What does a “godly woman” look like? How can a woman fulfill the eternal purpose for which God created her? Thankfully, the Word of God gives us the instructions we need; it also provides a number of role models — women who illustrate what it means to walk with God and to be used by Him.
One of my favorite biblical role models is Mary of Nazareth. In her life I have found a wealth of wisdom for my own walk with God. Her story illustrates many of the characteristics of the kind of woman God uses to fulfill His redemptive purposes in our world.
Mary Was an Ordinary Woman
There was nothing particularly unusual about Mary. She was not from a wealthy or illustrious family. When the angel appeared to this young teenage girl, she was engaged to be married and was undoubtedly doing what engaged girls do — dreaming of being married to Joseph, of the home they would live in, of the family they would have. I don’t believe she was expecting her life to be used in any extraordinary way.
The significance of Mary’s life was not based on any of the things our world values so highly — background, physical beauty, intelligence, education, natural gifts and abilities. It was Mary’s relationship to Jesus that gave her life significance.
Regardless of how ordinary and “unqualified” we may be, all of us as children of God can walk with Him and be used by Him — not because we are inherently significant, but because of our relationship with Christ. Our true identity is not found in a job, a mate, a child, a position, or a possession. It is our connection to the Lord Jesus Christ that gives our lives value and significance and makes us usable in His kingdom.
Mary Was a Pure Woman
Though she had grown up in a community renowned for moral corruption, she was a virgin. Undoubtedly, many of Mary’s peers had not kept themselves pure. But when God was ready to send His Son into the world to bring about His eternal plan of redemption, He chose to place the seed of His Son into the womb of a pure vessel. He selected a woman who had not given in to the lure of the world but had kept herself for the Master’s use.
In a world that flaunts perversion and scoffs at purity, women of God must be willing to go against the flow — to walk in purity and to teach their daughters the importance and value of a commitment to personal and moral virtue.
You may be reaping the blessings and benefits of a lifelong commitment to personal purity. On the other hand, you may be living with a deep sense of loss and regret from having made wrong choices. Perhaps you feel that God will never be able to use you because you have not kept yourself pure. The wonder of God’s grace is that He can and He will restore purity to those who come to Him in contrition and true repentance. He cannot restore the virginity you sacrificed, but by His grace He can restore true virtue.
Mary Was an Undeserving Woman
God did not choose this young woman because she was worthy of the honor of being the mother of the Savior. The angel said to Mary, “Greetings, you who are highly favored!” (emphasis added). That phrase could be translated, “you who are graciously accepted.” If any of us is to be accepted by God, it will be because of grace — not because of anything we have done.
It’s all because of grace. Over and over again in Scripture, we see that God chooses people who are undeserving. God didn’t look down from heaven and say, “I see a woman who has something to offer Me; I think I’ll use her.” Mary did not deserve to be used by God; to the contrary, she marveled at God’s grace in choosing her.
The moment we cease to see ourselves as undeserving instruments, chances are we will cease to be useful in the hand of God.
Mary Was a Chosen Woman
She was chosen by God for a task of eternal significance — to bear the life of the Son of God. There is a sense in which God has chosen all of us for a similar task — to bring forth spiritual life. “You did not choose me,” Jesus told His disciples, “but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit — fruit that will last” (John 15:16).
I believe there is a special sense in which God created us as women to be bearers and nurturers of life. Whether or not He grants us physical children, He wants to use us to carry the life and light of Jesus into the world — to be spiritual reproducers, bringing forth His life in the lives of others.
We may look at certain prominent or unusually gifted people and think they have been uniquely chosen by God. The fact is, if you are a child of God, you have been chosen by God for a task of supreme significance — to be a bearer and nurturer of spiritual life by carrying the life of the Lord Jesus to others.
Once you look at your life that way, you’ll never again have a “self image” problem. Many women today carry scars of rejection from parents, mates, or friends who have spurned them. What a joy to discover that though we deserve to be rejected by God, we have been chosen to belong to Him and to be a part of His redemptive plan in the universe.
Mary Was a Spirit-filled Woman
We too must be filled with the Spirit if we are to fulfill the purpose for which God has chosen us. When the angel said to Mary, “You’re going to have a child,” Mary responded, “How can this be?" I’ve never been intimate with a man!” God had chosen her for a task that was humanly impossible.
The task for which God has chosen you and me is no less impossible. We can share the Gospel of Christ with our lost friends, but we cannot give them repentance and faith. You can provide a climate that is conducive to the spiritual growth of your children, but you can’t make them have a heart for God. We are totally dependent on Him to produce any fruit of eternal value.
In response to Mary’s expression of weakness and inadequacy, the angel promised her God’s strength and adequacy: “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you” (Luke 1:35). In the Old Testament El Elyon was God Most High, the Creator of heaven and earth.
I can’t begin to count how many conversations I’ve had with the Lord that sound a bit like Mary’s exchange with the angel. The Lord gives me a task, and I respond, “Lord, how can this be? I can’t do this. There are other people far more qualified. I’m not prepared. I’m not ready. I’m so tired. I’m so weak. I don’t know what I’m doing.” He responds simply “I know. That’s why I’ve given you the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit will enable you, and My power will overshadow you and your weakness.”
Don’t ever forget that you cannot do what God has called you to do. You cannot parent that child, love that husband, care for that elderly parent, submit to that boss, teach that Sunday school class, or lead that small-group Bible study. God specializes in the impossible, so that when the victory is won and the task is complete, we cannot take any credit. Others know we didn’t do it, and we know we didn’t do it. We must always remember that we can only live the Christian life and serve God through the power of His Holy Spirit. As soon as we think we can handle it on our own, we become useless to Him. We have to be willing to get out of the way, let God take over, and let Him overshadow us.
Mary Was an Available Woman
Equipped with the promises of God, Mary’s response was simply, “I am the Lord’s servant.… May it be to me as you have said” (Luke 1:38). In other words, “Lord, I’m available. You are my Master; I am Your servant. I’m willing to be used however You choose. My body is Yours; my womb is Yours; my life is Yours.”
In the act of surrender, Mary offered herself to God as a living sacrifice. She was willing to be used by God for His purposes — willing to endure the loss of reputation that was certain to follow when people realized she was with child, willing to endure the ridicule and even the possible stoning permitted by the Mosaic law, willing to go through nine months of increasing discomfort and sleeplessness, willing to endure the labor pains of giving birth to the Child. Mary was willing to give up her own plans and agenda, so that she might link arms with God in fulfilling His agenda.
This ought to be the heart cry of every woman of God:
“I am Your servant. I’m available.
“Do You want me to be married? I’ll be married.
“Do You want me to be single? I’ll be single.
“Do you want me to have children? I’ll raise children for Your glory.
“Do You want me to be childless? Then I will be a reproducer of spiritual fruit in the lives of others.
“Do You want me to live in a small, overcrowded house? Do you want me to suffer with a physical affliction? Do You want me to homeschool my children? Do you want me to love and serve this husband who is so hard to live with? Do You want me to take that young woman under my wing and mentor her in Your ways? Do You want me to give up my free time to tutor that child from a broken home? Do You want me to take meals to that cranky neighbor who is ill? Lord, whatever!
“I am Your servant. May it be to me as You have said.”