By Jenni Walker & Beth Doohan
“Lord, You have been our dwelling place in all generations. Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever You had formed the earth and the world, even from everlasting to everlasting, You are God.” (Psalm 90:1-2)
“Let Your work appear to Your servants, and Your glory to their children. And let the beauty of the Lord our God be upon us, and establish the work of our hands for us; yes, establish the work of our hands.” (Psalm 90:16-17)
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Psalm 90, written by Moses, is entitled, “The Eternity of God and Man’s Frailty.” He wrote this psalm while the Israelites were wandering in the desert waiting for God to lead them to the promised land. In the midst of a life surrounded by arid desert and millions of complaining Israelites who so quickly seemed to forget God’s faithfulness, Moses is called “the man of God.” We recall the way he talked with and heard from Almighty God, the miracles God did through Moses, the parting of the Red Sea, the receiving of the Ten Commandments, and water for parched throats from a desert rock. But outside of these epic experiences of God, what was Moses doing? He, too, was walking in the desert, perhaps fighting the urge to complain, and was choosing daily to remember the loving faithfulness of a God whose mercies are new each morning.
As humans made in God’s image, Christians called by God, and wholehearted women in varied seasons of life, we can all grapple at times with the question, “What kind of impact am I really making?” Remember the words of Jesus in John 15:16, “You did not choose Me, but I chose you, and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit, and that the fruit would remain.” When we are living a surrendered life and cultivating a heart of courage and willing obedience, we can trust that God is using us to make an impact for His kingdom.
ONE HEART AT A TIME
By God’s design, our impact is often made through relationships one heart at a time, whether as a wife, mother, daughter, sister, mentor, co-worker or friend. These various roles and relationships are callings from Him, and we might never know the full impact that we have through them. If you are struggling with feelings of inadequacy, are overwhelmed by a step of obedience God has put on your heart to take, or even have worked hard at something He has called you to and now just need to entrust the results to God, let us encourage you that our strength comes from God and He can be trusted with the outcome. Philippians 2:13 says, “For it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure.” He is more than able! No matter what, we can trust that God is working in and through us. If God has placed you somewhere, remain faithful! He is at work in and through you!
Gladys Aylward learned this time and again over the course of her life. Her story today is one truly characterized by a legacy of impact. Gladys was a missionary in China for most of her life. When she began her work, she was underqualified to say the least. The mission school she first attended as a young adult declared her unfit to serve in China and did not believe she could learn the language. Gladys also faced a more practical barrier of low finances.
However, her grit and determination from the call of God on her life kept her bound for China. She eventually made it to an elderly missionary’s inn after traveling to China by train, bus, mule, and on foot. This less than five-foot tall woman was used by God to become a person of influence for His kingdom purposes. While she often got to see the kingdom fruit God was working through her missionary endeavors, like running an inn to teach the Gospel to travelers, rescuing abandoned children, and influencing local prison reform, she still faced times where she questioned the impact she was really making.
On one of her prison visits, Gladys encountered a man called Mr. Shan. He was an offensive murderer, full of hatred and obscenity. Gladys prayed for him silently but found herself inwardly hating the man. One day, she spotted him in line with the other prisoners and heard the Holy Spirit’s voice clearly say to speak with him. For a moment she hesitated, arguing with herself not to do it. But God’s impression was certain, and she reached for Mr. Shan’s shoulder to stop him. In that moment, she blurted out the only thing she could think of: “Oh, Mr. Shan, aren’t you miserable?” Hardly believing what was coming out of her mouth, she told him how happy she was to have Jesus in her heart. Mr. Shan brushed her off and kept walking. Gladys instantly felt shame and depression washing over her. Not only had her words been fruitless, but she had done the unthinkable: in China at that time, no woman ever touched a man in public.
Later, however, a prison convert saw Mr. Shan hunched over, head in his hands. When asked what was wrong, he cried out that the missionary woman had touched him. “She touched me as if she loved me!” he said in amazement. The other prisoner thoughtfully replied, “Yes, I believe she could because she believes that God loves you no matter what you have done.”
After that encounter, Mr. Shan gave his heart to the Lord, which started a revival in the prison, then other prisons, and finally even the governor himself became a believer after seeing the transformative impact made through the Gospel of love shared by a small, seemingly-unqualified woman. Gladys later wrote in her book The Little Woman, “Mr. Shan was converted, not because of a great sermon, but because years ago in London God had taken a girl and asked her to give Him her hands, her feet, her whole body for His use, and that God had touched Mr. Shan through that poor human instrument.”
A LASTING IMPACT
Before Gladys passed away, she wrote, “My heart is full of praise that one so insignificant, uneducated, and ordinary in every way could be used to His glory for the blessing of His people in poor persecuted China” (“Gladys Aylward’s ‘Impossible Mission’ to China” by Christianity Today). Let us remember that God is using us, just like Gladys Aylward, to make a lasting impact in the area He has called us to serve. We get to be the hands and feet of Jesus toward others and to “let all that I am praise the Lord” (Psalm 103:1). Even if things are challenging or you cannot see the full result of your investment, know that your service is making an eternal impact in others’ lives for God’s kingdom as we abide in Christ. As Jesus reminds us in John 15:5, “I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing.”
Think about someone who has touched your life and thank them for showing God’s love to you. This could be a spouse, parent, pastor or friend. Then pray about the people in your life whom God would have you serve. If you are in a leadership position, whether as a businesswoman, ministry worker, or wife and mother in your home, ask the Lord how you can leave a lasting legacy that will have an eternal impact. Like Moses, “the man of God,” and Gladys Aylward, “the little woman,” will you love and serve your Lord in all things both big and small?
Dear Wholehearted Woman, what kind of impact or legacy will we leave behind? How will God’s work be established through our daily living? Will the message of His faithful, transformative, mighty love ring loudest by our stories? Remember, God has a plan and purpose for your life, and He is with you every step of the way as you seek and follow Him with a willing heart, surrendering to His will, and humbly yet courageously entrusting the outcomes to Him!
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