Sometimes it is easier to think of looking to God for our physical needs. "I am in need of a good job, Lord, please hear my prayer." Or, "Father, my son needs Your healing touch. Please, Lord, hear my prayer." But it's not as easy to ask God to help us with our sense of identity; to give us peace and contentment in who He created us to be.
This is a reason why my focus is often on women and women's issues. Whatever women go through in their quest to be appreciated, rewarded, recognized, acknowledged - I have experienced the same. I have wrestled with the role of women in ministry and sought validation through the eyes of men. I have questioned church authorities and been disappointed by their lack of concern or attention regarding women. I have taken offense on behalf of other godly women who, in my eyes, were rejected and scorned by church leadership. I know. I've been there.
However, continuing to ram my way into relevancy was not the way to go. I somehow knew this. During solitude, while in prayer, I knew in my spirit that this was not the way to fulfill my purpose as a Christian woman. In my most private times, when I allowed myself to be painfully honest with God - I could see how self-absorbed I was and how rebellious my spirit could be. And always, my precious Lord Jesus Christ would look at me and say, Come, My daughter. Follow Me.
Following Jesus. What does that mean? We all have our unique crosses, but for women overall; I would say it means dying to your need for recognition. Dying to your need for validation. Even dying to your need for reassurance that you are doing the "right thing." Jesus asks that we lay down our lives for Him. That we die to everything that keeps us from loving Him completely and becoming vessels to be filled with God's love, compassion, and forgiveness for a deadened world. God cannot use me if all I'm thinking about is me. He needs me to let go of all that binds me to this world, those strings of desire that hold me to what others think, what others see. He wants to set me free, to cut those strings so I can go where He wants to lead me.
Women's desire for recognition has been heavily abused by the devil. In its most strident form, we see radical feminism. The devil loves to stir up a woman's anxiety and make her feel as though she is "missing out" on something bigger. Stealing a woman's peace and contentment in Christ is, in my view, the top target of the enemy's plan of attack. If he can get a woman's eyes off Jesus Christ and focus her on the "unfairness of it all," his work is done. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to see what happens when a woman is unhappy. Like the t-shirt saying, "When Momma Ain't Happy, Ain't NO ONE Happy!"
This is why I stress the importance of dying to self for women. If I ever have the opportunity to speak to women again, this will be my life message: Die to yourself. Die to your desire to "be somebody." You already are somebody. You are a precious daughter of God and He sent His only Son, Jesus Christ to die for your sin so you could be with Him for all of eternity. Woman, you are loved.
Years ago, I was attending the orientation program for the Wycliff Bible Translators. These translators are missionaries who travel across the globe in order to learn another culture's language, translate their history into books for future generations, and then translate the Bible. I met some wonderful Christians in this program. We had two women speak to us during one session. Afterward, I said to one of the program leaders, "You know what I noticed most about those two women? Contentment. Peace. They were so obviously filled with joy to obey God's calling upon their lives."
In the Gospels, we have many occasions to glimpse Jesus' treatment of women. Aside from the obvious beautiful relationship with His mother, Mary; there are many others we can study. Mary Magdelene, Mary of Bethany, Martha, the Samaritan woman at the well, the Gentile woman begging for healing, and others. All were treated with respect, compassion, and great love. It astounds me when women call the Bible "patriarchal" or "oppressive." I just look at them and think, "Dear lady, you don't know Jesus. Because if you did, you'd never say that."
Many times, unhappy women will insist that they should be leaders, when in fact, there were few women leaders noted in the Gospels. All of the disciples were men. The majority of the church leadership were men. If a woman was mentioned, it was rare and often in conjunction with her husband.
So where does that leave women, as far as being involved in ministry? I like what Pope Benedict XVI said recently:
"Also in our own time, Rome has need of women" like Santa Francesca Romana, he said. Women “entirely dedicated to God and entirely dedicated to others; women capable of prayer and of generous and discreet service; women who know how to obey pastors but also to support and stimulate them with suggestions that arise from their intimacy with Christ and from direct experience in the field of charity, assistance to the sick, the marginalised and young people in difficulties. This is the gift of maternity which is an inseparable part of religious oblation, following the model of Mary Most Holy”.
During Jesus' ministry on earth, a group of women would follow Him and minister to His needs. How can women continue to do that today? We are here to minister to His needs, not to have our own needs met.
However, I can share with those who are doubtful that something wonderful happens when you do this. Something magnificent that eclipses all other desires: When you minister to Jesus and place Him first in your life, you feel whole. Completed. And you experience the peace that passes all understanding.
There is an amazing lightness in your spirit when you are no longer tied to the world. What others think of you does not matter nearly as much as what God thinks of you. Their approval or confirmation of you does not even begin to compare to the life-affirming words of our Father when He speaks to your spirit with comfort and love. All we desire, is in Him.
I wouldn't trade that for all the fame and fortune of this dying world. Through Him, we live.