Sunday, May 7, 2017

Take the Very Hardest Thing~Becoming a Woman of Strength

I was recently asked to speak at a Ladies Tea that our church held. I thought that I would share the talk that I prepared for that event . . .  I pray that the Lord may use it as an encouragement to you! 

I remember the day clearly. It was dreary and cold and my children and I had just come down into the kitchen for breakfast. My spirits were low. I felt joyless and alone. We had recently moved to Wisconsin from Rhode Island. My husband and I shared a car at that point and I was home each day of the week with my two little children while my husband was at work. I felt discouraged. As David so aptly described it in the Psalms, "my soul was downcast within me." My husband and I had come with our family to Wisconsin out of obedience to a calling that the Lord placed upon our lives. I was absolutely convinced of that. But the day in and day out obedience in a different place where I was struggling to adjust with two very little children was difficult. 

I remember thinking, half-praying in my mind as I stood at the old porcelain sink washing dishes--I don't have the strength for this. I honestly believed that I didn't. I had relocated halfway across the country and I missed my family and friends--I did not know at that point how long it would be before I saw my family again, my husband worked long days, we were on an extremely tight budget and the cold weather did not help my mood. 

Immediately as that thought came to me--that I didn't have the strength--I heard the Lord speak to my heart--"the joy of the Lord is your strength." And this thought came from outside of my downtrodden mood--I knew very clearly that the Spirit of the Lord was communicating with me. 


Immediately, in that moment, the Lord gave me strength. Joy flooded my heart and the day did not seem dreary anymore. The thought kept coming to me --the joy of the Lord is your strength, the joy of the Lord is your strength.  The Lord replaced my unrest and sadness with a peace that passes understanding and a great joy in and though my circumstances. 

The joy of the Lord is our strength. 

That is what I have found over and over again in this past year and a half and throughout my life. That He is my strength and that He is able to give me strength when I feel like I cannot do something or feel something or be something. 

He is my strength--and yours, too---in whatever circumstances we face--

And I don't want to try to pretend to understand completely the circumstances that God has placed you in. Some of you have faced or are facing very difficult roads. I have experienced very dark times in my own life where I felt utterly forsaken and abandoned by God. And I can only say that the Lord Himself must come to you in those circumstances and give you His strength. He will--He is the same God who gave strength to Christ Jesus to face the death of Calvary. He is able to give strength in the darkest place even in the shadow of death.  He will come to you in your circumstances just where you realize that you cannot handle them without Him.

I have found so many times that when I try to produce "strength" in and through my own efforts, I always fail and become discouraged, whereas when I rely upon Jesus Christ and wait upon Him, He supplies me with strength at just the time when I need it. 

We receive strength when we relinquish our own efforts to produce it and allow Him to work out His strength in and though our weakness. He says to us in Philippians 4:13 "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness. "


The paradox of His strength comes in here--that we know His strength when we humble ourselves in weakness before Him. 

That is where He makes us strong. That is where He fills us. That is where we receive joy and strength to face our circumstances whatever they may be. 

His strength is made perfect in weakness.

The Lord makes each person different, but each one with a capability of knowing His strength in weakness. I have a personality that is naturally reserved and introverted. So when the Lord spoke to me about 16 years ago, calling me to begin a ministry of hospitality to missionaries, pastors and their families, and fellow believers, it was a surprise to me.

That is the reason that we came to Wisconsin--we took a step of faith after many years of prayer and seeking the Lord's will in where He wanted us to begin the ministry He called us to.  We saw His hand in so many countless ways and were convinced of His leading us here.

But coming here was a step that I would not have naturally taken. I am by nature an introverted, quiet person, a creature of habit. I loved New England--loved it-- with its history and haunts, with its charm and feel. I am not a thrill seeker or an adventure-taker. I enjoy eating at the same restaurant, drinking the same flavor of coffee from the same cup day after day, month after month. I used to walk a lot for exercise and I would hesitate to change my familiar route, even for years. I find comfort in routine.

In all honesty, I did not want to come here. I dreaded coming here. 

But I wanted to obey the Lord--more than anything else--and He convinced me that His grace would be sufficient for me here--and it has. 

As believers, as Christian women, we are not limited by our natural capabilities. Instead, the Lord calls us to bring our weakness, our lack, and our shortcomings to Him, so that we may experience His power working through us and the glory may be His and not ours. He loves to work where we cannot see a way, even in ourselves.

I was introduced to the writings of Lilias Trotter through one of Elisabeth Elliots' books years ago. Lilias Trotter was a missionary to the Algiers who was physically weak--initially, Missions boards refused her as a missionary candidate because of her health. She paid her own way and the Lord greatly used her there until her death. Lilias Trotter wrote--Take the very hardest thing in your life – the place of difficulty, outward or inward, and expect God to triumph gloriously in that very spot.  Just there He can bring your soul into blossom.”   

Take the very hardest  thing--

Take whatever you struggle with--whatever it is you think that you cannot handle in your life and offer it to Him. Offer it to Him in surrender. And then see what He does as you patiently wait upon Him.. 


