Marie Durand By Simonetta Carr 2015, Reformation Heritage Books 64 pp. $18
“No amount of freedom is worth the compromise of biblical teachings” (p. 52). This maxim is a fitting response to recent erosion of religious freedom in the West.
As a reminder that biography can serve as timeless moral philosophy in narrative form, these words reflect the position of the persecuted Protestants living in eighteenth-century France. Many who were unwilling to compromise the gospel lost freedom, livelihood, wealth, and public esteem. Sometimes they lost their lives.
Simonetta Carr’s Marie Durand, like the rest of the books in her Christian Biographies for Young Readers series, allows readers to enter the lives of some of the spiritual predecessors upon whose shoulders they unwittingly stand. What readers will see as they taste a thin slice of eighteenth-century France (aided by the always gorgeous artwork of illustrator Matt Abraxas) are sincere believers choosing to endure dire circumstances in order to honor God and their consciences.
In other words, contemporary readers will find in this book a reality check.
We wonder if Christianity is worth it when our convictions become unpopular. We complain when the church air conditioner doesn’t keep up with the temperature or humidity. We start watch-checking when it seems like the minister might not say “amen” within his allotted time. We leave churches because the vote on the most recent nonessential matter didn’t go our way.
Our toleration for persecution is low. This is understandable. Most of us have not resisted sin to the point of shedding our blood (Heb. 12:4) . . . yet.
This is not to say that contemporary believers do not suffer. What Paul says is true—“All who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” (2 Tim. 3:12)—because believers at all times and places have to tread the same ground in which “the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8). As we resist the devil we do well to remember that “the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by [our] brotherhood throughout the world” (1 Peter 5:9); indeed, throughout the history of the world. This is why books like Marie Durand are immensely valuable. Her life provides an imperfect but badly needed tutorial on how to suffer well as a child of God.
The author’s tribute to Marie is applicable to believers today: We must simply continue to do what God calls us to do every day, keeping our eyes on the future triumph of glory (p. 53). Because our God is a faithful father and not a false-kissing enemy (Prov. 27:6) our everyday walk will be as hard as necessary in order that we might be conformed to the image of our suffering Savior. Perhaps Marie had read the Puritan Thomas Watson who, like her, exhorted his friends to learn to kiss the rod that strikes us. If God disciplines those he loves (Heb. 12:6), he seemed to especially cherish Marie. We might find it hard to imagine being locked in a cold, drafty, unsanitary tower for thirtyeight years, and emerge as a mature, loving, sober-minded Christian! But during those hard years, in which everything else was stripped from her, Marie learned to say to her God, “There is nothing on earth that I desire besides you” (Ps. 73:25).
What will it take for modern Christians to be able to say the same? The answer will differ for each of us. But Simonetta Carr’s Marie Durand might just help us and our children toward the goal.
Reviewed by Rev. William Boekestein, pastor of Immanuel Fellowship Church in Kalamazoo, MI.