Nearly every teenage girl in existence lives in eager anticipation of the day when she can finally enjoy all the freedom, independence, and excitement that is sure to accompany her future life as a twenty-something. However, it’s often not until a teen actually transitions into her twenties that reality sets in revealing the painful truth that adulthood isn’t quite as blissful or carefree as she once imagined!
Stress—It accompanies every decade of life, and the experience of a twenty-something is no exception. In her book, Stress Point: Thriving through Your 20s in a Decade of Drama, Sarah Francis Martin seeks to help young women navigate through some of the major challenges they’re likely to face during this stage of life.
Martin devotes one chapter each to ten different stress points: career, self image, body image, love and dating, serious romantic relationships, friends and family, money, independence, making a difference, and spiritual maturity.
Each chapter follows a specific structure. Martin begins by illustrating the chapter’s particular stress point with three case studies, often using stories from popular TV shows, movies, or her own life to help the reader relate to the topic at hand.
She then directs twenty-somethings to the necessity of “Worshiping at the Throne of the King” by highlighting a name of God and teaching how His character is revealed through that name. Worshiping leads to “Waiting at the Throne of the King” as Martin encourages readers to see that waiting on the Lord is an active and beneficial process, rather than passive and useless as it often appears to be. Finally, each chapter concludes with “Finding Focus on the King” where the author explains how readers can find satisfaction and fulfillment by keeping the Lord central in all that they do.
Stress Point’s Strong Points
I greatly appreciate the goals that Martin aimed for in writing this book. As a result of the lack of solid biblical instruction in many homes and churches today, young Christian women often move into adulthood with a great deal of confusion regarding how their faith should shape every aspect of their lives. Stress Point offers some much-needed teaching that will help readers see how they can please God even in the midst of major life changes.
Martin repeatedly hammers away at the importance of living under the Kingship of Christ and seeing that He is Lord over every stressor a woman may face. By providing questions and journaling space in each chapter, she encourages personal application of the material covered as well as interaction with the Scripture.
I particularly appreciated Martin’s emphasis on worship and the need to deepen one’s knowledge of the character of God. These topics, which are often neglected in modern Christian women’s literature, are truly vital to understanding our identity and purpose on this earth. When a young woman grasps the biblical truth that she was created by a wise and loving God to bring Him glory in all that she does, her life is infused with meaning and direction she would otherwise never experience. Stress Point provides valuable assistance in this regard.
Stress Point’s Weak Points
As much as I wish I could give Stress Point my wholehearted approval, I do have some reservations about certain aspects of the book. The first concerns Martin’s handling of Scripture. In a few instances, she takes an Old Testament passage which refers to a particular individual or where God is speaking to the Israelites in general (for example, Ps. 45:11; Is. 62:3-4), and she attempts to apply it directly to individuals today. Although all of Scripture has bearing on the lives of Christians, it is a mistake to interpret any passage without considering the original audience and context.
This problem leads to my second concern—Martin’s attempt to bolster the reader’s sense of self worth by using these Old Testament passages to assure readers that God is enthralled with or captivated by their beauty. In my opinion, this approach actually undermines Martin’s stated desire to help women turn their focus from self to Christ because attention is still being placed on self and human beauty rather than being placed on the Lord and His beauty.
As human beings thoroughly marred by sin, we must remember that any beauty we have is derived from God Himself as our Creator and from Christ as our Savior. We have worth as human beings because we’re created in God’s image; we have beauty as believers because we’ve been clothed in Christ’s righteousness. So whenever we speak of our worth or identity as individuals, it needs to be done in biblically accurate terms or we can easily make the mistake of sounding as though we have some sort of loveliness that is not directly derived from and dependent upon God Himself.
A third area concerns specific illustrations and points made on the issues of drinking or visiting a bar and physical relationships with the opposite sex. For the sake of space, I can’t go into detail here, but I thought some statements should have been avoided and more should have been said to encourage avoiding temptation and sin in these areas.
There is a great deal of good contained in Stress Point, and for that reason, I truly wish I could enthusiastically recommend it. While readers will benefit from much of Martin’s teaching, the concerns I’ve mentioned above prevent me from giving it my full approval.