Book Review: I Tried Until I Almost Died

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I highly, highly recommend this book to anyone who has struggled with depression, discouragement, legalism, or living in the try-hard life.

It is obvious from start to finish that Sandra McCollom has experienced the anxiety and frustration she’s talking about. ¬†She’s not just preaching. ¬†So much of what she said put words into how I have felt…..”battle weary from trying to live the Christian life”….or at times doing all the right things “desperately trying to be worth something.”

legalism and grace

This book is about grace.  Grace is on every page.  Jesus is on every page.  The author shares some of her personal story in living in legalism and she talks about how God broke through those walls and opened her eyes to the truth of His grace.

From repeating truth to yourself to recognizing and receiving His grace right in the midst of temptation, Sandra gives practical and wisdom-filled advice on how to run into His arms of grace.

Only negatives to the book were a couple times where it seemed as if the author was hinting toward a prosperity gospel (ie, success in your business or financial life will come as you learn to rely on His grace)….and a few other places where Bible verses were taken out of context. ¬†So, as always, read with a humble heart and discerning mind.

Overall, I am very thankful that I read this book!!!

Note: I received this book from Blogging for Books for free in exchange for this review.

-Bonnie

When Those Doubts Creep Back In

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I had written that big blog series on the season of intense doubt and discouragement I went through.

I scheduled them on the blog.

They sat for a while.

And then one day I decided to re-read the posts.  As I was making my way through what I had written, my chest tightened.  My heart felt heavy.  My pulse quickened.  My mind raced.

What if I don’t really believe that? ¬†What if I have a relapse? ¬†What if I’m deceiving myself? ¬†How do I know if I believe hard enough?

Guess what? ¬†The Bible doesn’t say, “If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart so hard that joy never forsakes you, you will be saved.” ¬† It doesn’t say, “If you believe hard enough that your doubts instantly forsake you.”

It says, “If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.”

God does not have some sort of divine Believe-o-meter that He holds me up to each day. ¬†Belief is not some sort of mystical feeling that I need to conjure up. ¬†I still wrestle with how feelings and faith intertwine, but I am 100% confident that God’s love, grace, forgiveness, and mercy are not dependent on my feelings.

I share this to let you know that I do not have it all together. ¬†But I also know that I can’t wait until I do have it all together. ¬†Because you know what? ¬†I never will. ¬†I will never be perfect this side of heaven. ¬†I might always have questions. ¬†I might even always have doubts. ¬†But I cannot wait to live my life until I am perfect or until I know I believe hard enough.

All I can do is walk each day, each moment, looking to Jesus. ¬†I have taken courage from Paul’s words in Philippians 3, “Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. ¬†Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. ¬†But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead.”

Looking behind does no good. ¬†As my Hebrews teacher in college said…..you can’t run the race looking behind you. ¬†It does no good to look back and long for the “good years” of my spiritual life. ¬†It does no good to fall down when I sin and stay there. ¬†It does no good to turn around and stare at all my sins. ¬†The race is in front of me. ¬†The race is today. ¬†The race is right now.

Yes, I will fall again. ¬†I will sin. ¬†I will doubt. ¬†I will grow weary. ¬†But I will not and can not wait until I am perfect to run the race. ¬†If God has brought me this far….I know He will not abandon me now.

And if you are reading this….I would absolutely love your prayers!!!

-Bonnie

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Part Four Part Five Part Six
Part Seven Part Eight Part Nine
Part Ten Part Eleven Part Twelve
Part Thirteen Part Fourteen

Resources for the Depressed or Discouraged

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I began collecting some resources¬†that were encouraging as I was going through everything and processing things. ¬†I hope that these are encouraging to you as well! ¬†(Note: I don’t necessarily endorse the authors overall. ¬†These specific posts, books, or portions thereof were just very encouraging and helpful to me!)

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Blog Posts: 

The Myth of the Lukewarm Christian

Broken

How Does Jesus Love You?

Because You’re Mine

I Want a Break from God

Unlearning Christianity

Wretched Sinner

Because YOU are {HIS}!!!

