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I Am Woman



About a month ago, I got the bright idea to donate my dresser and bookshelf to the Habitat Re-Store. I was preparing to get married and no longer needed them. I figured I’d load them into my Honda CRV and drive them over.

I’m not entirely sure why I thought this was a realistic goal for me. To begin with, my car is not that big. But more importantly, both pieces of furniture were significantly larger than me. Aside from the sheer weight of them, I needed another set of arms just to lift both sides.

Even so, I set out to accomplish this task, oblivious to the odds.

I started with the dresser. One side at a time, I slowly inched it through my bedroom doorway. This process took just as long as it sounds. To make matters worse, once I got it into the narrow hallway I realized that my method would no longer work. The dresser needed to be lifted and carried long-ways down the hallway. With my unimpressive muscles and short arms, that wasn’t gonna happen.

As I tried to simply shove the dresser across the carpet, sweating, panting, and on the verge of giving myself a hernia, the doorbell rang. It was a man who had come by to check on our new AC system to make sure it was working. Swallowing my pride, I asked him if he could help me with the dresser. He walked down the hallway, scooped up the dresser, and easily carried it out of the house. He made it look like a piece of cake.

Since that demonstration of my muscular inadequacy, I’ve gotten married and witnessed a similar discrepancy in strength between my husband and myself. I’m not exactly a wimp. I used to kill spiders, unclog drains, and repair broken housewares before I ever met him. I just did it very slowly and inefficiently. Now all I have to do is call my husband and he’ll knock it out in no time flat.

It is with this dynamic in mind that I have come to understand Peter’s words in 1 Peter 3:7 much more clearly:

Husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered.

As I said, I was an independent woman before I ever got married, but my husband bench-presses 250 pounds, more than twice my body weight. I don’t think Peter was too far off the mark with his whole “weaker vessel” assessment.

However, it’s hard not to read Peter’s words and also feel a little insulted. Is he saying that all women are weak in general? Am I so fragile that I can’t do anything without the aid of man?

In seeking to understand this passage, I’ve heard a number of pastors interpret it in some very helpful ways. My own pastor explained Peter’s words as a matter of difference — men are strong in different ways than women. Were I to compare the strength of a crowbar and a glass thermometer, the crowbar would seem the obvious winner. I can’t pry open a door using a thermometer. It would snap in half. But is the thermometer strong in other ways? Yes. It can detect temperature up to a hundredth of a degree. It is indeed strong in this regard, but in a very different manner from a crowbar.

Another pastor compared a wine glass with a plastic thermos. Both hold liquid, but in very different ways and for very different purposes. A thermos protects its contents. I can throw the thermos on the ground, even run over it with my car, and most likely the thermos will remain unfazed. A wine glass, on the other hand, is fragile and can’t withstand nearly the same amount of abuse, yet it can accentuate the essence of a fine wine better than any thermos ever could.

Different design. Different strengths.

Clearly, Peter was referring to one type of strength. In general, men have greater physical strength than women. That’s why, for instance, sports are usually divided along gender lines. But that leaves me with the nagging question: What kind of strength do women have?

Throughout our nation’s history, many women have gone awry by assuming that to be strong in this world means competing on the same terms as men. As a result, some have shunned their femininity as itself being a form of weakness. They have regarded their gender’s attributes as a kind of setback in male dominated fields.

Interestingly, this method’s flaws are becoming apparent, even in the secular realm. In her book See Jane Lead, author Lois Frankel writes, “Women possess a different leadership style from men — but one that’s equally effective.” She then adds that we need to shift our thinking from “I have to be more like a man to succeed as a leader” to “the skills I bring to the workplaces, whether developed by nature or nurture, have intrinsic value.”

Frankel concludes that it’s not only important for women to embrace their femininity, but it’s their responsibility to do so. In a population of differing gifts and strengths, I owe it to my community to bring my uniqueness to the table.

Though her argument is based on purely secular motivations, Frankel’s conclusions are not far off the mark. Given that God created Eve because Adam was “not good” on his own, it would have been doubly “not good” to have created an exact replica of him. Eve was different for a reason. She added strengths to the equation that Adam could not offer.

Yet this still leaves the hanging question: What kind of strengths do women uniquely possess? Honestly, I have trouble answering this question because women come in so many different shapes and sizes. Various women have diverse talents and callings, so to conclude that all women are “xyz” is to make the same mistake as women who imitate men — both are ignoring their individually created beings and trying to fit one particular mold, perhaps a mold that God did not intend for them to fit.

