God-Help Instead of Self-Help

My newest article is up at Today’s Christian Woman, where I have the privilege of being a regular contributor.


Here’s the start of the article:

There’s no denying we are a nation of people looking for help. Although we may try to seem put together on the outside, our book purchases alone point to a different reality: we are struggling, and we’re looking for help anywhere we can find it. “Self-help” is an entire industry in this nation that generates roughly $10 billion per year—and the industry shows no signs of slowing down. Whether you want to read about fixing broken relationships, living more healthily, making more money, or finding contentment, there’s a self-help book—or 50—out there for you. And if you are willing to spend the time and the money, there are myriad options for self-help conferences, webcasts, and personal coaching, along with the thousands of books you can read.

It’s common for self-help books to tout that they offer the key to “win in life and business” and “unlock the way to life’s riches.” And why not? Who doesn’t want to have a better life, make more money, and experience more happiness? Who doesn’t want life to be easier, simpler, faster?

Chasing an Illusion
But perhaps what we want is something we were never promised—and so we’re chasing an illusion.

We live complex, challenging lives, and many of the promises offered by self-help gurus seem wonderful and easy. Too easy. We want a quick way out of our difficult marriage without having to work through the pain. We want to make money easily and without having to work diligently. We want to feel happy without having to face our own brokenness.

Jesus is clear—unapologetically so—in telling his followers that “in this world you will have trouble” (John 16:33, NIV). This life is not meant to be perfect. In fact, Scripture tells us this earth isn’t our real home—we are “foreigners” on this earth (Hebrews 11:13) and our real home is in heaven (Philippians 3:20). If we’re longing for perfection and pure happiness on this earth, we will always be disappointed.

The “Self Problem” with Self-Help

There’s a second problem with the self-help industry: the self-help industry depends—unsurprisingly—on self. In the solar system of self-help, the sun in the center of it all is you—and, apparently, you can make everything better on your own if you can just read the right books and access the right resources. Ultimately, the focus of self-help books comes down to a reliance on self as the one who can make things right.

This reliance on self, though, is in directly opposition to Christianity. As believers in Christ, we have already declared—through our very faith in Jesus as our Savior—that we are not reliant upon ourselves. We are reliant upon Jesus. In fact, when we believed in Christ as our Lord and Savior, we acknowledged that we cannot save ourselves at all. We cannot get “better,” in any way, on our own. We need a Savior to rescue us from our sin and from ourselves, and the danger of the self-help industry is that it lures us to look for help outside of Jesus.

This doesn’t mean self-help books and media are all bad. Some offer helpful insights on how to relate to others and set healthy boundaries on our time and with our money. But if we find ourselves looking to self-help materials rather than turning to Jesus, we are looking for ultimate help where it can’t be found.

Continue to read the rest of article here!

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