The Problem with Self-Help
My goal this year has been to read more books. Whether it's paperback, ebook, or audiobook, I want to be filling my mind with more wisdom and knowledge than I have in previous years. I want to grow as a Christian, as a business owner, as a wife, as a mother, and as a writer. I cannot expect to grow if I am not feeding my mind with the wisdom and knowledge of those who have more knowledge and experience than I do. But in my quest for knowledge, my first priority is (or should be) my daily bible reading. If I find myself spending my time reading self-help books, even Christian ones, but don't read my bible--there's a problem. If you're an avid reader, but struggle to read your bible regularly (or consciously choose not to), let me share with you the two main issues I see:
The first issue is that you are still relying on yourself, not God.
Maybe you've found a book that is so practical and applicable to what you're struggling with in life. The author accurately addresses the problem and proposes a solution. You feel like it's sound advice. So you take physical or mental notes and decide to apply it to your life.
Did you ask God if that's what you're supposed to do?
Books are an awesome tool that can be used by God to speak to us. But we sometimes forget to include Him. As a result, we often hop from book to book looking for the advice and tools we need that will fix our exact situation. We think to ourselves, "there must be someone who knows what I should do!"
So read books. Lots of books. But pray and ask God for direction. This is something I am trying to do more often. I ask questions like:
- "God, what are you trying to speak to me through this book?"
- "God, what can I learn through this idea of...?"
- "God, is _____ something I struggle with? How would you like me to work on this issue?"
- "God, what next step do you want me to take?"
The pursuit of wisdom is noble, but we need to be careful that we're not trying to gain knowledge independent of God. We should still be seeking Him in all things.
The second issue is that you are reading someone else's interpretation of what God says, but you're not engaging in a conversation with God yourself.
Does that mean that self-help books are bad? No.
Reading non-fiction Christian books written by wise men and women is important for your growth. We can gain a lot of wisdom and knowledge from those with more experience than us. The issue comes when we rely solely on these authors for our spiritual development while ignoring our relationship with the Holy Spirit.
Most of us could speak to our relationship with God and Jesus, but have nothing to say when it comes to our relationship with the Holy Spirit. Developing my relationship with the Holy Spirit has been crucial to my spiritual growth and has led to a strengthening of my relationship with God the Father.
Continue to read books on a variety of topics, but make daily bible reading a priority. Specifically, engage in the bible daily by following a format like this:
- Use a journal.
- Read a passage of scripture no longer than 10 verses.
- As you're reading, mark the verse that stands out to you.
- Write down your thoughts about what you just read.
- Pray. Ask God what He wants to teach you in what you just read. Ask for specifics.
- Write down your best sense of what God spoke to you.
- Pray. Thank God and the Holy Spirit for speaking to you and teaching you.
By engaging with God in this way every day, we gain insight and next steps that we can apply to our lives. God really does want to lead us and guide us if we allow Him to do so.
I'm well into my reading list for this year and have gained so much insight from the authors. But no matter how many books I read, it cannot replace the discipline of daily bible reading for my spiritual growth.