A Jane Austen Devotional is part of Thomas Nelson Publishers’ Devotional Classics Series, and it features over 100 devotions and scriptures with passages from Austen’s novels. Compiled and written by Steffany Woolsey, the book is designed for readers to spend some quiet time with God as they ponder the connections between Austen’s works and the scriptures. Austen’s father was an Anglican curate, so it’s not surprising that her novels allude to her faith and issues of morality. A sentence from the introduction perfectly describes the purpose of this book: “While you rest for a moment in the simplicity of Jane’s words, perhaps your own life will grow a little simpler and more peaceful.”
The table of contents makes it easy for readers to find a topic that best meets their spiritual needs. These topics include Being Generous, Esteeming Others, Developing Contentment, Stirring Up Trouble, Unhealthy Persuasion, Appreciating Your Spouse, Flirting With Sin, Taming the Tongue, Spiritual Hypochondria, A Changed Man, Poor Judge of Character, Tempering the Heart, and Beauty of a Teachable Spirit. The table of contents spans four pages, so there is something to interest everyone.
Each devotional takes up two pages, with the right page featuring a passage from one of Austen’s novels, and the left page showing how the passage can teach us lessons from the scriptures. A related scripture is referenced at the bottom of the devotional.
The devotional entitled “Trap of Comparison,” for instance, features a passage from Pride and Prejudice in which Elizabeth overhears her mother bragging to Lady Lucas that Jane would soon be married to the wealthy Mr. Bingley.
Trying to outdo Mrs. Lucas is what we’ve come to expect from Mrs. Bennet. But as exaggerated as her character’s bravado may be, it reflects a very real predisposition that we all struggle with: trying to make ourselves look and seem better than others. (page 69)
The book succeeds in showing how these seemingly innocent passages in Austen’s novels can spur us to think about our own actions, faults, and struggles. Woolsey brings in scripture references, in this case deeming Moses the antithesis of Mrs. Bennet in that he was very humble, and then encourages readers to reflect and turn closer to God.
Do you find yourself stuck in the cycle of comparing yourself to others? Do you secretly long for the smallest waistline, the largest bank account, the best-behaved children, or the next job promotion? You may think this kind of competition makes you stronger, but in God’s economy it is a sign of weakness. Ask God to eradicate this tendency and to replace it with genuine acceptance of who you are and contentment with what you have. (page 69)
A Jane Austen Devotional is obviously geared toward Christians, but I think many of the lessons to be learned from Austen’s novels could be useful to everyone. I liked how it made me not only think harder about myself, but also gave me a different perspective on my favorite books. I get lost in Austen’s humor and wit, but I haven’t stopped to think how I could apply the writings of my favorite author to my own life. My faith is important to me, and I was delighted to find a devotional that enables me to reflect on God’s word and my favorite novels at the same time.
The book itself is beautiful, with a cloth cover and a ribbon bookmark, making it a perfect gift. My copy is sitting on my nightstand, where I can enjoy it over and over again at my leisure.
Disclosure: I received A Jane Austen Devotional from PR by the Book for review.
© 2012 Anna Horner of Diary of an Eccentric. All Rights Reserved. Please do not reproduce or republish content without permission.