Take a moment to think of the women in your life. What defines their past, present, futures and the legacies they will leave behind? If I were to consider the legacy of my mother, and the lives of the women in my lineage, I would definitely say that strength was a defining characteristic. Whether their strength was ignited by circumstantial necessity or catalysed by moments of courage and acts of kindness, each is fundamentally unique. In a world reeling with varying ideas of what femininity is, I have been thinking about what exactly makes a woman strong.
What is strong?
“She is clothed with strength and dignity, and she laughs without fear of the future. When she speaks, her words are wise, and she gives instructions with kindness.” (Proverbs chapter 31, verses 25-26)
One of the many definitions of strength is the capacity to withstand great force or pressure. In essence, this means that strength enables its bearer the ability to handle challenging or distressing situations. You may have seen the first part of this scripture from Proverbs on an inspirational mug or shirt, and it can be particularly uplifting, but it is the proceeding scripture that really catches my attention. The ability to be present and experience joy and peace in the moment is part of what makes her strong. It is not the absence of challenges, but the emotional and mental capacity to be present in life’s fleeting moments. This “strong woman” chooses wisdom and to teach those around her with kindness and not chastisement.
Feminine vs. strong
Choosing to be a strong woman does not have to be defined by physical acts of exertion but has its foundation in being a wise woman. Where does feminine strength come from and how does one exemplify the source of her strength in a world obsessed with appearance and perceptions?
“Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.” (Proverbs chapter 31, verse 30)
“For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength.” (Philippians chapter 4, verse 13)
An undeniable trait of a woman of strength is not in earthly things that are fleeting, but in finding herself diligently following her Creator. I have seen this in the women in my family, and those extending throughout scripture. No matter the circumstances they find themselves in, those that endure are resolute in drawing their strength from Christ. Diligent prayer, faith and wisdom extend the legacy of a strong woman beyond her immediate circle, but to those who her life has touched with her kindness and determination.
Learning how to be strong may seem difficult. Along our journey of life, we may encounter obstacles in our path that cause us frustration or distress. From inequalities and injustices in our world, to personal roadblocks, we were not promised an easy life, but we were promised that we would not be alone.
“Don’t be afraid, for I am with you. Do not be discouraged, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will hold you up with my victorious right hand.” (Isaiah chapter 41, verse 10)
Our God, the Creator of universe, is the source of our strength. There is a scripture that my mother loved in Titus that urges older women to teach the younger women. This means it becomes my duty to be receptive to wise instruction and guidance. The spiritual and intellectual strength and wise words she has left with me, as well as the practical lessons that I can learn from the strong women that continue in my family lineage. Thinking of her life and legacy, the wise instructions she has left for so many women she has encountered in her life, I understand how to learn strong. Learning strong comes from being teachable, being rooted in the Word, and knowing that strength comes from Him, even when we feel discouraged.
The women in my lineage, those who have already left a legacy, and those who are still building their strength, are each persevering in the knowledge of Christ. Watching them continue to exemplify the strength of their Creator, helps me learn strong when I cannot be strong for myself. Strength comes from the people around us that stand in the gap for us when we feel lost in the wilderness, from those who pray us strong when we can no longer pray for our own strength. Strength is found in a community of women rooted in Christ, a community that seeks Him first and allows you to learn from their example and not just by their words. I am strong because she was strong.
Hailing from South Africa, Crystelda is an avid nerd and an unapologetic dreamer. With a BSc. Biological Sciences and BCom Hons in marketing, she has launched the Christian lifestyle blog - Selah Blogger and is the joint winner of the 2019 International Theology Award. The blog can be found at https://selahblogger.wordpress.com/ and her previous articles may be viewed at https://www.pressserviceinternational.org/crystelda-naidoo.html