I read a lot in 2017. More than any other time in my life. I don’t say that to boast, because I’m not the healthiest person in many areas. And to prove that, by the end of 2017, I had become burnt out and depressed. This wasn’t directly related to reading, of course. There was a confluence of factors leading to this unfortunate state, namely a recurrence of back pain, lack of sleep, loss of exercise routine, among many, many other things….
I remember starting 2017 thinking of the word “Awe.” I wanted an increased Awe of God in my life. I wanted to see God at work in my life and in those around me. I wanted change, yes. I was willing to be challenged. I don’t think I was seeking after novelty. I wanted the daily awareness of a great and glorious God at work in me and through me.
At first thought, I didn’t think that happened, judging by needing to hit up a church counselor and feeling depressed, burnt out, and generally awe-less. But now that I’m reflecting on how God worked during this time, I do have a greater awe of God than before. It came through frustration, sadness and weakness. Not how I anticipated it going when 2017 began. But that’s just how God works, right? When we are weak, He is strong. When we are downcast, He lifts up the drooping head and reminds you of his great love and provision…of his glorious grace and lavish love of this pathetic sinner.
The natural person would say to disregard God at this low point and suggest other strategies. While some of those strategies are helpful, it’s essentially band-aid treatment. This is what makes who we are as Christians so supernatural and different. We press on and “groan toward God” (as Tim Keller says). We don’t curse God and essentially tell him to die, as Job’s wife does. (or through our actions that would reveal we are functional atheists even as we affirm Christ). We become desperate and needy and weak before a Father who we know loves us through it all. How could he not love us! He gave us his only Son and sent him to the cross on our behalf and then gives us the Spirit to prove love to us over and over again….. And we give God glory through it all. And this makes us very happy.
Important to note: right when I was the weakest in 2017, it was not by ceasing to read that help came. I do need to improve my reading habits. But my help came through continued reading/listening/praying. Perhaps that is partly what it means to press on. I didn’t give up. I remembered and knew how God has met me before through reading/listening/praying and I was waiting for that to happen again.. and it did. But not how I expected it. ( see this post of just one helper during this time.. ).
My One Word, RESET year
Coming into 2018, I know many are figuring out what their One Word will be. If I had to choose one, I think it would be FINISH. I need to get better at following through and finishing in a host of areas. I don’t want to be of the 92% who don’t follow through with their goals and commitments. Jon Acuff’s book is a timely and helpful read.
But even more on my mind at present is doing a RESET on life, so to speak. I finished reading David Murray’s slap-in-the-face book and have a sense an urgency to follow the wisdom inside. I relate to David’s story of feeling burnt out and with health problems. I too feel like on old man in regards to health, and it’s all because I am horrible at pacing myself appropriately and cultivating healthy habits. So in many ways I hope 2018 is kind of a RESET YEAR for me and my family.
Best Books of 2017
The best books I read of 2017:
- The Songs of Jesus by Tim Keller: we are going through this devotional as a couple, missed many days, but kept coming back to it. (my wife switched to Paul Tripp’s New Morning Mercies which is also very good.)
- Living Life Backwards (helped me at this low point I describe above and here). This book helped me get back to seeing life as all of grace and to deeply appreciate the simplest things in life, like food and rest and family, with an eye to the end.
- Galatians by Martin Luther. I saw Ray Ortlund using this book and got myself a copy finally, not a kindle version as I mostly do. Highlighted so much and only half way through it.
- Martin Luther by Eric Metaxes. It was the 500 year anniversary of the Reformation in 2017!! Will be coming back to this in 2018 as well as Herman Selderhuis biography).
- The Magnolia Story and Capital Gaines. Inspiring reads, and of all things it actually led us to remove the TV from our main living area, in effort to be more intentional with the kids..
- Reading the Bible Supernaturally by John Piper. Piper always increases my appreciation and love of Scripture.
- As Kingfishers Catch Fire by Eugene Peterson. Recommended by Russell Moore. Didn’t disappoint. Want to go through again in 2018.
- How To Think by Alan Jacobs. No one thinks alone and no one is as good at thinking as we assume..
- George Whitefield by Arnold Dallimore. Never read anything on Whitefield and started here. So much awe in how God used him and the things he said. Appreciate how he handled the friction that came his way.
- Benjamin Franklin by Thomas Kidd. I grew up with one view of Franklin. But I was wrong. This brought so much clarity. Really appreciate this title.
- Love Lives Here by Maria Goff. Went through this one together with my wife. Goff’s are so inspiring and encouraging and get you thinking how to love others well.
- Robert Caro’s ON POWER. Very short audible read, at suggestion of Mark Dever. Was clueless going into it, but was a very unique and interesting read.
- 12 Ways Your Phone Is Changing You. Recommended this one to so many, and saw great success with it in taming some of by social media habits. I eventually deactivated by facebook by end of 2018 for two months. Came back on board over holiday..
- Enjoy Your Prayer Life by Michael Reeves. Everything that Reeves writes, I read. Short read but so important and good. Highly recommend it.
- John Calvin: A Little Book on the Christian Life. This little book was given to me from Ligonier’s ministry and loved it. Want to read more John Calvin.
Cheers, and Happy New Year!