Julia Bennington, a widow and mother to two grown children, finds herself growing complacent with her life in California. She hears of an opportunity to travel to teach in a part of Mexico that is beautiful but holds many dangers to those outside its culture. She embarks upon a journey that challenges her in ways that she could never imagine.
Discussion Questions: These questions are meant to serve as springboards. Please allow discussions to evolve naturally around these topics. You may choose to open the discussion with prayer, inviting in the Holy Spirit to guide your discussion and bring to light any revelations that need to be made.
- Discuss Julia’s complacency at the beginning of the novel. What had occurred in her life to bring her to this point? Talk about how this complacency often happens in our Christian lives. Share some life events from your own personal experiences that have brought upon a sense of staleness and distance from God. (Note: God never grows complacent with us. Our distance is always because we have taken our eyes off of Him.)
- How can we actively avoid Christian complacency? Discuss steps that we can take to avoid distancing ourselves from God and His calling on our lives. You may want to discuss daily steps as well as steps over the span of your walk with the Lord.
- Many times to see a change in our lives we have to take giant leaps of faith and trust that God will see us through the events of our journey. Although Julia was not walking with the Lord at the time of her decision to move to Mexico, her decision was a leap of faith that would ultimately lead her back to Him. Talk about how this journey began to transform Julia’s faith. Why and how did she have to begin to lean on Him again?
- Discuss what giant leaps of faith look like in your own lives. Remember that giant leaps of faith may often look like the ordinary—taking a meal to neighbor who is unchurched, offering to pray with a cashier at your local grocery store, etc.
- During her time in Mexico, Julia’s family was on a similar journey. Discuss how her move impacted her family and how her distance and the safety concerns of her situation began to challenge their faith, prayer lives, and service for the Lord. Talk specifically about Julia’s mother Marie and her struggle to surrender Julia to the will of God. Also discuss the changes occurring within Julia’s daughter Brittney.
- Share times in your lives when you have had to personally surrender to the Lord. You may want to share salvation testimonies or experiences that led you to lay everything at the foot of the Cross. Also discuss times in which you have had to surrender loved ones to God’s will. What were the challenges and blessings that came out of those experiences?
- After Julia is kidnapped and is being held for ransom, her mother Marie begins to pray Jeremiah 29:11 and prays that God would bring this verse to Julia in her time of pain. He is faithful to do so, and the verse begins to comfort Julia’s heart. “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future” (Jeremiah 29:11 NIV). What does this verse stir in your own heart? How does it comfort you, or how has it comforted you during the course of your Christian walk?
- God is mighty to save. Discuss the divine orchestration of events that led to Julia’s rescue. Share how you have seen this attribute of God play out in situations in your own life. Many times we do not see it while we are in the midst of crisis, but in hindsight we are able to see God’s hand of protection.
- Discuss the spiritual changes in Julia after she is rescued. What is the state of her faith and relationship with God at this point? How is it different from where she started? Discuss the course of her faith journey and some of the specific experiences that drew her closer to God.
- Close this portion of the discussion with any specific parts of the novel that spoke to your heart. Which character did you relate to most and why? Did any events of the novel bring up anything from your past? What lessons or insights did you have while reading the novel? What impact will the novel have on you and your Christian life moving forward?
Prayer Points: You may choose to pray together as a large group, break up into smaller groups, pair off, or pray individually during this time. Also, encourage the members of your group to continue praying these prayers in the days, weeks, months, and years to come.
- Pray together for big faith opportunities to stretch and grow your faith, trust, and reliance upon God.
- Pray toward areas in your lives in which you have yet to surrender to God. Ask Him to search your hearts and reveal areas where you are still holding on to your personal will. It may be that you need surrender loved ones to the Lord. Use this time to pray that you would have the strength to loosen your grip on them and offer them over to the Lord that loves them beyond measure.
- Pray for boldness through the strength of the Christ in all areas of your lives. Pray for opportunities to share the gospel with those who need to hear, pray for ministry opportunities to serve those who are hurting, etc.
Applications: Suggest the following applications, but also allow members of your group to suggest personal applications as well.
- Use this novel as motivation to get involved with the ministry that you have been thinking about, but maybe have yet to take the first step. Make the phone call that you have been putting off. Ask for forgiveness from the person that you hurt. Forgive the offense that you have been holding. Allow this story to be a wake-up call to the things that you have felt unequipped to accomplish. God WILL be faithful to see you through and will bless your steps of faith and trust in Him.
- If you find yourself in a complacent season, explore ways in which you can draw closer to God. Read His Word, study Scripture, pray, fast, serve the unserved, etc. Etch it upon your heart that His word is truth. He never leaves us. He never forsakes us.