. Dobson first wrote this book, it was a bit revolutionary because it opened a “new” door for struggling marriages. Marriage problems were generally “hush-hush” with victimhood and enablement the unsuccessful results. Dobson, as a Christian psychologist, was in essence giving couples permission to confront marital problems. Then, he encouraged active steps in order to bring wholeness back to the marriage relationship.

I feel that any struggling spouse could benefit from this book, especially the Christian. A Christian knows God wants them to forgive as God has forgiven them. I believe some Christians hesitate to deal with tough problems because they think they should forgive, forget and move on. Also, there can be great shame before God and Christian friends along with a fear of denunciation. Dobson’s book offers practical steps toward restoration.

As Dr. Dobson states, he “felt compelled to write this difficult book” because “infidelity and marital conflict are cancers” rising in epidemic proportion in the western world. (p.142) Throughout the book, he identifies the issues and shows how to approach and bring resolution. Adultery, abuse, passivity, finances, women’s liberation, homosexuality and addiction is discussed. He often uses correspondence or dialogue, bringing real-life practicality to the issues. Chapter 10 uses an actual radio show dialogue, hosted by Dobson on “Focus on the Family,” to help give an intimate glimpse at four spouses who faced troubled marriages. Chapter 12 examines the “Anatomy of Adultery” from the perspective of husband and wife.

I found LMBT a heartfelt discussion of the crisis in marriage today. Dobson’s tone is sympathetic yet firm, following Biblical principles. Dobson’s ability to address the fact that not all dying marriages will end alive and well gives the reader the correct perspective of the issue. Still, he encourages those who must face divorce to continue to hold to God’s love and seek his direction. In this regard I hoped Dobson would have given a stronger response.

In Chapter 10, Dr. Dobson expresses his support for those who face a breakup by reminding them of God’s love and says, “You can make it, and even though it feels like God is unconcerned, He really does care!” (p. 119) I believe this response is weak. The words are encouraging but they are just that-human words. Instead, I would expand and suggest daily Scripture reading and study; attending church; and searching for Christian support. Nothing can replace the wisdom of God as found in the Bible. A study of our unworthiness and sin; Christ’s compassionate forgiveness; and God’s unfathomable purposes would provide an excellent course of action.

Love Must Be Tough by Dr. James Dobson

Publishing Information: Word Publishers, 1983

Reviewer: Patrina Boehringer
Review Date: June 2015

I Loved a Girl

I Loved a GirlOne of the great difficulties the church faces in talking about sex is the pervasive attitude that the only real barriers to sex are age and consent. Thus the only way to sin sexually is to have sex with someone who is unwilling or underage, or to have sex with one person while there is still a commitment to another. Even then, we don’t call it “adultery,” we call it “cheating;” the same word we use for not following a diet or the rules of a game. This leads to another difficulty we face: we always seem to approach sex as a list of “don’ts” rather than as a gift God gives to the married.

[She] wasn’t married…Consequently, she didn’t belong to anyone and I don’t understand who it is I have wronged.

In I Loved a Girl, Pastor Trobisch addresses both these difficulties. The book is a true story, a collection of letters between François, a teacher at a school in Africa, who loses his position as teacher and is put under church discipline when it is discovered he had casual sex with a young woman. Confused by this response he writes to Pastor Trobisch, as he was the missionary who first brought the Gospel to him and baptized him. What has he done wrong? After all he is unmarried, and all he did was love a girl. “[She] wasn’t married…Consequently, she didn’t belong to anyone and I don’t understand who it is I have wronged.”

As they correspond, François asks questions about sex and marriage of Pastor Trobisch, who patiently instructs François in what it means to truly “love a girl,” and how sex is more than a physical act but part of God’s blessing of marriage. The talk of sex in the book is frank and thorough, but never graphic. I gave the book to my 12-year-old daughter to read and have used the book every other year as a devotional in my 7th & 8th grade classrooms. I’ve found it especially useful there, as a common theme in the book is the blessing of marriage and how sex plays a part in that, rather than “Here Is a List of Things Not To Do.”

The book benefits from being a collection of letters, as the question of François and the answers of Pastor Trobisch naturally facilitate discussion. While the book is brief, you would be hard-pressed to find a more thorough exposition on the Sixth Commandment. There is no overt discussion of pornography or homosexuality, yet Pastor Trobisch’s approach – sex being part of the overall blessing of marriage – makes it easy to address those topics as well. The book also benefits from its clear pastoral tone; the law is always clear and unflinching, but you are never in doubt that this is a shepherd seeking a lost sheep, addressing repentance with beautiful, unconditional Gospel. Indeed, the book would be a welcome addition to a Pastoral Counseling or Pastoral Theology class.

