I’m so excited to share this book with you, sisters! First, I feel like I should introduce John MacArthur, the genius that he is. His ability to write deep, theological ideas with clarity for any reader is pretty awesome and I highly recommend exploring his various theological works beyond this one—you really can’t go wrong.
Twelve Extraordinary Women changed my relationship with Christ and in turn changed my life. While reading, I was reminded that I’m not the first, and will not be the last, to hurt or to struggle. There are women in Scripture, specifically those in this book, who endured terribly painful times, clinging faithfully to God’s promises. MacArthur also reminds us that these women are very “ordinary, common, in some cases shockingly low-caste,” until a “memorable, life-changing encounter with the God of the universe” completely transformed them—and me.
Twelve Extraordinary Women details the stories of 12 biblical women: Eve, Sarah, Rahab, Ruth, Hannah, Mary, Anna, the Samaritan Woman, Martha and Mary, Mary Magdalene, and Lydia. While reading, I sometimes found it hard to believe that these women existed so many years ago when I feel like they could be members of my church or even friends of mine. The modern interpretations, while carefully considering historical context, make them so relatable!
For example, one of my favorite chapters is about Sarah, Abraham’s wife. MacArthur writes that Sarah “could be impatient, temperamental, conniving, cantankerous, cruel, flighty, pouty, jealous, erratic, unreasonable, a whiner, a complainer, or a nag.” I mean, as much as I hate to admit it, I get Sarah. She knows what she wants, but she’s not very good at waiting for it. Even still, her faith in God’s promise to Abraham (not even to her!) was praised and affirmed in the New Testament. It was refreshing to learn that Sarah’s not-so-awesome qualities, the ones that made her imperfect, didn’t scare God away. He recognized her, loved her, and honored her because she trusted Him. I found healing in the understanding that I don’t have to be perfect—I can even be “extraordinarily” flawed—to be extraordinary to God.
Those reminders came at an important time for me, as this book was actually recommended by my ex-boyfriend. He thought it would be helpful, so I put it on the list when I was asked to write this article, and it got chosen (of course). A few days later we broke up. Our relationship was very centered around theology, studying, and studying theology, so we often read books and discussed them together. I loved connecting through great books, and it brought me joy to share my favorite parts. This time I wouldn’t be able to, and that really, really hurt.
I was somewhat reluctant and scared to begin knowing I would think of him, so I prayed that God would help me just breeze through with no attachment.
Instead, He met me in the pages.
All of these women have a very important characteristic in common: God is all they need. They were made whole, made clean, healed, and praised by God because of their trust in Him, and I needed that reminder. I think we all do sometimes.
I continued to pray before every chapter. Then, I found myself praying throughout the chapters, and by the end, I felt like I was having a full-on discussion with God—and it was a trillion times more fulfilling than any had ever been with my ex, or anyone else for that matter! It was an incredibly strengthening experience, both spiritually and emotionally, and I soon felt just as ordinarily extraordinary as the women I was reading about.
Each chapter dove into a new characteristic that I clung to, prayed over, and built up into what I like to call a “super-prayer” that I’ll share below. I do, though, want to say that while this was a pretty transforming experience for me, Twelve Extraordinary Women is also just a great resource, jam-packed with truth, research, and valuable information for any woman in any walk of life. I’m happy to have the opportunity to share it with you, and I hope you find it as “notable” (lol, blog puns) as I did.
Lord, thank You for Eve’s endurance and the legacy she holds as the mother of humanity. Please give me Sarah’s steadfast faith. Help me to be transformed by my faith, like Rahab, and as committed to You as Ruth. I open my heart to Your grace and submit to Your path for me, confident, like Hannah, that Your ways are always good. Thank You for her grace and commitment as an example. Thank You also for healing Mary, so we can read her story of submission and be motivated by her trust in You. Please bring women into my life to whom I can minister like Anna in her community, and allow me to share Your promises, just like the Samaritan Woman at the well. Turn my eye from distractions when they come, as they did to Martha, and remind me to worship, praise, and learn from You, like Mary. For these blessings and the ones that are to come, know that I am so grateful, God, just as Mary Magdalene is a picture of gratitude for lives transformed by You. Thank You for being the God of surprises, like You were for Lydia and like You are for me. I know You gave me this book right when I needed it—a tool to love You more. You are so good to me, and I’m in awe of Your extraordinary works. Amen.
Kathryn Waggaman works in the Customer Service Department at LifeWay. She shares her life in Nashville with her sweet pup, Nala, and can usually be found surrounded by cans of La Croix in various flavors, way too many books, and bright pink felt-tip pens.