When Strivings Cease: Replacing the Gospel of Self-Improvement with the Gospel of Life-Transforming Grace – Ruth Chou Simons

When Strivings Cease Ruth Chou Simons
When Strivings Cease: Replacing the Gospel of Self-Improvement with the Gospel of Life-Transforming Grace by Ruth Chou Simons
Published by Thomas Nelson on October 12, 2021
Genres: Non-Fiction, Christian Life, Memoir, Theology
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This is not a call to get busy; it’s a call to get discerning. 
In this hustling, image-forward age of opportunity, women are more anxious than ever. Despite all the affirming memes and self-reflections that dominate social media feeds, approval and worth often seem assigned to what we do rather than who we are. And we end up constantly feeling behind, lacking, and like we're failing--at home, at work, with friends, with God.
Ruth Chou Simons knows something of feeling measured by achievement, performance, and the approval of others. As a Taiwanese immigrant growing up between two cultures, Ruth was always on a mission to prove her worth. Until she came to truly understand the one thing that changes everything: the extravagant, undeserved gift of grace from a merciful God. In When Strivings Cease, Ruth guides us all on a journey to find freedom from the never-ending quest for self-improvement. She shows us how to examine the ways we look to superficial means of acceptance and belonging, and find relief in realizing we can't be so amazing that we won't need grace; stop seeing God as someone we perform for and start finding delight in responding to God's welcome; and find relief from running the hamster wheel of relying on our own strength, our own abilities, and our own savvy--and always coming up short--by truly understanding the freedom Jesus purchased.
With personal story, biblical insights, practical applications, and original artwork by Ruth, this book helps us see the truth that God's favor is the only currency we need, because in Christ we are enough.

Ruth Chou Simons combines memoir elements with biblical reflection in this book, writing about her lifelong struggle to feel good enough. She weaves in stories from her childhood experiences in an immigrant family, her young adult years searching for purpose, and current struggles in her adult life, emphasizing that no matter how hard we try to satisfy ourselves and please others, we can never reach the true self-optimization and perfection that we seek. She encourages her readers to stop running the race of self-improvement and run towards Jesus instead, since only the gospel of grace is big enough, deep enough, and true enough to anchor our souls, give us purpose, and give us identities that no personal failures, regrets, or life struggles can shake.

Deep and Honest

Although I have read many other books with this same theme, Simons addresses it particularly well, especially since she delves into emotional wounds from her past. She doesn’t overshare or go into lots of detail, but she writes sincerely about brokenness in her life without trying to make it seem quirky, cute, or relatable. Since I am leery of Christian women’s books that focus on surface-level issues or try to make the author seem like your quirky best friend, I appreciate the depth, honesty, and seriousness that Simons brings to her subject. This was my first time reading a full-length book from her, and it definitely made me want to read more. Also, her reflections about the ideological divisions of 2020 were actually helpful and healing to me, instead of just stirring up all the of the same grinding rage and anxiety again.

When Strivings Cease: Replacing the Gospel of Self-Improvement with the Gospel of Life-Transforming Grace addresses universal issues related to personal striving, approval-seeking, looking for belonging, and dealing with shame. Simons shares biblical teaching about these issues with a sense of openness about her particular experiences, writing with confidence in her Asian identity and her personality. Even though I do not share her background, it was a breath of fresh air to read something from such a distinctive perspective. Many white evangelical women write with popular vernacular, references, and illustrations that I don’t relate to at all, so I really enjoyed this author’s unique, different, and personal touch, from the stories she told to the beautiful Asian-style art that she created for the book.

Life-Changing Grace

Most importantly, Simons writes beautifully about God’s grace, explaining key attributes of the gospel in the second half of the book. She writes primarily to Christian women who are trying to please God and feel at peace through their own efforts, and who have never understood the gospel’s full implications. This book can be very helpful for women who are curious about faith, but Simons writes primarily to women who are already Christians, but who live as if God has only forgiven them on the condition that they now please Him through their own efforts. Simons writes about the depth and fullness of true gospel grace, and even though it is old news to me, it is the best news there is. Finally grasping the full gospel was life-changing for me many years ago, and When Strivings Cease can create that moment of freedom for other women.