1. Suffering. The call of a Christian is to suffer. We are to take up our cross daily, not to be surprised when persecuted, to take discipline from the Lord as an obedient child, and to count it all joy when we encounter trials (Luke 9:23, 1 Peter 4:12, Hebrews 12:6-7, James 1:2, Romans 5:3). One of the big motivators for me to first study theology was when I saw different people go through trials. Trials can either make us bitter, or better. As my grandmother always says, "never let the Lord waste a trial on you." Trials are given for our sanctification, and therefore, our ultimate blessing. May we learn from them what the Lord is trying to teach us as obedient children that we ask not for our lessons to be repeated.
"Our sorrows shall have an end when God has gotten His end in them." -C.H. Spurgeon
It's also important to understand how to handle trials. Do we praise God during them, staying humble, becoming more sanctified, and drawing closer to our Almighty Father? That isn't easy to do in our flesh. It is through the practice of various trials and a proper theology of suffering and the sovereignty of God that will take us through trials in a manner that glorifies God.
I remember hearing the story of a lady whose husband was killed unexpectedly in a car accident. When newspaper reporters showed up at her door only minutes later, asking her if she was angry with God for taking her husband, she replied that the Lord had been unfathomably merciful to her husband in saving Him. How could she be angry with the Lord for taking him to heaven?
Something I knew early on was that I was going to need a robust doctrine of suffering. I knew couples that had gotten married, only to have a special needs baby a year or two into their marriage, or a miscarriage. I knew I couldn't wait until tragedy struck to learn how to think about trials.
What I didn't realize so much at the time, was that as I developed my theology, it would help me in untold ways as I went through my own trials even before marriage. I remember one particular disappointment when my only thought was "The Lord gives and the Lord takes away, blessed be the name of the Lord."I didn't know where that was from in the Bible, it was just the first thought that entered my mind in response. It wasn't until later that I remembered where it was from- it was Job 1:21. I had read the book of Job over and over again in preparation for trial, and that had trained my heart to respond in submission and praise, when I wouldn't have been able to think through what a proper response would be. Of course, that was just one incident. I haven't been through many trials of true heartache, and I don't always immediately respond biblically. Sometimes it takes work. But trials will come, I want to be prepared for when they do.
Are you prepared for trials?
Some books to read on suffering are:
Whenever I go on a trip, I tend to pack more than I need. I'm notorious for packing a ten pound purse. With at least three theology books, a snack, way too many flavors of lip balm... well let's just say I don't like to be caught without the necessities. But there have been times when I hardly packed anything at all. That's always the worst. Believe me, sitting in the dentist office without a book is misery.
In life, it can be hard to plan ahead. What exactly will you need? Will you get married? What will your husband do for a living? What kinds of skills are you going to need? Will you have a special needs child? Will you live in the country or the city? There is no way to know the answers to these quesitons. But I can tell you, I don't want to be caught unprepared. While we don't know the specifics of our life ahead, we do know that in whatever circumstances lie ahead we will be called to act as Christians, and to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which we have been called.
I think we young ladies too often have a very limited understanding of what life as a Christian will take. We all know that we are to glorify God, even in the most mundane tasks (like eating and drinking). But how do we know what glorifies God? Joshua Harris once defined glorifying God as "doing everything for Him, His way." While I think most Christians get the "doing it for Him" part, I think we have too limited a scope on what doing it "His way" really looks like.
There is a doctrine in theology called the doctrine of the "antithesis". This doctrine states that Satan, since the garden of Eden, has been constantly at war with God. On every front, in every detail, satan creates an alternative to the way God wants us to live. We are in warfare, day in and day out, whether we realize it or not. Do you know for whose side you are fighting? Are you saying one thing, while unknowlingly acting upon a philosophy of life contrary to God? This is what growing in sanctification is all about, Semper Reformanda, Latin for "always reforming" to the Word of God. The moment we are saved, we are given a new nature. But we have to learn to live in conformity to that new nature. All of our thinking, habits, customs, and traditions need to be reevaluated. To be sanctified is to learn, by the renewing of our mind, to grow more and more into our new nature; thinking God's thoughts after Him, loving what He loves and hating what He hates.
The more robust our theology grows, the more we will realize that God calls us to so much more than we ever imagined. There are so many topics to study! Just to whet your appetite, let's look at a few areas that young ladies will need to know about. Rather than being a comprehensive list, this is just a list of some of the topics you and your parents can talk about, and perhaps use as a springboard for creating your own plan for topics to study.
I have always been a reader, but for many years, I fell out of the habit. Life got busy during my late teen years, and graduating didn't bring the freed-up schedule I had hoped it would. I was suffering under the tyranny of the urgent, and I knew it. I couldn't seem to prioritize reading like I wanted to... but I still didn't know what to do about it.
Here are a few tips that helped me get back on the reading band-wagon.... and stay on. I've now been reading consistently for several years, actually increasing in the number of books I'm reading each year as my interest (and bookshelves!) are growing.
The other thing I really like about goodreads (and probably the most motivating force in my reading) is their "reading challenge". You set a goal of any number of books you would like to read during the year, and then each book you read is automatically added to that. It gives me an easily accessible measurement of my progress. The first year I did it, I read 36 of my 35 book goal. This year, I challenged myself to read 75 books, and so far, I've stayed on track! Since you're only competing against your own goal, (and you can change your goal at any time) it's a great way to motivate yourself to keep going when the going gets tough.
