We’ve missed the point. We’ve majored on the minors and failed to fill the hearts of women with the only news that will set them free.
The Source of the Bad News
So where on earth are women getting all this heart-crushing, joy-stripping, bad advice? Everywhere we look. Yes, we get it in church, but we also get it in the checkout line at the grocery store. All we have to do is look up from our groceries while fumbling for our ATM card, and we see headlines that function as hope-crushing rules:
- Zumba Your Way to Buns of Steel!
- Learn the Mystical Secrets to Great Sex So He’ll Never Wander!
- 36 Recipes for Tummy-Satisfying Foods on a Pauper’s Budget!
- Save the Planet (or the Whales or the Polar Ice Caps or Unwanted Puppies or . . . )!
- Seven Ways to Guarantee a Promotion!
The bad news creeps in when we’re pressured to join this celebrity’s nonprofit or sign that petition on the way out of the store . . . assuming, of course, that we donated to whatever charity was selling chocolate bars on the way in (which, by the way, we must never eat!) so that we can have a cause and feel virtuous as we heft our groceries into the back of our environmentally sensitive minivan, which leaves only a teeny-tiny carbon footprint on the planet.
We watch the local news and get reprimanded by the news anchor (aka the News Nanny) for giving our children sugar, caffeine, or fat, or for letting them play video games more than thirty-two minutes per day.
We read fiction books that portray women as weaklings whose theological insights were picked up in two summers of learning how to be like Esther or Ruth at vacation Bible school and who are unable to go through life without Mr. Right (who just happens to be Amish). Or, even more sadly, we read “romance” novels that tell us our womanhood is to be defined by our sexuality and our ability to achieve orgasm the first time, every time, with Mr. Right.
When we read “Christian” nonfiction books, we tend to read titles that are nothing more than the to-do lists, steps, and bad advice du jour pumped out by the world, baptized by a few out-of-context Bible verses. We’re told that our children must behave in church, have coordinating outfits, and close their eyes when they pray, and that we are responsible for building their self-esteem, even (or perhaps especially) when they fail. We are warned that our children’s spiritual well-being (along with their physical and emotional well-being) depends on our ability to feed them home-cooked organic meals, sew all their clothing, have a Pottery Barn–worthy living room, make Pinterest-inspired crafts for every holiday, and post cute pictures of our happy family online. We’re to live strictly on a budget, shun a career, never disagree with our husbands, never raise our voices in frustration, and religiously slather our children with SPF 70 PABA-free sunscreen and put UV-protective eye gear on them before they venture out of the house, even if we live in Anchorage and it’s January. In a word, we’re exhausted.
We’re told that our husband’s ability to lead depends on our ability to create a spiritual vacuum in the relationship that we hope will eventually suck him into his role as the head of the home. If we fail to submit properly, he’ll never experience the respect and the wild, testosterone-fueled freedom that his masculinity requires. We have to be the Proverbs 31 woman 22-7-365, or all will be lost. In other words, our husband’s success as a godly man is entirely dependent on our success at being a “godly” woman—as if success were a Christian construct or as if our sanctification depended on anyone other than Christ.
And that’s to say nothing about one of the major sources of guilt, shame, and law in a woman’s life: her body. It’s not just that we shouldn’t look like a middle-aged, slightly pudgy woman trying to hide her muffin top beneath three layers of SPANX. We’re supposed to look like a Nike triathlete supermodel who has had breast augmentation and spends six hours every day working out, even though she gave birth to five children, nursed them all until her breasts rested on her knees, and stayed up all night rocking the littlest, who just wouldn’t stop crying.
And, of course, there’s the goddess of exercise, to whom we must offer up vials of sweat every day or we feel so guilty we snap at our families and forget our identities as daughters of the King and instead feel like Jabba the Hutt. We’re filled with guilt, exhausted, and terrified that Triathlete Woman will make a move on our stifled, wild-at-heart man.
We’re told it is our responsibility to make sure the house is bacteria and virus exempt, the rescue dog eats gluten-free food, and the children are well mannered, cleaned, brushed, ironed, vaccinated (or not, depending on one’s views on naturopathic medicine), and properly shorn. We need to make sure our husbands are completely satisfied on every level, the church is well staffed, the neighborhood is evangelized, and the world is prayed for. In other words, we’ve been told and we believe (at least in part) that the success of everything within our sphere of influence rests on our shoulders and that we’d better get it together before it’s too late.
And we’re weary.
As a woman who loves Christ, the gospel, her family, her church, and her country, I’m standing up to scream, “Stop this madness! Be done with the fluff, the bricks, and the despair-breeding, anxiety-multiplying self-righteousness! It’s time to trust in Christ—and Christ alone! He has already done it all. Everything you need has already been given to you.” Or in the words of the writer to the Hebrews, “Whoever has entered God’s rest has also rested from his works as God did from his. Let us therefore strive to enter that rest” (Hebrews 4:10‑11).
My sisters, the Bible has surprisingly good news for you.
You can rejoice and rest in all that Jesus has done. My hope is that you are able to breathe a great big sigh of relief and say, “Whew. He really does love me, and that’s all that matters.” Yes, He really will make good on His promise: “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28, emphasis added).
Excerpted from Good News for Weary Women by Elyse Fitzpatrick. Used by permission.