My choir has been going through the book Imitation of Christ by Thomas à Kempis. I have already found the book challenging and rewarding, and I'm looking forward to continuing to study it.
One constant challenge to me in this book has been seeking God alone. Whether it be relating to adversity, pride, or a focus on the world, the solution is to look at Christ.
"Then we chiefly seek God for our inward witness, when outwardly we are condemned by men, and when there is no credit given to us. And therefore a man should rest himself so fully in God, that he need not to seek many comforts of men," à Kempis writes in chapter 12.
This idea of inward witness is an interesting and difficult one. Frankly, I'm human. (I know you thought I was a perfect doll, but I guess the truth comes out...) Seriously, though -- like everyone, I like the affirmation of people. I like it when they observe that I'm growing. I like it when my godliness is noticed. When someone criticizes me, I struggle not to crumple on the inside.
But, as à Kempis so wisely demonstrates, we don't need to flaunt our growth for the praise of men. Some things are meant to be between me and God. When we don't receive praise of men, that can drive us to Christ. God can be our inward witness -- a witness to the holiness He is creating in us.
Resting in the truth that God's witness is what matters can help us take the value from the criticism we receive as well. The Holy Spirit convicts -- in my experience, praying over criticism I receive often helps me evaluate what in my life does need to be addressed. He can be a witness to areas that need correction, too.
So there's the first of my thoughts on this book! :) Look for more blog posts as I continue working my way through it.
With love from an absolute doll,
Note: Like any human writing, Imitation of Christ must be read through the lens of Scripture. (I certainly hope you do so with my blog posts!!) As I read with God's grace constantly in mind, this book has provided such an encouragement and conviction toward godly living and resting in Christ. If you were to forget God's grace as you read, however, you might see in the book an encouragement towards legalism -- so when you read this book, remember grace. :)