I was standing in our kitchen, looking out the window into the yard at the bare trees.
The early morning light was flooding through, highlighting the edges of my windowsill succulents. But I wasn’t thinking so much about the sunlight. I was trying to keep panic and fear from overwhelming my heart and mind.
We were on day 5 of influenza with all four of our kids. On top of sleepless nights, multiple trips to urgent care and the ER, my husband was also out of town. I was exhausted, emotional, and scared for my kids who had soaring temperatures and wracking coughs that just didn’t want to relent. I leaned against the counter, head down, fighting tears, and called out in weak desperation, “God, I don’t know how I’m going to make it through this. I need Judah home. I can’t go on much longer.” And in that moment, the Lord gently spoke to my heart: Judah needs a strong woman, Heather. Your kids need a strong mother. And I’ve given you what you need to be strong.
There were still more tough days to come, but I felt as if spiritual iron had been infused into my soul that morning. My body showed signs of the stress, fighting hard against panic attacks. But time after time, as I could feel my vision blurring and breath becoming shallow, I would literally say to myself, “No. I have a job to do, and you, anxiety, have no place here.” And as quickly as the anxiety came, it would then dissipate. I was seeing firsthand God’s close, real, all-sufficient strength in the midst of some of my greatest physical, emotional, and mental weakness.
I don’t think words can describe the relief that washed over me when Judah returned and the kids started improving several days later. But the Lord used that short season of intense trial to teach me deeply impactful lessons I wouldn’t trade for anything. He showed me to a greater degree what it looks like to be a strong woman; His kind of strong.
Strong Womanhood is God’s Idea
This is a theme I’ve pondered often since then. The world is constantly talking about strong women – I see it all over the place. Some of their definitions of strong womanhood are good. Others… not so much. But so many of the lines are blurred between true strength and worldly “strength.” As Christian women, how do we discern what we should embrace and what we shouldn’t? Ultimately, we need to start at the source that defines true strength: the Bible.
You know, strong womanhood is actually God’s idea. He’s the One who created women to be steady, courageous, and resolute of mind and heart. Proverbs 31:10 says,
“Who can find a virtuous woman? Her price is far above rubies.”
The word “virtuous” in Hebrew means: strength. But His version of strong is far more impactful and captivating than the world’s.
By God’s definition,
A strong woman is humble (Jas 4:6);
A strong woman serves (Mar 9:35)
A strong woman forgives (Col 3:13).
A strong woman submits to God’s authority structure (1 Pet 1:3; Heb 13:17).
A strong woman is gentle (1 Pet 3:4).
A strong woman is diligent (Prov. 31:13).
A strong woman cares for the needy (Prov 31:20).
A strong woman considers others’ needs more important than her own (Phil 2:3).
A strong woman is teachable (Prov 19:20).
A strong woman speaks the truth in love (Eph 4:15).
A strong woman “turns the other cheek” (Matt 5:39).
A strong woman allows her emotions to be reigned in by the Spirit, exercising self-control over them (2 Tim 1:7).
A strong woman acknowledges when she is wrong (Jas 5:16).
A strong woman isn’t ruled by anxiety (Phil 6:6).
And a strong woman knows that her strength comes not from herself, but from her God (2 Corinthians 12:9-10).
Don’t Buy the World’s Version of strength
The enemy of our souls wants us to buy into the worldly notion that we are enough in and of ourselves -that strong women do what makes them happy, and don’t let the desires of others stifle them. The world screams that pride is strength; that those who cast off the “shackles of authority” and pursue their own dreams regardless of the consequences – because “we are worth it” – are the only truly liberated ones. The world’s version of “strong” is all about self: putting me first over everything and everyone else. So join me or move out of my way.
But friend, let’s not buy it. True strength doesn’t come from serving ourselves: it’s comes from loving and serving the King of Kings. And this pure, unadulterated strength is put on brilliant display when we love and serve others in His Name, following His example by laying down our lives so that He might be glorified. True strength is found in surrendering ourselves to the purposes and power of our Creator, who is infinitely wise and good. When we allow Him to make us strong, He transforms us into radiant, confident, kind, loving, bold, fearless women who are on mission for Him. And there truly is no better way to live.
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