By: Jenni Walker and Beth Doohan
“These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full.” (John 15:11)
“My mother taught me by her example that Jesus is everything. He was the wellspring of her love and joy and peace that overflowed into our home.” (Anne Graham Lotz of her mother, Ruth Bell Graham)
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As Wholehearted Women, we have been called to represent Christ in spreading the Gospel and to be His hands and feet in the specific mission He’s given us. The tricky bit is to remain strong in the Lord when circumstances and persecutions seek to distract us from our mission. As we reflect on the history of Wholehearted Woman Ministries, we will share stories from several heroes of the faith who incline their hearts after God’s Word, grow in their knowledge of God, and delight to do His will. Another incredible Wholehearted Woman is Ruth Bell Graham. Wife to Evangelist Billy Graham, she grew daily in her knowledge of God and His Kingdom and served as a shepherd to her family, her community, and her world.
Where You Lead
A key “ingredient” to being a wholehearted woman by God’s design is the call to live a surrendered life, and it starts with a decision to follow Christ with a heart that cries out: “Here I am; You have all of me!”
Being fully surrendered to Christ is beautiful and transformative, and it involves every part of ourselves: heart, soul, mind, and strength. It is letting no area be withheld from Him! But how do we do this? We are called to a sanctifying process by the power of Christ to be intentional in deepening our knowledge of God in relationship with Him in a daily and ongoing way.
A wholehearted woman who daily surrendered her whole self to her Savior is Ruth Bell Graham, the wife of Billy Graham. During their engagement, she surrendered her desire to be a missionary when it was clear that was not what Billy was called to. In the years to come, she laid every part of herself down before the Lord, constantly growing in knowledge of His Word, and letting Him tend to her heart in joyful and difficult times.
I Will Follow
In The Legacy of a Couple: Ruth and Billy Graham by Hanspeter Nuesch, Ruth is described as one who “made it a habit of bringing all her worries and cares to God. She didn’t want her life to be determined by circumstances but by the Bible’s promises.” (p. 108) One of the critical parts that is often lacking in our culture is a deep knowledge of God through His Word. Yet, it is foundational to our love relationship with our Lord (Hebrews 4:12-13)!
Seeking Him through His Word keeps our hearts inclined in relationship and responsiveness to the Lord throughout every aspect of daily life. One of the Graham’s daughters, Gigi, describes Ruth’s habit of intentionally seeking the Lord in this way simply yet profoundly: “All these years her immediate reaction has been to throw herself on the Lord and the Scriptures. As a child I can remember her leaving her Bible open in a prominent place, so she could just get a verse every now and then. We found her often by her bed, on her knees. She had her Bible anywhere she was in the house, sometimes even on the ironing board. There would be a verse that she would be gleaning and meditating upon.”
Ruth’s physical posture on her knees demonstrated the surrendered posture of her heart. She did not walk with her Savior out of duty alone but from a place of ever-deepening love.
Ruth grew up as the daughter of a missionary in China; she longed to serve God on the front lines doing international missions. But God had called her to serve Him in another capacity: as a wife and mother. While her husband was traveling all over the world preaching the gospel, she was at home raising five children. It would have been easy to become discontented or to begin to believe that she was not really doing anything of significance for the Lord. But in all seasons of her life, she chose to intentionally walk with her Heavenly Father and to grow deeper in her knowledge of Him.
Such an intentional pursuit to know God produces a deep intimacy with Him. The more we intentionally seek to grow in our knowledge of God, the more we will also find that our relationship with Him becomes more natural. Nuesch writes, “…Ruth had cultivated a close relationship with her heavenly Father. She had experienced how her God was sufficient in all situations. Time and time again, she also felt how His Word, the Bible, spoke to her very directly. She saw the Bible as a love letter from her Creator and divine Friend that had been written to her personally. People who met Ruth were always greatly impressed by her natural relationship with God.” (p. 109)
Always with Me
In the midst of challenges or uncertainties, or just the everyday duties of life, we will find our hearts drawn to Him…by Him and the Scriptures that have taken root in our hearts. After her youngest child left home, Ruth was often alone at home for extended periods of time; her husband was often gone due to his call as a worldwide evangelist. Although she was a great support to her husband and they talked often on the phone, those times could also be extremely lonely for her. Ruth describes an intimate experience she had with the Lord during one of those times: “I dreaded returning to that now empty house. But as I entered the front door and looked down the length of the hall and up the steps leading to the children’s now vacant rooms, suddenly it wasn’t empty. I was greeted by a living Presence, and I realized anew how true His last words were: ‘Lo, I am with you always’ (Matt. 28:20).” (p. 109)
Like Ruth, we as women so often find our days filled with many responsibilities and varied emotions. Let’s seek to know God intentionally through prayer and meditating on Scripture, letting it penetrate and minister to our hearts (Hebrews 4:12). As we do this, we will find ourselves becoming more aware of His truth and His presence in our daily lives, to His glory!
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