When we reflect on our lives, we tend to think in terms of the big events: graduations and weddings, moving house and getting that promotion; or the terrible tragedies that knocked the wind out of you. Those things do change us. But more than anything else, we are shaped by the thousands of tiny choices we make every single day.
That’s why the means of grace—Bible reading, prayer, and church—are so important. Our faith is sustained and grown by these small, daily acts of obedience to Jesus. When the life-changing events do come, our responses are born from the seeds of our past choices. We sow faithfulness to reap perseverance. Glenna Marshall addresses this in her excellent new book, Everyday Faithfulness: The Beauty of Ordinary Perseverance in a Demanding World.
In the first chapter, Glenna wants to make sure our assurance is in the right place. It’s not primarily about what we do, but rather what God is doing through the means of grace he gives us. She writes:
I don’t want you to take this book as a call to “do more” or “be better.” This is not a book about walking a straight line of discipline to earn God’s favor…Instead, I want to encourage you through the following chapters to build habits into your life that will aid you in knowing and enjoying Christ now so you’ll still be knowing and enjoying him long after you put this book down.
After considering the purpose and nature of faithfulness, Glenna walks us through what this looks like in different life situations, including when you’re busy, waiting, suffering, or sinning. She encourages us to take the long view, sowing in faithfulness now so that we will persevere and grow over a lifetime.
There are two common features at the end of each chapter. Firstly, Glenna gives us ideas for practical application. Examples include asking for help and accountability from your church family, finding a Bible reading plan, and seeking joy in God. She even gives a helpful list questions to ask as you read a Bible passage. The suggestions are practical enough to be useful, yet still flexible and varied so that you can apply them to your own situation. They were one of the highlights of the book for me.
Secondly, Glenna includes a story of a woman she knows who embodies everyday faithfulness. We meet single and married women, some who live ordinary lives and others who’ve faced unusual suffering. These stories are so helpful and encouraging. They allow us to see faithfulness lived out. It’s clear that Glenna didn’t write this book from a sense of academic curiosity—she has lived her message, learning from her friends and church family what it means to be faithful no matter what our lives look like.
I love how Everyday Faithfulness shows us why the means of grace are so important—Glenna paints them as beautiful and worth pursuing, no matter the cost. She doesn’t pile on the guilt or make us feel like we’re just ticking off a checklist. After reading this book, you will come away with a longing for deeper communion with God.
Personally, I found the chapter titled ‘Faithful When Your Heart is Cold’ the most helpful. I’ve been feeling spiritually sluggish lately, but Glenna reminded me that the solution is to keep pressing into the means of grace. I need to “look at Jesus until [I] can really see him.” As tempting as it is, I shouldn’t close the shutters and hibernate with food and Netflix until this cold snap is over—this is when I need, more than ever, to draw near to God despite my feelings.
Ultimately, Glenna keeps pointing us back to the faithfulness of God: “Though we employ the tools he’s given us to remain faithful to him, it is God’s faithfulness that upholds our own.” Even when I feel far from God, I can trust through the testimony of the Scriptures and witness of the Spirit that he will never leave me. He will enable my faithfulness in dry seasons to reap a harvest.
Everyday Faithfulness was refreshing and challenging. I recommend it to those who struggle with the spiritual disciplines and feel burdened by guilt, as well as people (like myself) who tend to think they’ve got it all together. We all need this reminder that God gives us the means of grace as a gift to keep us persevering. Of course, Glenna had no idea that her book would release during a global pandemic. But God did. I believe he will use Everyday Faithfulness to help me, and many others, to stay close to Jesus even in the turmoil of 2020.