Why is it that when women – Black women specifically – endure hardships or trauma and thereafter if and when they tell their story, they’re given the label of being “strong”? Though it’s looked at as a compliment or badge of honor to be worn, many of us don’t intend to carry the weight of our experiences, our families and the world all on our shoulders. I recently resonated with a quote I stumbled upon that said, “Don’t be a strong woman, be a healed woman.” In order to be a healed woman, you have to have a combination of characteristics, those like Ruth, Naomi, Sarah, and so many other women in the Bible who remain nameless but are just as significant.
I don’t aspire to be a strong woman. Instead, I want to be one who is loyal, thoughtful, faith-filled, and gentle. People may forget specific conversations or interactions you’ve had, but they never forget how you treated them and made them feel. Even after her husband died, Ruth stayed by her mother-in law, Naomi’s, side. By standing with Naomi, instead of going back to her homeland, Ruth showed faithfulness and love toward Naomi and the journey they were now in together. Ruth didn’t know what was to come for her loyalty – and didn’t expect anything, either – but she followed her spirit and for that, she was blessed. Ruth could’ve, and likely did lose all hope after losing her husband. But Ruth gave herself grace. She didn’t have a long and thought out plan, but she allowed God to move through her, like we should. Ruth is our reminder than God gives us grace, and we too, should give ourselves grace – as her name itself means grace.
Naomi herself had to learn this lesson, too. When her life seemingly fell apart: she left home due to famine, lost her husband and two sons, and was too old to bear any more sons for her daughters-in-law. All hope was lost for Naomi – whose name means pleasant – so she decided she would in turn go by “Mara,” a name that means bitter. Instead, still called Naomi by those around her, she is blessed with a loyal daughter-in-law, Ruth, who doesn’t leave her side even when she instructs her to, on multiple occasions. Naomi’s story teaches us to not be bitter despite our situation, but to make ourselves better in the process. Don’t dwell on the negative, but look to God for the blessings that are standing right in front of us.
Just as Naomi was bitter and lacked faith in God, so did Sarah. God promised Sarah, a 90-year-old woman, that she’d bear Abraham’s child – that she’d be a “mother of nations,” and Sarah laughed. In her and Abraham’s old ages, it seemed close to impossible to the mother-to-be, but God made his promise clear, despite Sarah’s lack of faith. While man will break promises time after time, God holds true to every one of the promises he makes to his people. While Sarah was full of doubt and fear, she saw God’s word come into fruition and in turn expressed joy and laughter. Sarah’s story turned around for the good; showing that no matter what your circumstances may look like, God truly has the final say as he possesses the power to turn your trial into triumph.
When we put all of our trust in man, we can set ourselves up to be let down, but when we trust that God will make a way out of no way in our situation, he will always come through. One woman in the Bible who was never named, but simply known as “the woman with hemorrhaging,” or, “the woman with the issue (of blood),” had exhausted all options when it came to her physical issue that had been occurring for 12 years. But one day, when Jesus was in a large crowd, she touched the hem of his clothes, and she was instantly healed. At some point in our lives, we have needed and still will need healing from something – physically, emotionally and/or mentally. We have to humbly go to God to turn our situation around, and though it might not be instant, it is sure to happen. Let her story be a lesson that you don’t have to be the loudest in the room or someone who ever
yone knows, because though we may not know her name, God surely does, and at the end of the day, that’s all that matters.
Starting this Women’s History Month, reflect on these women that came before you and I, and how you, too, can be a woman who can leave her mark without burnout. Remember that it’s not about not being strong, but being healed. Have faith. That’s the foundation of being the woman God has destined you to be, and that those around you need to be. Remove the “strong Black woman” narrative that the world has placed in you, and be the kind of woman that God destined you to be.