My family loves to tease me for being notoriously bad at directions … and for being the family bookworm, which ironically, have a lot to do with each other. The truth is, I never paid any attention to where we were going — that is, until I had to start driving — because I normally had my nose in a book whenever we were on the road.
While sometimes when trying to find my way around the state I wished I had looked at the street signs a little more, the extra reading time was certainly worth it! It’s been incredible now to look back and trace God’s finger of providence down to the very books He’s put in front of me. Time and time again, God would answer specific prayers of mine through a book, often through the testimonies of faith-filled Christians like Hudson Taylor or Sarah Edwards that gave me a longing to know God as they did.
Books are much like windows. They open us up to new worlds of which we would be entirely unaware were we to forever sit in the narrow rooms of our experiences. And reading faith-building books (too much fiction is a colossal waste of time, if not worse) is one of the greatest preparations for future service we can make. Here are just a few books for young ladies that have impacted me the most:
- Womanly Dominion: More Than a Gentle and Quiet Spirit – Mark Chanski
“Play your position!” is the cry of this book. As a soccer team can only be effective if each player plays his position, so the church of Christ will only be effective as men and women “play” their distinctive roles. This book is a cry for dominion-taking women, women with the strength to overcome challenges, work hard, and do difficult things. Chanski argues there is a biblical path of womanhood set apart from both feminism and the opposite ditch of reducing womanhood to merely knitting sweaters and wearing lace. In reality, biblical womanhood is so much more, involving the inner strength necessary to help the men in our lives bring the gospel to bear in every area of life. As Chanski points out, particularly we single women can have an enormous impact for the Kingdom if we’ll be intentional to use our energy learning, building our skills, and then having a heart for evangelizing and discipling those around us — even when it requires sacrifice and a dose of sheer hard work. This book was a tremendous blessing to me as I’ve sought the Lord regarding how He would have me use my single years. I would highly recommend reading — and re-reading it!
2. Adorned: Living Out the Beauty of the Gospel Together — Nancy Demoss Wolgemuth
As Christian young ladies, our greatest privilege and desire should be to adorn the gospel, which as Nancy Demoss Wolgemuth points out, is an immensely practical thing, the beautiful fruit of following the pattern of Titus 2. What’s truly remarkable about this gospel-life is the community it entails, with women discipling women. More than anything, this book encouraged me to be intentional about seeking out godly older women in my life, sitting them down, and asking for wisdom. And then, on the other end, watching for younger girls the Lord brings into my life that I can likewise encourage. This book would be an amazing study with your mother, grandmother, or mentor.
3. Marriage to a Difficult Man: The Uncommon Union of Jonathan and Sarah Edwards — Elizabeth Dodds
No, this is not a sappy soap opera! Despite the odd title, this biography of Sarah Edwards is a gem. Sarah Edwards’ life is a beautiful demonstration of the Proverbs 31 woman in action. Sarah and Jonathan Edwards enjoyed a sweet, though unique, marriage. Still, day-in and day-out life with one of the most brilliant theologians, philosophers, and preachers wasn’t always easy. Without Sarah’s practical skills of running a farm, raising eleven children, and hosting a constant stream of guests, Jonathan Edwards could never have achieved what he did. But Sarah was not merely a practical woman; she enjoyed a deep knowledge of God that carried her through the trials of life. (You can read the account of this firsthand in Her Uncommon Discoveries of the Divine Perfections and Glory and of the Excellency of Christ by Sarah Pierrepont Edwards). I read this biography as a young teenager, and the Lord used it to begin to give me more and more of a desire to know Him with more depth.
4. By Searching — Isobel Kuhn
Isobel Kuhn lived for theatre, dancing, and parties as a young college student, having abandoned her parent’s faith in God, when God used a broken engagement to get her attention. It was then that Isobel Kuhn determined to seek God, giving herself to missions work among the primitive Lisu tribe of China. But this story is far more than a simple missionary biography. Isobel Kuhn is real about her struggles as she sought God and found a life of surrender truly the most rewarding. I would also highly recommend Kuhn’s other books Green Leaf in Drought Time and Nests Above the Abyss.
5. Evidence Not Seen — Darlene Deibler Rose
When Darlene Deibler joined her husband on the mission field of Papua New Guinea as a young bride, she had no idea of the tragic years that lay before her. Not long into their mission, the Japanese forces occupied the island, forcing the young missionary couple into a concentration camp. Their story of faith is a classic on par with Corrie Ten Boom’s The Hiding Place and a remarkable demonstration of God’s faithfulness in the darkest of circumstances.
Well, it’s hard to stop at five. So I might add a P.S. here. The following (although not all are as specifically for young women,) have had an immense impact on my life, so I can’t bear to exclude them:
Speak Truth to Your Heart Sarah Mally
Hudson Taylor’s Spiritual Secret Mrs. Howard Taylor
The Triumph of John and Betty Sam Mrs. Howard Taylor
Desiring God John Piper
Don’t Waste Your Life John Piper
Whitefield Arnold Dallimore
Jonathan Edwards on Knowing Christ (Banner of Truth Trust)
I hope these books are huge blessing to you as they have been to me!
(Update: A note about fiction. While I stated earlier that much fiction is a waste of time, I would amend that to agree there is a lot of Christian fiction that can be immensely helpful to our faith as well as a genuine source of rest and enjoyment. Fiction itself is a powerful tool to convey ideas in a way that prose often cannot. Indeed, I would argue that a Christian can legitimately gain from reading some books from nonbelievers, as there is much about human nature, history, and literature that we can learn from them.
I would just say my hesitation at fiction is first the danger that “if it’s permissible it’s okay.” In other words, justifying certain books simply because they do not necessarily contain anything bad. Our question should instead be, Is this helping me grow in my faith? If it is, we should by all means read it! Otherwise, there is the danger that is may distract us from a wholehearted pursuit of God, if not worse.
In addition, we ladies can be easily tempted to dreaming (I’m definitely guilty of that at times!). So too much fiction can encourage that in a negative way that causes us to lose focus on where God has put us and the nitty gritty details of everyday life.
I’d love to keep the conversation going on this. If you’ve been blessed by some edifying fiction, I’d love to hear about it!)