She girdeth her loins with strength, and strengtheneth her arms. (Proverbs 31:17)
I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: (2 Timothy 4:7)
It’s no secret in my family that I’m not into physical fitness. I used to have a poster of Garfield, that lasagne-loving orange cat, that stated, “I’m not fat, I’m fluffy”… and I’m pretty fluffy. I’m certainly not as strong as my husband, or even my 16-year-old son, but I like to think I make up for it in stubborness. If furniture needs moving, I’ll do it. If tote boxes need lugging, I’ll do it. If wood needs to be stacked– well, I have kids who can do that. Ambition and stubborness only go so far.
I’m going to go beyond the obvious here, because although I know physical strength and endurance are important, I don’t model it. My sister-in-law runs, and is totally into increasing her endurance. She’s even started taking her muppet-like giant dog with her (he’s awesome, by the way– a goldendoodle that really does run like Barkley on “Sesame Street”). Personally, I see running as something you do when your toddler is heading into the street, or when you are trying to get away from an attacker. Torture, associated with danger. But I digress.
I’m thinking of that strength and endurance that women have had to have since… well, pretty much since Eve. It’s the strength of character (which she sorta flopped on, and we see where that got her), the strength of will, and the power of an enduring spirit. There are examples all through the Bible of women who hung in there, who did what had to be done, who rose to the occasion when there was the need. They did it because they had to– for themselves, their families, and for God. They had babies, uprooted their lives, had their hearts broken. And they rolled up their sleeves, dug in, and did what had to done anyway.
My grandmother exemplified this for me. As far as I know, she was unsaved, and she allowed bitterness to creep in over the rough life she lived. But as far as the doing-what-has-to-be-done ethic– she nailed it. She was raised in a large family in a Newfoundland fishing village, and grew up around women who were often called on to be, well, everything. The men were out on the boats, and the women took care of things at home. It didn’t matter if they didn’t feel like it, or if they were pms’ing, or if tragedy struck (which it often did). They took care of business because they had to. When my grandmother married and moved to Nova Scotia, she had a similar life there, too. Her husband and older sons were out on the boats- this time, for Imperial Oil- and she was home being mother, father, chief cook, and bottle-washer. She took care of everything, and found it very hard to readjust during the times my grandfather was home. Which brings me to another related point.
We need to have it in us to do it all when we need to, and the spirit to push through when tragedy strikes, but we also need to remember that we were created to be a helper. The KJV terms it a “help meet” which simply means a suitable helper. We weren’t made to do it all, and it’s not healthy to do it all for any length of time. We will eventually burn out, and turn out like my grandmother– bitter, controlling, and resentful. Just like physical strength and endurance, we only have so much. But, we have it within us. Are we willing to use it, or do we wilt under pressure? Or, can we only use it with artificial courage? If it takes medication or alcohol, it doesn’t count (and please understand, I’m not lumping clinical depression or other mental illnesses and their respective treatments in here).
For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind. (2 Timothy 1:7)
But what if you just can’t find that strength? What if you’re in that place of your mind where life just seems like oatmeal porridge, but black…? How can you become strong?
Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you: For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened. (Matthew 7:7,8)
Help is available, from One who knows our needs before we even have them. Just look at what our God can do:
For thou hast been a strength to the poor, a strength to the needy in his distress, a refuge from the storm, a shadow from the heat, when the blast of the terrible ones is as a storm against the wall. (Isaiah 25:4)
Now that needs to go on my fridge.