Happy Mother's Day! Have you ever read one of those Mother's Day cards where you just shake your head and say to yourself, "I WISH that was me that this card was describing?!" I mean, Hallmark makes it sound like I'm perfect-like I've never complained, never had a bad day of mothering in my life. Well, that's just not me! Sometimes, I am so obviously lacking that the words on one of those cards just doesn't fit me at all. Can you relate? It can be so easy to focus on our weaknesses as people, as Mothers. Today I hope we can focus together on the strength we can have in Christ.
A couple of weeks ago, Pastor Terry preached the final sermon in the Life Change series. Toward the end of his sermon, he quoted a few verses in Psalm 84 and I have not been able to get those verses out of my head ever since.
Ps 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 (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.
I like the sound of that. All of that. I like the idea of having my weeping turn into places of cleansing and healing and beauty. I especially like the thought of having strength. I cannot begin to count the times I have asked God for strength. There are mornings I don't even get out of bed before asking for strength! You know what I mean if you've been the Mother of a baby or toddler who is up all night with an ear infection or teething. That alarm still goes off in the morning regardless of the exhaustion! I've laid there in bed begging God, "Please God, give me strength! I just can't do this day without Your strength!" So, I love the truth of Psalm 84 that says that our valley experiences turn into good things and we end up stronger for having gone through them...but the key here is the first part of the passage we read: Blessed are those whose strength is in You...
Whether we're in a valley or whether we are just walking out our daily routine, our strength is found in Him.
The 31st chapter of Proverbs describes a virtuous wife. It can be a bit daunting to read through the lists of qualities of "the Proverbs 31 Woman" so for today, let's just look at just verse 25. It says, "She is clothed with strength and dignity; she can laugh at the days to come."
As I read that, I think, "I want to be clothed with strength and dignity!." I want to be so secure in God's strength that I have no fear for the future, in fact I'm actually laughing when I think about how great the future is going to be for me and my family. In spite of the fact that the enemy threatens to hurt me and the ones I love, I want to be able to laugh because I am clothed with strength from the Lord."
In everyday life with everyday struggles, how do we wear strength? I want to be a strong woman, I NEED to be a strong woman, but what does a strong woman look like?
My husband thought he was marrying a strong woman. Before we were married, I had invited him to my parent's place in the country for a family gathering. He was going to meet everyone; relatives and friends of my family. He was thinking we would eat, talk, and maybe watch whatever game was on TV that day. But as soon as he drove up the long driveway he could see that men were getting out of their cars and they were carrying guns over their shoulders. Then he saw that WOMEN were getting out of their cars and they were carrying guns too! He did not know what to think! I was standing in my parent's living room when he came in with an uncomfortable look on his face. He whispered in my ear, "All the women have guns." At that moment I realized that this might not seem like a normal family gathering. True, we were going to eat, talk and watch the game, but first we were going to do some clay pigeon target practice in the backyard! He was a little surprised, I think. He was also insulted when after he shot at the target, one of my Aunts said he was "pretty good for a city boy." Don was saying to himself that day, "these are some strong women in this family!"
When I think of a strong woman, I think of my grandma Regina Utecht. As a bird lover, bluebirds were her favorite because they are really pretty songbirds. She did everything she could to attract them to her property. Well, bluebirds have an enemy in the English Sparrow. The English Sparrow would upset the Bluebird's nest and break the eggs. So if the English Sparrow was the enemy of the Bluebird, then that made the sparrow the enemy of my grandma too. One day, my Grandma was in the kitchen with her apron on, cooking up something, but she asked my Mom to walk down to the chicken coop with her to help her feed the chickens. My Mom thought of my Grandma as the refined French woman that she was; she was an excellent cook and homemaker. She raised six children. She was an award winning gardener who knew all the latin names for her plants and flowers. So my Mom was not prepared for what was about to take place. When they reached the chicken coop, they saw that someone had left the door open by mistake and there were six English Sparrows flying around the coop. Without hesitation, still in her apron, my Grandma grabbed a sparrow out of the air and with her bare hands twisted the head right off of it. She threw the head one way and the body another. She then went on to catch the next one and the next one, ripping all six of their heads off with her bare hands. My Mother was left shocked and speechless as my Grandma wiped her bloody hands on the apron, took care of feeding the chickens and walked back up to the house with my Mom chatting as if nothing gruesome had just happened! You can see why she comes to my mind as a strong woman in my mind. Who comes to your mind?