With that in mind, the best way to approach this question is not to say what strengths a woman has, but how she should use them. On this point scripture is very clear.

The Bible contains a lot of verses for women on how to faithfully follow God and honor Him, and it’s crucial that we know them. Why? Because God may have given me gifts and talents, but I can sabotage them if I use them incorrectly. In the same way that a thermometer will snap in two if I try to use it as a crowbar, my talents must be used for their created purpose. Namely for God’s ends, not my own.

That said, the strength of a woman has little to do with her actual strength at all. A woman might have the gift of teaching, leadership, compassion, counseling, perseverance, patience, faithfulness, or hospitality, but it’s how she uses her gifts that distinguish her as a strong woman of God. When these strengths are powered by humanity, they will falter. When they are placed on the altar of God, they never fail.

When I admit my shortcomings and weaknesses, and therefore turn my abilities over to Him who is infinitely stronger, all-knowing, and all-powerful, it is then that I am truly strong. It is in that moment that I remove myself and my “strengths” as an obstacle to God’s work, and instead allow Him the freedom to work through me. Just as Paul proclaims in 2 Corinthians 12:10, “For when I am weak, then I am strong.”

That is the paradox of being a strong Christ-honoring woman. It only comes in acknowledging my weaknesses and deferring to God’s perfect power. Then my abilities will no longer be an obstacle to God’s work, and will instead be a willing vehicle of it. When I surrender to the perfect design that God has instilled in me, I find myself surging forward in the current of His good will, instead of swimming against it.

Maybe I can’t lift a dresser on my own. Maybe I need help sometimes. And maybe there are times in my life when I feel weak, scared, or inadequate for the task before me. But the Bible is full of stories about people like me. The Bible is a history of weak people being used by God to do mighty things. So at the end of the day, I rejoice in my weakness, because when I am weak, then I am truly strong.

Sharon Hodde Miller loves to write, loves women's ministry, and especially loves combining the two! After majoring in Religion at Duke University, she worked for Proverbs 31 Ministries where she learned the ropes of women's ministry. Following her time there, she returned to Duke where she not only earned a Master of Divinity, but snatched up a smokin' smart husband in the process! She and her husband now live in the Chicago area -- with their new son -- where they are both pursuing their Ph.D.'s at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. Sharon has a particular passion for discipling women with Scripture and theology, which is the heart behind her blog, She Worships. In addition to Ungrind, she also contributes regularly to Her.meneutics and


When Doing Justly, Loving Mercy, and Walking Humbly Stand at Odds

If your compassion far exceeds your capacity, here’s one way you can be sure to do justly, love mercy, and walk humbly.



One of my life verses is Micah 6:8, “He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?”

It is one of my favorite verses because my heart has been so moved by the love Jesus has for me and the sacrifice He made for me that I am grateful to have a way to express my gratitude through acts of justice and mercy while walking humbly with God.

I have found at times, however, the call to do justice and love mercy come in conflict with the call to walk humbly with God. For me, one of the ways to walk humbly with God is to recognize my limitations. I have to put skin to the fact that I am not God which means saying, “no” to ministry requests. It means going to sleep when I could be spending time advocating for the harrowed and helpless in the world. It means limited seats at my table, limited funds in my bank account, and limited energy in my body cannot be ignored but respected and adhered to.

This is hard for me at times, especially when I scroll my Facebook feed and see friends who are caring for their really sick children, spouse, or other family member all while millions of refugees flee war torn countries and babies are slaughtered by the hundreds each day in our country through the abortion industry.

As I scroll, I receive texts about one family member’s surgery gone wrong and another family member announcing a new baby is on the way. I have in mind my neighbor who has inpatient surgery scheduled this week and another neighbor who is trying to hold down a full-time job, care for twins all while battling profound “morning” sickness.

Folks at church are fighting for their lives in physical and spiritual ways, and strangers who pass me on the road are clearly battling something as demonstrated by their impatient honking because I won’t take a right turn on red. I want to meet the needs of all; I want to do justice and love mercy, but I’m daily confronted by the fact that I am so limited.

What am I to do when doing justly and/or loving mercy seem to come in conflict with walking humbly with my God?

God keeps bringing me to this answer: prayer.

God invites us to cast our cares before Him because He cares for us.
God tells us to be anxious for nothing BUT WITH PRAYER present our requests before Him.
God commands us to pray without ceasing.

