In time for the Easter season, six new books offer guidance for living a more spiritual life. Some are inspirational, some inspirationally practical. All offer wisdom for those seeking a stronger connection with God and a more fulfilling life.

The meaning of an abundant life in Christ is the central theme of Jonathan Merritt’s Jesus Is Better Than You Imagined. In this deeply personal and highly evocative book, Merritt takes the reader on a search for God through times of intimate communion and soul-searing doubt, sharing the highs and lows of his faith. Whether it’s in the silence of a desert monastery or the brash environs of a bar filled with sacrilegious art, Merritt discovers unexpected truths about Christ and about himself, and realizes that what Christ offers is more than anyone expects and far more than anyone even imagines. Written with soul-stirring simplicity and soul-baring honesty, Jesus Is Better Than You Imagined is both a balm to the wounded believer and the scarred skeptic, as well as a challenge to the committed traditionalist. Merritt calls for a personal encounter that’s not a list of dos and don’ts or pros and cons, but rather an invitation to a lifelong, one-to-one intimacy with a God who knows and loves us, regardless of who, what or where we are.

WORRY NOT
Part of Merritt’s point is that Christians are neither perfect people nor promised perfect lives, and that Christ promises to be there through every mess, mistake and miracle that comes along. This, too, is the central theme of Overwhelmed: Winning the War Against Worry by Perry Noble. Depression, anxiety and worry are not strange afflictions to which Christians should be immune, Noble writes. After all, Moses, Elijah and Paul all suffered through periods of deep depression, even to the point of wishing for death, while heroes like Joseph, Daniel and Christ himself dealt with sources of stress simply unimaginable to most people today. Noble points out that the promise of Christ is not that such struggles will not come, or that we will not feel overwhelmed, but rather that God will carry us through these struggles. With heart and humor, Noble shares details of his own personal battle with depression and stress, using the touchstone of Daniel and his compatriots (and even his kings) to reveal that God has a path through the worry and the fear, and a promise of Christ’s presence amid it all.

HAVING IT ALL
If the superheroes of the past weren’t immune to feeling overwhelmed, then certainly the superwomen of today aren’t, either. Holley Gerth’s You’re Going to Be Okay: Encouraging Truth Your Heart Needs to Hear, Especially on the Hard Days tackles stress, depression and anxiety from a woman’s perspective, for a woman’s life. Gerth brings her knowledge as a counselor and her own experiences with overwhelming worry to relieve the stressed-out and the harried. Filled with practical solutions, family stories and her trademark Southern wit, You’re Going to Be Okay is an intimate conversation with a friend who’s been there too and knows not only what you’re going through, but also that you can go through it—that you’re not alone, no matter what. If you’re a woman dealing with stress, anxiety or depression, or if you love a woman who is, then this is the book for you to seek out.

THE POWER OF FORGIVENESS
One of the foremost leaders in the fight against apartheid, Archbishop Desmond Tutu of South Africa comforted countless victims of brutality, rape, torture and murder while facing death threats and virulent racism himself. Yet after apartheid ended, Nobel Peace Prize winner Tutu was among the loudest voices calling not for revenge, but for forgiveness. That commitment and his own personal experiences—as well as those of his daughter, Reverend Mpho Tutu—form the basis for The Book of Forgiving: The Fourfold Path for Healing Ourselves and Our World. This is not a history of apartheid, though it informs the work, but rather an inspirational, practical and moving guide to finding and giving forgiveness, whether for a criminal action or a slight as ordinary as an insult. It is a path to peace, both internally and in community, offered with wisdom, honesty and beauty. Whether the pain you’ve received or given is great or small, The Book of Forgiving offers a roadmap to healing, from one who has followed it.

WISDOM FOR THE ASKING
In The God of Yes: How Faith Makes All Things New, Jud Wilhite points out that wisdom is neither mysterious nor unattainable—with God, it’s ours for the asking. Wilhite explores our lives today through the prism of Ecclesiastes and the eponymous Teacher’s attempts to discover the purpose and meaning of life. Anything but a dry Bible study, Wilhite’s book combines levity with modern-day reality to present an Ecclesiastes that is very much relevant to today’s reader, and an enjoyable read. By comparing our everyday experiences and cultural quirks and showing how there is “nothing new under the sun,” Wilhite offers insight into a God who offers the gifts we need for a fulfilling, meaningful life.

LIFE IS A CANVAS
Wisdom can be practical, but it can also be sublime—and the latter is the best word to describe Erwin Raphael McManus’ The Artisan Soul: Crafting Your Life into a Work of Art. Beautiful, rich, philosophical and inspiring, The Artisan Soul argues that we are all “little creators,” and that human creativity, imagination and love are what make us “the image of God.” Though his own background and relationships are with artists and artistic people, McManus says that we all have “an artisan soul,” from a master painter to anyone who flunked finger painting. It’s not the activity that defines us, but our imaginations—and our canvas is life itself. God has given us the paintbrush and the paints, and like a gentle master guiding a pupil, He is there to help us see what art we make of it. Whether you’re an artist or an accountant, The Artisan Soul will inspire you to make your life the masterpiece God intends it to be.

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