Have you ever been in a place where you needed help to strengthen your Christian faith? I have. A few years ago I was surrounded by criticizers and complainers. My spirit had been worn down over time and the complainers had pecked and pecked and pecked at me over mundane issues that don't really matter in the light of eternity. I was left feeling like all that was left of me was a worthless pile of crumbs.
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I was tired. Tired of being told I couldn't do anything right. Tired of being given callous advice by people who didn't know the details of my situation and couldn't relate to my struggles. Tired of being told God didn't love me.
What I needed was to be flooded with some encouragement… Some assurance that God loves me, even though I am flawed. And a big hug would have been nice, too.
(To be clear, I am not speaking about my husband here. He was a very patient and encouraging pillar in my life during what was a devastating time for me.)
I was starting to realize that everything I was being told by others about Jesus wasn't true. What I needed was a true picture of who Jesus really is.
Strengthen Your Christian Faith By Starting In the Bible
I needed God to heal the wounds people had inflicted. I needed to know that God loves every bit of me, even when I mess up or don't do things the way other people want me to. I needed to know how God wants me to live, not how other people thought I should be conducting my life. (I already knew PLENTY about what those “other people” thought!) Slowly, I began to develop a plan for letting God introduce Himself to me:
- Start by reading the Gospel of John. None of us are perfect, which is why we need Jesus. If you really want to strengthen your Christian faith, you need a clear picture of who Jesus really is. The Gospel of John will give this clarity to you. Jesus wants to restore Joy, pour Grace over each of us and show us His best plans for our lives.
- Begin reading the other Gospels (Matthew, Mark and Luke). Read them over and over again and let the message of how much God loves me really sink in before trying to understand anything else the Bible has to say. It's hard to overcome years of wrong-conditioning and I have to learn to see scripture through the eyes of Jesus so that I can see it in a non-condemning manner.
- Read Psalms to get a clear understanding that my struggle is a common one.
- Read Galations and Ephesians. There are so many gems in these books that I hadn't clearly seen before!
How Bible Journaling Can Help Grow Your Christian Life
I can't say it often enough: Bible Journaling is NOT about drawing pretty pictures in your Bible. That's a lovely thing to do but by itself, drawing pictures is not what brings us closer to God. God reveals himself to us when we STUDY His Word! Bible Journaling is about using a pen and paper to help us learn and remember what God is teaching us by digging deeper into His Word.
Bible Journaling doesn't have to be complicated. You don't need an expensive Bible and fancy art supplies. You don't even need to purchase Bible Studies. You can start by getting a simple composition notebook and just writing down the verses that seem special to you.
If you want to take it a step further you can use BibleStudy Tools (like a concordance or Bible dictionary). But to just get started all you really need is a Bible.
Other Books Recommended to Me
Of course, the Bible is God's Authority and any doctrine or questionable ideas should be checked against what the Bible actually says. Listening to what somebody says about the Bible should never replace reading the Bible for yourself. But reading Godly books can be a good way to glean Godly counsel and to learn to apply Biblical principles to specific situations. (If ever in question, while reading, simply reference the Bible for clarity, and separate any chaff from the wheat.) Here are some books that have been recommended to me over the years as being excellent choices for people who are struggling the way I was. I have not read all these books, so I can't speak to their theology for sure, but I've read several and found them very helpful. The others are all on my want-to-read wishlist!
Think Differently, Live Differently by Bob HampNamed by GodWomen of the Word: How to Study the Bible With Both Our Hearts and Our MindsJesus > Religion by Jefferson BethkeGet Out of that Pit by Beth MooreLord, I Want To Be Whole: The Power of Prayer and Scripture in Emotional Healing by Stormie OmartainPrayer Warrior: The Power of Praying Your Way to VictoryYou're Made For A God Sized Dream by Holley GerthYou're Loved No Matter What by Holley GerthYou're Already Amazing by Holley GerthGive Them Grace by Elyse FitzpatrickFinding Spiritual Whitespace by Bonnie GrayGod Loves Broken People by Sheila WalshGod Has A Dream For Your Life by Sheila WalshLook Unto Me: The Devotions of Charles SpurgeonFaith In the Night Seasons by Nancy MisslerHappiness Digest by E. WhiteExperiencing God: Knowing And Doing The Will of God by Henry BlackabyCome Away My Beloved by Francis RobertsStreams in the Desert by L.B. CowmanAbba's Child by Brennan ManningRuthless Trust: The Ragamuffin's Path to God (Brennan Manning)A Shepherd's Triology: A Sherpherd Looks at the 23rd Psalm, A Shepherd Looks at the Good Shepherd, A Shepherd Looks At The Lamb of GodFree to Live: The Utter Relief of Holiness by John EldredgeBecoming Myself: Embracing God's Dream of You by Staci EldredgeBeautiful Outlaw by John EldredgeMere Christianity by C.S. LewisThe Screwtape Letters by C.S. LewisA Million Little Ways by Emily FreemanFree Yourself, By Yourself by Alan Wright
Over the years I have come to realize that whenever someone uses God as a tool to manipulate you, that is called “Spiritual Abuse.” I can now recognize it and avoid it.
For a long time, I felt like the only one who God didn't love. When I started recognizing spiritual abuse for what it is, then I started feeling like I was the only one who struggled with people in my life who used God as a weapon.
But I'm not the only one. If you have people in your life who are using God to manipulate and control you or who are making you feel like you can't possibly measure up… I want you to read this open letter I wrote to people who feel like they just don't measure up.
There is hope.
You do not have to be defined by what other people say.