Do you feel as if your life is more ordinary than exemplary? Are your days, weeks, and years filled with the routine responsibilities of life like doing laundry, grocery shopping, or planning meals? Have you ever wondered if your life is making a difference for God?
Well, I want to encourage you! As I researched the lives of eight Christian women for my book, When Others Shuddered, I was struck by the way God used them in extraordinary ways despite their circumstances. While these women lived at the turn of the century, they weren’t so different than you or me. They were women of prayer. They persisted despite the troubles they faced. They believed God had a purpose for their life. I hope their examples will encourage you today.
Act Boldly: Virginia Asher
Virginia Asher was the daughter of Scottish immigrants. Her parents—both believers—owned a bakery where they often hosted groups of urban missionaries. In 1887, she married William, and the two decided to attend Bible school. They both had huge hearts for ministry. But what impresses me about Virginia is that, unlike most women of her time, she was not afraid to go places where “proper women” did not belong.
Virginia would visit lavish houses in Chicago’s brothel district where she became a friend to “fallen women” and their madams. She was often invited to pray with the sick, write letters to parents, or offer words of peace to the dying. One person said of Virginia, “This pure, white-souled woman brought Christ to many such sinful surroundings.”
The young couple never reserved ministry for within the church. Instead, they would visit saloons and ask the bartender if they could put on a brief service for their patrons. William would give a message from God’s Word and Virginia’s singing broke through many hardened hearts. While most Christians were outraged by places like saloons and brothels, Virginia would walk right in. In that way, she acted much like Jesus. This quiet woman acted boldly and lovingly to share the love of Christ with others.
Serve Patiently: Amanda Berry Smith
Amanda Berry Smith was born in 1837, the daughter of slaves. She came to faith while working as a domestic servant at age 13, and married at age 17. Her husband died in the Civil War, leaving her with one child. She married again, but she and her husband James were so poor they could not afford to live together.
Amanda’s life was marked by hardship. Out of her five children, only one would survive. Her second husband would die of stomach cancer. At age 29, she was twice widowed and a single mother, hiring herself out as domestic help. For many years, her days consisted of washing endless piles of dishes, scrubbing laundry, and cleaning floors. In the midst of those long, lonely days, she prayed hard. Amanda writes:
I found out that it was not necessary to be a nun or be isolated away off in some deep retirement to have communion with Jesus, but, though your hands are employed in doing your daily business, it is no bar to the soul’s communion with Jesus. Many times, over my wash-tub and ironing table, and while making my bed and sweeping my house and washing my dishes, I have had some of the richest blessings.
Following the end of slavery, Amanda was invited to teach God’s Word in the United States, England, India, and Liberia. Amanda said, “God has never left me a moment; but in all these years I have proved the word true, ‘Lo, I am with you always, even to the end.’”
Like Amanda, we don’t have to wait to honor Christ until the laundry is done. He can and will use us— even in the midst of our daily work. And, when I am impatient with the end-result of my life, I am reminded that God sees my heart and will honor my desire to serve Him.
Persist Faithfully: Sarah Dunn Clarke
Sarah Dunn Clarke, along with her husband, George, founded a Chicago street mission in 1877. After her husband died, Sarah continued to work among the homeless as the Mother of the Mission. Sarah did not always realize the effect she had on each man or woman, but she extended the same gracious spirit to all. It was her steadfast love that broke through many hardened hearts.
The mission became Sarah’s home. For 27 years, almost 10,000 nights, she never missed a single service and never mentioned it to anyone. Night after night she sat on the platform, frequently stepping into the rows of folding chairs to take someone’s hand and pray with them. In 1905, someone noticed the extraordinary gift of her time and the staff gave her a party of appreciation.
One biographer wrote, “Unsung and unknown women have the greatest share in pushing on God’s work among the lost. A most notable woman of this kind, whose praises are not sounded forth by blare of horns and newspaper notoriety, was Sarah Dunn Clarke. All her tasks were done with great love.”
What is your contribution to God’s kingdom? Perhaps you act boldly like Virginia, stepping beyond the doors of the church to offer God’s love to those who need it most. Maybe, like Amanda, you are a prayer warrior, whispering to God while doing the dishes or grocery shopping. Or, like Sarah, you serve faithfully, day after day, working tirelessly behind the scenes.
Many times, during my research, I would stop reading a journal or letter and set it down as tears filled my eyes. I would shake my head and wonder: How did she do it? How did she keep going?
And then, inevitably, I would say to myself, “God, I want to be like that.” I hope that learning about these women who have gone before us has helped you realize God uses ordinary lives in amazing ways, to make a difference for eternity.
This is a guest post by Jamie Janosz, author of When Others Shuddered, a book about eight women who refused to give up and shaped the church because of it. In honor of Women’s History Month, you can buy her book on Faithlife Ebooks for $2.99 until Sunday, March 25th.
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