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Book Review: Faithful Women and Their Extraordinary God

Faithful Women and Their Extraordinary God is a collection of short biographies of women who’ve been used by God. Noel Piper wanted to call them ‘ordinary women’ to emphasise that they weren’t necessarily very healthy, gifted, wealthy or glamorous. She tells the stories of Sarah Edwards, Lilias Trotter, Gladys Aylward, Esther Ahn Kim and Helen Roseveare, highlighting their struggles, turning points and the ‘crossings’ with women today: where we can learn from them.

I found the stories a little hit and miss. I thought that Piper’s opening and closing stories belonged in the middle: the first wasn’t trumpeting overture nor the last a resounding finale. The book opened with Sarah Edwards and though Piper describes her in glowing terms, I came away feeling that I didn’t really know Sarah Edwards. I knew that she was the perfect model of a conservative, complementarian wife, but her story was told in terms of her role with few details of her loves, concerns and personality. There wasn’t much flesh and blood to the story. On the other hand, the last biography, about Helen Roseveare, was flooded with personal memoirs and quotes, but so much so that it felt clumsy and the story somewhat stilted. It read more like an interview than a narrative. There was plenty of inspiration material there but it was obscured by too many ellipses.

The three middle stories were well worth the read though and I’m glad I persevered past the cardboard cut-out of Sarah Edwards. I could hear the indignation in Lilias Trotter’s voice when someone called Muslims a doomed race: “It does not sound very like ‘the God of Hope,’ or ‘the God of Love’!” I was encouraged that God didn’t let even one of Gladys Aylward’s experiences go to waste, using even working in the most menial tasks as preparation for her work of evangelism in China. I felt the tension of Esther Ahn Kim as she waited for execution in a Korean prison and, like her, wondered if I could bear up for Jesus under torture. These three were full-colour pictures of what it is to serve Jesus with everything, including your personality. Seeing how God worked through these women is a great reason to trust him in my own situation.

I’d give this book 3.5/5. It’s not outstanding as a whole but parts of it are solid gold.

Categories: Book Woman Written by Tamie

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Tamie Davis

Tamie Davis is an Aussie living in Tanzania, writing at meetjesusatuni.com.

2 replies

  1. I really disagree with the above rating and would give the book a whole-hearted 5/5. Obviously it serves as a synopsis of these women’s lives in a short chapter each. Even my less than holy Christian life can’t be told properly in 20 or so pages, and I’m only 27! That wasn’t the point, it’s not for us to get to know the ins ans outs of each woman, but instead to grasp that each woman was as ordinary as we are, and yet leaves behind an amazing legacy because of the Lord’s stamp in their life. I loved all 5 accounts, though I probably would never have picked up a biography about any of these women before. Helen Rosearve’s one really flew out of the pages for me…I truly identinfied with her, her clumisiness in character, her flaws, her sins, yet the Lord used her, because our God is extra-ordinary and His power or potential does not depend on us. It really moved me. When I finished reading Helen’s account in this book, I did more research to find out about Helen, and infact ended up writing to her missionary organisation to ask if I could meet her, and I did 2 and half years ago, which was a priviledge.

    I guess God uses different means to encourage His people, do His work, that book did it for me, obviously it didn’t for you.

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