I am privileged to walk beside many women. I don’t just mean that I know many women. I mean that I am with them on the journey of following Jesus into the fullness of God’s promises for us. We are straining ahead, toward the upward call and prize of a life fully rooted in God, which is bound to bear fruit for all the world to see just how amazing He is. It is a walk that isn’t always easy, and sometimes women quit.
I can’t always blame them, but I am always brokenhearted (and sometimes frustrated) when they do. Partly because I can see for them what they can’t see for themselves: the power they’ve been given to endure; the hope that seems to be dead, but is really still alive within the deepest part of their hearts; and the great promise and potential that exist on the other side of their deepest pain and struggle. The other part of my sadness and frustration, admittedly, is selfish, because we were meant to take this journey together. And every time a woman quits, the enemy takes another shot at my heart and my faith: “See, this isn’t worth it. You’re the only one crazy enough to keep going. What’s the point? Are you sure everything you’re believing is really true, anyway?”
Of course I’ve learned how to fight off those silly lies, but it’s a fight that still steals a little bit of my strength, and seeks to rob me of a little more momentum every time it arises. Yes, God is faithful to give me what I need in the face of it, and to compel me forward each time I face the setback of another woman’s decision to drop out of the race. I can’t help but think, however, that this was never how God meant for it to be. We’re supposed to help each other rise up, not pull each other down – or hand our piece of the rope to the enemy who will do it for us.
This past weekend, I was invited to spend time with a group of women I did not know. I’m always a little nervous in situations like that, but I’ve learned the value of joining my life in Christ with other women who also have lives in Christ, and so I pushed past my introverted hesitancy and set my heart to expect something good. Of course, women who have quit are always a fresh obstacle that my heart has to overcome when I am preparing to open my life up to new women. It might not sound like a good confession, but it’s the honest truth. It’s an inevitable consequence of giving up – someone else who believed with you and in you and for you suffers the blows of defeat right along with you.
Nevertheless, I chose to go and see what God had in store for me, and for us (because it is never truly just about me or you…it is always, ultimately, about us). I have to say, over the course of the weekend, I received so much. Both individually and as a group, we were strengthened and raised up to a new level of expectation. There were a number of beautiful things God did for me, and for us, but as I thought back on the weekend, I became aware of and grateful of one thing in particular:
I was in the company of a room full of women who would not quit.
I don’t know their stories, the things they’ve been through. And quite often, when I sit with women, that is the theme of many of our conversations. We tend to get stuck on what we go through. But in the company of these women, while the presence of pain and suffering were obvious, it was more obvious that we had gotten stuck on something else: overcoming. There was a greater focus in our fellowship: endurance for the sake of our love for Jesus (Who has first loved us), and our love for each other. There was an unspoken understanding that if one were to quit, all would suffer. And so what rose up in our times together was a holy grit – a beautiful fragrance of determination to believe and cling to God above all else. And how He blessed that fragrant offering! In the midst of tears and – for some – obvious, deep struggle, there was a pressing conviction to press on. The agreement to persevere no matter what was tangible in the room.
This was not just a typical retreat. I’ve been to those, where we are reminded of what we’ve forgotten, and go back home with a shot of strong encouragement to help us face the next leg of the race. Such times are valuable and even necessary, and I don’t discount their place in our walk. But this gathering of women wasn’t like that, because these weren’t women who weren’t on the fence about whether or not they wanted to give up all to follow Christ. These were women who had said yes with all of their heart, and meant it. These were women who knew their calling and had accepted it, embracing the work and the difficult road of entering into ministry. These were women who were no longer living for themselves, but who were dead to themselves, and fully alive to God.
I don’t think it was their credentials that produced such determination in them, however. I think it was God. I think it’s what God naturally does when we say yes with our whole heart, and – by the strength of His power in us – refuse to give up. I think it’s the inevitable result of holding on, no matter the cost, because we understand that the real holding on is done by God. I think these were women who had learned and surrendered themselves to believe that, when they/we have no strength to hold onto Him, He is still always holding onto us. And standing in the midst of a room full of women who were still climbing, still pushing, still believing that God would keep them from falling, was a gift I didn’t know I needed.
Having had this experience, there is a fresh conviction in my heart: I want other women to receive this same gift.
Maybe you do, too.
Or maybe you’re a woman who needs that gift.
What I know, walking away from that group of women, is twofold: 1) I know that it is possible to persevere and not give up; and 2) I know that it takes each of us becoming willing to stand and keep on standing, for and because of love.
Dear Woman of Breakthrough, you were created to overcome, not to quit. Whether you’re near to quitting, or have already given up, it’s not too late. When you and I set our hearts to hold onto the promises of God no matter what, He does the hard part of keeping us from falling off the cliffs along the journey. When it becomes the hardest to hold on, He reminds us that He is holding onto us. And when we commit to stay the course no matter what we may encounter along the way, we gain the gift of each other’s encouragement, which doesn’t always need words to be conveyed. Our consistent presence overpowers the discouragement of the enemy. When women show up, no matter what has tried to keep them from doing so, we are lifted together.
So, today, I invite you to join the company women who are holding fast to their faith in Christ, refusing to be deterred. I urge you to take hold of your piece of the rope again, and to set your eyes on the mountain of promise, resolving in your heart to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus has taken hold of you. Wherever you may have fallen off course, know that He is able to reestablish your steps and strengthen you to press on. He is faithful, and He will help you, no matter what you encounter along the way.
Sometimes in life, women quit. But sometimes, they refuse to.
You actually get to choose which side of the teeter totter you will live on. I can promise you this: the side where women refuse to quit carries a lot more weight, because we are empowered by the Spirit of God. My eyes were opened this weekend to see that it’s not about the great number of women who have given up, or even what sometimes seems to be the lesser number of women who have refused to. God doesn’t depend upon the strength of numbers. The only thing that matters is His presence, and He is unfailingly present with those whose hearts have fully committed to following Him for the rest of their lives.
I hope and pray that you will allow His Spirit in you to bring you into such a rich inheritance. Standing in the company of such women is a part of what God has planned for your life. Being such a woman is written into your spiritual DNA, if you will only believe and set your heart to be undeterred. Together, we can rise in a strength that is only accessible in our unity. May we want what He wants for us!!!