I don’t typically pick historical or biographical books, it seems, but when Eric Metaxas’s 7 Women: And the Secret of their Greatness came up for review, I immediately snagged it. After reading Metaxas’s biography of Dietrich Bonhoeffer last year, I knew I would enjoy pretty much anything he writes. His way of writing is very engaging, while at the same time being rich, heady and occasionally humorous.
In the follow-up, or compliment, to his previous book on 7 Men: And the Secret of Their Greatness, this book examines the lives of seven women who changed the course of history: Joan of Arc, Susanna Wesley, Hannah More, Maria Skobtsova, Corrie Ten Boom, Rosa Parks, and Mother Teresa. I was familiar with a few of those women, but really digging into their lives brought a whole new level of understanding. Each of these women were truly, in many ways, ordinary women who became extraordinary primarily by their sold-out obedience to God. Each women faced seemingly insurmountable difficulties: armies and the brutality of war, abandonment by husbands, great poverty, loss of children, loss of family, personal attack, slander, misunderstanding, false accusation, hunger, need, disease, racism, abuse, and the list goes on. Each woman’s life was, in its own way, extraordinarily difficult. Yet each persevered. Each chose to go forward in obedience to God’s call on their particular lives in faith and confidence in Him alone in spite of the difficulty + suffering that would inevitably follow. Each woman offered open hands of surrender to her Savior. Some received recognition + accolades in this life, though most did not and were not truly recognized as “great” until after their deaths. Yet each made a profound impact upon their generation and the course of history.
This is such a needed reminder for us today. I think many of us want to live lives that count, many of us want to be “great,” if we would be honest. But not many of us are willing to suffer. We desire to have the crown but not the cross. We forget that the cross always precedes the crown. We recoil from Jesus’ words: in this life you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world (John 16:33).
I highly recommend this read! It is one I will share with my daughters when they are older. It was inspiring to look at how obedience to God played out in the lives of a passionate teenager, a homeschooling mother, a prolific writer, a seamstress, a nun, a watchmaker’s daughter, and a twice-divorced poet + nun. It spoke to me of trust in the Lord in the face of affliction. It reminded me that the path of obedience will most likely be fraught with much adversity. Often I assume when I encounter resistance that I must have been mistaken in choosing this path, that maybe I have misunderstood God’s will. My natural flesh recoils at the thought of a call that might lead to my own death. It is good for me to constantly revisit this, to see it afresh in Scripture, to see it over the course of history in the lives of the men + women of God I so admire. I need to be reminded of these words from my Savior, especially in a day of ISIS and brutal attacks on humanity, a day where we can expect the hatred toward Christ-followers to increase:
“If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours. But all these things they will do to you on account of my name, because they do not know him who sent me.” (John 15:19-21)
Maybe not all great lives will involve great suffering, but all great suffering will be greatly used by a God who promises to work it all to the good of those who love Him.
If you need to remember that, if you need to preach to your own soul about the powerful work of God in a small, surrendered life, I think this book would be helpful to you! Readable, easy to get lost in the story, engaging, convicting, encouraging.
Thanks to HarperCollins Publishing for a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are my own.