This month's Christian book club is being hosted by Lydia at The Overweight Bookshelf .
Set in the 1600’s amidst unrest in both political and religious groups John Costin is a young Puritan tinker/preacher. His wife has just died in childbirth and he is left with 3 other children and the baby that will surely die before too long. Filled with grief and knowing that the newborn baby will not live for long, John rejects the sisters’ offer of getting a housekeeper. What he doesn’t count on is the determination of one young sister to not only save the baby’s life, but to also take care of his other children.
Elizabeth knows that she is overstepping her place when she intercedes on the baby’s behalf and finds him a wet nurse amongst the poor and rejected. Mrs. Grew, one of the other sister’s, believes that the baby would be better off dead than to nurse from the woman that Elizabeth brought for the baby. Mrs. Grew’s resentment of Elizabeth is seen throughout the story.
At first John rejects Elizabeth as his housekeeper, but he soon sees what a blessing she is to his children. Since he is gone the majority of each day, he knows that his 8 year old blind daughter Mary would be unable to care for the younger children. He really doesn’t have a choice but to continue to allow Elizabeth to come care for them. Being an unlicensed preacher of God’s Word John’s ministry soon brings persecution not only to Elizabeth, but also to his family.
When Elizabeth is brutally attacked John realizes that he is close to going to jail. He is willing to make the sacrifice for the cause of Christ. He also realizes that he has come to have feelings for Elizabeth. How far will the Royalists go though to exact their revenge on him and his family?
This is a fictional story on the life of John and Elizabeth Bunyan (John is the author of Pilgrim’s Progress). I didn’t know that until the end of the story in the Author’s notes. I have mixed emotions about this book. The characters have stayed with me since I finished it. But I find that if it wasn’t a book club book I probably would have closed it after the first attack on Elizabeth. I think if I would have read first that it was based on the true life of John Bunyan I might have been able to read it in a different frame of mind. It was hard for me to read about the helplessness of the young girl Elizabeth being attacked. It was also difficult to read about supposedly Christian people treating each other so evilly. I found myself skimming over a lot of the conflict in the book. I know that is what makes a book good for some people, but I just couldn’t take it.
2. Elizabeth believes if she serves the Lord diligently, He will reward her efforts. Often we too think we can earn God's favor by serving him. What’s wrong with this philosophy? Does God's love and blessing really depend on anything we do? Or does he bestow blessings because of his great love and mercy? I have found myself thinking sometimes “if I behave correctly then nothing bad will happen to me.” The problem with this philosophy is that it is “works” based. Ephesians 2:8-9 says: For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. God bestows blessings to us because of His great love and mercy for us. I’ll stop there at the risk of becoming over preachy!
3. John’s friend Gibbs encourages him to take the "hard path" because it will lead to greater holiness. What hardships have you faced lately? Why is it our natural inclination to take the easy way out of hard situations? How can doing the hard thing lead you to greater holiness? It is through the hard times that we lean more on the Lord, we learn more from Him, and we grow in our relationship with Him. Do I like the hard times? Heck no!! I do everything in my power to escape those hard times. My inclination is to have no bumps in the road. I like a steady path. But then I find myself at risk of becoming lazy in my faith. I become too comfortable and then that leaves no room for growth and maturity. I have to say that lately things have been going rather smoothly. I have heard that a person is either heading into a trial or coming out of a trial in their life. I’m not ready to strap on the seat belt yet for the next trial though!
Now it is your turn! Go to The Overweight Bookshelf and link up for the discussion. See what others are saying.