Why You Should Be Reading Christian Biographies | by Joellen Armstrong | The Joyful Life Magazine

Every time I make tea I find myself reminded of the Ten Boom family and the watered down, nearly flavorless tea they served to all who passed through their home during World War II.

On cold nights, with the comfort of a warm blanket within reach, I can’t help but recall Louis Zamperini’s harrowing account of shivering on the brink of death during winter in an atrocious POW camp.

When I am tempted to despair over all the things in life I may never have, I reflect on the brave life of Marie Durand, who endured 38 years of life in a miserable prison, all the while joyfully encouraging others to continue in their faith.

What would my perspective of gratitude, compassion, or courage be, had it not been shaped by the inspiring experiences of these brave souls? The blessings and opportunities I have in my own life are viewed with a much greater clarity as I’ve come to know the stories of those who have lived in faith with far less.

Their lives continually push me onward and have shaped my attitude toward hardship, fairness, and perseverance. The inspiration I’ve drawn from Christian biographies has been an incredible blessing in my life. Maybe you haven’t given this particular genre much thought, but I would venture to say it is the first genre I would encourage you to pick up after reading your Bible.


Perhaps you have a lot of friends who encourage you regularly. What a blessing godly friendships are; it is wise to cherish them! However, there is such an incredible opportunity for growth that comes from learning through the experiences of others who don’t know you and who won’t cater their opinions or advice to your reactions or their own expectations. Reading about the lives of other believers can encourage you in ways you weren’t even aware you needed to be encouraged. But God knows, and He often uses the lessons learned through other people’s lives to bring about transformation in our own.


Little things greatly matter. However, when we are in the midst of our circumstances, we often miss the significant importance of the little things. When you read about how very little other people had, how sacrificially they served, or how one conversation, seemingly insignificant, impacted another person forever — you will be reminded that even the smallest ways that you serve the Lord matter.

When we read someone else’s story we’re given the perspective of hindsight, and we are able to see with greater clarity the full impact the little things had on their life. Seeing the fruit produced in others through their faithful obedience, even in the small things, helps us to press on in joyful obedience throughout our own lives, with the confidence that God can use our small acts of obedience in significant ways.


When I asked my friends what was the most impactful Christian biography they had read — hands-down the top response was The Hiding Place by Corrie Ten Boom. Reading about God working in concentration camps amidst horrid conditions, death, and a bleak future will help arm us with a broader perspective of seeing God at work even through our most difficult circumstances. We see Him at work in seemingly impossible situations through the stories of other believers and we grow in our faith trusting that He can work in our impossible situations too.

Reading Christian Biographies is not just about having a greater knowledge of Christian history or studying all the heroes of the faith as in depth as possible. It’s about seeing God at work through the lives of others. As we grow in faith by seeing evidence of God’s work in the lives of others, we are building a storehouse of encouragement. This storehouse can serve as a means to feed our souls during discouraging seasons. It can also be drawn from in order to be a blessing and encouragement to others when they are facing trials. It provides wisdom and insight for when we encounter situations beyond our experience. And most significantly of all, it reveals a broader scope of God’s character and extends our understanding of the depth of what He does for His people.

I encourage you to choose a biography from the list below to read as we head into the fall. Take some intentional time to pray and ask God for direction in making your selections and for Him to prepare your heart and mind for what lies ahead. Trust that even in the monotony of life, He is actively preparing you for something — always for your good and for His glory.

