Friday, March 1, 2024

Unexpected Legacy Series: Jeanne-Marie Bouvier

By Matthew J. Elliott

Have you ever been in a situation where it just felt like you were dealt the worst hand life could possibly have given you? I think we can all say that we’ve been there, so I won't dwell on it, but that is the kind of background Jeanne-Marie Bouvier came from. Does that name sound even remotely familiar to you? How about Madame Guyon? Well, she is known to many who have read her book “Experiencing the Depths of Jesus Christ” as one of the most influential women of faith the 1600s produced. This particular book was even publicly burned in France (more on that later), but it still found its way into the hearts and minds of thousands and thousands of Christians seeking to understand the value of experiencing a deeper faith. 

As a child, she was born into a wealthy family but dealt with childhood illnesses that kept her from living a normal life. Due to these constant ailments, her education was neglected far more than it should have been. She was even shipped off to live with nuns more than a few times as a child and never really given an opportunity just to be a kid. Her parents were devout Christians but when she was the ripe old age of 15, she was forced to accept a marriage proposal to someone 22 years older than her, whom she had never met. While he too was well endowed, Jeanne-Marie still endured long periods of neglect and a demanding home-life. Her life was not the kind of life one might imagine could belong to a person who eventually became such an advocate for the Christian faith. Everything she struggled with as a young sickly maiden could not prepare her for the struggles she faced with barring children, appeasing an overbearing spouse who gave into his demanding mother who had no interest in the woman her son married, and becoming a widow at the age of 28. Of the five children she gave birth to Jeanne-Marie outlived two of them and still had to deal with their father's mother. 

François Fénelon

Her life, while endowed, was filled with tribulation. So how does a woman with so much pain and suffering end up leaving a legacy like hers? It all comes back to her affinity for making faith a priority even amid everything she faced. In truth, she embraced the practice of Christian Quietism. This is a way of thinking that, according to those who lived by it, taught that spiritual peace and perfection were attainable through contemplating completely the ways of God, and nothing else. Those who sought a life of Quietism strived to rid themselves of human desire and become a completely passive individual, in the spiritual sense. While there is a lot of debate on these practices still today, the point I am making is that Jeanne-Marie Bouvier devoted her entire life, post-marriage, to finding ways for her to embrace a path in life that encouraged a deep and meaningful faith. This is where her legacy began to reveal itself to the world she lived in, but not in the way some may have expected.

In the late 1600s, Madame Guyon was arrested by church leaders who believed that her theology was flawed. While this was a brief imprisonment, her reputation was ruined. In an effort to find support for her beliefs, she began reaching out to others. Eventually, she found the support she was looking for through her cousin, a priest named François Fénelon. He was a French philosopher and would eventually become the archbishop of Cambrai, as well as one of her biggest advocates. Even with his support, Madame Guyon’s beliefs continued to cause her issues and she was arrested again and imprisoned from 1695-1702. Despite all this, she would eventually pick up the pen, so to speak, write everything down, and continue to pursue her beliefs, relentlessly. In her eyes, these beliefs would lead her to a complete understanding of the depths of Jesus Christ. 

Before all this, Madame Guyon had already released material in the form of a book called "A Method of Prayer." It has served many roles over the years and has constantly been a story that questions the reality of what faith is, and what it means to experience it deeply. This book caused so much opposition in France that a group of Roman Catholic priests serving in Dijorn gathered a total of 300 copies and burned them. On the other side of that coin, there was a Frenchman, who took 1500 copies and flooded his community with them. In truth, Madame Guyon is considered one of the most influential leaders of her time. In the end, she was denounced as a heretic by the religious tribunal and forced to live out the rest of her days in solitude until her death. After her eventual death,  this story found new life under the name “Experiencing the Depths of Jesus Christ” and to this day is considered one of the greatest Christian writings of all time. 

Bastille: Where Madam Guyon was imprisoned

It is a very unlikely story indeed, but this unexpected legacy has influenced believers as much, and, maybe even more, than Brother Lawrence and his short little book. The Practice of the Presence of God. While one cannot deny the simplicity of Brother Lawrence, many consider Madame Guyon’s detailed approach to quietism and devoted prayer a more unexpected legacy. A sickly child, devalued by her family, grew up and found herself in an unhappy marriage where she lost two of her children; One day became an undeniable advocate for devoted prayer and deep faith. She was rejected by so many throughout her life but always stood firm in her faith. This example of dedication has played a vital role in the lives of people across 100s of years. The results speak for themselves and it just goes to show that unexpected legacies are all around us. 

Do you believe that there are those who have a similar legacy today?

~ Biography ~

Matthew James Elliott (M.J. Elliott) is a passionate writer who loves to encourage and inspire others. He has served in various ministry roles for over 15 years, which has given him a unique perspective on people and Biblical History. Matthew holds a degree in Biblical Studies from Oklahoma Wesleyan University, with a focus on Pastoral Care, Christian Education, and Worship.

Matthew is happily married to Traci, and they have three children named Leyla, Caleb, and Hannah, who bring them immense joy and inspiration. As a writer, Matthew's goal is to share love, equip others, and edify them for the greater good. He loves connecting any amount of scripture to his stories and uses his knowledge of Biblical History to do so often.

You can find Matthew's works on Amazon, Goodreads, Facebook, and His Website. He has written Devotionals, An Episodic Series, Novellas, and even Commentaries for The Gospel Daily.

~ Highlighted Release ~
Are you ready to dive into a captivating series that delves into the journey of a young runaway slave who discovers God in his quest for redemption? Finding Philemon is exactly that kind of series. Follow along on the unexpected journey as Onesimus embarks upon his path of faith and new beginnings.

Throughout this journey, Onesimus will encounter life-changing events that will transform the depths of his heart and aid him in discovering the redemption that only God can offer, and ultimately his way back to his former master Philemon.



Guyon, J. (1997). Madame Guyon: An autobiography. Whitaker House: 1st edition.

Guyon, J. (1685). Experiencing the Depths of Jesus Christ. SeedSowers.


  1. Thank you for posting today. I've never heard of Madame Guyon. I have read Brother Lawrence's book. I suppose we won't know who will emerge as this era's leaders in strong faith for a few generations.

  2. She is a very unique individual. I'm a huge Brother Lawrence fan, but she has some great things to bring to the table. As far as this era's strong leaders, I guess its more of a to each its own kind of thing, LOL.