It is and has been the stories of missionaries and Christian women like Lilias Trotter, Amy Carmichael, and Susannah Wesley who have been such an encouragement to me in my own life to follow the Lord no matter how inadequate, weak, or helpless I may feel. Feelings come and go--but the strength of the Lord is a continual promise. Take His strength, regardless of your feelings and lean into Him as your strength. You will find Him every time you humble yourself under His mighty hand. And you will be strong in Him.

Take the very hardest thing, and surrender it to the Lord.

Read the word of God, memorize it, learn hymns, read missionary biographies. If you have small children and are unable to find that "quiet" time with the Lord that you crave, listen to sermon tapes or solid ministers on the local Christian radio station. This has been a tremendous help to me, and something that I always remember my Mom doing when my sisters and I were very little. 

This is how we become stronger in the Lord, how we embrace His strength--through immersing ourselves in his Word and promises. We become strong through admitting our weakness and then embracing His strength-- not trying to take the bull by the horns and show everyone how capable we are in our own strength.

He will enable us to do whatever it is that He has called us to do. 

Do you feel weak in any particular area? Good! It is an opportunity to take the Lord's strength. 

Take the hardest thing--and expect God to come through there in your life. 

This is how we become strong women who trust in the Lord--

Strong in difficult, painful marriages . . . 

Strong in the midst of health problems . . . 

Strong when we are faced with an impossible relationship . . . 

Strong in the midst of financial strain. 

Take the hardest thing--and offer it to the Lord in obedience and surrender. 

Remember that the Lord uses weak people who hold onto His strength.

The world tells us that to be strong women we need to assert ourselves, demand our rights, do what makes us feel good, and pursue our dreams and goals selfishly, that we need to be brash and headstrong and in control. 

But this is not real strength. Because strength is not what comes from within ourselves--it is a gift that comes through Someone greater than ourselves--true strength comes from Christ, the One who humbled himself, who laid aside His own rights, who forfeited an earthly crown for a heavenly kingdom, who took the last place and washed the feet of His disciples. 

True strength comes through surrender, through yielding oneself to the will of the Father, not grasping at whatever makes us feel happy and fulfilled in the immediate moment.

True strength comes from Jesus Christ. 

True strength is eyes of steel focused on the glory of the Father, hearts of compassion for a dying world around us, and a face set like flint to do the will of the Father--whatever that may be for your life. It is a strength that the world cannot understand. And--

His strength will crown us with beauty

His strength will clothe us with dignity

His strength will cover us with grace. 

We will be able to laugh at the days to come because we know that He holds them perfectly in His hand. 


I'd like to end with this quote from Elisabeth Elliot because it speaks so wonderfully to this subject-- We are called to be women. The fact that I am a woman does not make me a different kind of Christian, but the fact that I am a Christian does make me a different kind of woman. For I have accepted God's idea of me, and my whole life is an offering back to Him of all that I am and all that He wants me to be.

May we be clothed with strength and dignity and laugh at the days to come--because He is our strength. 




30 comments:

  1. Thank you for this great post! I'm sure so many moms needed to read this today. It reminds me of the days after I had my first baby. I would cry and cry when my husband went to work. I needed this then!

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    1. Oh, you're welcome, Brittany! I'm glad that it was encouraging! Oh yes; I remember those days, too! I think that having children is one of the best ways that the Lord teaches us to rely upon Him; at least, I know it is for me!

      Blessings to you through our precious Savior!

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  2. What a beautiful post. Thank you for sharing your thoughts on being strong. I think the hardest thing that the Lord has called me to do was in 2015 when He called me to carry a baby for 9 months that we were told had a condition that rendered him "incompatible with life" -- while the world would tell me to abort such a child in the early weeks of pregnancy, God spoke to my heart something different. And I listened. And I carried my son for almost nine months, and during that time we saw him on our monthly ultrasounds, we felt his kicks and watched him grow, we listened to his heartbeat on a home doppler that I rented, my kids spoke to my belly everyday and he got to hear everyone's voices. And then when he was born, he spent 5 days with us...and then we had to give him back to the Lord. And THAT was hard on this mama's heart. That was hard on all of us. We named him Aaron, and he was our 11th child. And he was beautiful. His five brothers and five sisters all got to hold him and love on him, and I am so grateful for those five days, and I am so grateful that the Lord helped me to be strong during that difficult time. "He will enable us to do whatever it is that He has called us to do." That is very, very true! #mommymoments#248

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    1. Katrina, what a beautiful testimony of His grace . . . thank you for sharing that with me--it is so encouraging! Yes; truly, He does enable us; praise Him!

      The Lord bless you and your precious family!

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  3. It is beautiful to see what God does in our lives w/ willingness and obedience, even when it is difficult. I wish I could say that I learned that lesson once, but I'm afraid He still has to teach me that from time to time. sigh. There is nothing better than serving Him.. in the everyday stuff and the big stuff. Thank you for sharing this.

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    1. You're welcome, Joy! Oh yes; how much I can relate to what you said about the Lord teaching a lesson more than once! This is true continually with me, too! Thankfully, He is so patient and merciful . . .