2. When you get busy, behind, or just don't feel like reading, listen to an audiobook. There are so many times when I was so far behind on my reading that I would have given up. Especially with this year's goal of 75 books (meaning almost 1.5 books per week). Listening is something I can do even at the busiest times in my life, even if it's just in the morning when I'm brushing my teeth. It helps both my graph and my optimism to stay on track.
3. Have a time of day that you set aside for reading. For me, that's right before bed. It's a cozy time of day when all my duties are done, and I can afford to cut 15 minutes out of my sleep. For me, developing that discipline has been a great way for me to relax before sleeping, and helps me to carve out the time from my busy schedule.
4. Make specific goals and a plan for reaching them. I chose specific goals of what books I wanted to read (which was flexible, but at least gave me a plan to start with), and a number of books to read (75). I then made a plan for reaching my goal, by figuring out how many pages I had to read each day to stay on track, which came to about 25 pages per day. I also timed how long it took me to read 25 pages, which was about 25 minutes. By the end of my calculations, I had a very solid measurement- I had to be getting in about 30 minutes of reading (or listening) a day if I was going to make my goal.
I hope these ideas have been helpful for you in thinking about how you can get back to reading if perhaps you've fallen from the habit. If you have ideas to share about how you keep up on your reading, please share them in a comment below!
"The books are waiting. Of this you may be confident: they'll be ready when the whim strikes you."
-Alan Jacobs, The Pleasures of Reading in an Age of Distraction
A Small Choice... That Wasn't So Small After All
It was during my very first year out of homechool-high school, back in 2009. I remember the moment vividly. I was woefully pondering my lack of spiritual growth in the past few years, and how I wished I could be spending more time reading. I desperately wanted to be learning more about the God I served, and how He wanted me to live. Why didn't I have the time? I was actually feeling quite sorry for myself, pitying the fact that I had to be so busy. Racking my brain, I tried to think of time that I might not realize I had- some spare moments I could use for reading.
Suddenly, conviction swept over me as I realized that I did have the time, I just wasn't utilizing it properly. With a blush, I thought about how much time I was spending every day listening to music. I quickly thought back through the weeks, adding up the hours I was spending on a regular basis- about 2 hours a day which made for a whopping 14 hours a week, or 60+ hours a month. Ouch. I've realized since then that it takes me about 30 minutes to read 25 pages, I could have read about 75 books in a year's time had I been using that time wisely.
It was easy for me to listen to music because I did that whenever I had busy work: while driving, doing housework, or getting ready for the day. What if... I thought to myself. What if I could take those hours and listen to sermons or audio books instead of music? I soon filled my iPod with sermons from Paul Washer and Scott Brown, and audiobooks from Jerry Bridges and Andrew Murray. Not to be cliché or anything, but my life has never been the same again.
Since then, I have incorporated more ideas into those hours- prayer, scripture memorization, and listening to the Bible- but that initial choice was what started the whole thing. Within only a few weeks my spiritual growth skyrocketed and my interests grew exponentially. It wasn't surprising really. How could I expect to grow when I wasn't feeding myself spiritually?
So I challenge you... What time can you redeem? The days are evil, and we cannot afford to waste time on things that will not help us become better soldiers for our Lord. In the tabs above, I have outlined what have been some of the most helpful resources for me: a comprehensive list of audio books, sermons, and teaching CDs, as well as a simple reading list of the most important books for young ladies to read. I hope you will pray about where you can redeem the time, and perhaps, today is the day you will look back on, as the day you made the small choice with not so small consequences.
I remember listening to the CD Victory for Daughters when I was about 15 years old, and being so inspired by Kelly Brown's message and the example of the things she chose to do in her single years. One of the things that stuck out to me most was what she said about writing theological position papers and reading theological books from her father's personal library. From that day on, I knew that when I graduated from homeschool-high school, that was a pursuit I wanted to prioritize.
What I didn't realize at that time was that as soon as I graduated, my time would quickly fill up with other pursuits. I guess I thought that the day after I graduated, I would sit there twiddling my thumbs, thinking to myself, "well now what should I do?".
It wasn't really like that... at all. I started my first year out of high school with a busy working schedule of teaching piano lessons to 18 students, plus helping my family to remodel and manage three rentals, and begin remodeling on the home we were living in while we lived in it. Over the next few years, I didn't take much time to study theology at all. It took the encouragement of a kind friend to nudge me to take my study seriously, and some creative thinking and deliberate determination to find a way to make it a happen.
This blog is designed to give practical ideas and encouragement to young ladies who want to learn theology, but just don't seem to be able to find the time. If that's where you are right now, get ready for a great adventure!
CAVEAT: This blog is intended as an encouragement and resource for young ladies. It is not our intention to teach men or older women. As with any resource, we encourage young ladies to utilize this blog under the supervision and guidance of their parents and elders.
Joe and Rachel Tenney
Joe and Rachel live in Hampton, VA where they enjoy life together. They enjoy traveling together, as well as reading and writing as a couple. Most of all, they enjoy learning what it means to live the gospel in everyday life, especially in the context of their sweet church family at Hampton Roads Fellowship.