Not My Will by Francena H. Arnold is a fictional book about the journey of the protagonist Eleanor Stewart. Orphaned as a baby, her upbringing was heavily influenced by her jaded and worldly aunt who raised Eleanor to focus on education and success and to never trust men because of her own bad marriage. However, Eleanor learns to be as obstinate as her aunt and resorts to subterfuge whenever she hits a wall and wants to have her way. Even after her aunt’s passing, Eleanor still believes that she has control over her life.
Through a series of events, she is repeatedly exposed to the gospel, and she internally grapples with the concept of being a bond-servant for Christ. Just as the seeds of faith are planted, the control that she thought she had over her life comes to a crashing halt, resulting in a deep despair that leads her to a deep depression.
Instead of trying to rely on God, she relies on her own efforts and tries to go back to old familiar habits, but this only leads to a road to self-destruction.
Thankfully, that is not where the story ends! Without giving you too many spoilers, the very people who were directly impacted by her selfish actions showed her the love and grace of God by welcoming her into their home and treating her as family, which transforms Eleanor’s entire life. As she is literally nursed back to life by complete strangers, she finally surrenders her life to the Lord and understands that she cannot stand on own feet without Christ’s leading.
Coming full circle as a believer, she is able to use her own experience to help and encourage others. Even when it is the last thing she wants to do due to the risk of losing an important relationship, she listens and obeys the beckoning of the Lord’s commands.
In the end, she understands that God can do amazing and marvelous things for our good and His glory that we can never manage by our own might.
The first time I ever read Not My Will I was a very impressionable 13-year-old who had just discovered the joys of being a bibliophile! To this day, I still remember reading this novel during my study hall period at school and literally hyperventilating TWICE at two particular twists in the tale even though I was only at the halfway point of the book.
Now rereading it 15 years later, the story is still as riveting as it was back then but I was not taken aback by all of the twists and turns since I knew they were coming and know that life is truly full of twists and turns. While there are definitely aspects of the story that seem a bit far-fetched in my opinion, there are many take home points throughout the book, including a few here:
- Life is full of ups and downs, and it does not go as YOU have planned.
- Don’t underestimate the power of God working through the Church and His children! He will do amazing things IF you will let Him.
- God’s plans are ALWAYS better than our plans.
- A life surrendered to Him is a life full of joy and peace even in the midst of suffering and turmoil.
- God is always there working in the background in your life and the lives of others. He never rests or grows weary.
When I was younger, I was so captivated by the romance, but, as an adult, it actually felt like the romance took a back seat to the other relationships demonstrating familial love and self-sacrificial love from so many side characters seen in multiple situations, especially in the latter half of the book.
That’s what is so awesome!
In reality, God brings people into our lives in different seasons of our lives to help shape us and encourage us.
And, likewise, God leads us to make an impact on others. No matter how insignificant it may seem to us, like the boy who brought a few loaves of bread and fish to feed 5,000, God uses our small contributions as part of His grand plan for eternity! First, you have to surrender to Him.
P.S.: When reading this book, you might need a tissue or two. Or a brown paper bag to breathe into.
The next addition to the Book Club will be The 5 Love Languages by Gary Chapman, which will be featured in September. Make sure to get your summer reading in!