Go into your local Christian bookseller and you will find the women’s interest section overflowing with “help” for today’s busy woman, homemaking woman, single woman, frazzled woman, (insert your own adjective here) woman, but there are few that will encourage all women equally well. Faithful Women and Their Extraordinary God by Noel Piper is one that crosses time and social bounds to inspire and challenge every Christian woman to step out in faith in their homes and abroad.
Mrs. Piper takes the lives of Sarah Edwards, Lilias Trotter, Gladys Aylward, Esther Ahn Kim, and Helen Roseveare, who lived over a span of 250 years, to encourage women today to die to self, forsake all for the gospel, and stand firm in the faith.
Being a homeschooling mother of four, Sarah Edwards’ life spoke volumes to me. Sarah Edwards did not simply play lip service to the high calling of motherhood and homemaking. Through pain and sorrow, she exemplified unswerving faith in the love and sovereignty of God. Most women in America today reject her lifestyle, but Piper brings out the stunning truth that America continues to experience the blessing of her legacy of faith and sacrifice.
The events on September 11, 2001 forced Islam to the foreground of American life. Lilias Trotter, considered by many to be too weak or too old to work on the mission field, toiled for years to spread the gospel among Muslim women. Her life rings out a clarion call for missionaries to go into the most dangerous places for a Christian, trusting in God to do the impossible.
Gladys Aylward, not attractive and not well educated, did not pass the qualifications of the missionary board, but God saw a faith He could use and He made a way. God used her to affect change and spread the gospel in the area of China in which she served. Aylward’s courage and faith prove that God will use anyone who will place his or her faith in Him.
Esther Ahn Kim, a Daniel in her day, refused to bow down to the shrine at Namsan Mountain in Korea. Knowing this decision would mean terrible suffering, she prepared herself with fasting and prayer, sleeping on the floor, and immersing herself in scripture. Her example proves that a scripture saturated mind, hours spent in prayer, and faith in God are invaluable when trials come.
Helen Roseveare shines as an example of one who placed herself in God’s hands and had everything stripped away, who struggled in her walk with Christ, and continued to learn how to balance ministry (in the Belgian Congo) and rest, an issue we all face. Mrs. Piper uses Paul’s comments in Philippians 3:7-11 to encapsulate Roseveare’s heart and life.
In addition to the stirring biographies of each woman, my favorite portion of each chapter is Piper’s insight for how each woman’s life calls out an applicable message for believers today. I cannot recall many books that have set into motion a season of repentance in my life like this one has, and I would encourage everyone to read it. I immediately passed this book on to my mother-in-law. Deeply moved, she passed it to my father-in-law, who expressed similar sentiments after his reading. In American Christian culture, it is very popular to publish a “steps to…” book. While Mrs. Piper could probably offer her opinion in such a format, I am thankful and “spurred on” by these intimate details of heroic faith.