Has a trial (or a truckload of trials) ever left you feeling isolated? Hopeless? Defeated? I mean, you didn’t start out that way. At the beginning of the trial, you were active in community, full of hope and vigor, up for the challenge of whatever came your way.
Setbacks? No problem!
Delays? I can wait!
Illness? I’ll get well in no time!
But the road to recovery was a lot longer than you—or anyone in your circle of influence—were expecting. One by one the friends dropped away, because they couldn’t force your pain to exit stage right. They couldn’t control you or your situation, so they left.
Or maybe they didn’t drop away. They tried to stay, but you—feeling weak, worn out, and unworthy—began to isolate yourself. It was easier to be alone than to have to explain to one more person what you were going through and listen to their well-meaning, yet utterly useless advice. Solitude was a good thing. For a while.
As you began to reflect on your situation—comparing your situation to the outcome of Bible hero stories from your childhood—you might have begun to wonder whether or not you ever had faith at all.
But you did have faith, and the fact that you continue(d) to look to God for deliverance or healing is a sign that yours is the exact type of faith Jesus finds remarkable. Don’t give up.
Remarkable Faith: When Jesus Marveled at the Faith of Unremarkable People will be an encouragement to you or a friend with chronic illness—Jesus sees you. He hears your cries. You are not alone.
Shauna Letellier has written a profoundly insightful and painstakingly researched book retelling the stories of eight unremarkable, unnamed men and women whose “lives were marked by desperation, pain, fatigue, hopelessness, disability, poverty, loneliness, and sin. Each of them sought Jesus in unabashed desperation (p. xiii),” and Jesus found their faith remarkable.
Remarkable Faith begins with a brief compare and contrast between the apostles and the afflicted. Letellier makes her case concisely, and there is no arguing with her point:
“Remarkable faith is often grown in the broken soil of desperation.” (p. 174)
It really is amazing, when you think about it: Jesus marveled at the faith of strangers who remain to this day unnamed and known to us only by their afflictions.
With bridled creative liberty, Letellier has beautifully written an imagined backstory to each of the eight vignettes we read in the Gospels. Steeped in the Scriptures and cultural context, the characters come to life as they unabashedly seize their opportunity to interact with Jesus.
Letellier defines remarkable faith as “the braided strands of doubt, hope, and wonder at a God who is able to do anything and sometimes restrains his power for reasons we rarely understand.” (p. 15)
The eight characters whose stories are re-imagined are:
- The Father of a Demon-Possessed Boy
- The Paralyzed Man
- The Roman Centurion
- The Hemorrhaging Woman
- The Samaritan Leper
- The Mother of a Demon-Possessed Girl
- Blind Bartimaeus
- A Forgiven Woman
Remarkable Faith is a mix of fictional retelling and factual application. The author imagines each person’s backstory tracing the moments immediately leading up to and through his or her encounter with Jesus Christ.
The structure of each chapter is built to take you through one character’s faith journey at a time followed by a time of reflection, application, and prayer.
- Bible passage
- Dramatic retelling
First, you will read the story straight from the Gospels. Following this is a dramatic, fictionalized retelling of the story which engages the senses and emotions.
Then, the reader is challenged to take a closer look at the person’s remarkable faith. The author is skilled at teasing out the underlying lesson(s) in the story and bringing the reader to a place of self-examination.
Each chapter ends with a prayer to apply the lessons learned and insights gained as a result of the study.
Although I did not agree with some of the author’s assumptions and creative liberties, I think the book is a valuable and necessary addition to the faith conversation. We need to study these characters as much as (if not more than) Bible heroes such as Noah, Moses, Samson, David, and Daniel.
Remarkable Faith could provoke great conversations in a youth group or small group setting. I definitely recommend reading the creative backstories with an open-mind. Give yourself permission to look at the story from a different perspective, and ask God what He wants you to learn from each one.
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