I have a confession to make – strong women scare me. Let me preface that phrase – strong women who rely on their own strength to get through hard situations frighten me because theirs is a fleeting strength that will give out on them eventually.
In our modern and individualistic society, women are encouraged to be strong by doing it all and being everything to everyone. Some of us may have bought into the strong-woman-can-do-anything deception typified by the popular 1963 song “I am Woman” by Peggy Lee.
“I can bring home the bacon
fry it up in a pan,
and never let you forget you’re a man!
‘Cause I’m a woman
The world encourages self reliance in woman but God encourages women to develop strength of character in a radically different way. The wisdom that we glean in Scripture about developing inner strength goes against the grain of what our modern mores are telling us. Simply put, it is a paradox.
A paradox is a principle contrary to a formed opinion or a statement that is seemingly contrary to common sense. One such paradox is this; strong woman give up. Paul put it this way in 1 Corinthians 12:10:
“That is why for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then (in Him) I am strong.”
Recently, I found my journal from several ago. It was a joy to read because I could see the tender methods that God used to teach me to give up. At 31 years old, my body was not cooperating with my spirit. I was homeschooling my three children ages 6, 10, and 11. I had a chronic condition from birth that, while not fatal, caused me great discomfort, several hospitalizations, chronic infections and countless sleepless nights. At this point I had been through two experimental treatments for my condition but I received little lasting relief from eczema. My safe diet consisted of chicken and white rice. The only solution the experts had was to put me on high doses of Prednisone, a strong steroid, to alleviate the discomfort, but there was a price to pay in my longevity and possibly organ damage.
Some of my well-meaning Christian friends asked me if there were unconfessed sins in my life. They would pray that I would have enough faith to believe that I would be healed; yet I remained weak. I would often argue with God, “This is not the way it is supposed to be. I am supposed to be strong so I can teach my children, so I can be a help-mate to my husband, and so that I can take care of them, not them take care of me.”
My journal entry for December 10, 1993 reads,
What is happening? God is in his heaven and all is right with the world. I just found out today I have cataracts in both eyes caused by Prednisone. God, I want to accept this as a chariot that I may ride to new spiritual heights. I know that hard times are your mode of transportation. Help me to want to take the ride with you to where you want me to go.
Seven long years later, I was still in the same position and getting sick of the ride. There was no change in my physical condition and I was still taking high doses of steroids for relief and now the drug was affecting my kidneys and bones. Christian friends encouraged me to have more faith or pray in a certain way so that I could be healed. Deep despair entered my soul and hopelessness became my constant companion. I pondered how I could muster even more faith than I had.
One evening I was reading an autobiographical book by Amy Carmichael and through her frailty, the Lord revealed the turning point for me. He showed me this truth: It takes more faith to rest on Him and believe that illness was God’s best method for me to grow, than to live a life of health. At that point I gave up my right to be well and accepted God’s method for growing my loved ones and me.
Giving up does not mean waving the white flag and waiting for the enemy to come take us captive. Rather, giving up means searching in hope and expectancy for what the Lord will accomplish within the difficult circumstances. David said in Psalm 121:1-2, “I lift my eyes to the hills. Where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, maker of heaven and earth.”
Many years later, my health has been restored to a great degree. The Lord chose to heal me not because of anything that I did, not even because my attitude changed. He chose to heal me because it served His purpose to restore my health.
Romans 9:15 says, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” It does not, therefore, depend on man’s desire or effort, but on God’s mercy.”
One of my favorite passages is Psalms 84:5-7
“Blessed are those whose strength is in You,
Who have set their hearts on pilgrimage.
As they pass through the Valley of Baca i.e. weeping
They make it a place of springs;
The autumn rains also cover it with pools.
They go from strength to strength
Till each appears before God in Zion.”
Dear mothers, what is the Valley of Baca in your life? Is health an issue, financial concerns or marriage problems? A sick child or prodigal? Do you long to make each and every trial a verdant oasis of growth? Do you crave the genuine strength of surrender that will carry you from strength to strength?
There is no better way that I can encourage you than with this paradox; throw yourself upon the tender mercies of our heavenly Father and surrender, for it is then that you will discover the simple truth that strong women give up. It is that simple and yet that difficult.
Shelley Noonan is a homeschool veteran, popular conference speaker and co-author of four books including The Companion Guide to Beautiful Girlhood. Shelley founded and operates Pumpkin Seed Press found at www.PumpkinSeedPress.net.
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