I’ve always been a sucker for a self-help book.
If you could peek at my Kindle library you would see the collection of organizing books that I have read in the hope of transforming my scatteredness. And then there are diet books and fitness plans alongside books that tell me how to use my time well and get more done or how to simplify my life and slow down. And, within the pages of these books I have found very practical, good advice that has helped me to make important changes.
But as a follower of Jesus, I must always remember the limitations of self-help books.
First of all, motivational writing is only helpful if it is true. The pages of a book can tell me that I have within myself all the keys to my own happiness and success. They can convince me that I can become anything I want to be if I try hard enough. They can tell me that the sky is the limit if I will just change what I believe about my capabilities. They can offer me all sorts of beautifully uplifting sentiments that will fill me up and make me smile. They will sound good and true but they are only partly true which makes them misleading. And it makes them wholly inadequate to sustain me when life gets really tough.
It only takes one terrible mistake, one devastating piece of bad news or heartbreaking betrayal to show me how little control I really have. At that moment, what I really need to know is that I belong to a God who is in control, even when I am not, and that nothing can ever separate me from His love or His purposes or His presence.
Another problem with self-help books is that they assume personal happiness is always my goal. But I’ve tried chasing this elusive quality and it is an impossible and exhausting exercise. Happiness has a way of always feeling just out of reach.
The Bible tells me that the goal of the Christian life is to know God and to make Him known. It also promises me that joy is the inevitable, beautiful fruit of my growing relationship with Him.
I don’t ever want to settle for mere happiness. It is flimsy and precarious and it can be snatched from me with one phone call.
God’s joy is altogether different. It is a hardy plant. It can survive, even flourish, in the midst of grief and disappointment, blossoming in impossible places.
You can’t produce it yourself though. It is the natural byproduct of a life poured out for Jesus and for others.
Another limitation of self-help books, even by Christian authors, is that they can overemphasize life here and now. Please don’t misunderstand me. I believe in John 10.10 with my whole heart. I believe that Jesus wants to give me that abundant life today. I believe that He wants to heal and deliver me from the things that hold me down and He wants to provide my needs and bless me. But, I don’t have to race around with a bucket list of experiences in order to live life well. I don’t have to chase accomplishment or acclaim in the fear of wasting this time I am given. I can enjoy life, with all its ups and downs, its limitations and disappointments, joys and blessings precisely because I know that this isn’t all there is. And, thank goodness for that! It takes the pressure off of ‘making life amazing every day’ and just allows me to enjoy the imperfect journey, knowing that there is a day coming when everything will be as it should be.
And finally, although self-help advice is often good and helpful, the ‘why’ can be a bit misguided. And why we do something really, really matters.
With my whole heart, I want to live life carefully. I want to use my time well, eliminate distractions and clutter. I want to change my thinking. I want to be less lazy and more productive. I want to expect more from myself and believe more from God. And I want to encourage others to do the same. That is why I started this blog a year ago.
But it has never been about reaching my full-potential or realizing personal dreams. I am not a slave to a Pinterest vision board or Instagram philosophies. I am running for a different prize.
I want to use my time well because there is need in the world that God wants to meet. I want to be more oganized so I can make time for what has eternal value. Decluttering matters because stuff is way less important than people. Health and fitness matter because there is Kingdom work to do and I need the energy to do it. I need to look after my mental health so I can enjoy everything God has given me and so I can love others well.
And I should ask Jesus to work every healing and deliverance in my life that is needed because people who are whole can best lead others into wholeness.
Self-help can be just a poor copy of something much better. I have a Shepherd who loves me. He promises to lead me and restore my soul and He says I will want for nothing. He takes my broken, imperfect life and makes it a Kingdom resource in His powerful hands. He helps me overcome obstacles so I can walk on my high places. Not because I am all that amazing, but because He really is.
What a relief that is!
I know my limitations but I know the limitless transforming power of the Creator of the Universe which trumps any weakness I bring to the table.
This girl doesn’t need any self-help. I just need to help myself to the spiritual treasures that are mine because of Jesus.
And then any good I accomplish will be all for His glory and for the renowned of His wonderful name.