Strength.


“She is clothed with strength and dignity, and laughs at the days to come.” – Proverbs 31:25

Before I even begin I highly suggest you read last week’s blog, precious Little, if you haven’t already.  This week (and the next couple of weeks) will build on that blog.  That being said…

I’m convinced that there is a reason (many, in fact) that I don’t write a blog before the day it comes out.  The ideas are constantly floating around in my head (I have a list of topics on reserve in the event that writers block ever strikes), though I never write any part of a blog beforehand.  After countless experiences like ones that I’ll get to in a minute, I’m convinced that God writes these blogs up until the time I sit down and start cranking it out in this little box.  He is the Author, I am but the scribe (and a happy one at that).

For a number of weeks now this little verse has been one that I meditate on, day in and day out.  Last week I blogged about how women are to be clothed (which doesn’t really fit with the picture below, but I’ll get to that).  The next word that strikes my heart is that women have strength.  Women are strong.  I’m not talking about women being unnaturally ripped.  Women like the one below will probably always creep me out.  It just looks…wrong somehow.
Nonetheless, women are strong.  We have a resolve, a strength that comes from within.  We aren’t weak.  Well, that’s not necessarily true.  We can be incredibly weak, and when we are we do ourselves (and the God who created us) a disservice.  I know I can give shows like The Bachelor and The Bachelorette a lot of crap, but there is a lot to be gleaned from shows like this.  Take the following clip for example, the “Diaries of the Departed” from the two girls that weren’t given roses on this week’s episode.  Keep in mind that these girls have known Ben, this season’s bachelor, for two weeks.
There is a HUGE difference between these two girls.  One finds strength within herself to accept what happened at the rose ceremony; she is thankful and able to move on.  She knows who she is and she has the confidence and strength not to change her core for a man, or so that everyone will like her.  The other is not.  The other lacks that inner strength and breaks down crying over a guy she has known for two weeks.  Actually, she spent most of her time on the show crying.  What is the result?  I want to laugh at her.  I can’t take her seriously.  I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: we were created in the image and likeness of God.  We, as women, as children of God, are called to reflect His awesome, endless strength.  When we fail to do that, we fail to point others to Him, and perhaps more important, we fail to connect our own hearts to God.
So what does this strength look like?  It manifests itself in different ways, and often it is easier to identify what it is not.  It is not a closed off, cold attitude towards the world.  Like Aristotle describes in Nicomachean Ethics the truth of this virtue lies in the middle of weakness and “macho”.  Strength is something that must come from within – it comes first from allowing the Lord to dwell in our hearts.  His strength is perfect, it is that glorious middle ground between two extremes.  Strength is the ability to stand up for your standards, to not let the world get you down.  It is the ability to fight for what you believe in, to go for the goal, to fight the tide.
Last night I had a conversation with a good friend about how the world can get us down.  Sometimes you just get that feeling of dread or of depression and you aren’t sure where it is coming from or how to get rid of it.  All too often, we just give in to that feeling of sadness and despair.  It takes strength to fight that feeling, to pursue happiness and joy when the black clouds of life loom over our heads.  What we often misunderstand is that these feelings don’t just happen.  More often than not they are the result of a nasty little jerk called Satan.  [I’m forever in the debt of John Eldredge and the book Waking the Dead for opening my eyes to ideas such as these.]  Satan has a number of powerful weapons that he uses against us.  The two most powerful weapons in his arsenal are the following thoughts or beliefs:
1. Satan doesn’t have the power to attack me.
2. Who am I that Satan would come after me?  I am not pretty enough or powerful enough or holy enough that he should bother attacking me.
If you believe either one of those things then you have probably already given Satan a power over you that you never knew you gave him.  He’s a master trickster.  Who are you that Satan would come after you?  You are a child of God, he needs no more motivation than that.  If you are a child of God and you know and believe that you are a child of God then has has all the more reason to come after you.  John Eldredge says in the aforementioned book that,

“to live in ignorance of spiritual warfare is the most naive and dangerous thing a person can do.  It’s like skipping through the worst part of town, late at night, waving your wallet above your head.  It’s like walking into an al-Qaida training camping, wearing an “I love the United States” T-shirt.  It’s like swimming with great white sharks, dressed as a wounded sea lion and smeared with blood.  And let me tell you something: you don’t escape spiritual warfare simply because you choose not to believe it exists or because you refuse to fight it.  The bottom line is, you are going to have to fight for your heart.”

It takes strength to fight.  Remember, as Dostoevsky said, “God and the devil are fighting…and the battlefield is the heart of man.”  It takes strength to even admit there is a battle underway.  It takes even more strength to fight that battle.  It perhaps takes even more strength to admit and accept that women have a role in that battle.  Satan comes after our hearts too, after our insecurities.  That is why Proverbs says that the “Ideal Wife” is clothed in strength, she has a role in this battle too.  If we lay down, if we refuse to fight, if we continue to lower our standards, if we silence the desires of our hearts, if we allow ourselves to become doormats for the world then we may as well raise our white flag in surrender to Satan.  Haven’t we had enough of being dragged down yet?  It’s time to make it right.  We need to draw the line, we need to stand and fight because our lives are worth saving.  (Thanks to Mr. Irish for those last few words of wisdom.)  We need to draw on the strength of God, not only as women, but as children of God.

Tell Satan where to go.  [Back to hell.]  If you find yourselves overwhelmed I invite you to try one (or both) of the following prayers from the Saints; draw on their strength and send Satan packing.

St. Michael the Archangel, defend us in battle, be our protection from the wickedness and snares of the devil.  May God rebuke him, we humbly pray, and do thou, oh Prince of the Heavenly hosts, by the power of God, thrust into Hell Satan, and all the evil spirits who prowl about the world seeking the ruin of souls.  AMEN.  (I often yell this one out loud, emphasizing different words each time…I may look crazy but sometimes you have to fight fire with fire.)

“Shudder, tremble, be afraid, depart, be utterly destroyed, be banished! You who fell from heaven and together with the all evil spirits: every evil spirit of lust, the spirit of evil…an imaginative spirit, an encountering spirit…or one altering the mind of man. Depart swiftly from this creature of the Creator Christ our God! And be gone from the servant/handmaid of God (insert name here), from his/her mind, from his/her soul, from his/her heart, from his/her reins, from his/her senses, from all his/her members, that he/she might become whole and sound and free, knowing God.” – St. John Chrysostom
The above prayer is a shortened form of a prayer often used in exorcisms (sounds like strength to me!), the full text of the prayer can be found here.

Be strong children of God, the mighty God of the Universe seeks to dwell in your hearts.

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