And He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong. 2 Corinthians 12:9-11 (NASB)
These days I seem to be surrounded by so much suffering. Friends old and new, and members of my church family are being waylaid by suffering of various kinds. Sickness, hardship, and even death have paid us an extended visit. Many of us are afraid to answer the phone or check our email, wondering what will happen next.
These are not women who faint under adversity. They are what I consider constitutionally strong, generally unflappable and very capable. They have seen a lot of tragedy, and are involved in ministry as a way of life.
These dear women confess to struggling with their strength at times. The plain truth is, strong women sometimes struggle with being strong. It seems they do too good of a job at it and therefore it is hard for those around them to understand or even accept that they are in need of comfort, tenderness, gentleness, and protection. They have always been the ones who keep on keeping on in the face of sickness, sorrow, fear, and personal tragedy. Their responsibilities are fulfilled, shopping is done, dinner is on the table and there are clean socks and underwear every day in spite of what internal or external upheaval is taking place.
But wow, there are times when even the strongest of women need a place to go and hide or take refuge. They desire to run and find a broom tree to lie under, or to be gathered into the strong arms of one who loves them and be stroked and comforted with gentle words of understanding.
The problem is, they are perceived as being nearly invincible and not in need of such comforts. When the day comes that strong women go looking for arms stronger than theirs they often come up empty. It seems they can be too good at being strong and capable, so it becomes the norm that they are expected to “just handle it” whatever it is. This leaves them wounded and longing for someone who understands. Men who are married to strong women will often say they have little need to protect or defend their wives most of the time, so they get out of practice and just assume she is okay.
I recall when a friend of mine was tending to her mother’s final needs. Her husband travels a lot for his job and is more of the analytical type. My friend is brilliant, and completely capable however at this point in time she was uncharacteristically emotional. Her husband did not know what to do with his suddenly needy wife and asked her what she wanted him to do for her. She told me later that there is little comfort in having to tell someone how to comfort you.
It does seem that strong women tend to be understood by God alone, and He is their only real comforter. If you have a strong friend, you can serve her by allowing her to be vulnerable and weak with you. Listen to the burdens of her heart and encourage her with truth from the Word of God. You can be sure she needs the reminder.
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction so that we will be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For just as the sufferings of Christ are ours in abundance, so also our comfort is abundant through Christ. But if we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; or if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which is effective in the patient enduring of the same sufferings which we also suffer; and our hope for you is firmly grounded, knowing that as you are sharers of our sufferings, so also you are sharers of our comfort.
2 Corinthians 1:3-7 (NASB)
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