And, when I walk humbly with God, I see the immense kindness in His command.
He gives us a way to do justly, love mercy WHILE walking humbly with Him.
It is by praying without ceasing.

I cannot take a meal or give money to every sick person or family I know. I cannot extend kindness to all my neighbors all at the same time they’re in need nor conjure up sustainable solutions for the refugee crisis and contact all the necessary world powers to make it happen.

I cannot heal all, but I know the Healer.

I cannot provide for all the needs, but I know the Provider.

I cannot rescue everyone in need, but I know the Rescuer.

I cannot comfort all the broken, but I know the Comforter.

I cannot speak peace over every situation, but I know the Prince of Peace.

I cannot be all to all, but I can go to the Great I Am through prayer, lay all the people, problems and pleas for help before the Omniscient and Omnipresent God of all Creation.

I can do this through prayer.

Recently, via an Instagram contest of all things, I came upon A–Z prayer cards designed by blogger/author/speaker, Amelia Rhodes. It is a simple concept packed with a powerful prayer punch. It has served me personally in this tension of wanting to do far more than I practically can do. It provides prayer prompts starting with each letter of the alphabet along with a scripture that coincides with the prayer focus. It ranges from Adoption to a creative “Zero Prejudice” for the letter “Z.”

The cards are well thought out, color printed on sturdy cardstock with blank lines for the user to write in the names of people and/or organizations that are personal to them.

If, like me, your compassion far exceeds your capacity, pick up a set of these prayer cards and unload your burdens onto a God whose competence matches His kindness, both boundless.

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Facing Our Fears in Motherhood

Do you have fears tied to motherhood? If so, here’s encouragement for you.



“Are you scared?”

I was taken aback by his question. Scared? Of what?

“Of anything,” he answered.

I had just shared my due date with a new class of trainees.

“He has three boys,” another new hire volunteered. So fear is to be expected, I reasoned. I’m just about to face the most frightening experience in my life.

Of course I was scared.

I was scared…

  • I’ll lose my temper.
  • I’ll whine about sleepless nights.
  • I’ll breastfeed too often or not often enough.
  • I’ll leave piles of unfolded onesies in the middle of the nursery floor because I’m too tired (or lazy?) to fold teeny-tiny baby clothes for the upteenth time.
  • I’ll go with disposable diapers when the better choice would be cloth.
  • I’ll work too many long hours at the office and miss precious moments with her.
  • I’ll sign her up for too many activities and push her to become Miss Achieve-It-All.
  • I’ll pass on to her my ugly pride, self-righteousness, and perfectionism like a dreadful contagious disease.
  • I’ll miss countless little joys in life while pursuing worthless dreams.

Facing Our Fears in MotherhoodIn short… I was afraid I was going to fail miserably as a parent.

And now, holding my second-born daughter in my arms, thinking back on that brief exchange just a few years ago, I realize those fears were well-founded. I’ve failed many times. I’ve lost my temper. I’ve raised my voice. I’ve worked too much and played too little. I’ve seen my own sinfulness reflected in my daughter.

Yes, I’ve failed, but over and above it all, God’s grace has covered my parenting imperfections and made me run to the cross day after day. The writer of Proverbs puts it this way:

Whoever fears the LORD has a secure fortress, and for their children it will be a refuge.
Proverbs 14:26

When it comes to fears, we have two choices: Will we fear the unknown or will we fear the Lord? Will we allow the uncertain to grip us in its clutch or will we turn to God’s Truth to set us free?

Scared? Oh yeah. There was so much to be scared of that day. And even now, if I’m completely honest, there are still fears nibbling at the edges of my consciousness. Fear that we won’t outgrow the temper tantrums. Fear that the two girls won’t get along. Fear that I’ll mess them up and cause them interminable hours on a psychologist’s couch.

I’m sure you have fears, too.

But rather than allow those fears to consume and paralyze us, we can take them to the Lord, acknowledging His sovereignty over our parenting, pleading His grace over our mistakes, and entrusting His provision over their futures. He is not only able to handle it all — He is far more capable to be trusted with it all.

If I say one thing to that frightened 9-month-pregnant me standing in that room years ago, I would say this: Don’t let fear rob today’s joy with tomorrow’s unknowns. Each day has enough worries of its own (Matthew 6:34).

Instead, let us keep seeking God, running to Him as our secure fortress and resting in the knowledge that He will care for us and our children one day at a time.

