Sometimes you can learn more from the life and faith of saints on the pages of biographies than from a dissertation on a topic. A theology of suffering comes into view as you read of parents losing children on the pages of From Grief to Glory. Endurance and faithfulness pours out of Foxe’s Book of Martyrs. Humble leadership is embodied as you read about D.E. Hoste, a man “who lived to be forgotten so that Christ might be remembered (4).” Contentment or a lack thereof is exposed, as you read about the life of Ann Judson who, when pregnant in a foreign country with her husband imprisoned had no support system, but worked diligently to bring her husband and his prison mates whatever comfort she could. In all of this she did not become bitter but wrote, “Oh! How much we owe to that Kind Being who has mingled mercy with all our afflictions (88).”
Empowered: How God Shaped 11 Women's Lives (And Can Shape Yours Too) is written for girls between the ages of seven and 12 and tells the story of 11 Christian women from around the world and across different eras who lived faithful lives empowered by their great God. Author, Catherine Parks, in the introduction, explains her reason for writing the book:
“I wrote this book because I wanted my daughter, Sophie, and my nieces, Liya and Madelyn, to know about these women. But my greater purpose was for Sophie and you to know that God has a plan for your life right where you are and that He will empower you to accomplish your purpose each and every day.”
I’ve always loved biographies, so I was eager to read Empowered. I was so confident it would be a great tool for young women that I sent it to my niece and to the daughters of dear friends before I read it. What I had not anticipated was being so personally encouraged, challenged, and delighted while reading it.
Parks shares of becoming friends with the characters as she wrote the book, and her engaging writing feels like she is a friend introducing you to other friends. Empowered encourages the reader to imitate the faith of these faithful women, not their life circumstances or their fame. God works through ordinary and imperfect people in everyday circumstances as they are faithful with what is before them to do great things for his glory. The reader is reminded time and time again that these women were like us, and the real hero of the story is God.
This book is an excellent discipleship tool, raising important discussions, teaching messages young women need to hear, and displaying examples of faith to follow in a few ways:
Addresses difficult concepts the Bible speaks to in principle or precept. Parks covers imprisonment, brutal regimes, suffering, the Holocaust, bullying, empathy, child brides, the caste system, injustice, and abuse in age-appropriate, understandable ways that can spark further conversations on the topics.
Teaches beautiful theology and important biblical principles in accessible ways. You won’t see hamartiology or pneumatology mentioned, but you will see rich theology lived out in the lives of these women. Young readers will encounter topics such as sowing and reaping, image bearing, the work of the Holy Spirit, perfectionism, faithfulness, comparison, dependence, loving the unlovely, glory displayed in weakness, identity, and so much more. Many of the truths taught on these pages were imparted to me when I was older, but they aren’t truths beyond a young woman’s grasp.
Gives examples to follow. The heroines on the pages are not shown through rose-colored lenses. Yet, they accomplished great things despite their fears and weaknesses because of their trust in a faithful God. The reader will learn about exemplifying true strength from Esther Ahn Kim, seeking justice from Sophie Scholl, and how to use one’s talents for God’s glory from Phillis Wheatley. These and the others in the book are examples of believers who by faith believed that God exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him (Heb. 11:6).
Helps the reader apply lessons to their own lives. The reader is asked along the way to consider how she can exemplify the faith of the women in the story. Parks poses the question after the example of Scholl’s courage, “Have you ever watched someone being unkind or cruel to another person?” The reader is encouraged to fight injustices she sees in her setting. And the reader is asked to consider, after Corrie Ten Boom’s powerful story of forgiveness, “Who is someone you are struggling to love? Commit to pray and ask God to give you his perfect love for this person (44).”
As a disciple who continues to grow in my faith and sanctification, and as a woman who desires to see women of all ages discipled in the church, I’m thankful for this resource and hope to see more resources like this developed in the years to come. May God use this book to help young women be courageous and faithful to him.
Catherine Parks has also recently released Strong: How God Equipped 11 Ordinary Men with Extraordinary Power (and Can do the Same for You).