Is self-help any real help at all?

A few months ago when I published Simplified Organization: Learn to Love What Must Be Done, it started showing up as a highlighted new release in the “Christian self-help” category. 

That was not one of the categories I had selected when completing the publishing process. I believe I had selected “Christian living,” and Amazon helpfully moved it to a more specific subcategory.

I made several jokes with my friends and husband and the oxymoron of the category. We’re Christians because we realize self-help ain’t gonna cut it. 

Stepping back for perspective

I have always enjoyed reading the top books in the entrepreneur and productivity space. There’s a lot of trash there, but there are also some clear-thinking gems. 

In fact, reading David Allen’s Getting Things Done and rereading Stephen Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective People did as much for my mindset shift 15 years ago about my housework as any Christian homemaking book (and I read every one I could get my hands on while I was on the struggle bus there). 

I think those business self-help books gave me needed perspective on my life, forcing me to get out of the mire and think analogically about my situation. Is this business advice applicable to the home? If so, how so? It got me thinking outside the box at a time where I tended to roll my eyes at the sentimental angle usually offered in homemaking books.

Looking for answers in all the right places

Of course, the primary reading that changed everything was reading the New Testament rapidly and repeatedly one summer. In my obsessive devouring of all homemaking wisdom I could find, the most practical and obvious first step was in Nancy Wilson’s Fruit of Her Hands

There, she said that if I didn’t have a regular Bible reading habit, to start by reading 5 chapters of the New Testament a day and just cycle through the New Testament for several months and a hunger for God’s Word would develop. 

Well, at the time I was very hit or miss and didn’t really have a plan for Bible reading (or much of anything else in life), so I took her advice. I adapted it and read only the epistles, one whole book a day, for at least two months. In many ways I see all my progress since that time as plants sprouted from those specific seeds.

Devote yourself to good work.

Plus, Nancy was right, I have loved regular reading of the whole of God’s Word ever since that immersion treatment. If you struggle with sticking with Bible reading, try her plan – with prayer – and God will bless you in it as well.

So while simultaneously reading the epistles on repeat and trying to apply Getting Things Done to my life as a mom with only little kids, worried that I wasn’t going to be able to hack homeschooling because I clearly couldn’t even hack laundry and dishes, the Holy Spirit whacked me upside the head with Scripture. 

2 Corinthians 9:8 – And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work.

Ephesians 2:10 – For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

Philippians 1:6 – And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.

Colossians 1:10 – so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him: bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God;

2 Thessalonians 2:17 – comfort your hearts and establish them in every good work and word.

1 Timothy 2:10 – but with what is proper for women who profess godliness—with good works

1 Timothy 5:10 – and having a reputation for good works: if she has brought up children, has shown hospitality, has washed the feet of the saints, has cared for the afflicted, and has devoted herself to every good work.

1 Timothy 5:25 – So also good works are conspicuous, and even those that are not cannot remain hidden.

2 Timothy 2:21 – Therefore, if anyone cleanses himself from what is dishonorable, he will be a vessel for honorable use, set apart as holy, useful to the master of the house, ready for every good work.

Titus 2:7 – Show yourself in all respects to be a model of good works,

Titus 2:14 – who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works.

Titus 3:8 – The saying is trustworthy, and I want you to insist on these things, so that those who have believed in God may be careful to devote themselves to good works. These things are excellent and profitable for people.

Hebrews 10:24 – And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works

These are not even all the places the epistles talk about the importance of good works. Because I was reading a whole book a day, every day I was receiving a charge to devote myself to good works.

Shifting the question

It totally reframed my internal debate. I was insisting that I needed to know if it was a sin to leave the dishes undone or not. I thought it wasn’t a sin. If it wasn’t disobedience to not wash the dishes, then it wasn’t obedience to wash them either. Therefore, I concluded, it didn’t matter if I did them or not. 

I was stuck in anxious, simplistic insistence on pure rational logic – and therefore, I was missing the point. As a twenty-five-year-old mother of three, I was basically still an argumentative twelve-year-old in my thinking and in my spiritual walk.

The question the apostle Paul insisted I ask was “Are the dishes and laundry a good work?” Obviously, the answer was yes. “Then, devote yourself to it,” he said. Yes, the Word of God pierces the divisions we make within ourselves to protect ourselves from conviction. 

Stay tuned

Once I accepted the reframing of my questions and my situation, the productivity advice from business and self-help authors I was reading also shifted. No longer was I hunting for the secret sauce to remove all effort from my duties. 

Now what I needed was a method for pursuing how to abound in good works.

Stay tuned next week for the second installment, where I’ll share what the next fifteen years of my life and how what I read this last week in John Calvin brought it all rushing back to my memory in a hymn of grateful praise.

Your routines should fit your life.

This guide will help you set up housecleaning routines that work with your preferences, home, and schedule.

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