In the end I have nothing but praise for this book. It is one I find myself often recommending to parents and parishioners when discussing the topics of sex and marriage, telling them I hope they find it as enjoyable and beneficial as I have.

I Loved A Girl by Walter Trobisch

Publishing Information: Quiet Waters Publications, Bolivar, Missouri 2009

Reviewer: Alexander Ring
Review Date: July 2015

Secret Sin

Two separate book reviews follow

Secret SinI like this book very much. The author begins with the story of her experience with an abusive husband, followed by involvement with men who have various sexual addictions, and how the Lord led her even when she did not know or desire it.

The Lord has not given me the liberty to give counsel outside of the parameters he has set forth in his Word.

This is series of letters to wives whose husbands are caught up in various sexual sin and perversion, from pornography to bestiality and just about everything in between. Gallagher consistently uses God’s word to warn, comfort, encourage, and advise these wives depending upon their situation. I especially like that she does not promote divorce, but sometimes advises separation with the hope of reconciliation.

Some of the subjects she addresses are: Dealing with Suspicion, The Unrepentant Husband, Dealing with Fear, Feeling Betrayed, and many more.

There are 56 letters in the book, most of which are two pages or less in length.

I would highly recommend this book, but caution the reader to read all the letters, not just those that tell you what you want to hear. You may take a letter that encourages one woman to leave her marriage and use that as an excuse to file for divorce, when your situation is completely different from the wife in the letter.

Gallagher states in her introduction that you can “find many books which, in the name of Christian love, give an alternative to those…in Scripture. The Lord has not given me the liberty to give counsel outside of the parameters he has set forth in his Word.” She carries through with that position throughout the book.

When His Secret Sin Breaks Your Heart by Kathy Gallagher

Reviewer: Joan Garrity
Date: March 2015

The key to his living victoriously is faithfulness and endurance.

Kathy Gallagher is a woman whose husband was not only addicted to porn, but addicted to other sexual sins as well. Steve, her husband, would often hire prostitutes while Kathy was working in addition to his porn addiction. Since then, Steve has left that life style, and he and Kathy have set up Pure Life Ministries. This ministry is geared toward counseling men who have sexual addictions along with counseling the hurting wife.

Though I was looking forward to this book, I did not care for it. The author claims in the opening pages that the purpose of this book “is to provide the hurting wife, with solid, biblical answers and practical solutions to everyday problems associated with being married to a man in sexual sins.” She does give practical solutions to everyday problems, but her biblical answers are not great.

The book is a compilation of response letters from the author to hurting wives who have written her letters. The reader does not see what the hurting wife has written, only the topic and the author’s response. Which presents a problem: not every chapter will relate to the reader. Not only that, but how can the reader know which chapter applies to her life? The author admits this saying, “As you read these letters you will find some that seem to encourage you along a path you have been taking that isn’t right. Let me explain…Perhaps you are weak, beaten down and would rather forget that you just discovered your husband is in adultery. You need the encouragement to be strong for your husband, as outlined in the letters to Judy and Robin. You wouldn’t want to follow the advice found in the letter to Kelly who wants to police every move of her husband.” Some of the chapters may never apply to a certain individual.

The motivation for change is also a problem as it was not focused on the gospel. She encourages the wife to be there for her husband a lot, but does not give the hurting wife encouragement that Jesus has paid for his sins. Throughout the whole book there are only a handful of times when the author makes mention of Jesus’ death on the cross for either a husband or a hurting wife. Even in sections encouraging the wife to forgive her husband she says, “…you can be free from your self-made prison today if you choose to repent of the hatred that has consumed your heart and then allow Christ to love your husband through you. Seems pretty impossible, huh? Not so! The reason you can do this is because Jesus showed us how.”

Throughout the whole book, the emphasis is primarily on what we do. She often says your husband can overcome his sexual sins, yet does not motivate him through the gospel. Rather she puts the emphasis on the husband, “The key to his living victoriously is faithfulness and endurance. If he remains diligent and chooses to do those things God has shown him, he will make it!” Even with the ministry they have going on at Pure Life Ministries, she does not give the gospel any reason for the change in men from their sexual sins. “But I am convinced, that there isn’t a sincere man alive, who couldn’t overcome his sin at the Pure Life live-in program. I say this because everything he needs to find victory is made available to him: a godly environment, counselors who have been there and who offer wisdom to overcome life-dominating sin, tight accountability, and most of all, a heightened sense of the presence of God.”

