Jennifer Rees Larcombe is a beloved figure in the Christian world. The daughter of well-known evangelists, she came to fame in the 1980s when she was dramatically healed following eight years confined to a wheelchair. She has told her story previously in several volumes, but this book brings the pieces together over her sixty years and is a deeper exploration of her journey into God’s heart.
Jennifer’s life has not been easy, but it has been rich and glorifying to God. In just her early years, for example, she struggled with dyslexia, self-image problems and an eating disorder. After bearing her six children she had her years in a wheelchair and then the dramatic healing. And in her later years she has experienced tragedy and betrayal. But through it all she has never given up on God, nor lost her sense of humour. She may have cried out to him in gut-wrenching pain and endured periods of silence, but he has been her lifeline. In witnessing this real and gritty relationship, my faith was built up.
Her book has so many topics to discuss – forgiveness, healing, the charismatic movement, intimacy with God, the power of prayer, being versus doing, spiritual warfare, self-hatred and self-acceptance, living in God’s presence and so on.
Here are some questions to get you thinking, responding and engaging:
- What were your favourite parts of the book? Which episodes stand out most in your memory? How did you relate to Jennifer as you were reading? What have you taken away from her life story?
- Early in her life, Jennifer made several vows. Positively, she vowed to know God intimately and journey deep into his heart (p. 10), but negatively, she vowed never to get angry (p. 33) and always to be ‘very very good’ (p. 47). How did these vows shape her life? How and when did she become conscious of them? What did she do to break the negative vows?
- The journey into God’s heart for Jennifer has been filled not only with moments of joy and peace but also with times of pain, hurt and loneliness. In fact, she says in the first chapter (p. 12) that if she had known how hard the journey would be, she’s not sure she would have dared to make the vow. But she realizes that when our hearts are open by grief and loss we are most able to receive God’s love. Have you found this to be true? When have you felt closest to God?
- Jen’s journey has also involved a lot of forgiveness – from Miss Mitchell to her parents to Tony. Some of her most painful memories were buried but were still affecting her daily life. Were you surprised that Jen needed to ask Miss Mitchell for forgiveness? And what do you think about her ‘stages of forgiveness’ (see pp. 58ff)? Does it make you think of old grudges you’re bearing or people you need to forgive?
- After Jen’s amazing healing she faced many changes (see p. 204). Which ones were unexpected? Which ones were good, but hard? What losses did she face in becoming able-bodied?
- A recurring theme in Jennifer’s book is the battle between her ‘Mary’ and ‘Martha’ sides – keeping a balance between being and doing (see for example pp. 116, 177 and 228). Discuss how she has coped with this tension over the years, and when and why one side dominated over the other. Is this a struggle you share?
- At key turning points in Jennifer’s life she has sensed that the Lord has set before her some kind of choice (see pp. 140, 185 and 244). In each instance how did she react? What does the offering of these choices say about the character of God?
- In chapter 10 Jennifer describes the heartbreaking collapse of her thirty-year marriage. Instead of making conjectures about what happened, recount how the Lord has become her husband and how her intimacy with him has deepened.
I loved this book, and was deeply moved at so many points while reading it. Jen was brave to chronicle the hard bits in her life story as well as the glorious ones, for so often we can relate more closely to the times in the valleys than the mountaintop experiences. As with the other readers, I too struggled with the breakup of her marriage and wished it could have turned out differently. To be honest, I was angry on her behalf. But it was wonderful to see how God has used this painful experience in her life, drawing her closer to his heart.
So good is this book that I’ll keep my underlined copy and in a few years read it again – not something I can say for all of the books I come across in my publishing work. Jen, we send our love and say thank you for your honesty!
Journey Into God’s Heart by Jennifer Rees Larcombe (Hodder & Stoughton, ISBN 0340861576)