CHRISTIAN BIOGRAPHIES | Recommended Reading List

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The Hiding Place by Corrie Ten Boom
Unbroken: The story of Louis Zamperini by Laura Hildebrand
Devil at My Heels by Louis Zamperini
Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus by Nabeel Qureshi
Seven Women: And the Secret of Their Greatness by Eric Metaxas
Bruchko by Bruce Olson
Through the Gates of Splendor by Elisabeth Elliot
A Severe Mercy by Sheldon Vanauken
Surprised by Joy by C.S. Lewis
The Heavenly Man by Brother Yun
Evidence Not Seen by Darlene Deibler Rose
A Chance to Die: The Life and Legacy of Amy Carmichael by Elisabeth Elliot
Fierce Convictions by Karen Swallow Prior
The Little Woman by Gladys Aylward
The Confessions by St. Augustine
Just As I Am by Billy Graham
The Boys in the Boat by Daniel James Brown
Here I Stand: A Life of Martin Luther by Roland H. Bainton
Jonathan Edwards: A Life by George Marsden
Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy by Eric Metaxas
Harriet Tubman: Road to Freedom by Catherine Clinton
Amazing Grace in the Life of William Wilberforce by John Piper
Foxe’s Book of Martyrs by John Foxe

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Why You Should Be Reading Christian Biographies | by Joellen Armstrong | The Joyful Life Magazine
Why You Should Be Reading Christian Biographies | by Joellen Armstrong | The Joyful Life Magazine
  1. Love this list! Thank you for the encouragement. I have learned so much from reading Christian biographies. I feel like I’m not alone in my struggles. And it helps me keep my “struggles” in proper perspective since what I go through is nothing compared to what these ladies and men went through.

    I think my favorite on your list is Evidence Not Seen. I was impressed at all the Scripture verse that came back to Darlene’s mind. Scriptures that aren’t typical “life-verses” that the Holy Spirit used to encourage her faith.

    I think I would add to your list God’s Smuggler by Brother Andrew. I would also add Michelle Ule’s new book on Mrs. Oswald Chambers and Michelle DeRusha’s biography on Katharina and Martin Luther.

    Thank you!

  2. Nicely said. I love your statement about having hindsight that helps us see what God did through saints who have gone before us. It gives hope He will do the same for us. We are surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses I believe.

      1. Thanks for this list and the encouragement to continue to choose autobiographies, Joellen! I was quite encouraged to know that I have already read a number of them, thanks to Sonlight Curriculum! It’s also great to know that we serve a God who delights in revealing Himself through the small, the insignificant, the weak etc, as well as the great . Elizabeth B.Browning reminds that ‘earth is cramm’d with heaven!’ It’s true!

  3. I like how you mentioned that reading christian biographies can help you learn to love the small things, like the peace of obeying God. I’ve been having a bit of a hard time going to church because I get so anxious, so it sounds like reading some christian books could help me grow spiritually. Do you have any recommendations?

    1. Thank you 🙂 I love many here in this list, but if you are looking for something non-biographical I would take a look at many of the books Lifeway publishes. Living Life Backwards is one I read recently and loved 🙂 I pray that you will find the strength and courage to meet with other Christians – being with other believers and living life together is the best way to learn and grow!

  4. I like the perspective you have here. I’ve read many Christian biographies, but honestly, I’ve read them mostly to know more about the subjects — the missionaries, the Movers and Shakers, the preachers and the educators. After I read them, I put them in one of my Christian Books bookcases and forget about them until it’s time to refresh my memory for a class, group or even a Facebook discussion. But what you say is important: focus on the little things and store up the encouragement you get from reading such stories. Thanks for a fresh viewpoint!

  5. The power of Christian biographies is real. I have a daughter who has served in foreign missions for nearly 10 years. She has sacrificed more than I could have ever imagined, endured the loneliness of serving single, faced a multitude of disappointments and hardships. Yet, she considers it an honor to serve the King and tells me frequently that she never expected it to be easy. She grew up reading the biographies of great missionaries and others who gave their lives to follow His calling. Those stories helped her to understand that to be a Christ follower; is to follow the path of Christ. Perspective is gained, hope is shored up, faith is strengthened and joy is renewed when we remember that our story is part of a bigger story: woven together with the stories of those Believers who have gone before—ultimately reflecting His story in a world desperately in need of Him. Thank you for this encouragement to keep reading. ~ In His Love, Tabitha

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