Sometimes, I’m afraid, Christian women have the mindset that spiritual strength is just for men. Yes, our husbands are to be the spiritual leaders in our homes, but that does not mean that women are not to grow in the Lord as well. It seems that even some “just for ladies” Christian publications tend to shy away from challenging women to dig into the Word and grow. The endless “feel good about yourself” stories, warm and fuzzy illustrations, etc, may make us smile, laugh, cry…but have we grown “in grace and knowledge”? I was talking to a dear Christian lady…several years younger than I…and as we discussed different books that had been an encouragement to us, she mentioned some that had been a disappointment to her as well. Books that she had eagerly purchased because of the well-known speaker/author, had left her very hungry…desiring meat but yet receiving fluffy dessert.
What is the problem? Are we afraid to be perceived as being “strong”? Do we think that spiritual strength is not lady-like…even unbiblical? Consider a few illustrations from God’s Word:
ESTHER – Before Esther became queen, we see an example of her submissive spirit:
“Esther had not shewed her people nor her kindred: for Mordecai had charged her that she should not shew it.” Esther 2:10
After Esther became queen, we see her continued submissive spirit:
“Esther had not yet shewed her kindred nor her people; as Mordecai had charged her: for Esther did the commandment of Mordecai, like as when she was brought up with him.” Esther 2:20
Yet, Queen Esther was strong in her faith! When Mordecai sent a charge to her, that she risk her life and go before the king on behalf of the Jews, her initial (and quite normal) reaction was one of fear but her final response was that of consent. She then sent word back that all the Jews in Shushan fast for three days, while she and her maidens fasted as well. She ended that request with, “…if I perish, I perish.” She would trust God; her life was in His hands. The type of strength that Queen Esther portrayed does not point to a young lady whose faith had not been growing over the years.
RUTH – We see Ruth’s stedfastness in the very first chapter of this small book. After the death of Naomi’s husband and two sons (one of which was Ruth’s husband), Naomi decides to return to her own homeland. Both of her daughters-in-law initially begin to follow her but, at Naomi’s insistence, one of them (Orpah) turns back to her own people and their false gods. Ruth, however, “clave unto her” and we read part of her response to her mother-in-law in verse 16, “And Ruth said, Intreat me not to leave thee, or to return from following after thee: for whither thou goest, I will go; and where thou lodgest, I will lodge: thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God:” Verse 18 tells us Naomi’s reaction to Ruth’s response – “When she saw that she was stedfastly minded to go with her, then she left speaking unto her.” Was Ruth a stubborn and rebellious woman? Not hardly! After their return to Naomi’s homeland, we see the impact that Ruth’s character had on the entire city:
“…all the city of my people doth know that thou art a virtuous woman.” Ruth 3:11
Yes, Ruth was strong in her faith but Ruth was a virtuous woman. In other verses, we see examples of Ruth’s caring spirit:
(Boaz speaking to Ruth) “…It hath fully been shewed me, all that thou hast done unto thy mother in law since the death of thine husband: and how thou hast left thy father and thy mother, and the land of thy nativity, and art come unto a people which thou knewest not heretofore. The LORD recompense thy work, and a full reward be given thee of the LORD God of Israel, under whose wings thou art come to trust.” Ruth 2:11,12
And her submissive spirit:
(Ruth speaking to Naomi) “And she said unto her, All that thou sayest unto me I will do. And she went down unto the floor, and did according to all that her mother in law bade her.” Ruth 3:5,6
THE VIRTUOUS WOMAN – How often has this woman – this rare but valuable woman – been pointed to as an example for Christian girls and women? Yet, when I read this passage in Proverbs 31:10-31, I do not get the impression of a warm and fuzzy lady who lives in a fairy tale world of constant lightheartedness, “Christian” romance novels and chocolate bon-bons. 🙂 We do not have to read very far to see a woman of strength and diligence. But, I also see signs of a submissive spirit:
Verses 11 & 12 – “The heart of her husband doth safely trust in her, so that he shall have no need of spoil. She will do him good and not evil all the days of her life.”
Verse 23 – “Her husband is known in the gates, when he sitteth among the elders of the land.”
I see a sweet spirit as well:
Verse 26 – “She openeth her mouth with wisdom; and in her tongue is the law of kindness.”
It has been said, “Behind every great man, there is a great woman” and I believe The Virtuous Woman would certainly be an example of this. Her husband’s greatness would be attributed in part to a wife who had willingly taken second place in their home. I heard it said recently that, for a wife, it takes great strength at times to be submissive. I would say this is certainly true and, depending on the natural personality, could require greater strength and grace for some than others. Was submission an occasional challenge for this great lady? It quite possibly was, considering her own great strength as well as talents and abilities. Yet, it was her husband that was known in the gates…not herself.
The type of strength yet sweet and submissive spirit that we see in the lives of Esther, Ruth and The Virtuous Woman can only be carried out in our daily lives through close fellowship with the Lord. Even then, there will be challenging times but, by allowing God’s Word to be our guide, we are sure to get back on track. The above three examples are just a very small percentage of women who were strong in the Lord, yet sweet and submissive. There are many, many other examples that could be given – both from God’s Word as well as in the lives of Godly women both past and present. I pray that this has been an encouragement as well as challenge – that we, as ladies, not fear growing spiritually but rather see the vital importance of digging deeper into God’s Word.
~ Rachel ~