as a an avid Christian reader, I have read a fair amount of spiritual non-fiction books pertaining to the Christian faith. Most of the ones I’ve read are amazing, and always have at least a few nuggets of truth I can highlight and tab, or that make me stop reading and think for a moment.
The books I’m going to talk about in this post had me doing the above on nearly every page. These books don’t sugarcoat the gospel, but they don’t downplay the goodness of God, either. They have helped shape my mindset regarding the love of God, and encouraged me in my faith and relationship with Jesus. So, with the obvious favorite book of mine being the Bible, I’m going to recommend you 5 books to read if you’re having a hard time hearing from God, wondering if He’s good or not, or feel as though as you have a lot of head knowledge about God but not a lot of heart experience with God. I believe these books were anointed, and came to me at the right time, when the Lord knew I most needed them. I pray that at least one of the these books are that for you.
1. Gentle and Lowly: the Heart of Christ for Sinners and Sufferers by Dane Ortlund
This book. THIS BOOK. I read this in October of 2022, and don’t think I’ll ever go back to the way I was before this book. I have never read a book that depicted the love of Jesus so beautifully and tenderly and affectionately.
Some stand-out moments (but the whole book is a stand-out moment; I’m planning on rereading this in April 2023, so I can also do the subsequent study guide with a friend!):
“What elicits tenderness from Jesus is not the severity of the sin but whether the sinner comes to him…To no one will Jesus be neutral” – pg. 54
“For those united to him, the heart of Jesus is not a rental; it is your new permanent residence. You are not a tenant; you are a child.” – pg. 66
“Here is the promise of the gospel and the message of the whole Bible: In Jesus Christ, we are given a friend who will always enjoy rather than refuse our presence.” – pg. 115
“Through his Son he drew near to us when we hated him. Will he remain distant now that we hope we can please him?” – pg. 194
READ THIS BOOK TODAY!!!
2. What If It’s Wonderful?: Release Your Fears, Choose Joy, & Find the Courage to Celebrate by Nicole Zasowski
So I read this book shortly before making the decision to go to therapy for the first time in my adult life, and WOW did God did a work way behind the scenes of my heart. I read this one early last summer (May 2022), and started going to therapy in late July due to some mindsets that I didn’t realize were holding me back from experiencing the love & affection of God in my daily life. If you know anything about the enneagram (I know, some people think it’s demonic, but I think that’s a stretch lol), then you know each type (types 1-9) operates out of a type of fear-based mentality. I’m a type 6 (6w5 if you wanna get really into it), which checks out since I value security, I hate last-minute surprises/plans, and love to know what’s going to happen & how it’s going to happen ahead of time. I’m naturally a worst-case scenario perfectionist who is highly critical, mostly of herself, and quite cynical and sarcastic. I do all of this out of a kind of self-preservation mode; I rarely get my hopes up because I hardly ever think anything will actually work out in my favor…
But where does this thinking come from?? Certainly not the Lord, who tells us we lack no good thing if we’re seeking Him (Psalm 34). I was flat-out refusing to believe God was where my security comes from, and that He is a Father that smiles at me, enjoys hanging out with me, and doesn’t yell at me as often as I thought He did.
So. I write all that to say, this book speaks directly to that fear-based mentality that tells you, “that’ll never happen for you” or the kind of thinking that wonders if you’ll forever be a lonely, fearful, and sad person who has to fight for every ounce of joy you’ll experience in this life. This is SO NOT the heart of God, who tells us in John 10:10 that he came so that we may have life and have it abundantly. 1 John tells us perfect love casts out fear, so by that knowledge, if we still operate consistently out of fear, do we actually think we have grasped the perfect love of God? I sure thought I had! BUT, like I said earlier, God was doing a major work behind the scenes, in an area of my heart even I don’t think I had access to, and I believe it started with this book.
Here are some quotes I hope minister to you, and will hopefully make you want to read this book for yourself!
