Books for Hard Times

Book Lists

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I don’t know anyone who would say that their life has been a bed of roses. There are good times and there are hard times and they come to each of us. As bibliophiles, we go to books in the hard times just as we do in the happy times. Several members of our writing team have come together to share what books have helped us personally through a tough season.

Keep a Quiet Heart
(reviewed by Everly Pleasant)

Keep a Quiet Heart by Elisabeth Elliot is my favorite devotional. I read it sporadically and then cover-to-cover during a season when it seemed like every aspect of my life was up in the air and it was my job to pin it all down. Stress and worry had infiltrated my mind and Elisabeth’s words really helped to remind me of my foundation and motivate me to keep moving forward!

Choosing to See
(reviewed by Natasha Metzler)

Choosing to See by Mary Beth Chapman is partially a memoir of her life so far, but mostly the story of how God showed up when her family faced a horrific tragedy, the death of one of their young daughters. As someone who has intimately known struggles and loss, this book was an encouragement and spiller of hope into my world.

Stepping Heavenward
(reviewed by Gretchen Louise)

Stepping Heavenward is the classic I turn to time and time again when I’m feeling overwhelmed in life. Whether it’s sick children, relational issues, or family problems, the encouragement found in the writings of Elizabeth Prentiss is timelessly applicable. Written in the style of a fictional journal of a 16-year-old girl growing into womanhood, the story mirrors much of the author’s own testimony, making it even more beautiful. I can never read very many pages without tears coming to my eyes and conviction to my heart. Each page leaves you singing the author’s own hymn, “More Love To Thee, O Christ”.

Getting Back Up When Life Knocks You Down
(reviewed by Chantel Brankshire)

Getting Back Up When Life Knocks You Down arrived on my doorstep right in the middle of one of life’s big knockdowns. You know how it is. You are going along your merry way when “BANG!”, suddenly, you find yourself flat on your back. Life just knocked you down. Again. It was one of those little books that was powerful for me during that season of my life. It reminded me of all the reasons I knew that it was important to keep persevering and keep trusting. Life can knock a person down in a lot of different ways, and each one of us needs to know the tools for knowing how to rise above and turn what Satan meant for evil into something that God might be able to use for more good than we can imagine. For me, it was just what I needed right then to remind me to keep on keeping on.

Core Lies
(reviewed by Jessiqua)

When I bought Sarah Mae’s book Core Lies, I hardly got a couple pages past the intro before I put the book down and started calling to tell people about it. Oftentimes when I’m going through a hard season, my emotions make the whole problem fifty times worse. Old hurts rise to the surface and taint my vision. Things people have said come back and steal away my confidence. It’s hard to judge clearly when lies  from the past block sight of what’s truly important. That’s why I love this short, power-packed book about dealing with soul-wounds and emotional-triggers. I’m on my third go-around reading it right now, because the truths in it strengthen me when times are hard and my emotions are going haywire.

The Insanity of God
(reviewed by Shannon)

Everybody loves the harvest season when working in the Kingdom of God, but many are called to the ‘sowing’ season. It can be years before you see any fruit, and possibly you may never see it in your lifetime. I believe God has called me to minister in the sowing and watering season of ministry and it can be discouraging when people count success by numbers rather than obedience to God. That’s why I was drawn to Nik Ripken’s book The Insanity of God. He served for sixteen years in Africa with the hardest and most barren years in Somolia (he was there during Blackhawk Down!). How can a Christian survive or even thrive in forsaken places? He took this question to Russia, Ukraine, and China and asked the persecuted Christians there. What he learned and what he shares in this book ripped the seeds of discouragement right out of my heart. I have been reading this book in midnight and twilight hours, praying for the sowers, the waterers, the harvesters and mostly, the martyrs.

God Called a Girl
(reviewed by Rachelle Rea)

I almost hesitate to mention this title because it’s not exclusively a book for the sorrowing, but God Called A Girl by Shannon Primicerio is a book I flip through when I’m feeling discouraged. This book about Mary was the first inspirational book I ever read–I can still remember crouching in the Books a Million to pull out the book with a lovely flower cover. When I turned it over and discovered Shannon is a young adult writing to young adults, I tucked it under my arm and took it home. With gentle words and founded-in-Scripture truths, Shannon looks at Mary with admiration and inspired me to admire her, too. She trusted God when her world was at the same time falling apart and becoming bigger than it had ever been before. When I need a dose of encouragement, I love to pull this book from the shelf and remember that God called Mary and He calls me, too.

Grace for the Good Girl
(reviewed by Callie Mitchell)

Have you ever considered that the fruits of the Spirit are not the ways a believer is supposed to behave, but actually the personality of the Holy Spirit within?  This new paradigm provided a great source of comfort  for my wavering conscience during a season of learning to say “no” to too many obligations and expectations.  Grace for the Good Girl is not a book for mending a broken heart, but rather a story of how to get free from the perfectionist, people-pleasing, self-critic within.  I identified with Emily P. Freeman’s testimony of being a “good girl” disrupted by the birth of her twins.  Her organized, straight-A life became messy, yet she found that God loved her none-the-less.  As I discovered how much I had translated my “people pleasing” mentality into “God pleasing,”  this book has helped me simply relax in the Lord’s love, becoming less, so He can become more.

What books–in addition to the Bible–do you turn to during hard times?

Photography: JenniMarie Photography


  1. Definitely anything Elisabeth Elliot. I don’t own “Keep a Quiet Heart,” but I do have “Be Still My Soul.” And any of her other books always act as sort of a balm, too. Today in “Be Still My Soul” I read: “I will offer Him both my tears and my exultation. Nothing we offer to Him will be lost.” (p.21)

  2. “The Grand Weaver” and “Cries of the Heart” are both books I’ve returned to for help through the hard times. If I need something in smaller bites, “The Tender Words of God” by Ann Spangler and “Valley of Vision” (Puritan prayers) are my choices, or poetry by Elizabeth Prentiss and Amy Carmichael.

  3. Great reviews, thanks! I love how each person has her own favorite, that’s helped her in her own unique life!
    And then I love the fact that I now have another list with some new books …soon, I shall go to my husband, flutter my eyelids in an overstated manner, and ask him very sweetly how many new books I can get 😉

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