There’s something very powerful about reading biographies of Christians from the past. Their stories have a unique ability to challenge and encourage us as we are able to view their lives in their totality and trace the Lord’s providence throughout their earthly pilgrimages. In doing so, we are reminded that the God who was faithful to them, will be faithful to us as well–for he is the same, yesterday, today and tomorrow.
While it is true that we come away from these books with new heroes of the faith whom we desire to emulate, more than anything we come away from our reading with a greater understanding of our God and his ability to preserve his saints: providing for them, guiding them, loving them, comforting them, and upholding them. So while we can find many ways to imitate these saints, it is their trust in the Savior and his power that we most wish to cultivate in our own lives.
In Faithful Women and Their Extraordinary God, Noel Piper takes us on a journey through the lives of five different women from all over the globe who lived in very different circumstances. The one thing they all had in common was a passion for the gospel of Jesus Christ–it was this passion for the Savior and necessary trust in his goodness that led them to do extraordinary things for his name.
This passion would manifest itself in different ways depending on how God led each woman to best serve him. For Sarah Edwards it meant humbly serving her husband and children with faith and commitment, for Lilias Trotter it meant moving to Algeria to witness to Muslim women, and for Esther Ahn Kim it meant being taken prisoner for her unwillingness to bow to Japanese idols. Each of the women in Piper’s book were just ordinary women, who were called out to walk in faith for the glory of the Savior. They came from very different circumstances and served him in vastly different ways. This will serve as a great encouragement to anyone who reads their stories because it is a reminder that no matter where God has placed us–whether we are married, single, mothers, childless, grandmothers, widows, missionaries, or business women–we are all called to live whole-heartedly for his glory and for the good of others. If we give ourselves over to his purposes, he will be faithful to accomplish his extraordinary works in the same way he did for these five women.
In each chapter, Piper shares the story of one extraordinary woman and then takes a moment to ponder how we can learn from her life. I found it easy to relate to each of the stories in various ways. I first found myself empathizing with Sarah Edwards’ life as a pastor’s wife and mother. I was challenged by her resolve to faithfully serve her husband in any way necessary so as to free him up for ministry. I was then drawn to Lilias Trotter’s life as an artist and missionary. Her inward struggle to decide which passion would rule her life resonated with me. I was encouraged by the way the Lord used her creativity for his glory. Gladys Aylward and Esther Ahn Kim were both incredible examples of bravery whose stories were previously unknown to me. And, though I’ve read a couple of Helen Roseveare’s autobiographical works, Piper’s account of her life and ministry in the Congo was an incredible reminder of God’s faithfulness to his servants. Roseveare’s honesty in her struggle to serve God humbly and willingly has always been a great encouragement to my soul. The accounts Piper shared of her suffering at the hands of rebel forces were powerful and sobering. Her willingness to be abused for the sake of the gospel was an incredible testimony of her love for the Savior. These women were each ordinary, but God, in his grace and mercy, used them to do extraordinary things for his glory. Their lives both teach us what it looks like to be sold-out for the gospel as well as reveal an active God who cares for his children. I was encouraged, challenge, and emboldened by each of their stories.
Faithful Women and Their Extraordinary God is a book I would highly recommend every woman have on her book shelf. More importantly, it is a collection of stories every woman should hold dear to her heart. As we study these brave sisters in the faith and see the Lord’s hand in their lives we are given a greater confidence in his good plan for our own. I am grateful to Noel Piper for sharing their testimonies of the Lord’s goodness and for challenging us to learn from those who have faithfully gone before us.