What are you scared of today? Name your fears and bring them to the Lord, allowing Him to replace them with His peace that passes all understanding.

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He Gives Shade To The Weary

If anxiety is a struggle for you right now, remember that He gives shade to the weary.



Do you ever have those moments of fear because you don’t know what lies ahead? When do those thoughts tend to happen to you?

For me, most of those thoughts happen when I lay my head down to sleep at night. The vulnerability comes forth every time. That’s what happened the other night to me. I shut my eyes and immediately anxiety welled up inside me.

What if we don’t succeed in this new venture? What if we have to move? What if we can’t pay our bills?

I laid there with the covers drawn tight over my head (I still think that I am safer if the covers are over my head), praying scripture over my anxious heart. Assuring myself that God sees me and that He cares.

In the morning, I turned to Isaiah 41, specifically verses 10-20.

“Do not fear, for I am with you; Do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, surely I will help you, Surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.” (Isaiah 41:10, NASB)

Yesterday, the “what if’s” piled up as I anxiously looked about me. My daughter needs tutoring, however at this point in life, tutoring feels like a luxury we can’t afford. So I listed some items online to sell hoping to make just enough to cover the tutoring. I’m buying groceries on a Visa reward card. I’m holding my breath until the next paycheck comes. But what did God speak over me: Do not fear. Do not look anxiously about you.

“For I am the Lord your God, who upholds your right hand, Who says to you, ‘Do not fear, I will help you.’ Do not fear, you worm Jacob, you men of Israel; I will help you,” declares the Lord, “and your Redeemer is the Holy One of Israel.” (Isaiah 41:13-14 NASB)

Why shouldn’t I be anxious? Because God will hold me up. God will help me. When I first read the word “worm” as a description, I took it as a slam against Israel. Like, gesh, God. What animal does He relate me to? But through further study, He calls them a worm because worms are helpless. They are viewed as insignificant, despised and weak. God will help me — seemingly insignificant, helpless me — because He is my Redeemer. He is my go’el — my next of kin. The Redeemer is the one who provides for all my needs. Rent. Car payment. Credit card bill. Gas. Food. Clothes. Debt. God will redeem.

He Gives Shade to the Weary

“Behold, I have made you a new, sharp threshing sledge with double edges; You will thresh the mountains and pulverize them, And will make the hills like chaff. You will winnow them, and the wind will carry them away, And the storm will scatter them; But you will rejoice in the Lord, You will glory in the Holy One of Israel.” (Isaiah 41:15-16 NASB).

God is transforming me from a helpless one to a powerful one. The description of that type of threshing sledge is like a modern day earth mover. Powerful. Strong. Immovable.

“The afflicted and needy are seeking water, but there is none, And their tongue is parched with thirst; I, the Lord, will answer them Myself, As the God of Israel I will not forsake them.” (Isaiah 41:17, NASB)

He will come to our rescue. God, Himself, will answer you and me. Can you hear how personal that sounds? Have you ever pleaded with someone important whether your boss, public figure, or even a parent, and they responded to the need themselves? You expected for them to send their assistant, but instead they — the most important one — responded to you.

“I will open rivers on the bare heights And springs in the midst of the valleys; I will make the wilderness a pool of water And the dry land fountains of water. I will put the cedar in the wilderness, The acacia and the myrtle and the olive tree; I will place the juniper in the desert Together with the box tree and the cypress.” (Isaiah 41:18-19, NASB)

This passage describes the wilderness-like times in life. You are barren. You are thirsty. You are hot. You are in need. God will provide what you need. God will quench your thirst. He will provide shade when you are weary. During those times, God can provide in creative, innovative ways. He can provide something out of nothing. Doesn’t that give you great hope? Even when you can’t answer how He will do it, He is creative enough to figure it out even when the odds are stacked against you.

“That they may see and recognize, And consider and gain insight as well, That the hand of the Lord has done this, And the Holy One of Israel has created it.” (Isaiah 41:20 NASB).

God will do all of this so that His glory will be put on display. People — including yourself — will see that He is powerful.

So you can see how after a night of wrestling with fear and anxiety, reading this was like shade and water for my soul. God is a god who sees. And God is a god who acts on your behalf.

What do you need His help with today? What are you fearful about today? What keeps you awake at night? Where do you need some shade?

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I Am Woman

by Sharon Hodde Miller time to read: 6 min