6 Novels That Have Shaped My Faith
Ever read a novel that helped nurture your faith? The right story can really help grow your walk with God.
I absolutely love reading novels.
Truthfully, what I really love is the concept of using story to teach lessons. It enthralls me how we can say the same thing, once as a direct instruction and again as part of a story, and it completely alters how a person receives it.
Novels are a bit like paintings, I guess. They illustrate. They add color. They can enchant with their simplicity and complexity all at the same time.
And, I have found, they can be instrumental in shaping who we are.
There are many novels that I have enjoyed for their literary expertise, but I want to share with you six novels that are precious to me for the influence they had in my spiritual life. Some are written for children, some for adults, but all of these stories carry a deep spiritual truth that has been influential in my life. I pray they will be in yours as well.
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Twice Freed by Patricia St. John
I don’t remember how old I was when I first read this little story, but I couldn’t have been more than ten or eleven. It was with the stack of my mother’s favorite books that she kept in a prominent place in the living room. I’m sure I picked it up because my mother spoke of it with such fondness. It’s just a short chapter book, but I have read it multiple times in the many years since.
Twice Freed is a biblical fiction novel that tells the story of Onesimos, the slave from the book of Philemon. It opened my eyes to the understanding of our slavery to sin and our need to be set free and also brought the New Testament to life for me.
Most of all, I remember the feeling of excitement as Onesimos was coming closer and closer to faith. It was the first time I understood the joy that comes with finding Jesus. That joy and excitement has been a permanent part of my faith in the many years since.
The Horse and His Boy by C. S. Lewis
I’ve always loved the Narnia series, but The Horse and His Boy is one of my favorites. The story follows a slave boy, Shasta, and a wealthy young girl, Aravis, who are both running away to Narnia with the aid of their talking horses.
Yes, yes. This is a children’s story. And it’s fantasy.
But when I read this book as an adult struggling through infertility, I was overwhelmed with the spiritual truths C.S. Lewis wove into the storyline. The fact of the matter is that even when Shasta and Aravis thought they were on their own, they weren’t. There was something greater, something stronger and more glorious, going on. Aslan, the great lion who is the Jesus-likeness in the Narnia books, was always with them—working a greater purpose while loving and caring for them personally. Even when they didn’t know it was him. Even when he took them through fear and pain.
And when I was going through my own rough seasons, I needed to be reminded of this deeper truth.
God is always working. He really truly is.
The coolest part? Now that I have older adopted children, they love listening to The Horse and His Boy (the RadioTheater version is wonderful) and sharing the same wonder. “It’s like us,” my daughter said one day. “We had a whole long journey to find our family, and God was with us, guiding us the whole time. Just like Shasta! I bet that’s why the author wrote this story, because God does this kind of stuff.”
In His Steps by Charles Sheldon
Growing up, my family had a children’s version of In His Steps called What Would Jesus Do? I remember reading it many, many times. I was probably seventeen the first time I read the original version of the story and when I finished it the first time, I immediately went back and read it again. There were several story lines that struck me.
The first, Rachel’s story of giving her music to the Lord and allowing Him to use it for His glory, and the second, Jasper, who had the choice to use his writing to honor God or himself. These two things were so closely linked to my life and my thought patterns, and my journey has been radically influenced by Charles Sheldon and this book.
Fun note: this is where the now-often-used phrase, What Would Jesus Do? originally came from and was first written as a series of “story sermons” that were preached/read by Charles Sheldon and then later published.
Hind’s Feet on High Places by Hannah Hurnard
Though I heard the story of Pilgrim’s Progress many times as a child, the allegory-of-choice in our family was Hind’s Feet on High Places. This story follows a young girl, Much-Afraid, who has crooked feet and a crooked mouth, who follows the Chief Shepherd out of the Village-of-Much-Trembling on a journey to the High Places.
The story of Much-Afraid’s transformation has been an oft-returned-to tale for me. I read it as a teenager who dealt with fear, and felt the call to follow the Shepherd bravely. I read it as a young adult, struggling to give all of myself to the King, as Much-Afraid did when she came to the altar and realized she was the needed sacrifice. And I read it as a wife plagued with infertility, and saw Much-Afraid in the desert, learning the lessons of the wilderness—and how the Shepherd came right to her when she called for Him.
When my adopted daughter first came home, we read this illustrated version of the book together and it has been an incredible tool in teaching her the truths of Scripture. We still return to it often.
Mark of the Lion Series by Francine Rivers
This series was hard to get through. It’s raw and honest and an excellent look at the historical atmosphere of much of the New Testament. The story follows the life of a young girl, Hadassah, who comes to faith as Jerusalem is conquered and she is captured and sold into slavery. From her position as a slave in a prominent household, she has the chance to influence an entire family by her faith. Simple in appearance and beautiful in spirit, the once-timid girl becomes a pillar of faith during one of the most turbulent periods in history.
And it was so convicting it almost made my toes curl. The question that filled my mind through entire series was, “Do I know my Savior so well that I would cling to His name through this kind of suffering?”
My answer didn’t satisfy me and sparked a decision to seek after the Lord with more fervency.
Fun note: I lent my copies of these books to my brother, whose wife was pregnant at the time. They named their daughter, Hadassah, after the main character, with the prayer that she would follow Christ with the same passion.
Pascal’s Wager by Nancy Rue
Pascal’s Wager is the story of an atheistic professor, Jill, who faces the mental deterioration of her brilliant mother. While trying to come to grips with the devastation of losing the mother she once knew, she seeks out a philosophy professor, Sam Hunt, who challenges her to make “Pascal’s Wager”—to “bet” that God exists by acting as if he does (after all, you have nothing to lose!).
Even though I took a semester of Christian apologetics in college, there were some parts of defending the faith that I didn’t fully understand until I picked up this book. It carries tremendous value just for that purpose.
But the part that left a lasting impression on me was another quote from Pascal that is mentioned near the end of the book. Jill talks about “licking the earth” and that scene, with its picture of how we are made from dust—with our sinful natures still fighting for control of our hearts—changed out how I viewed myself and my life.
Until that point, I struggled deeply with pride. I was appalled at my sin, but I felt a need to keep up an act or a front because I was “supposed” to be a Christian. After all, I was a pastor’s daughter, a missionary kid, a went-to-church-from-before-my-birth kind of girl. But somehow, even though I had learned to acknowledge my sin before God, I hadn’t understood that I can humbly name my tendency to stumble—right in the moment, to the people I’m with—and that doesn’t mean I’ve failed in my faith. In fact, it’s a beautiful testimony of how God is transforming my mind.
I have returned to this story many times, often picking up the book and reading the end scene again, just to refresh it in my mind. Bringing to light, again, the beauty that is found in quiet humility.
Do you have any novels that have helped shape your faith? I’d love to hear about them!
Here at Club31Women, we recognize that not everyone has the same taste or point of view on books, music, or movies, but we offer these short reviews for your consideration. Our hope is that you will find something new and wonderful on this list of recommended resources!
~ Lisa Jacobson, Club31Women
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