Experiencing Grace

Dear God, Am I Good Enough for You Yet?

Crying at Bridal Showers: Lessons about Contentment and Perseverence

Is There Any Value in Experiencing Deep Shame?

What If I’m Not Meant to be Saved?

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Books:

Jesus > Religion: Why He Is So Much Better than Trying Harder, Doing More, and Being Good Enough by Jefferson Bethke

Spoken For: Embracing Who You Are and Whose You Are by Robin Jones Gunn and Alyssa Bethke

When the Darkness Will Not Lift by John Piper

Videos: 

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Music:

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Part One Part Two Part Three
Part Four Part Five Part Six
Part Seven Part Eight Part Nine
Part Ten Part Eleven Part Twelve

My Life Has Been Transformed

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The message of Christianity is not ‘Worldliness is bad.’ It‚Äôs ‘Jesus is Lord.’ It‚Äôs not ‘Try not to sin.’ It‚Äôs ‘Think about Jesus.’

When you look to Jesus, you see that your urges to sin are suppressed on their own. When you look to Jesus, you see peace, love, joy, freedom, better than anything in the world. When you look to Jesus, you see you don’t need any worldly pseudo-religious substitutes for closeness to Him. When you look to Jesus, you see that in Him you are already dead to the world. When you look to Jesus, you see that in Him you are already alive. РEric Pazdziora

And so now I am done.  I am done with religion.  I am done with trying.  I am done with analyzing.  I am done with doing my best.

I want Jesus.  I need Jesus.

The answer is not more introspection.  The answer is not to become more on fire.  The answer is not to read the Bible longer or to pray harder.  The answer is Jesus.  Look to Jesus.  Lean on Jesus.  Become encompassed by Jesus.

I want to not only forget the man-made rules I imposed on myself at various points in time, but I want to throw off the chains I have wrapped around myself.  The chains of guilt.  The chains of unworthiness.  The chains of lies.  The chains of fear.

After taking a break and just soaking in the truth that God brought to me, I have experienced several victories.

One night after a particularly difficult day, a Bible verse popped into my head. ¬†This may not seem like much, but for me, it was huge. ¬†I didn’t have to stop and try to think and pull up a mental Bible verse index card. ¬†It popped into my head. ¬†I wasn’t trying. ¬†It was there.

And then, slowly, I began to want to read the Bible. ¬†I have not jumped into a regimented “daily reading” plan yet, but I am rejoicing in those moments where it is an actual desire. ¬†Not something I need to do to be a better Christian.

I started to pray. ¬†Sometimes it was purposeful, when I chose to pray. ¬†Sometimes it wasn’t, and prayers just formed themselves in my mind.

And I began to sing again. ¬†I used to always sing…..but at some point, I’m not sure when, I stopped. ¬†I have noticed over the past few months that my voice has come back. ¬†Suddenly I’ll find myself singing hymns, old and new alike.

I have not finished learning my lesson.  I have not arrived at perfection.  I still have to speak truth to myself.  I still sometimes have that old familiar terror grip my chest.

But I am growing.  I am resting.  I can feel God wooing me to Himself.  I can feel my soul slowly but surely heal.

I have been reminded that I cannot do anything to make God love me more. ¬†I can’t do anything that will make Him more pleased with me.

Why? ¬†Because when He sees me….He sees Jesus’ blood. ¬† Jesus truly paid it all. ¬†I do not have that sin in black all over me. ¬†I do not have those chains. ¬†Jesus’ blood covered. ¬†His blood cleansed. ¬†His blood made pure. ¬†His blood made whole. ¬†That is what God sees when He looks at me. ¬†He sees His child. ¬†His redeemed. ¬†His friend. ¬†His own.

My sin? ¬†It doesn’t make Him push me away. ¬†It doesn’t make Him love me less. ¬†He saw me in the midst of my unrepentant sin and He chose to touch my heart and draw me to Him. ¬†He saved me out of sin. ¬†Salvation is through God’s work alone. ¬†Sanctification is through God’s work alone.