The culture we are living in tells us that a strong woman is: An angry woman; If you are strong you've got to prove it! Be loud & demanding and don't back down to anyone. There is another idea in the culture that a strong woman is much like a man. Girls act like boys, rejecting femininity and acting as if being a woman is a weakness. There is a "movement" of sorts that tells girls to be promiscuous, as if committing to one man for life is to give up your own strength. Within our current culture, being honest and vulnerable and committed is not very popular with women these days. At all costs women want to protect themselves from giving up their own strength.
I used to believe that being a strong woman meant being a woman in control. Even after I believed in Jesus, I really was afraid to trust Him completely. As I read more and more of the Bible, I saw how more and more I fell short of living like Jesus. The more I tried to follow Jesus the more I realized I couldn't keep up with Him. I had "issues" that weighed me down and got me stuck. I had emotions that I believed were unacceptable to God and so I would just stuff things; I would refuse to feel things, refuse to be honest, refuse to reach out to someone for help. I thought that to ask for help was weak. I refused to cry when I felt like crying, I would just quote scriptures like a band aid over my wounds, pretending that I was fine. Maybe some of you can relate.
This false sense of control was not strength. In my attempt to protect myself, I built a wall around me. As I grew in the Lord, I realized that this wall that gave me a false sense of strength and security actually kept me from walking in the true strength of the Lord. The wall that I thought kept hurt out and kept me safe, really was keeping out the love and the help I needed from others to grow. When I was willing to allow God to help me tear down the wall, when I trusted HIM to be my protector, that was when I was able to begin to learn how STRONG He is!
So, do you want to be a strong woman? Well, I believe that A STRONG WOMAN IS ONE WHO IS AWARE THAT ALMIGHTY GOD IS LIVING INSIDE OF HER.
I believe that a strong woman is only strong because she realizes how weak she is and that she needs God to lead her life and give her strength from the inside out. A strong woman doesn't pretend to be strong when she is not. A strong woman is one who has her strength in the Lord just like Ps 84 says. She goes through valleys, but she comes out stronger, NOT because of her strength, but because she is walking in the Lords strength.
My husband has a friend who likes to say, "I know one thing for sure: There is a living God! And I am not Him!"
This is the truth of salvation: God is strong, I am not. We can't keep ourselves from sinning, but Jesus in us has overcome sin. We can't overcome anything without Him. I was aware of this on the night I accepted His salvation. I accepted His forgiveness and acknowledged that He has the authority to decide what to make out of my life. I invited Him into my heart and my life and experienced that huge pressure of sin lifting off of me. I felt fresh hope that maybe with God in charge, my life could be something good.
One of things that surprised me early in my walk with Christ was that He didn't rescue me from difficulty the way I thought He would. He doesn't usually come in like Superman and grab us and whisk us out of our difficult circumstances. He is our Savior and He is our Lord, but He strengthens us from the inside out. He is Almighty God! Almighty means, "no limit to His strength." He isn't overwhelmed by our circumstances. He is not overwhelmed by our failures or by our sin. He is not overwhelmed by the things that overwhelm us. He lives inside of us and He strengthens us on the inside giving us the grace that it takes to walk through the circumstances (maybe even the Valley of Weeping). He brings us up and out and into a better place.
Yes, A STRONG WOMAN IS ONE WHO IS AWARE THAT ALMIGHTY GOD IS LIVING INSIDE OF HER.
There are all kinds of scriptures that tell us about Him dwelling on the inside of us.
Romans 8:9-11 But you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. Now if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he is not His. And if Christ is in you, the body is dead because of sin, but the Spirit is life because of righteousness. But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you.
He dwells in us. He LIVES in us! This is a supernatural thing just like it was a supernatural thing for Jesus to be raised from the dead. I love that it says that the same Spirit that raised Jesus from the dead is giving us life too!
A STRONG WOMAN IS ONE WHO IS AWARE THAT ALMIGHTY GOD IS LIVING INSIDE OF HER.
John 14:23 Jesus answered and said to him, "If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him."
Notice the word, "We" in the verse. It is referring to the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. So, when as a young girl or as an old woman, we pray and ask Jesus to come into our heart and forgive our sins, He really does! He comes in and washes our sin away. He removes it as far as the East is from the West. But then some of us miss out. We don't realize that He comes to LIVE in us. He doesn't just clean my house and leave, He comes to make His HOME in us. Sometimes we forget that. It's like we know that we invited Him in at the beginning, not expecting Him to stay. We get on with our lives. If we're not careful, we may even try to serve God in our own strength. We may act as if we are living FOR God, but not WITH God and this isn't how the Bible teaches us to do it.
