I had the wonderful privilege of speaking at a Woman’s Retreat this weekend. It was sponsored by a local church, yet they made an effort to include women from outside their congregation. What a joy it was to meet the diverse people who attended! There was diversity on many levels, various ages, diverse ethnicity, married, single, divorced, and widowed. The women spanned ages from 77 to 22, with the inclusion of one precious 6 month old. It was a microcosm of the Body of Christ – each woman unique but sharing a desire to follow Jesus. I was blessed beyond words with the sincerity evidenced by the participants. They opened their Bibles, listened intently, and took notes. (I didn’t see anyone reading electronic messages or texting during the four messages I shared. )
I have been blessed over the years to attend several women’s retreats and conferences. I have heard inspiring Bible teaching and been challenged in my walk with the Lord. My favorite sessions included clear teaching from God’s Word and practical application for my life. I can remember hearing Elisabeth Elliot speak in 1973 at Urbana (a college age missions conference). I can’t tell you the times her words have challenged me in the many years since that conference. I also was blessed by a godly Bible teacher, Sally Fesperman, starting in 1975 and spanning many years. She was an older woman who took seriously the Biblical mandate “older women should teach younger women to love their husbands and children.” Titus 3:5
I can remember praying and asking God to allow me to share with women as Elizabeth Elliot and Sally Fesperman did. I was so blessed by their teaching and I wanted to be used by God as they were. That wasn’t too much to ask, was it?
I sensed the Holy Spirit asking me at that time – “These two women bless you, yet are you willing to suffer what they have suffered? Their lives have been tried by my refining fire.”
I was stunned.
photo from www.onethankfulmom.com
Elizabeth Elliot lost her husband when he was murdered by the native people in Ecuador he was making contact with. His intent was to share Jesus with this remote group of people.
photo from findagrave.com
Sally Fesperman lost her first husband in World War II, and her only son was killed by a run away dump truck soon before he was to be married at age 24.
These women were sharing from the refining fire of suffering. Their words were powerful because they had been forged by holding unto the Truth of God’s faithfulness in spite of the circumstances. They both had suffered, yet when hearing them share, you saw joy and peace radiate from their faces.
I could not answer yes to that question stirring in my heart. I didn’t want to suffer – to lose my husband or my children. I was clearly NOT ready to share with others what I had not lived through myself. Sharing others’ stories can be good, yet the testimony of a woman tested by time is powerful.
I also have come to realize that I held unto several false beliefs because I wanted them to be true. Those false beliefs would have been stumbling blocks to anyone I shared them with.
God in His wisdom has allowed me to be tested by time. The difference from who I am now and what I have to share is years of God’s faithfulness. In spite of my weakness, He is strong. The amazing fact for me is that even though I was arrogant and even prideful thinking I had something to share when I was young and untested – God has seen fit to allow me to share from His Word.
Isaiah 43: 1-3
But now, this is what the Lord says—
He who created you, Jacob,
he who formed you, Israel:
“Do not fear, for I have redeemed you;
I have summoned you by name, you are mine.
2 When you pass through the waters,
I will be with you;
and when you pass through the rivers,
they will not sweep over you.
When you walk through the fire,
you will not be burned;
the flames will not set you ablaze.
3 For I am the Lord your God,
the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.
That is ALL I have to share that is of worth – the Truth of God’s Word. I have been tested by time and God is faithful!