“One of the saddest statements I have heard a Christian woman say is that she did not feel that Jesus’ example in the Gospels had anything to offer her,” writes Wendy Alsup in The Gospel Centered Woman . “Jesus was a man, and she was a woman. How could He relate to her? I recently read an excerpt from a book in which the female author spoke of finding her all-time greatest inspiration as a woman from the story of Ruth in Scripture, and I was similarly bothered by her statement. I am a woman. Jesus is a man. Does this disqualify me from looking to Him first for my identity and inspiration? Not according to Scripture.”
“Before we can discuss any other Scripture addressing women,” writes Alsup, “we must first answer the foundational question, what did God create His daughters in perfection to be? This is the same question we need to answer for all believers. Husband, wife, child, sister, brother, mother, father, and friend – the answer for all believers is that we were created to be image bearers of God.”
God Himself is our example on what it means to be a helper suitable to the needs of our male counterpart, and His example reveals a high and worthy calling for women to embrace. Christian women are not glorified maids, butlers, or cooks waiting on an order to perform for a master. This is not God’s example of help at all! We are called to show compassion, to support, defend and protect those in our care, to deliver from distress and to comfort. We are called to be conduits of God’s grace in our homes. We are called to be like Christ.
Genesis reveals a lot of bad choices among women living in oppressive circumstances. They had a craving and longing, just like us, for provision and affirmation. Yet again and again, they directed that longing to the wrong person or thing, with disappointing results. In your own culture and modern context, to what object do you direct your longing or craving? Where do you look when you long to feel good about yourself? To find meaning for your existence?
God has not brought us from our deficit to just dead – even in our spiritual account. Christ has done much more than simply pay our debt. Now, in Christ, I have an abundant surplus in my account because God sees me wearing Christ’s robe of righteousness. I am righteous! And not by works of my own. God has lavished this righteousness to my account fully by His mercy and grace, and I can rest in it.
Godliness with contentment is great gain in deep, hurtful circumstances. But it is also great gain in the daily grind of life. With lesser stressors, it is still life giving to remember these truths. I am devoted to God, and I want His kingdom to come in all its glory. Yet I am stressed with the little ways my life does not yet reflect His reign. In my own heart, the answer is to lean into Him, confident that He has sufficiently supplied me through His Spirit to do good and not evil in big or small stressful situations. I am confident too that King Jesus is coming again to make all things right.
Godliness with contentment does not mean pulling yourself up by your bootstraps. If the phrase fills you with guilt, you are missing the entire point. The gospel does not obligate you to contentment. It equips you for contentment. That battle with your sin, the temptation to gossip, anger with your children, church conflict, failing marriages, suffering, death—the gospel equips you to do battle with sin and suffering with the very same power that raised Christ from the dead. You have a lavish spiritual bank account, and this is an integral piece of the good news of all Christ has accomplished for you. Devotion to God coupled with such confidence in His sufficient supply is great gain.
In Christ, you and I can enter God’s presence with confidence. We can enter boldly. We do not have to enter like Esther did with the king, fearing for her life. We do not have to enter bearing a new sacrifice or our good deeds. For a long time, I was tempted away from prayer at the very times I most needed to avail myself of this access to God. I would try to clean myself up or wait to pray until I had something to offer God. But that was, first, just theologically wrong and, second, self-defeating. It is the throne of grace, which implies that we need grace. It is the place where we find mercy, not the place we avoid when we most need mercy.
Grace is possibly the most often used but least understood word in Christian circles. I learned the acronym for grace, “God’s riches at Christ’s expense,” in Sunday school as a child. But I did not understand grace. I understood that I did not earn my salvation, but my response was to start trying to earn it from that point forward. If God was that good to me, then I needed to start being a better person so that I could pay Him back a bit, or so I thought. But Jesus in Luke 6 sets a different criteria altogether as evidence of our understanding of grace. Jesus says the evidence of our understanding of God’s grace toward us is our grace toward others.
Our identity is our sense of self. It is the thing that gives us continuity in how we interact with others despite changes in our circumstances. We often identify ourselves by lesser things than how God identifies us. Some of us identify ourselves by our career, our relationship status, or our children. I have been a middle school, high school, and college math teacher, jobs in which I found a great deal of personal fulfillment. Now, I am a wife and mother. On the side, I am an author. Depending on the season of life, I have looked to each role to feel good about myself, to identify myself positively. But those are just roles I steward for a season. They are not my ultimate identity. Even being the daughter of a family firmly rooted for generations in the low country of South Carolina does not ultimately define me. Jesus Christ, along with all His name invokes, defines me both here on earth and for eternity in heaven. He is my identity because I am in Him.
Whatever piece of the wisdom of Proverbs 31 that particularly resonates with you, either positively or negatively, engage the Spirit with Bible study and prayer over it. Make certain that it is He that is convicting you and not another woman that He has led to apply it in a way that is only wise in her home, not yours. While guilt is a lousy motivator, the Spirit whispering through the Word is not. He will lead you well to apply this wisdom in ways that are wise for the home and relationships to which He has called you.
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