When we invite Jesus Christ to come into our lives, He doesn't come as a visitor. A visitor is someone who, even if we love them, is still just a visitor. They may come and stay at our home, and, if you're like me, you will make them feel at home as much as possible; give them a comfortable couch, get them a clean towel and washcloth, show them where things are and sincerely tell them to "make themselves at home." But REALLY, I don't expect a visitor to start moving my furniture around and changing the paintings on the walls. I don't expect them to bring all of their favorite things to my house and start changing things up. I don't expect them to tell me how things should be done in my kitchen. There are boundaries with visitors.
However, when God comes to live in my "house" it is different. I expect Him to bring all of His favorite things with Him and I want Him to have access to put His things on display in any room of the house. I trust Him to redecorate and remodel -even if it means He needs to knock down a few walls- if He wants to because He is God and He is stronger and smarter and more creative than I ever could be.
Col 2:6-10 As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, rooted and built up in Him and established in the faith, as you have been taught, abounding in it with thanksgiving. Beware lest anyone cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ. For in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead in bodily form: and you are complete in Him, who is the head of all principality and power.
It says that we are complete in Him. He completes us! The word complete there is interesting. In the Greek it means, "furnished." So, if Jesus is your Savior and Lord, then you are His house. You are His dwelling place. At your invitation, He comes in, cleans everything perfectly and then begins to completely furnish you! Father, Son and Holy Spirit bring gifts when they come in. They come in and bring all the facets of Who They are into your life. God begins to rearrange things and even though this can feel considerably uncomfortable at times, He gives us the strength we need to go through the process of change. His strength becomes OUR strength. He knows how weak we are, and gives to us generously of His strength.
A STRONG WOMAN IS ONE WHO IS AWARE THAT ALMIGHTY GOD IS LIVING INSIDE OF HER.
She is not necessarily a woman with great talents or ability. She is not one with hyper amounts of energy. She is certainly not one who is great at faking it.
What an honor! When I think about Him choosing me, I am so humbled.
It was prophesied in the Old Testament that He would dwell in us and walk among us and that He will be our God and we will be His people. Think about it, if you could live anywhere in the whole world, where would you live? I know as women, we usually have a pretty good idea of what our "Dream House" would look like. Once when I was first married, I actually drew up the plans for my dream house.
So, God, being God, could've chosen to live anywhere; I'm thinking of some beautiful cathedrals in Europe or Yosemite...
But He chose to dwell in YOU. It seems like you are God's "dream house." There's nothing more satisfying in life than knowing that God loves us and has chosen us and wants to complete us. It is out of knowing this that we can walk out our destiny without hesitation or insecurity. His strength fills our lives and carries us through each day. He fills my empty places and surprises me constantly with His remodeling process in my life. God is never boring! He adds things to me that I didn't know I needed, and He helps me focus on His abilities rather than my lack of ability. I am GLAD to trade in my own strength and receive His. God's presence within us is the source of everything we could ever want or need. Everything.
It's easy, being human beings and living in a fallen, sin drenched world to lose sight of His presence in our lives. When I realize that I am beginning to lose perspective, that is the time when I MUST worship. There is nothing like worshipping our Almighty GOD; the One with no limit to His strength, the One who is faithful, the One who is loving, the King of Kings, to get ourselves back into proper perspective. When we look at HIM and WHO HE IS and ALL that He is, we do become strengthened from the inside out!
Proverbs 24:3 Through wisdom a house is built, and by understanding it is established; By knowledge the rooms are filled with all precious and pleasant riches.
This is so reassuring. God's got it. Life doesn't feel easy a lot of times, and in those hard times, we may come to a fresh awareness of our weakness. But we can be assured that He is with us. In fact, He is IN us. Everything that we need is in Him, including strength.
In what area of your life right now are you in need of God's strength?
Are you hurting? Are you right now, today, in the Valley of Weeping? Are your circumstances overwhelming for you? Are you trapped in unforgiveness? Is there an addiction that has you wrapped in chains that you are not strong enough to break? Does the enemy of your soul seem to be overpowering you; do depression or anxiety seem to rule? Mom, maybe it's just really hard to be a good Mom. Maybe you are tired, or maybe you feel like you are failing at being the kind of Mom you want to be. (I know what that is like; you look around at everyone else and they seem to be sailing through Motherhood with ease, while for you it doesn't seem so easy)
Whatever your need, whatever your weakness, listen to this scripture from 2 Cor 12:9: What Jesus said to Paul, I believe He would also say to you today,
"And He said to me, My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness."
You may not be the kind of woman who grabs sparrows out of the air.
A STRONG WOMAN IS ONE WHO IS AWARE THAT ALMIGHTY GOD IS LIVING INSIDE OF HER.