Because You Are Strong

 

The world doesn't get to define what makes a strong woman.

For centuries now, culture has lied to its ladies.

Large portions of the past are filled with a "women are possessions" type mentality. Women were inferior, weren't allowed to vote, and had no say in the management of their own money or resources. (Legally, that is. There have always been a handful of forward-thinking, gospel-driven men who saw things differently.)

Then, as the legal pendulum swung, women were allowed to vote, to work, to fight for rights in a court of law.

All of these are good.

But when the legal shift began to happen, little to no attention was paid to the theology behind being a woman. The crusade for women's rights was led by some godless, perverted women. And while God used them to accomplish some amazing things, they mobilized their arguments and attacks with little to no thought of what an appropriate view of women should be.

The only thought was: be like men. Or (if you're a little caustic and cynical), be better than men.

And that became our standard. For everything. For the jobs we pursued, the clothes we wore, the demeanor we put on, the physical prowess we tried to achieve.

Don't get me wrong, I love my yoga pants. I'm not advocating for a return to dresses. I enjoy voting, I'm glad I own my own property, and I'm thankful that there's legal recourse if someone wrongs me.

But when we began to fight those battles, we lost an important war.

The war of woman.

We now allow the world to tell us what makes us strong. We let the world tell us what makes us successful. We allow the world to tell us our place, our role, our strengths, and our future.

I have seen the world's definition of "successful" women, and let me tell you, they're lying to you.

We stand, shoulder to shoulder, as daughters of Christ, and sisters through Him... so I can be honest, right? Strength does not mean being able to pull an 18 hour work day and then come home to make cupcakes for your daughter's birthday. Strength does not mean having every single job a man has and doing it better. Strength does not mean calling the shots on your families size and long-term planning. Strength is not being able to meet all the expectations of your beautifully color-coded calendar.

Strength is not in your job, your salary, your amazing Pinterest projects, your well-behaved children, your tireless serving, your ceaseless cleaning, or your ceaseless-refusing-to-clean...

Sister, put down your self-righteous busyness (or laziness!), and breathe.

The joy of the Lord will be your strength. Remember when these words were spoken? In the midst of repeated moral failure. To a crowd of tired, over-worked, and desperate-for-good-things people. Nehemiah and a handful of faithful Israelites were trying to do the right thing. They were trying to rebuild a city, a temple, and a way of life. All I have to build today are some piles of clean laundry and a block tower...

Joy is your strength, friend. And not just any joy... joy that is firmly rooted in your Lord. The One who is calling the shots. The One who designed you as a woman. The One who is guiding every aspect of your life for your good.

So, put down your "strength." I don't know what that is. But I know some of my past and present "strengths." I've thought I was strong in my academics, my career, my job, my graduate school successes, my intellect, my health... I've struggled with trying to grab strength from people ("Do you like me?! I don't care. I do! Please like me! Or not... whatever."). Or from a clean house and a cuddle from a toddler. I've looked for strength in good days, manicures, successes, and accolades. Friend, I've hunted just about everywhere for strength. Put it down.

And pick up your joy.

I've fought for joy for years now. It is my heart-beat, my passion, and my delight. Just as I shared last week signs that your joy tank is empty, I want to leave you with some ways to fill it back up... God doesn't hand us a command like "Rejoice in the Lord always" just to watch us fail. He hands us a gracious, happy command, and then gently guides our feet down paths of truth as we obey.

1. Open your Bible. No. Stop. Listen to me. Don't open a devotional book, an inspirational story, or a Christian non-fiction best-seller. OPEN YOUR BIBLE. Open it EVERY DAY. Don't know where to start? Start in the Psalms. They are peace and balm to a weary, striving, (possibly dried up?) soul. You wouldn't skip chemo treatments if your body was dying. Don't skip Bible reading. Your soul needs it to fight the cancer of sin and despair.

2. Be thankful. In the book of Philippians, Paul is repeatedly giving thanks and urging others to give thanks. Key themes of Philippians? Suffering and joy. Paul was in prison during this letter writing. And yet he was thankful. Make yourself practice thankfulness. Keep a list. Write thank you notes. Have an entire prayer time each day in which you don't ask for anything, you only give thanks. The options are endless.

3. Read Christian Biographies. Seriously. Just do this. It's amazing. God gives us examples throughout scripture, but he has also shown himself faithful throughout the generations. Sometimes I forget that. Sometimes I forget that a life lived for Christ is beautiful and joy-filled (regardless of the circumstances). I've included a list of my favorites on the side-bar of this blog. I really, really, really want you to dig into the joy that God has never failed to give his children.

The world doesn't get to define a strong woman.

God does.

The joy of the Lord will be your strength.

This is a promise. Dig your heals in and grab it.