And for that I am thankful.  So, so thankful.

It took a lot for me to write this.  And then to share it publicly.  I truly hope that it has encouraged someone.  There is hope.  There is.  I would absolutely love to hear from you and pray for you.  If you want, you can leave a comment.  Or you can email me privately at lifewithyou1222 (at) gmail (dot) com.

God bless.

-Bonnie

Part One Part Two Part Three
Part Four Part Five Part Six
Part Seven Part Eight Part Nine
Part Ten Part Eleven

I am Spoken For!

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Another book that I needed.  Spoken for by Robin Jones Gunn and Alyssa Bethke.

I knew that God loved me. ¬†I grew up singing “Jesus Loves Me.” ¬†I don’t know when or how I started to doubt. ¬†But somewhere along the way it happened.

Could God really care for me? ¬†Doesn’t my sin push Him away? ¬†Didn’t that sin I just committed push Him over the edge? ¬†Doesn’t He get tired of me?

This book talks about how God is relentlessly pursuing you.  It talks about the verses where God is likened to a bridegroom rejoicing over you РHis bride.

So often I have heard God’s love downplayed. ¬†That phrases like “passionate love” and “great romance” lower God’s love to us to the realm of a touch-feely romance. ¬†I must beg to differ.

When I think of how much my husband loved me on our wedding day…..that is a ton of love. ¬†If God is likened to a bridegroom….that is some serious, passionate love.

“See what kind of love the Father has given to us.” – 1 John 3:1

“As the bridegroom rejoices over the bride,
so shall your God rejoice over you.” – Isaiah 62:5

“There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in
Christ Jesus.” – Romans 8:1

“The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;
his mercies never come to an end.  They are
new every morning; great is your faithfulness.”
-Lamentations 3:22-23

“Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is,
there is freedom.” ¬†– 2 Corinthians 3:17

That is some deep, deep love.

At one point in the book, Robin shares a story of how her husband told her she apologized too much. ¬†Always apologizing for things that she didn’t even do. ¬†My husband and I have had that very conversation many times.

“That’s a trap of the enemy,’ he said.

‘A trap? What do you mean?’

He reassured me that if I apologized or asked forgiveness for my mistake, then that was the end of it. ¬†In God’s eyes, my sin was tossed into the deepest sea. ¬†It was ridiculous for me to paddle out and fish around to pull my failures back up just so I could hold them high to say, ‘Look at how I messed up. ¬†I’m so sorry.'”

That is exactly how I have acted so many times. ¬†But the Bible tells us that our sins are removed as far as the east is from the west (Psalm 103:12). ¬†And the Bible also says that God’s word is completely true (Joshua 21:45, Numbers 23:19, John 17:17).

This book talked about how I am precious to God.  Me.  Precious.

I don’t believe this concept is too far fetched. ¬†God is likened to a Father many times throughout Scripture. ¬†When I think about my love for my son and how precious he is to me….I realize that that is the kind of love God has for me. ¬†Not stoic, stagnant, theological love. ¬†Real love. ¬†Real feelings. ¬†Real delight. ¬†Real joy. ¬†For me.

This book talked about how God pursues me.  Even in the Garden of Eden, God set the precedent.  Adam and Eve sinned, and still God came to them.  He knew 100% that they had sinned.  That they had failed Him.  And yet He still came.  He initiated.  He pursued.

This book talked about how God loves me. ¬†I realized how much I was believing that love is temperamental….it can come and go. ¬†That one day a person can be happy and in love, the next day they can be cranky, frustrated, and upset at you. ¬†But God is not a person. ¬†He is true love. ¬†He is pure love. ¬†God’s love came to me when I was yet a sinner. ¬†He began the pursuit when I was a sinner. ¬†He is not shocked now by my sin, by my mistakes. ¬†He chose me in the midst of my sin.

This book was huge. ¬†I desperately needed to know and believe the love of God toward me. ¬†It spoke to my heart. ¬†The knowledge of God’s love is absolutely life-changing.

-Bonnie