I am Strong
Say these words out loud. Perhaps, if were honest, they don’t always feel true. We can say the words, “I am strong,” while deep within we hear, “I am weak.” The weaknesses we feel can come in all shapes and sizes. Perhaps they are in the form of a sin we battle or an insecurity we are plagued by. Or, maybe we feel emotionally weak, spiritually inept, or that we lack the self-discipline required to be or achieve all that we desire.
To us, it seems that our weakness is the very thing that keeps us from getting from here to there. The people we idolize, that have “made it,” don’t seem to have it. Instead, they seem strong. In our minds, the difference between them and us is our weakness, right? Wrong!
My desire to get all I can out of the life God has given me has been hindered time and again by perceived shortcomings. Lately, I have been driven to study the lives of powerful women throughout history who have lived the kind of life I would love to live; and man, has it been insightful! I want to share a little bit about some of these historical women whose examples of faith and strength inspire us to this very day. Yet for each, behind the glory lies quite a story. In the end, you will find that these heroes look more like us than you’d have thought. 🙂
St. Catherine of Siena 1347-1380
This woman lived a life fully devoted to her faith in Jesus Christ. Her influence was not only in the church, but spanned into the political realm as well. She was faithful to help the poor and sick and her example resulted in the conversion of many. However, she was known to practice what they called “extreme abstinence.” At times, she would live only on communion, basically. It got so bad that her peers became concerned about her health and appearance. She claimed to not be able to eat. Many say she battled severe anorexia. Was she perfect? No! She was odd in many ways, you can Google her for yourself. Yet, despite it all, in her life and legacy, Jesus won.
Maria Etter Woodsworth 1844-1924
Maria felt called to preach during a time when women did NOT speak in the church. Her first sermon was preached in the “Devil’s Den,” where they would humiliate travelling evangelists and run them out of town. The first night she preached, they heckled her, mocked her, and no one got saved. The second night was the same exact thing. The third night was no different. The fourth night, however, something happened. A powerful anointing came over her, and people began to accept the Gospel message. This occurrence was so miraculous that word about her spread. She would travel and preach as thousands gathered to see this “lady preacher.” Signs and wonders accompanied her ministry, and large numbers placed their hope in Jesus Christ.
Well into her prime, at the peak of her ministry, her husband was caught having an affair. She divorced him, and he was so bitter that he threatened to write a memoir of all of her dirty secrets if she didn’t pay him alimony. She remarried to a man who would die long before she did. She was also repeatedly attacked by religious leaders and the press with false accusations. Her life is so inspiring, yet it was still messy. She had drama like the rest of us. She defied the belief that we have to stop and recoil when life throws us a curve ball. In her life and legacy, Jesus won.
Aimee Semple Mcpherson 1890-1944
Aimee Semple Mcpherson is one of my favorite women in history. At the beginning of her ministry, she travelled and preached to whoever would listen. Many miracles took place in her services, the crowds grew, and she became very famous. They say she was more famous than any celebrity of her time. She was cutting edge in her ministry style, was first to use the latest technology of her day, the radio. She ended up in Los Angeles where she built Angeles Temple. It is there that she ministered to thousands upon thousands of people every single week.
Aimee was widowed at a young age. She left her second husband to travel and preach. They later tried to work it out, but he couldn’t take living in her shadow any longer and left. She married again to a man, but later divorced. There were rumors of an affair with a married man on her staff. Biggest of all was the famous scandal of her disappearance. She returned from her mysterious absence claiming to have been kidnapped, but no one believed her. Many believe she was away with a married man. Who knows how many rumors were actually true, but we get the gist- she was so not perfect! She had weaknesses and issues. Her loneliness was her kryptonite.
In Hebrews 11, the “Hall of Faith” chapter, there are only two women commemorated: Sarah and Rahab.
And by faith even Sarah, who was past childbearing age, was enabled to bear children because she considered him faithful who had made the promise. Hebrews 11:11
This is the same Sarah who sent her husband to “make a baby” with their servant, Hagar. This is the same Sarah who then treated Hagar cruelly and sent her and her son running for their lives. This imperfect woman is the matriarch of Israel. From her extended the lineage of Jesus Christ. Let’s also take into account the fact that she battled infertility for decades. This is a very painful thing that many women face today. Imagine battling infertility during her time, when society basically only valued women as child bearers. Sarah faced real pain, made big mistakes, yet in her life and in her legacy, Jesus won.
By faith the prostitute Rahab, because she welcomed the spies, was not killed with those who were disobedient. Hebrews 11:31
James 2:25 also says that Rahab was considered righteous for what she did for the spies. Her mistakes and reputation are pretty obvious in the fact that she was a prostitute! Yet, she became the mother of Boaz, was included in the lineage of Jesus Christ, and even made it into the “Hall of Faith” chapter. To this day we honor her for her faith and even as an example of righteousness! As for Rahab, despite all that was against her, in her life and legacy, Jesus won!
I hope that these few examples serve to encourage you today! I also hope that you are challenged to not wait for everything to be perfect and for your circumstances to be just right before you step fully into the purpose that God has for you! The Bible tells us that he gives us beauty for ashes, that he makes all things new. When he chose you, believe it or not, he knew exactly what he was getting into! His sacrifice on the cross was enough to cover every mistake, weakness and failure that you would ever face. His grace is sufficient to carry you through all the drama, setbacks and discouragement that would come your way. If the people in your life are a little crazy, it’s okay! If you are a little crazy too, it’s still okay!
Strength Comes in the Doing
The common thread of all these examples, besides the fact that they were all imperfect, was that they all took action. In Galatians 5:6, Paul said, “The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.” As with exercise, strength comes in the doing. Our faith is made complete and the promises of God’s Word are unlocked in our lives when our faith is expressed through loving action. The verse of the day today on YouVersion happens to be 1 Timothy 2:10, “For women who claim to be devoted to God should make themselves attractive by the good things they do.” James said, “Faith without deeds is dead…I will show you my faith by what I do.” In closing, I would like to encourage you to up the activity of your faith in practical ways, and experience the abundant life of freedom and strength that it brings! I am sharing this with you, because it is also a personal goal of mine, and this is a process that I, myself, am in. I have made many mistakes, battled insecurity, faced plenty of setbacks. For so long I thought my life needed to be perfect in order for God to be able to use me. Now in my thirties, and still waiting for that “perfect order” to take place, I have realized that it will never happen! If I am to make the most of the life that God has given me, I have to do it now, in the midst of whatever I am facing at the moment. Time is of the essence, and our calling to allow Jesus to be revealed in and through our lives is far too critical to be put on hold.
So, I invite you to do this with me! Together, let’s make a commitment to seek out opportunities for Jesus Christ to be revealed in and through our lives. Our weakness is the perfect backdrop for his strength to shine ever brighter. For “His strength is made perfect in weakness.” (2 Cor. 12:9)
I’d love to hear from you!
I would love to hear testimonies of how faith-in-action has brought YOU strength! It is so empowering when we stop looking at our own shortcomings and comparing ourselves to others, and instead we just get busy doing the good works we were created to do. And, we will have so much more fun in the process!