The book follows the lives Mary and Martha, Mary the mother of Jesus, Esther and Ruth and is written in a format as if telling their story. I generally do not read books like this that take characters from Scripture and add too or make up what happened in between the pages of Scripture which is what this book did. I do have to say however, that I think she did a really good job of developing the characters. While we don't know what their lives would have been like, she really used her imagination to develop what we do know from the Scripture and captivated me by placing emphasis on passages that I have never given much thought about before. Having read the New Testament so many times it is easy to gloss over familiar passages and Sarah Clarkson did a good job at making them seem to come to life.
While the stories were well written and compelling this is not simply a novel. The book is divided into 4 parts and each part has three chapters. Each segment of the story is followed by a devotional written by Sarah who shares how these lessons in Scripture have impacted her own life, which in itself is very compelling. While many young women will be able to relate to her battle with loneliness not many of us have had the experiences of grappling with illness so often at such a young age. At the end of each devotional are Biblical passages for you to read, reflect on and answer questions about.
Part one explores the life of Mary and Martha and gives you a glimpse into what their lives might have been like. Of course it expresses the differences of the two women but also really deals with what may have been behind that. Reading her story helped me really feel the anguish these women must have felt when Lazarus died and the struggle they must have battled with their faith in Jesus who did not immediately come to his rescue. Then accepting the same principle in her own struggles and pain Sarah shares how she learned that "Jesus is not an impassive deity who zaps us with grief and watches our pain" but rather is a "Lord who has not only known my grief but bears it with me."
Part two is about Mary the mother of Jesus and I loved the human aspect of her. How many times have we heard this story and not realized how difficult it was for Mary to bear the Son of God? We picture her perfect, always happy and blissful yet Sarah reminds us of Simeon's prophetic statement that a sword would pierce Mary's soul too. Indeed her life was not all glory as we sometimes suppose it to be. In the devotional Sarah explains that Mary wasn't chosen because she was perfect, none of us are. She was chosen because she was ready. Sarah encourages us to be ready by becoming students of the Scripture as Mary must certainly have been.
Part three takes us back into the old testament and the compelling story of Esther. Again we never really think of how hard it must have been for Esther. While Mordecai tells her to keep her heritage a secret I had never thought of how hard that might have been in the midst of prejudice and persecution. To be forced to remain quite was quite a difficult task. Miss Clarkson then shares a time when she felt as if her own life was meaningless. She has a point. Working 9 to 5 doesn't really meet the idea picture of a woman sold out for God. But through this passage she was reminded that; "Sometimes, loving God looks very different from what you think it will. Sometimes, God asks you to live a life, or even a phase of life, that feels the opposite of everything you hoped or wanted....Yet God knows the plans he has for us. God knows when a young girl is in training to be a queen."
Part four is about the life of Ruth a young widow taking care of her mother-in-law in difficult times. Again it's another familiar story and yet the book brings out lessons that I had not pondered very often. Naomi suffered tragedy and trial to the point where she wanted to change her name because she was bitter and yet the story has a happy ending. But in between there was hard work and trails. In the devotional Sarah explains, "For every brilliant moment in the life of a hero, there a thousand faithful minutes in which nothing exciting or noble happens at all. There are countless days during which all the hero does is clean, work, and love in dull, daily rounds." How very true indeed.
I found the book Journeys of Faithfulness to be an engaging read and an encouraging study. As a christian woman I also share those longings to be that heroine out on the mission field or doing something "great" for the faith. Yet instead I find myself mostly at home taking care of a daughter with special needs and doing all those mundane daily tasks that are required to care for a family. This book was uplifting and encouraging. I think it will speak greatly to young christian women who are still in school dreaming of their future to be reminded early that there is hard work ahead. A heroine is grown through faith and devotion to God that take time and years of dedication. As Sarah reminds us, it's not something we learn and have all worked out by the time we are 25. It's a daily process we must live each and every day and as we go through those times we must be diligent to make time to find the beauty of God in life. It's there, even if it's not as obvious as it should be. It's our duty to be a student of the Word always looking for Him, as He is always faithful to be there.
Journeys of Faithfulness is available through Apologia for $13.00. They also allow you to view a sample chapter and the table of contents there. To learn more or see what other great resources they have to offer visit the Apologia website.
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Disclaimer: As a member of the Schoolhouse Review Crew I received a copy of Journeys of Faithfulness for giving my honest opinion and assessment of it in my review.
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