By: Jenni Walker
“I delight to do Your will, O my God, and Your law is within my heart.” (Psalm 40:8)
“Lord, I give up all my own plans and purposes, all my own desires and hopes, and accept Thy will for my life. I give myself, my life, my all utterly to Thee to be Thine forever. Fill me and seal me with Thy Holy Spirit. Use me as Thou wilt, send me where Thou wilt, work out Thy whole will in my life at any cost, now and forever.” (Betty Scott Stam)
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The pleasant sound of women socializing with one another filled the condo living room. You know the sound. It is heard every time a group of women gets together. Someone puts on a pot of coffee, and before long the room is permeated with women connecting with each other through rapid-fire dialogue, hugs, laughter, and even tears. Such was the case nearly every Thursday night in my sister’s home from 2015-2016 in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Women we knew from college, from church, or had met in a passing conversation at the gym, gathered on a weekly basis to grow in their walks with the Lord and in fellowship with one another.
That cheery living room was always bursting with conversation, and strewn about the carpeted floor wherever there was room were Bibles, journals, pens, and copies of Elisabeth Elliot’s Let Me Be a Woman from which we read weekly. Once everyone had a beverage in hand and a plate of tasty treats balancing on one knee, we would all quiet ourselves and pray for God’s blessing on our time together. Over the next year and a half, God would use these women to work in each other’s lives, to bless others in their community through local outreaches, and to respond to Him with surrendered hearts as He drew us all a little closer toward His plans and purposes for our lives.
Fast-forward a year and a half later, and the study of Let Me Be a Woman was coming to a close. Each chapter had been thoroughly discussed, corresponding Biblical precepts studied, and meaningful memories made. Beth and I were still hosting monthly meet-ups with the Bible study ladies – short devotions, the occasional outreach, or just coffee and fellowship. This left our Thursday evenings open again, and the question lingering unspoken in both of our hearts was, What next? Should we start another book study about Biblical womanhood? Or was there something else God wanted us to do? That question would soon be answered for both of us…
It was a hot Tulsa day near the end of the summer of 2016. Beth and I had just met together with one of our friends from the Bible study to catch up and to hear about her recent trip to Africa. A few hours later, we said goodbye to her and began the short walk under the shaded trees of the apartment complex walkway to the parking lot. It was there that we were about to have what I believe was a God-ordained conversation.
Upon reaching our cars, we stood chatting awhile about the upcoming week with keys in hand, enjoying the afternoon summer sun and doing a traditional “Minnesota goodbye.” If you have grown up anywhere in one of the northern states of the Midwest, you will know what I am talking about. This sort of goodbye involves taking a few steps toward the door while still in the house, stopping and chatting more, exchanging heartfelt goodbye hugs and sentiments, then taking a few more steps toward the door. Once arriving at the door, a hasty exit is not to be made. Lots of lingering, more chatting, and another round of hugs is likely to ensue, and the exiting party members finally walk down the sidewalk to their cars, waving and calling out thank-yous and goodbyes as they go. Of course, the homeowners may make the walk with them, extending the goodbye a bit longer. Or perhaps the people making their departure are leaving in separate cars. This requires stopping and chatting some more before making the final round of goodbye hugs and, finally, driving home.
My sister and I were in the “stand by your cars and chat some more” stage of our traditional Minnesota goodbye this summer afternoon when our discussion shifted toward a topic that both of us feel very strongly about: women knowing who they are in Christ and living lives fully surrendered to Him. As we shared what was on our hearts, from specific verses to the anthem of a popular Meghan Trainor song at the time, Beth asked, “What if we started a women’s ministry?” Hmm, a women’s ministry. “We could set up a website,” I said thoughtfully. That sounded like a lot of work and commitment, but we had already been doing women’s ministry, so why not start a website? It would be a great way to expand our reach to other women with the things God had taught us through the years about Biblical womanhood.
But we did not want what we wrote about on the website to just to be about us and our own experiences. As we continued our conversation in the sweltering heat, a vision of women with their identities rooted in the truth of the Bible was forming in our minds and hearts. What would it look like in a woman’s life if her whole heart was surrendered to the lordship of Christ and the authority of His Word? Greater intimacy with the Lord, confidence and boldness in her Christian living, a sense of calling in her current seasons of life, growing sensitivity and wisdom from the Holy Spirit, and an unwavering commitment to reach others with the gospel were just a few of the things that we knew would result from a woman with that kind of surrendered heart. And, thus, the idea for The Wholehearted Woman was born.
