Have you ever wondered what contributes to greatness in a person’s life? I recently read Eric Metaxas’ excellent book, Seven Women and the Secret of Their Greatness. Some of the women’s stories were familiar: Joan of Arc, Susanna Wesley, Corrie ten Boom, Rosa Parks, and Mother Teresa. Less well-known to me, but equally inspiring were Hannah More and Maria Skobstsova.
What’s striking is how each woman followed the call on her life with boldness and courage. When faced with frightening circumstances like being sent to a concentration camp or arrested and put in jail, they stood firmly for what they believed was right.
The author includes fascinating details of each woman’s life:
- Joan of Arc, a mere teenager, stepped up to lead France’s army to victory against the British. It’s remarkable, considering she had no previous battle experience. She claimed she was listening to God for her marching orders.
- Hannah More played a crucial role in the abolition of slavery in the British Empire. Her path happened to intersect with William Wilberforce who also championed freeing slaves.
- Maria Skobstova risked her life helping Jews during World War II. Maria took her vows to become an Orthodox nun later in life, after being married twice. Fearless and defiant, she stood up to the Nazi movement. Like Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Maria knew that taking this position could cost her life. It’s said that she sacrificed herself for another prisoner scheduled to be sent to the gas chamber.
- Corrie ten Boom and her family were fully aware of the risks of hiding Jews when the Nazis occupied Holland in the 1940s. Willing to pay the ultimate price, Corrie, her father, sister and her brother all were arrested and sent to concentration camps. Corrie and her sister Nollie were the only family survivors. The Nazis released Corrie from prison because of a clerical error. What made her great was not only being courageous, but being willing to forgive her captors. Years later, an S.S. guard asked for forgiveness at a service where Corrie was speaking. By God’s grace, she found courage to forgive him. She spent her life sharing the gospel and a message of forgiveness.
What does it mean to do something great?
These seven women show us the pattern. Follow the call on your life. Be bold. Persevere. Don’t give up.
Greatness can simply be doing what God has called you to do–not necessarily leading armies or being the catalyst for a huge, world-changing movement like Rosa Parks.
Many times we don’t have any idea of the impact of our actions. We’re only being obedient to God’s call. Following His directions. Being sensitive to injustice and standing up for what’s right. Having a voice. Being willing to risk it all.
Not all of us can do great things. But we can do small things with great love.
As we begin a new year, I pray we will be faithful to God’s calling–and do something great!
What do you think God is calling you to do?