By Angela Cirocco
Tired. Lonely. Afraid. Numb. Ashamed. Do any of these words describe you? If so, grab Jennie Allen’s latest book, Nothing to Prove, and prepare for streams of refreshment to wash over you.
Throughout the book, Jennie highlights the ways we strive for recognition, fulfillment, and identity. She explains that our lack reveals our thirst for grace. Each chapter addresses a different need—lonely, tired, and afraid, to name a few. She teaches through the book of John and points us to Jesus, the living water (Jn 4). Only he can quench our longings for love and acceptance.
Jennie weaves this metaphor for thirst and water through each struggle discussed. First we must admit our thirst and expose the lies we believe about ourselves. She says God allows us to feel our need for him as a gift. When we recognize our longing for God, we begin to find him. Just like our bodies signal dehydration with thirst, our souls signal our need for God with a thirst for grace.
As the founder of IF, a ministry that reaches over one million women, Jennie describes her personal journey to overcome striving. IF was birthed in 2013 from a vision she had to “disciple a generation.” They exist to gather, equip, and unleash women to discover God’s calling in their lives. IF:Gathering, an annual conference in Austin, Texas, hosts over 2,000 women. They convene to worship, learn from God’s word, and connect with each other. The conference also live streams around the world in over 100 countries. IF:Equip, a daily online Bible study, encourages women to study the Bible and engage virtually over what they learn. Jennie has written three books and three Bible studies.
Despite all the appearances of success, Jennie discloses her feelings of inadequacy. Achieving her goals resulted in an endless mirage of more to achieve, always just beyond reach. About to go onstage at the second IF:Gathering, she confessed to a fellow speaker, “I am not enough for this. I. can. not. do. it.”
Instead of placating Jennie, this mentor responded, “I know. And that’s why God picked you.” This set her free to admit the ways she had attempted to perform for God. She recognized her ministry grew through God, not her efforts. The following year at IF:Gathering, Jennie walked onto the stage and admitted her fear and inadequacy to a million women, “I am not enough. But Jesus is.”
Jennie invites us to examine the ways we trade performing before God for abiding with God. We never graduate from needing him. She says God built us for intimacy with himself, yet we attempt to manage our lives on our own terms. We run ourselves ragged maintaining a perfect image before others. We want everyone to see a Pinterest-worthy dinner, well-behaved, high-performing kids, and a sinless, compassionate Christian. Yet, Jesus offers us assurance that we matter to him. Page after page, she shows us how Jesus wants to fill us, know us, free us.
Encouraging us to lay aside our fear and shame, Jennie shows us how Jesus longs to wash them away. He offers strength to endure dissolving marriages and cancer treatments. Jennie demonstrates how the Bible refreshes us through difficulties. Jesus longs for us to live in freedom. Jennie emboldens us to find healing from shame through confession.
I would recommend this book. In our social-media laden world where we constantly compare our lives, we desperately need Jennie’s refreshing words that we are enough. She draws us from our common struggles to the fountain of grace offered by Jesus. Through her stories, we can see ourselves. The reader learns theology without realizing it. We are invited to interact with the material through journal responses. This allows us to process, personalize, and apply the material, rather than read and forget. Every chapter ends in a challenge to step into Jesus’ stream, quench our thirst in him, and then live through his overflow of living water in our lives. She reminds us of God’s character and promises.
The book reminds us that Jesus gives each one of us all that we need. In Him, we have Nothing to Prove.
Angela Cirocco is a registered nurse and full-time student at Dallas Theological Seminary in Dallas, Texas. She loves to connect with women over a dark roast coffee and invite them into deeper relationships with Jesus.