Do you have a book where you remember right where you were when you read it? You remember the moment that you read that line, letting it sink it. It changes your heart and your mind so that you’ll never be the same.
Other than the Bible, I have only a handful of books that meet this description. These aren’t necessarily my favorite books (I don’t think I could ever narrow down a top five favorite books), but these are books that God brought into my life at the exact moment I needed to hear their message. They are books that are seared into my memory and have transformed me.
The five books I’m going to list aren’t necessarily “must-reads” for you, but maybe you are in a similar place I was when I read them. Maybe you are in the same season and need to hear their message, too. Or maybe you have a friend that is going through what I did, and you can share these resources.
That’s one reason I started this series, #ThursdayThings, because I saw the value in finding worthy resources when our phones, bookshelves, and earbuds are constantly being flooded with information and entertainment. Here are a few books I believe are worth the read, and I pray, like me, will impact your life.
Celebration of Discipline by Richard J. Foster
I grew up as a legalistic believer. Part of it was my personality, part of it was my church community, but I struggled with trying to earn God’s favor. When I entered college, my mentor began opening my eyes to God’s grace and his sovereign favor he bestows on his children regardless of their merit. This truth was freeing, but it also left me in a lurch. What did I do with all the good spiritual behaviors that had been drilled into my teenage years? How did I do good things in light of God’s love, not for God’s love.
God has given us the Disciplines of the spiritual life as a means of receiving his grace. The Disciplines allow us to place ourselves before God so that he can transform us.Richard J. Foster
I read Celebration of Discipline the summer before my senior year of college when I was living in the basement of a family friend while I worked. They had a beautiful patio, and I would get up every morning to do my quiet time and read some of Foster’s book. His book showed me how God uses spiritual disciplines (such as meditation, solitude, confession) as a means to bring about his change in our lives. “We must remember that the path does not produce the change; it only places us where the change can occur.”
Foster’s book gave me freedom to practice these spiritual disciplines not out of pride or fear but out of love for God and faith in the work of Christ.
Stop Asking Jesus into your Heart by J.D. Greear
I spoke a little bit about my faith struggle in my last blog, “Fight the Feeling,” and this book was a big part of overcoming that struggle. I remember I would come to my quiet time in the morning and not even be able to open my Bible out of shame. The Enemy would remind me of all the ways I was failing, and I would spend the entire morning begging God to forgive me but never letting go of the guilt. The self-condemnation was suffocating. It was so all-encompassing, that I felt like surely I couldn’t be a Christian if I struggled like this.
Our pastor mentioned this book from the pulpit, and I couldn’t buy it fast enough. Greear’s words were like a balm to my soul. I began to see my guilt not as the Holy Spirit’s conviction but the Enemy’s lies. “The Enemy … loves to keep truly saved believers unsure of their salvation because he knows that if he does they’ll never experience the freedom, joy, and confidence that God wants them to have.” That was me! I wasn’t experiencing freedom in Christ because I was so hung up on my past salvation experience.
Conversion is not completing a ritual, it is commencing a relationship.J.D. Greear
“Conversion is not completing a ritual, it is commencing a relationship. The assurance of ritual is based on accurate words and memory. The assurance of relationship is based on a present posture of repentance and belief.” Through this book, I stopped focusing on my right words and actions, and started resting in the finished work of Christ.
Living without Worry by Timothy Lane
A couple years into our marriage, the future looked quite uncertain. I didn’t know where I was going to work after I finished graduate school. We weren’t sure how much time away my husband would spend training with the Army Reserves. He was unsure if he should pursue a graduate degree or start working after he graduated. There seemed to be a million possibilities but none of them clear. I was wrecked with anxiety.
I can’t even remember how this book came into my hands, but I remember reading it on my little slipcovered couch in our duplex, feeling like I could finally breathe out from under the weight of all my anxiety. While there are several books on worry and anxiety I could recommend, this short book was a clear and simple reminder of how to replace our anxiety with peace. Ultimately, it comes down to a belief that God is who he says he is and will do what he says he will do.
He will do what is best for your family and for your church, and he will do that regardless of whether you lie awake worrying about your responsibilities or crush yourself trying to do everything for everyone.Timothy Lane
This book is theological, but it is also practical. You come away not with a cure-all for your anxiety, but with a renewed trust in God. “When you find yourself worrying, you actually have an opportunity to see what kinds of things tend to get your attention more than God. Your over-concerns reveal your over-loves. This can be an opportunity to grow.”
None Like Him by Jen Wilkin
Anyone who knows me knows that I love anything by Jen Wilkin. This was my first experience with Jen, and it made such a profound impact on my view of God. I began reading this while sitting at an auto shop waiting for my car to be repaired (weird how those memories stick with you). As someone who grew up in the church and knew all the church lingo, I would have said I knew who God was. While I may have been able to win a Bible trivia game, until this book, I don’t think I would have let those characteristics sink deeper into my mind and my heart.
In this book, Jen explains ten attributes of God—how God is different from man and that is a good thing. Many of these characteristics (such as infinite, eternal, and omniscient) I could define, but her explanations made me love these traits of God. I change because of who God is; who he is changes who I am. I don’t try to be God, because only he can be what I need.
Human beings created to bear the image of God instead aspire to become like God. Designed to reflect his glory, we choose instead to rival it.Jen Wilkin
“Human beings created to bear the image of God instead aspire to become like God. Designed to reflect his glory, we choose instead to rival it. We do so by reaching for those attributes that are true only of God, those suited only to a limitless being.” This truth prepared me for a season of trials that would soon follow, when I needed to rest in who God was and not try to be God for myself.
Humble Roots by Hannah Anderson
This is my most recent transformative read. I lay in bed in our new house which didn’t feel like home yet. Everything seemed out of control. Our four-month old was still struggling to eat and sleep. I didn’t know how to manage my schedule as a work-from-home mom, and I didn’t have realistic expectations for my husband’s work-life balance. So when I read the back of her book, “Feeling worn thin? Come find rest,” she didn’t have to ask me twice.
Hannah’s book focuses on Matthew 11:28-30, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” She says that when we feel overwhelmed, it is because we are pushing our limits. We are trying to carry more than we are designed to carry. The solution to life being out of control is not to get more control but to humbly admit that we can’t be in control. “The humility that brings us rest is the same humility that frees us to be the people God created us to be.”
Pride manifests itself in anxiety and restlessness….Humility frees us from the cycle of stress, performance, and competition.Hannah Anderson
I felt a weight lift off of me after I read this book. “The goal of Humble Roots is to understand how pride manifests itself in anxiety and restlessness; and how humility frees us from the cycle of stress, performance, and competition.” I gave my heavy burden to the Lord, and I slept peacefully in my new home.
As I mentioned before, this is not an exhaustive “best ever” book list; these are just a few books that have encouraged me in my spiritual journey, and I pray they encourage your walk as well.