“There is a difference between feelings being real and feelings being true.” – pg. 7
“Hope is not a denial of the cost. It honors the painful reality but does not fall to fear because it knows that what we can see is not all there is. Hope celebrates God’s promises and delights in what is possible with Him.” – pg. 11
“Life doesn’t have to be hard to be holy.” – pg. 16
“But in our unwillingness to decentralize our dreams, I’m afraid we have failed to recognize that Jesus is the fulfillment of everything our hearts long for: intimacy, belonging, joy, and worthiness. He is the answer our hearts crave.” – pg. 60
3. single. dating. engaged. married.: navigating life + love in the modern age by Ben Stuart
Ben Stuart is probably the only person alive I’d legit freak out over if I ever get to meet him in real life. His preaching & teaching has, to probably be understating it honestly, changed my life. It was his teaching series on the book of Jonah that I first listened to in 2018 that has had me hooked ever since.
So of course I have to recommend this book of his. I read it the summer of 2019, and it helped me A LOT in my singleness. If you’re in any of the stages of life mentioned in the title of this book, you need to read this. It will help you steward your life as it is now, either single, dating, engaged, married, or even widowed or divorced (which is, in a way, single again), and also help you develop compassion and sympathy for people in other seasons of life.
Some of the passages I have underlined:
“Your relationship with a guy or a girl, though important, is not the most critical relationship in your life, and it is not the relationship that God is the most concerned with.” – pg. 6
“God has given you singleness to secure an undistracted devotion to the Lord, not to fill your time with distractions. Its purpose is to pursue Him.” – pg. 32
“In the end, the happiest people are not those who are actively seeking a mate, but those who are actively seeking their Maker.” – pg. 83
“God takes marriage very seriously. Let this be an encouragement to you. God cares about your love life. He cares about who you marry. You are not alone as you deal with your desire to be married.” – pg. 133
4. Garden City: Work, Rest, and the Art of Being Human by John Mark Comer
Much like Ben Stuart, I have been listening & reading JMC’s words for years now. I read Garden City more recently (Jan. 2023) and LOVED it. Such a needed read for me as I near the end of my journey obtaining my Bachelor’s degree, and wondering what God has next on the horizon, in terms of a job, or a new city to move to, etc. It’s also a great look into the eternal future with King Jesus, and how our lives on earth today can be used to build & strengthen the coming Kingdom of God.
Read it if any of these quotes speak to you:
“Nothing about creation says that God is a tightfisted, utilitarian, bean-counting pragmatist; God is a lavish, opulent, extravagant artist, and creation is his beauty on display.” – pg. 123
“In fact, discipleship to Jesus is about one simple question: if Jesus were me, if he lived in my city, had my job, my education, made my salary, had my family, how would he live?” – pg. 137
“Rest is a by-product of freedom. No freedom, no rest.” – pg. 206
“Know that all good work done in this age will be rewarded in the age to come.” – pg. 265
5. how to hear God: a simple guide for normal people by Pete Greig
I read this one really recently, too (mid/end of Jan. 2023), and had a fire lit to hear from God! This book encouraged me so much, and excited me at the prospect of being able to get so acquainted with the voice of God that I never have to doubt it when I hear Him speak. That when Jesus talked about how his sheep would know his voice, I could be one of the sheep he’s talking about!
You have to pick this one up if you’re at all interested in hearing God speak to you about anything & everything. Won’t He do it!
“Any revelation that claims to be from God, therefore, but does not sound like Jesus, and fails to push us deeper into relationship with Jesus, is fundamentally not Christian, no matter how supernatural it seems, how profound it sounds, and how many Bible verses come wrapped around its delivery.” – pg. 13
“how we listen is sometimes (always?) more important than what is said.” – pg. 68
“Most of the time we miss the voice of God not because it’s too strange but because it’s too familiar…The God of the universe is rarely weird. He is the very one who had predetermined and defined that which we consider “normal,” so it would be ludicrous if he had to somehow banish himself from his own norms whenever he wanted to communicate with his own creation. He speaks in a familiar accent.” – pg. 127
“…we can’t recognize Jesus by ourselves. We need the help of the Holy Spirit. Hearing God, then, is not just a technique that you perfect but a grace that you receive.” – pg. 155
Alright, those are 5 of my most favorite Christian non-fiction books! I have many more I can recommend, and most likely will in the future, but for now, these are all great places to start!