When I was a child, I had many faults that stood out. One was that I didn't know how to make friends or be a friend. I simply didn't have friends. But, there were other things I did well. So, even as a child I pursued what I could do in an attempt to please others and to feel better about myself. I also had a parent who believed that less than perfect wasn't good enough. I became a perfectionist. In many ways, I still am one. I try very hard to get everything right and do everything I need to get done. I often find myself motivated by the fear of displeasing others.
I do know I need God's grace and I know that I need to show myself grace. I understand and know God's love. But, I still struggle. Last year, I read several books by Cynthia Heald and Jerry Bridges that really encouraged me. I loved Ms. Heald's Bible study series. It took me to the Word each morning without reading into it or interpreting the Word for me. Jerry Bridges' books explained fundamental truths about walking with God. Trusting God and The Discipline of Grace deeply encouraged me.
I remember Paul talking about the thorn in his side that he wanted God to take away. But, God didn't. God uses thorns in our lives to compel us to turn to Him, trust Him, and lean on Him. In our weaknesses, He is strong. My weakness and my desire to do things right reminds me daily that I need God and that I can't do things without Him. I'm also reminded that no one has ever been perfect since the Fall other than Jesus. At the same time that I remember my failures, I remind myself of Christ and God's grace for me. We need to preach the gospel to ourselves. We need to remember and remind ourselves of the Truth...it is the best way to combat the lies that we are failures and worthless that Satan tries to plant in our heads when we fail to be perfect, but expect ourselves to be.
Because I'm such a book person, I often look for books to encourage me and help me to remind myself of the Truths I know in my heart. This past month I've been reading through a book I thought might be encouraging. It is titled Freedom From Performing: Grace in an Applause-Driven World by Becky Harling. I read a preview online and I liked the table of contents as well as the first few pages, so I had wanted to read it. When I started reading the book, though, I found that it wasn't what I was looking for. I didn't connect with the topics covered by the book. I do know and understand God's grace, but I imperfectly live out my life in that grace. My struggle is not understanding and accepting God's love--it is getting past my people pleasing and for my motives to be right--for my actions to be aimed at glorifying God, not done out of the fear of man.
The first couple chapters I simply didn't connect with. The chapters in the middle had some good ideas and thoughts in them, but they felt very wordy. I liked most of the questions at the end of the chapters for Bible study. But there was one part of each chapter that unsettled me. It was the section near the end of each chapter and was titled "Message from the Grace Giver". The author writes on pg. 19, "These are life-giving truths I drew from Scripture and then recast as if God were speaking them directly to you. I pray they encourage you and help you live in grace." Her words sound okay, but the idea of doing this concerned me. I don't think it's wise to speak for God. I know this is a literary device that many authors use, but I simply don't think it's wise. The Bible is God's Word. It speaks for itself.
There are many books that have been written about this topic and similar topics. Some books resonate with some people, but not everyone. Perhaps this is one of those books. But, it isn't the one I'd recommend. I'd actually recommend Becoming a Woman of Freedom by Cynthia Heald or Becoming a Woman of Grace. These are great Bible Studies that will take you to the Word. If you want to read a more indepth book about grace I'd recommend The Discipline of Grace and Trusting God by Jerry Bridges.
Please note that I received a complimentary copy of this book for review from NavPress.