      Blessings to you in our precious Savior. :-)

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  4. Rebekah, this is so beautiful and so encouraging. Recently, I have found dealing with the little ones and their childish behaviour/immaturity difficult. I never knew I could be so impatient ;) But, God. Always. Thank you x

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    1. Oh, I'm glad that it was encouraging, Sarah! Yes; I understand exactly what you mean; I'm so grateful for His mercy and patience.

      The Lord bless you, Sarah.

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  5. Thank you for sharing your heart. This was exactly what I needed this morning as I listened, yet again, to two of my children yelling and arguing. I can't do this in my own strength, but I can take joy in the Lord and allow him to be my strength. I can certainly identify with your move as well, being a military family. God bless! Your neighbor at #raralinkup

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    1. Adrienne, yes; that is what the Lord is teaching me, too! I get so overwhelmed when I try to parent (or do anything) in my own strength. It is amazing to experience the freedom that relying on Him brings.

      The Lord bless you and your family; have a blessed day!

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  6. Thank you for the reminder to take this thing ... the hardest thing ... and offer it to the Lord in worship.

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    1. You're welcome, Dianne; I'm grateful that I could share about it!

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  7. Rebekah,
    What a beautiful story with scripture woven in. I'm sure the ladies at your church were encouraged. I love the stories of Lilias Trotter's life too. This line you quoted by her,
    "Take the very hardest thing in your life – the place of difficulty, outward or inward, and expect God to triumph gloriously in that very spot. Just there He can bring your soul into blossom.” " is exactly what God has done in my life and in yours! It is amazing how a life written about can inspire others for decades after the person has 'gone to glory'! Praying the effectiveness of your writing goes beyond the natural boundaries of your life and sphere of influence. May you and your husband experience God working through you to bless others so that nations are impacted.
    Be Blessed & Refreshed,
    ~Sherry Stahl
    xoxo

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    1. Sherry, thank you for those words; they are such an encouragement to me! I am so grateful for your prayers. Yes; I agree--it is amazing to see how the Lord works so mightily through the pens of those who have already gone to be with Him. He is such a beautiful Savior.

      The Lord bless you, Sherry!

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  8. I love these words about grace-covered strength -- so much more lasting and reliable than Operation Bootstrap or another cup of caffeine!

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    1. Thank you, Michele; yes--it is a constant struggle not to rely upon my own strength (or caffeine! ;-)) but it is so refreshing when He works through me! I am so grateful for His mercy.

      Have a very blessed day!

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  9. Bekki, Thank you for sharing this extremely encouraging and edifying post. I found such comfort in the words you shared. I especially liked the quote from Lilias Trotter, "Take the very hardest thing in your life – the place of difficulty, outward or inward, and expect God to triumph gloriously in that very spot. Just there He can bring your soul into blossom.” EXPECT God to triumph gloriously in that very spot. Oh how I needed to hear this as I am feeling anxious about a routine doctor's visit next week.

    Bekki, the Lord uses your words in such a ministering way. I appreciate and love you so much.

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    1. Karen, yes; that quote is so powerful! I love her writing so much--it draws me toward the Savior.

      Karen, I will keep your doctor's visit in my prayers . . .

      I am so grateful for your friendship and love--they mean so, so much to me.

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  10. I read this post last night and really loved it. I appreciate your sharing it. It really hit home with me-- "take the hardest thing". Wow! It's so very true, though! We are so weak, and there is so much that we just can't do. But that doesn't mean we have to despair! I think those words will resonate within me forever--take the hardest thing. :)

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    1. Yes! That quote really spoke to me, too . . . Whenever I feel like despairing because something seems too hard for me to handle, the Lord comes in and says that through His strength He will enable me. This truth has been so freeing for me.

      The Lord bless you, Ang!

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  11. Oh my goodness... I loved the whole post and then you go and wrap it up with that quote and it is perfection! "For I have accepted God's idea of me, and my whole life is an offering back to Him of all that I am and all that He wants me to be." Lord - let that be said of all of us!

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    1. Oh, I'm so glad that it was encouraging! The Lord bless you, Karrilee!

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  12. That was a beautiful post, Rebekah! I love how you asked "Do you feel weak in any particular area? Good! It is an opportunity to take the Lord's strength." God has been showing this truth in my life! Blessings! Jennifer

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    1. Blessings to you, also, Jennifer! I'm glad that the post was encouraging!

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  13. Rebekah, this is powerful! We've all been there, and it is an intentional choice to choose joy in the midst of the hard.

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    1. Yes; definitely--I am seeing that so strongly in my own life! The Lord bless you, Crystal!

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  14. Congrats...You are this week's Featured Fresh Find on Fresh Market Friday! So honored to feature you friend!

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    1. Thank you, Crystal--have a blessed week!

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  15. Great post! So much wise and advice here. Where in Wisconsin? I'm here too:)

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    1. Thank you, Julie! We are over in Iowa county; it is so nice to know that you live in Wisconsin, too! :-) The Lord bless you!

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