The next months would involve discussion of ideas, prayer, planning, LOTS of writing, more planning and prayer, and then more writing. And now the time has come to kick off the website by looking together at the question, who is The Wholehearted Woman? She is a woman with a transformed mind and heart who lives what the Bible says confidently and courageously, knowing who she is in Christ, as she makes a difference in the lives of those around her for the kingdom of God. This begins with what is described in our mission statement: “Helping women be fully surrendered to the lordship of Jesus Christ and courageously ‘on-mission’ for Him – one heart at a time.” God cares about your heart. But He does not just want part of it; He wants all of it! The Bible emphasizes again and again the theme of seeking the Lord with the whole heart:
“I delight to do Your will, O my God, and Your law is within my heart.” (Psalm 40:8)
“Blessed are those who keep His testimonies, who seek Him with the whole heart.” (Psalm 119:2, NKJV)
“Your testimonies I have taken as a heritage forever, for they are the rejoicing of my heart. I have inclined my heart to perform Your statutes forever, to the very end.” (Psalm 119:111-112)
As we seek God with our whole hearts and incline them toward His Word and His ways, we grow deeper in our knowledge of Him:
“To those who have obtained like precious faith with us by the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ: Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord, as His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue, by which have been given to us exceedingly great and precious promises, that through these you may be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.” (2 Peter 1:1b-4)
Three things are emphasized in these passages about those who seek the Lord with their whole hearts:
- They incline their hearts toward the Word of God (i.e. His testimonies).
- They grow in their knowledge of God.
- They delight to do His will.
It is important as Christians to learn from the godly examples of other men and women of faith (Hebrews 12:1). Let’s look at some real-life examples of women who have gone before us to learn how they were each a wholehearted woman for God in the three ways described above:
- ***Corrie Ten Boom: A heart inclined toward the Word of God***
“Behind us guards were shouting, prodding us with their guns. Instinctively my hand went to the string around my neck. From it, hanging down my back between my shoulder blades, was the small cloth bag that held our Bible, that forbidden Book which had not only sustained Betsie and me throughout these months, but given us strength to share with our fellow prisoners. So far we had kept it hidden…” (Tramp for the Lord, p. 13)
So begins chapter one of Corrie Ten Boom’s book, Tramp for the Lord. You may be more familiar with her book The Hiding Place. She provides one of the most precious examples to me of a woman with her heart inclined fully toward the Word of God in all circumstances. Corrie was a Dutch woman who, along with the rest of her family, hid Jews in their home who were at risk of being arrested and sent to concentration camps during World War II. Her family was discovered, however, and they, too, were arrested and imprisoned. While in a Dutch prison, Corrie and her sister, Betsie, were able to smuggle in a small Bible with them. But soon they would be transported to one of the most horrific concentration camps in Germany at that time: Ravensbruck.
“’Ravensbruck!’ Like a whispered curse, the word passed back through the line. This was the notorious women’s death camp itself, the very symbol to Dutch hearts of all that was evil. As we stumbled down the hill, I felt the little Bible bumping on my back. As long as we had that, I thought, we could face even hell itself.” (p. 14-15)
Upon arrival at Ravensbruck, all female prisoners had to go through a long and harrowing prison inspection. By the faithful hand of God, Corrie’s little Bible made it through the ordeal, unseen and untouched by the guards. She writes of the experience, “So Betsie and I came to our barracks at Ravensbruck. Before long we were holding clandestine Bible study groups for an ever-growing group of believers, and Barracks 28 became known throughout the camp as ‘the crazy place, where they hope.’ Yes, hoped, in spite of all that human madness could do. We had learned that a stronger power had the final word, even here.” (p. 16)
This story poignantly demonstrates how a love of the Bible is foundational to our Christian faith. Although we may never have need to smuggle a Bible into a concentration camp, we, too, can be wholehearted women of God like Corrie Ten Boom and her sister, inclining our hearts toward God’s Word in all that we do.
- ***Ruth Bell Graham: Growing in the Knowledge of God ***
Spiritual growth also requires intentional deepening of our knowledge of God. A beautiful example of this is from the life of Ruth Bell Graham, wife of the evangelist Billy Graham. She 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. In a wonderful biography called The Legacy of a Couple: Ruth and Billy Graham by Hanspeter Nuesch, she 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 Graham’s daughters, Gigi, describes Ruth’s habit of intentionally seeking the Lord 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.” (p. 108)
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)
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!
- ***Elisabeth Elliot: Joy in Doing the Will of God***
The third outcome of seeking the Lord with the whole heart is that we begin to take joy in doing His will! My absolute favorite passage in the Bible is found in Psalm 139:23-24: “Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me, and know my anxieties; and see if there is any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” What joy to be known so intimately by our Lord! No matter what season of life you are in right now, God is calling you to yield yourself to Him. When we surrender our hearts and lives completely to the Lord, inclining our hearts toward His Word and growing in knowledge of Him, He will do a work that is ongoing during our time here on earth: He will search our hearts for us, He will lead and guide us in His ways, and He will produce a holy joy in doing His will!
