“. . .the book you recommended came in today. Can’t wait to start reading these missionary stories to my kiddos!” A friend tagged me in a Facebook post.
I commented, telling my dear friend how much we loved the book and couldn’t wait to hear what she thought about it.
She responded, “. . .You’ve been my number one best book recommender of my motherhood!”
Her weighty words made warm tears rush to my eyes.
The Ministry of Books
I consider it a weighty privilege to be a “book recommender” in my friend’s life. Over the years, godly women have handed me books to help me grow in Christlikeness as a woman, wife, and mother. One memory is of sitting in Mrs. Sperry’s beautiful home on a small island. She didn’t seem bothered at all by my young children;. she simply put towels over her lovely dining room chairs and allowed my children to be just that—children. As we were leaving her home that night she handed me a gift bag full of books—ones that shaped me even until this day.
Inside the bag was a copy of Stepping Heavenward by Elizabeth Prentiss; another about raising boys to be great men and another about marriage. I took the bag and started reading as soon as we were back in our home. I devoured these books. They were so helpful for this exact moment in my life—an extension of Mrs. Sperry’s mentorship and care for me in that season.
These books and others have taught me several things:
We are not alone. Books filled with godly wisdom gleaned by others remind us that a great cloud of witnesses surrounds us (Heb 12:1). The people and parents and marriages that have gone before encourage us. These faithful saints have written down what they’ve learned through God’s word and in their day-to-day trust of Christ. As we read, we see how they learned and were shaped by the Word, and it spurs us on to persevere in the race set before us (Heb 12:1).
God is a part of the mundane. God is the same yesterday, today and forever (Heb 13:8). He wakes us up with the sun and allows us to sleep and rest in him at night. Every day we’re learning to trust him and obey his Word through regular events like changing diapers, making dinner for our family, sharing our homes with others and so much more. Books that can skillfully apply the Word to practical life can teach us how to live with one another and love one another better. Well-written books can help us connect the eternal wisdom of God to the daily rhythms of life, and that’s a great thing, because that’s where he works (Ps 139:1-6)!
Books are written by people; we need to be discerning. Humans have strong opinions. The Bible was written by men as well, yet they were inspired by the Holy Spirit (2 Pet 1:21). Learning to discern the difference between God’s word and human opinion is necessary. We must look at all advice on these subjects through the lens of scripture.
Psalm 33:4 says, “The word of the Lord is right and true; he is faithful in all he does.” As believers, we should be careful not to find all of our wisdom and strength from what another brother or sister has said in a book. We should first look to God’s word and understand that “every word of God is flawless; he is a shield to those who take refuge in him” (Prov 30:5).
I’m thankful to stand on the shoulders of those who have gone before me to give me guidance and wisdom through their books. And, I’m happy to pass on recommendations for great books that have shaped my life, parenting, and marriage—like Mrs. Sperry did for me.
Danielle West lives in Atlanta, Georgia where she serves as the Ministry Coordinator for Christ Covenant Buckhead. She is married to Ryan and has three children.