She does give some good practical advice that could benefit many different women whose husbands are dealing with sexual sins. However, there are so many different situations it might be hard for the reader to know which ones she should apply to herself and which ones she should not.

In her own story in the introduction, she makes a big deal of the Lord speaking to her, her husband, Steve, and her parents about what to do. This carries over to some of her letters where she tells the recipient to pray and listen for God’s guidance and he will tell the recipient what to do. In fact, she thinks that feelings are sometimes divinely inspired, “How do you know if your misgivings are rooted in fear and influenced by the devil or if they are based upon fact and divinely inspired.” That is a slippery slope to be heading down.

Overall, there were a few gems here and there, but it was mostly not good. Knowing that the only thing that changes hearts is hearing that Christ loves you so much that he laid down his life for you, I cannot recommend this book. Not when the main emphasis is on us with a splash of God will give you the strength to change.

When His Secret Sin Breaks Your Heart by Kathy Gallagher

Reviewer: Stephen Apt
Date: April 2015


SearchWhen I selected this book for reading and review, I will honestly admit, I was out to debunk what I thought would be another book promoting humanistic philosophies of self-esteem. When I saw the title, red flags appeared. I assumed it was the kind of Christian self-help book what would promote the Laws of good works over the Gospel of Jesus’ redemption and forgiveness. Happily, I was mistaken – feeling great relief that Mr. McGee placed the sole emphasis on Christ.  “…the point is clear that Christ is the source of our security; Christ is the basis of our worth; Christ is the only one who promises and never fails.” (p. 24)

We must understand that this hunger for self-worth is God-given and can only be satisfied by Him.

Search for Significance is well organized and developed. It begins by identifying the problem, “…we…seek our security and purpose from worldly sources: our goals, personal success, status, beauty, wealth, and the approval of others.” (p. ix) The book continues by identifying these false goals with a chapter dedicated for each fallacy. Mr. McGee clearly develops his book with a rich use of Gospel promises and as a bonus, helpful charts. The book also includes a workbook which leads the reader into the study of God’s Word; reinforcing God’s promises and emphasizing its importance in one’s life.

I found the author’s straight-forward approach in confronting our problems very insightful and refreshing. He encourages truthfulness and honesty at our deepest level. One section particularly caught my attention, “Many of us mistakenly believe that God doesn’t want us to be honest about our lives. We think that He will be upset with us if we tell Him how we really feel. But the Scriptures tell us that God does not want us to be superficial in our relationship with Him, with others, or in our lives.” (p. 3) In addition, he brilliantly identifies the yearning or emptiness felt by all people as he describes one couple’s problem, “Unfortunately, they were depending on each other to fill a void that could only be filled by their Creator.” (p. 8) Furthermore, at the end of chapter one: “We must understand that this hunger for self-worth is God-given and can only be satisfied by Him.” (p. 11)

If I were to make any changes they would be few but important.  I do not prefer the term “self-esteem” and would change it to “completeness.” I understand that “self-esteem” is readily understood, but I believe it carries to much humanistic baggage. I would prefer “completeness” because through Christ we are restored to the fullness and forgiveness desired by God. As it is written in I John 4:12, “God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.”

Secondly I was concerned when in the introduction. Mr. McGee wrote, “When God gave me the essence of this book in 1980 while I was directing counseling centers in Houston, I never would have guessed that over the next twenty-three years it would be received as enthusiastically and change as many lives as it has.” Not only does this sound a bit pompous but claims some direct revelation from God. This is a dangerous statement as it might imply direct communication with God, which would be mysticism – at teaching which the author has rightly condemned in his book.

And thirdly, I was extremely pleased that the source of his writing was taken from Scripture, but sorry that Mr. McGee did not mention the use of the Holy Sacraments in supporting our faith in Christ.

I would recommend this book as a useful guide for those caught in the destructive cycle of self-condemnation or worldly success.  The book carefully instructs one to examine our false beliefs against the wonderful promises of God’s complete and total love.

The Search for Significance: Seeing Your True Worth through God’s Eyes by Robert S McGee

Publishing Information: W Publishing Group: 1998 (337 pages)

Reviewer: Patrina T. Boehringer
Review Date: March, 2015