As the year 2000 arrived, TV commentators were summarizing many of the outstanding news stories of 1999. Among these reports, one particularly caught my attention. This report was entitled, The Most Beautiful and Successful Women of the Year. The commentator listed the chosen women: several movie stars, some of scholarly or business notoriety, and a few from the political scene. As I thought through the names and interviews, I was struck by the faulty thinking of the world’s idea of beauty and success. Here before my eyes were gaudy, immodest, proud, even vulgar women; some were bragging about their own immorality when interviewed by the media commentator.
I was so disgusted that I spoke out loud, “Lady, you don’t know the women that I serve. They are, without question, the most beautiful and successful women in the world.”
…YOU shine like stars in the universe as you hold out the word of life. Phil. 2:15b-16a
The phrase in the verse above, you shine like stars in the universe, refers to the light that shines from heavenly bodies, such as the sun and stars. Used metaphorically this refers to you as a body that gives off “light” to the world. Yes, you are God’s light. How beautiful—how eternally successful.
This past year, I have had the joy of communicating, meeting, working, and spending time with many of you. I seek to serve and encourage you. It is true that when encouragement is received, it affects both the encouraged and the encourager. I would like to share how you have encouraged me.
Your Desire to know God.
Jill* had spent much of her younger years pursuing knowledge of God’s Word, but knew she was really shallow and empty. God opened her eyes through Jer. 24:7a, “I will give them a heart to know me, that I am the LORD.” She began to pray and believe God for a heart that would seek to know Him more deeply through the Word. She didn’t think she had progressed very much, but it was evident to me that He had sweetened her spirit with gladness and humble willingness to serve.
Your Faith in God.
Though faced with the need of provision, Donna’s* unshakable faith in the Lord led her to make plans for her trip to encourage and build up other women in a land far from where she usually served. Her many illustrations of God’s faithfulness to provide and keep her safe on her long journeys strengthened and inspired me. I was reminded of Phil. 4:19, “And my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus. ”
Perseverance in the face of testing and trials.
No one would have blamed Esther* if she had left immediately for home when faced with a shocking and traumatic experience. Many came along side to encourage her only to receive encouragement from her strength to trust in God’s goodness and purpose for her.
Joy in the Lord.
You know that you are seeing real godly joy when it exudes from someone who has suffered irreversible loss. An older lady friend once said to me, “In acceptance there is rest.” Lisa* had experienced a very great loss, and that experience and the misunderstanding that surrounded it could have caused her to become very bitter and turn her back on the Lord. Through the encouragement of the Word, loving care, and the thoughtfulness of many, Lisa began to respond to the Lord’s comfort. Although she struggled with the temptation to remain angry with God’s choices for her, she was finally able to accept the circumstance from God’s Sovereign love. She is using her experience to strengthen others, and she is a display of the Lord’s joy before all who know her.
I have no greater joy than to hear that my [ladies] are walking in the truth. 3 John 1:4
Your Steadfast Obedience
Megan’s* e-mail shared how difficult married life had become due to long hours of language study, caring for two small children, and difficulty accepting the culture. Even the food didn’t taste good. It seemed that there was never time to relax, and when she tried, she was so stressed that she usually found something to argue about with her husband, Pete.* She found herself taking her frustrations out on the children. Unable to encourage her, Pete had distanced himself from her. Her time with God was empty, and her prayers were few. She wanted to give up and return home. She felt alone, discouraged, and desperate.
I felt desperate for her. How could I answer her e-mail in a way that would be helpful. I silently cried out to God to help me encourage this lady that I didn’t even know. I began to type an e-mail back to her. I deleted and retyped questions and suggestions many times. Finally, as we e-mailed back and forth over a few days, we were able to work together to detect the problems and design a strategy for a more balanced way to work through her needs and a better way to communicate with her husband. It was a slow process and she still struggles at times.
One of her e-mails revealed that her quiet time was better when she found Heb. 13:5b,
“…be content with what you have, because God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.” She shared how she knelt beside her bed and tearfully confessed her sin, pledging obedience to God no matter what the cost in order to reach the unreached. Every time I think of her I am thrilled by her transparency, her teachable heart, and her determination to be obedient.
Openness and Vulnerability.
Candy* is single. Her dream since childhood was to be married and have a family. It has been a tough battle at times to accept the life of a single global worker on the field. There were times when she was completely satisfied and content, believing that singleness was an opportunity to depend only on the Lord. At other times, Candy struggled with singleness. She was not really comfortable with the families near by, and she didn’t think they were very comfortable being with her either. Being with them seemed to make her feel worse.
To avoid the isolation and loneliness, she became overly involved in her work and in language learning. To make matters even more difficult, she found herself drifting away from some of the Biblical principles she had strongly followed in the earlier years of her service. She finally made some very bad decisions which led to her having to leave the field.
Candy was open and honest right from the beginning about her circumstances. She realized that the process of healing was going to be extremely painful. She was committed to obeying and completing the process that the Member Care team outlined for her that would lead to restoration. She remained teachable and vulnerable before her Lord and set her goals to return to the field.
Candy is definitely a model of a promise kept by God found in 1 Pet. 5:10, “And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will Himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast.”
By the way, in scripture the words “you shine” states a present truth. You are not told to shine—you already do. Your part is to keep dealing, in the Lord, with anything that would hinder the light from shining out to “…a crooked and depraved generation.” (Phil. 2:16)
Most of us will never find our names on the world’s list of the Most Beautiful and Successful Women of the Year. (Thank goodness!) But we can make God’s eternal list of those to whom He says, “…Well done, good and faithful servant!” (Matt. 25:21)
You are on my list. I am so privileged to serve you—the really beautiful and successful women in our world.
*Names and many details have been changed for the purpose of confidentiality. Verses are taken from the NIV.