With our due date for baby #2 just around the corner, I have savored my reading time lately, knowing that time alone to relax and read will be harder to come by for the next several months. I have worked my way through the pile of books on my nightstand—from Christmas presents to impulse Amazon purchases. As I finished these books over the last few months, I realized how these female authors have profoundly impacted my faith journey through their writing. While some of these authors I have only recently come to know and others I own their entire collection of writings, I am thankful for how God has used each of these women and their books to speak into my spiritual journey. (Note: While these books have female authors and beautiful covers, they are just as applicable and important for men to read as women.)
Beholding and Becoming: The Art of Everyday Worship by Ruth Chou Simons
They say don’t judge a book by its cover, but I have to admit I thought this book might be as flowery as its cover. I was wrong. Simons knows how to pack a punch into each paragraph of her writing. While the pages may be beautifully decorated with her gorgeous original painting and calligraphy, her writing will speak truth that cuts you to the core.
In each of the sixteen sections, she writes how beholding who God is and what he has done changes the person we are becoming. In my favorite chapter, Simons writes how beholding God’s view of failure leads us to become truly successful by God’s standards. “If your hope is in Jesus the Savior, these daily failures and inconsistencies do not define you before a holy God but drive you to gratefulness for His saving grace that doesn’t leave you there. God allows us to feel the weight of our shortcomings so that we might behold the abundance of his grace.”
God allows us to feel the weight of our shortcomings so that we might behold the abundance of his grace.Ruth Chou Simons
While you can read this book straight through, I think it would best be done as a devotional, taking in one section at a time, learning how to truly behold God and become like Christ.
Fight Your Fears: Trusting God’s Character and Promises When You Are Afraid by Kristen Wetherell
I’ve read many a book on fear and anxiety, but this has to be one of my favorites. While the world tells us that our goal is to become “fearless,” Wetherell reminds us that we fight our fears with an appropriate fear of God. What I love about this book is that Wetherell doesn’t assuage our fears by telling us it won’t be as bad as we think or by encouraging us to take courage in ourselves. Instead, she repeatedly points the reader back to Scripture to let God’s character and promises take away our fear.
While our worst fears may happen and while we may feel out of control, we have the firm foundation in God’s sovereignty and goodness. “Fear comes when we envision tomorrow’s circumstances apart from tomorrow’s grace. But trust deepens as we focus on God’s favor towards us today—his promise to give us spiritual blessings for the moment—and as we leave the future, along with its needed grace, in his good hands.”
Fear comes when we envision tomorrow’s circumstances apart from tomorrow’s grace.Kristen Wetherell
Wetherell ends each chapter with some practical takeaways along with verses that apply specifically to certain fears. This would be a great book to return to over and over again as you fight different fears in your lifetime.
Enough about Me: Find Lasting Joy in the Age of Self by Jen Oshman
I think this needs to be required reading for everyone in my generation. If you’ve ever walked the bookstore’s “Christian” aisle or skimmed Amazon’s top “Christian” books, you may have felt like something was off, but you couldn’t put your finger on it. Oshman strikes to the heart of many popular books read by Christians—the Believe-in-Yourself Gospel. So many books marketed towards Christian women today tell us, “God wants you to be happy, you are enough just the way you are, and it’s up to you to reach within to make yourself successful and satisfied.” But this is a false Gospel that never satisfies.
Oshman writes about how our generation got here—we are the unhappiest generation despite more opportunities and choices than any previous generation—and how only the true Gospel can set us free. “The bootstraps of self-righteousness are chains. We try and try to pull ourselves up, but rather than being liberated, we are enslaved. We try harder, run faster, and spin our wheels in an exhausting attempt to create our own righteousness.”
We try and try to pull ourselves up, but rather than being liberated, we are enslaved.Jen Oshman
Counter to our culture, Oshman reminds us that denying ourselves and following Christ is the only way to find lasting joy. Hope in ourselves will always fail us, but hope in our risen Savior will never fail.
Labor with Hope: Gospel Meditations on Pregnancy, Childbirth, and Motherhood by Gloria Furman with Jesse Scheumann
Don’t skip past this book if you’re not a mother (or not even a woman). Furman’s Scripture-saturated writing style walks us through God’s story of redemption and how God uses childbirth and labor to point back to his love for his people.
From creation to the cross to eternity, Furman reminds us that God doesn’t just use the metaphor of childbirth to point to his plan for salvation. Instead, he created childbirth from the beginning to point us to the greater work of redemption he is weaving throughout history. “Childbirth—new physical life—is evidence of God’s ongoing mercy to sinful humanity. Everyone who has ever been born has tasted this mercy. After the fall, when death entered into God’s creation, every soul conceived is a triumph of life despite death.” Ever since God’s promise to Eve that her offspring would bring about the defeat of the curse, every aspect of childbirth and childrearing is pointing us back to God’s work as Father.
Childbirth—new physical life—is evidence of God’s ongoing mercy to sinful humanity.Gloria Furman
I read this book as a devotional leading up to our second child’s birth, but you could also read straight through this book. While she does make some specific application to mothers, more than anything, she draws our hearts back to the Creator who gave us life.
(A)Typical Woman: Free, Whole, and Called in Christ by Abigail Dodds
[I originally reviewed this book in a June #ThursdayThings post, but it was so good, I had to include that review here as well.] Biblical womanhood is honestly not my favorite topic to read about, and when God kept leading me to add this to my Christmas book list, I was a little hesitant to pick it up. Yet Dodds uses simple but profound writing to walk us through truths that guide our understanding of what it means to be a Christian woman, not by the standards of culture (even Christian culture) but by our Creator’s design. I have often found that books on Christian womanhood are either overly prescriptive or too abstract, but Dodds places her book in the middle, grounded in Scripture.
Instead of focusing on passages explicitly pertaining to women (which she admits are important), she walks us through the overarching truths of Scripture and how women are uniquely created—in body and in soul—to fulfill its commands. “What makes real men and women is the fact that God made us men and women, just as what makes us real Christians is that God made us Christians by making us alive in Christ. In both cases, we don’t earn it or achieve it or feel our way to it.” I cannot become “more” of a woman, but as I pursue life in Christ, he makes me more into his image distinctly as a woman.
What makes real men and women is the fact that God made us men and women, just as what makes us real Christians is that God made us Christians by making us alive in Christ.Abigail Dodds