At times, the Apostle Paul’s words are so emphatic that I picture him jumping up from his seat and speaking them out loud to whomever is in the room. For instance, these words from Romans 8:31 in The Message:
“So, what do you think? With God on our side like this, how can we lose?”
How indeed, but there are times when I feel pretty small, and I want to give Paul a list — itemized — specifying all the ways I could lose. Sometimes, I wonder if our heroes of the faith ever felt small and fallible.
Little Women, BIG GOD demonstrates the significance a big God can bring to a life that feels very small and inconsequential. Debbie Wilson has presented in-depth character studies of five women from Matthew’s account of Jesus’ genealogy: their backgrounds, their challenges, their ordinary lives. Set up as a ten-week Bible study, Little Women, BIG GOD introduces these five women with a personality test in which the reader can discover which of the women best matches her own personality. (I came out with a tie between Tamar and Ruth, so I need to think about what that means. . .)
Each woman’s story yields eye-opening grace notes:
- Tamar (Week 1) — Pulled from a pagan culture into a sad marriage to Judah’s evil son, Tamar is ill-used and overlooked until, desperate, she takes matters into her own small, trembling hands, (Genesis 38). Debbie guides her readers to view the mercy and grace of God at work behind the scenes in Tamar’s life. She points the way toward hope that even ugly situations can be transformed, and miserable beginnings can be redeemed for happier endings.
- Rahab (Week 2) — When you long for unshakeable faith, think of Rahab who recognized an opportunity that came from God and then acted upon it. She would have heard stories, bits and pieces of tales about the God of Israel who freed His people from slavery. Based on her belief in a big God, she and her entire family were spared when Jericho was destroyed. Was Rahab justified in lying to protect the spies she had hidden? Quoting Robertson McQuilkin, Debbie assures us that “the Bible justifies deception in three areas: inconsequential mutually agreed-upon social arrangement, war, and opposition to criminal activity.” Like the nuns in the Sound of Music, Rahab acted decisively and her belief did not leave her disappointed.
- Ruth (Weeks 3 and 4) — Once again, as in the cases of Tamar and Rahab, faith trumps DNA as a young Moabite woman emerges from disappointment, grief, and desperate circumstances. The life of Ruth yields valuable lessons on dealing with negative emotions and adjusting to the tumult of major life changes. The stunning truth is that “if Naomi had been comfortable in Moab, we would not be reading her story.” God uses hard times to move us in a different direction “for our good in order that we may share in his holiness.” Ruth’s dramatic rescue reveals the wonderful truth that a Redeemer changes everything, and Debbie skillfully guides her readers toward important insights on the nature of true beauty, choosing a soul-mate, and recognizing God’s unfailing goodness and rich provision.
- Bathsheba (Weeks 5,6, and 7) — When a powerful king acted like a scoundrel and a philanderer, Bathsheba’s life was turned upside down. Ensnared in the wreckage of David’s downfall, her journey takes her from exploited victim to respected queen and wise mother to the next king in a tale of beauty for ashes which demonstrates that “God uses the fire of betrayal to refine us.” Her story yields lessons on the essential life skills of loving and forgiving biblically. Letting go of injuries requires important clarification between the terms “forgiveness” (which is between the offended party and God) and “reconciliation” (which requires cooperation of both people and is not always possible). Bathsheba’s life leads women away from wallowing in a victim identity by receiving God’s gift of freedom from the past.
- Mary (Weeks 8 and 9) — Like Ruth, Tamar, Bathsheba, and Rahab, the mother of Jesus was not exempt from scandal. Adored by Catholics, largely ignored by Protestants, and scorned by the wagging tongues of first-century Nazareth, teenaged Mary was entrusted with the role of bearing and raising the Messiah. A living and breathing testimony to the truth that “nothing shall be impossible with God,” Mary knew the Scriptures well enough that they overflowed spontaneously in her glorious Magnificat. She managed to absorb the hurt of misunderstanding and models for us the discipline of peaceful surrender of our plans, expectations, reputations, safety, and rights to the will of God. From Mary we realize the beauty of resilience and the necessity of quietly reflecting on our experiences in order to capture the lessons for life.
The story of an ordinary woman — her strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and failings — can have a powerful impact. Week 10 of the Little Women, BIG GOD study invites the reader to consider crafting an account of her own encounter with God, whether it be a dramatic turning point or a slow-growing realization. The life of faith is an adventure, especially when an ordinary woman puts herself at the disposal of an extraordinary God!
This book was provided by Leafwood Publishers in exchange for my review. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”
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