We often do not associate joy with many of the things that are required of us each day. Many tasks can quickly become draining or mundane. Certain seasons of life might lose their sparkle, and we can easily forget that God specifically and intentionally has called us to serve Him and others in that season. How can you “delight to do God’s will” today in some of these following areas?
Trying to conceive…
Being an employee of integrity…
Inviting a coworker to a special church service…
Hosting a game night for those in need of community…
Taking care of an elderly relative…
Going on a mission trip…
Housework, housework, housework…
Sacrificial giving of your time or money…
Investing in a particular friendship…
Turning off the television to play outside with the kids…
Putting your phone away to make conversation with a stranger in the grocery aisle…
Giving your husband a shoulder rub…
Listening rather than defending…
Choosing contentment rather than comparison…
Seeking the Lord daily in prayer and His Word… (Remember Ruth Graham’s example of taking time wherever she could find it! No perfection is needed; God just wants your heart!)
As women, I know this list could fill up multiple pages for each one of us. Yet, remember that in all that you do, God wants your whole heart. No matter what God is calling you to in your current season of life, and no matter how you are feeling at this very moment, choose to pray like the Psalmist, “I delight to do Your will, O my God, and Your law is within my heart…You have put gladness in my heart, more than in the season that their grain and wine increased.” (Psalm 40:8; 4:7)
Our culture so often associates the concept of joy with immediate gratification or the fulfillment of our personal preferences. Yet, our Lord set a different example for us. Paul writes in Philippians 2, “Fulfill my joy by being like-minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind. Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others. Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus…it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure.” (Philippians 2:2-5, 13, NKJV)
In her book Let Me Be a Woman, Elisabeth Elliot, a well-known speaker, author, and widow of Jim Elliot (whose story was told in the movie End of the Spear), explores the true joy found in living according to the “paradoxical spiritual principle” described in Philippians 2. She writes, “You yourself will be given light in exchange for pouring yourself out for the hungry; you yourself will get guidance, the satisfaction of your longings, and strength, when you ‘pour yourself out,’ when you make the satisfaction of somebody else’s desire your own concern; you yourself will be a source of refreshment, a builder, a leader into healing and rest at a time when things around you seem to have crumbled.” (Let Me Be a Woman, p. 47)
Have you truly chosen, once and for all, to follow Jesus no matter the cost? Have you prayed on your knees, “O Lord, have Your way in me?” In doing so, He will help to turn our hearts away from focusing on ourselves and our own satisfaction toward, instead, a joyful surrendering of our wills to Him and the ways in which He will use us to reach the lives of others. As Elisabeth Elliot points out, how satisfying it is to pour yourself out for others! God is more than able to give us joy in doing His will.
One of the most beautiful and convicting quotes I have ever read embodies the heart which is described in the passage of Philippians 2 that we just read together. It is from a prayer that was written by Betty Scott Stam, a missionary to China who, along with her husband, was martyred for her faith in Christ. This prayer was also copied by Elisabeth Elliot into her own personal Bible as a sign of her commitment to her Savior as a young girl. It would define for her what it meant to be a wholehearted woman of God who found joy in doing His will, and it can do so now for us. The prayer reads as follows:
“Lord, I give up all my own plans and purposes, all my own desires and hopes, and accept Thy will for my life. I give myself, my life, my all utterly to Thee to be Thine forever. Fill me and seal me with Thy Holy Spirit. Use me as Thou wilt, send me where Thou wilt, work out Thy whole will in my life at any cost, now and forever.”
How does God desire to use you? As we conclude this first online post for The Wholehearted Woman, I want to revisit the cozy condo living room in Tulsa, Oklahoma, brimming with conversation and beautiful women of God with hearts desiring to know Him deeper and to make Him known to others. The common link between you, them, Corrie Ten Boom, Ruth Bell Graham, Elisabeth Elliot, Betty Scott Stam, and so many other women is that of a fully surrendered heart to the lordship of Christ. Knowing Him and being courageously “on-mission” for His purposes starts one heart at a time. Begin today by inclining your heart toward the Word of God, by intentionally growing in your knowledge of Him, and by delighting to do His will with a joyful and grateful heart. What an honor to be daughters of the King who “chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love, having predestined us to adoption as sons [and daughters!] by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He made us accepted in the Beloved.” (Ephesians 1:4-6, NKJV) Let’s join with our other wholehearted sisters in Christ together. Let’s each be The Wholehearted Woman that God has called us to be!
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