I was torn. My heart felt heavy and my tears could not be held back. I was in a long season of lament and, on this particular day, all I felt like doing was curling up with my Bible and a hot cup of tea. Yet with a calendar filled with meetings and appointments, I had no choice but to push myself out the door with a desperate prayer for Christ’s power to be made perfect in my weakness (2 Cor. 12:9–10).
One of the realities I’ve had to accept as a women’s ministry director is the public aspect of my position. By God’s grace, I strive to navigate through the ups and downs of my life in a way that is wise, honest, and also honoring to Christ and my other relationships.
For example, as I was learning how to be a godly wife, the Spirit instructed me how to keep the focus on what God was teaching me while still honoring my husband.
When my daughter went through a period of rebellion, I needed God’s wisdom on what (and what not) to share that could help other women in similar circumstances while also protecting my daughter.
The value of women’s ministry is that there are many trials common to women that allow us to speak out of the grace God has given in our own lives. However, it’s the Word of God alone that empowers women to overcome sin and its consequences and live for God’s glory. As fellow strugglers and sufferers, those God calls to leadership have the unique opportunity to steward their life journey in a way that helps others learn how to live out gospel realities in the context of daily life. As the apostle Peter reminds us:
Be firm in the faith, knowing that the same sufferings are being experienced by your fellow believers throughout the world. Now the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ Jesus, will personally restore, establish, strengthen, and support you after you have suffered a little (1 Peter 5:9–10 HCSB).
Here are a few ways God can use suffering to serve women in His church.
How Suffering Can Help Leaders
1. Suffering can cultivate wisdom and humility.
Just because you are in leadership doesn’t mean you won’t grapple at times with what God is doing in your life or the lives of those you love. Deep searching questions, roller-coaster emotions, and raw agonizing pain are a part of every believer’s life at times. But suffering and wrestling with God offers us a choice: We can put on a happy face while trying to hide the realities of our lives from others, or we can seek the Lord’s wisdom to discern a healthy balance between authenticity and discretion. One is the fruit of pride, which projects an image of perfection to other women. The other cultivates an atmosphere of humility, which provides women a safe place to share their own hurts and fears and enables us to offer the hope of the gospel.
2. Suffering can point others to Christ when it drives us to the cross.
Sometimes we aren’t even aware of the expectations we have in life until our hopes are threatened. God uses trials, pressures, and afflictions to reveal our true desires and beliefs so we might repent and find healing at the foot of the cross. As we learn to apply the gospel of grace and truth to our own hearts, we become better equipped to help the women we serve see that their greatest problem is sin and to find freedom and healing in Christ.
3. Suffering can be the very path God uses to prove Himself faithful to all who are watching our lives.
One of the blessings of trials is that it gives women the opportunity to see that we truly believe the truths we teach others. When women see that our confidence in God’s goodness and sovereignty doesn’t get capsized when trials and difficulties come our way, it encourages them to believe God in the midst of their own difficult circumstances. God allows suffering to prove His faithfulness to those we serve.
4. Suffering can strengthen gospel hope in others.
If all we have to offer women is sympathy when they go through trials, they may feel better for a moment, but ultimately they will have received nothing to help them overcome their battles of fear and unbelief. They will be far more encouraged when we listen and pray the truth of God’s Word on their behalf. But even more, women need to know how the life, death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus speaks into their pain and empowers them to have victory over sin.
The Gospel Offers Real Hope
Just as God uses the biblical examples of past saints to teach, encourage, and guide us as we go through our own pilgrimage, He also uses our trials and suffering to encourage the faith of the women we serve. Through our weakness, we have the privilege of proving the sufficiency of Christ. Just yesterday, God allowed me to share how He redeemed me from a life of paralyzing fear, giving hope to a woman who struggles with a severe anxiety disorder.
The gospel offers real hope to suffering women through God’s Word, prayer, and the lives of women who are displaying the power of the gospel for others to see.