TAKING ON THE WORLD:
The story of Francis and Edith Schaeffer
By Rachel Lane
Christian Focus. 173 pages. £5.99
ISBN 978 1 527 103 009
Buy online from Amazon
While this book is aimed at young people, I found that I had a lot to learn about the Schaeffers, not least because I was relatively unfamiliar with their story, but also because of their unswerving commitment to Christ. If you are thinking of giving this book to a young person or reading it with them, or perhaps reading it yourself, here are a few reasons why I think that would be an excellent idea.
Firstly, the story is easy to read. The language in the book is straightforward and uncomplicated, which I think would encourage young readers to pick up the book regularly. For those who are more used to longer spells of reading, this could be easily read in three to four sittings. Sometimes those young in age can be put off reading Christian books by jargon or lack of narrative, but this book provides an easy-to-follow storyline and relatively easy language. There is even a timeline to follow in the back as well as some discussion questions to use with friends or parents.
Secondly, it is clear from the book that Francis and Edith are very ‘normal’ and ‘real’ people. Sometimes reading biographies of Christians of a different generation brings about feelings of ‘I’d never be able to do that’ or ‘that would never happen to me’. However, this book is good at portraying two people who are seeing God work in their lives under very ‘normal’ surroundings, at least to begin with. The part of the story about their courtship is very sweet and charming, and, despite describing the 1930s, doesn’t feel too old-fashioned or disconnected to the present day. Small interjections of detail amongst a general thread of story are really endearing, such as the possibility of Francis ending their relationship at the beginning of courtship, and Edith coping with the difficulties of morning sickness.
Thirdly, the story is very powerful. Francis’ conversion story is particularly striking. At the age of 18 he ‘accidentally’ takes home the wrong library book on Greek philosophy only to find that it sparked a strong urge to read the whole Bible, cover to cover, unbeknown to his parents or any of his friends. Francis telling his non-Christian parents that he had become a Christian and wasn’t going to follow the path they wanted for him towards a career in engineering is also compelling. As is how the family cope when Francis is away from home for months at a time, preaching across Europe. These all add to a compelling tale of the Lord leading this family where he wanted them to go.
Lastly, this story is excellent for teaching us about the need for a reliance upon the Lord in prayer. A verse which sums up the Schaeffer’s attitude to all circumstances is Philippians 4: 6: ‘Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.’ The couple were unswerving in their dedication to God, despite the fact that at times they were unsure of the way forward.
They are fantastic examples of putting Jesus first in often difficult situations, something that we and the Christian youth of today must dwell on and learn from.