March 22, 2013

Firsthand | A Faith That Frees


Excerpt from Ryan & Josh Shook’s new book, Firsthand: Ditching Secondhand Religion for a Faith of Your Own. Visit





Imagine what it would be like to come alive and experience the freedom of firsthand faith. This might surprise you, but we think that one of the most important payoffs of firsthand faith might be just that—coming alive in emotional and spiritual freedom.

And that’s what we were created for. It’s in our DNA to crave it. It’s the reason Jesus came to earth. We all crave the freedom to be fully ourselves at every moment without holding anything back. And when it comes to our lives as Christians, we all long for a natural, honest, life-giving relationship with God too.

What we long for, however, is usually very different from what we have. But here’s the thing: often we’re a big part of the problem. Have you noticed how we throw about as much energy into trying to push away what we want as trying to make it real in our lives? Frederick Buechner wrote, “What we hunger for perhaps more than anything else is to be known in our full humanness, and yet that is often just what we also fear more than anything else.”

So what we hunger for is also what we fear? Maybe that’s why we long for freedom but what we experience is more like enslavement.

Can you relate?

Sometimes it’s the chains of addiction that enslave us in a constant pursuit of pleasure that never satisfies. Sometimes it’s always trying to please our friends that imprisons us in a life of insecurity and fear. Sometimes it’s the trap of trying to be “the good Christian kid” who checks off that religious to-do list every day. Whatever it is, we try to keep it to ourselves so that nobody else will know.

Kara from Denver admitted to us, “I have always struggled with being honest with myself, God, and others. Letting people see my failures or the places I struggle in sounds like torture. I have no problem telling them about certain struggles, but you want me to show you my heart in its entirety? Every filthy thing? Yeah, then I don’t like that at all.”

Nothing unusual there.

Kara’s got secrets. We all have secrets.In this chapter we want to talk about what happens to us when we hold those secrets in. We’re going to focus on the enslavement that occurs when we can’t seem to measure up to what we know God wants—can’t measure up over and over and over again, actually.

In our experience that kind of enslavement leads to living a lie. Covering up. Faking it. You walk around with a secret, pretending you’re one thing while inside you know the truth, and the truth sucks, and you feel like a fraud. And there’s nothing firsthand—direct from the original source—about that kind of faith!

As we know from personal experience, living as a slave to a lie will set you up for an endless cycle of shame and guilt. When you feel worthless and ashamed most of the time, getting close to God—or even wanting to—is hard. Really hard. It’s easier just to go through the motions. Settle for secondhand religion. Maybe move away from God and church altogether.

Unfortunately, it happens all the time.

But it doesn’t have to. Think about what amazing things you could do if you could break free from those feelings of worthlessness and shame. Imagine feeling like you could get close to God without fear of condemnation. Imagine what it would feel like to break free from the cycle of secrets—of beating yourself up with all that shame and guilt.

Your spirit would come alive. Your life would change. You would walk into a world filled with new possibilities.

And you would be free.

Doesn’t that sound like what you’ve always wanted?