I was speaking with a friend last night, a follower of Jesus from a Muslim background, and asking her what she thought women most needed to hear at this time of pandemic. We had been talking about the fear that so many are experiencing at this time, the uncertainty of the future, and the changes that everyone is facing. And so I posed the question: what do women most need to hear.
He simple reply was this: they need to know God loves them.
They need to know God loves them. She said that in a world where most of our Muslim friends believe this pandemic is God’s punishment, they need to know God loves them.
In a time of uncertainty it is sharing one certainty that is most important. God’s love has not, does not and will not change. In the midst of a global crisis, when your faith says God is pouring out his judgment, you want to do the things that will appease him. More prayers. More fasting. More reading of the holy book. More giving to the poor. What will appease a god you believe pours out such a suffering on the world?
When I started to think about the stories I would tell that show God’s love, it seemed that most of the stories of women in scripture address some aspects of fear.
Hagar speaks to the fears of loneliness and isolation, to the fear of being thrust out without hope, to the fear of abuse (given that we know domestic violence and child abuse is on the increase). God’s love is shown in the God who sees.
Ruth and her story answer questions that arise from the fears of being the outsider, of loss, of provision in hard times. Here God’s love is experienced in his good provision, his personal care for the individual in a way that impacts others as well.
Rahab’s story address the fears for the family and their safety and security as she negotiates her families safety in a time of crisis. God’s love is made evident in the midst of crisis through provision of a way through, through the help of others, through risk to help others that then saw help offered.
Esther’s story address the fear of being asked to do more than one can. It addresses the vulnerability of being in places that seem impossible to come through. God’s love is made real in his community praying and fasting and hearing his voice together, in providing a way out, in granting favour in the most unexpected places.
The woman who anointed Jesus’ feet at Simon’s house addresses the fears of judgment, of being cast out, of suffering at the hands of others, of taking risks. God’s love is revealed in Jesus’ acceptance of the gift the woman brought, in his affirmation of her as one who will be remembered for her act of love.
The woman whose daughter was suffering confronts the fear of exclusion in the face of need, the fear of not being able to go on any longer, the fear that comes when watching those we love suffer. God’s love is seen in Jesus taking time to hear her story, challenging the cultural norms, and showing a new way of embrace, acceptance and inclusion, in his personal care for this struggling mother.
Which story/stories speak to you in ways that address the fears people are expressing with aspects of God’s love?
Then the question comes: how do we share with our friends when so many of us are in lockdown? And many are under additional pressure with isolation?
I wonder what ways you are finding? There are phone calls and messaging for a start. What about recording yourself telling a story and sharing it so your friend/s can listen to it at their own leisure. Or what about recording a prayer and sharing it. Finding ways of connecting in this time of isolation not only speaks but demonstrates God’s love to our friends.
We are also being given an invitation from God to pray more deeply with and for our friends.
In this time of crisis, my friend’s encouragement rings in my heart: tell them about God’s love.
Images from: https://unsplash.com/s/photos/muslim-women
Featured Image: Ifrah Akhter
Inserted image: Irfan Surijanto
(c) When Women Speak … April 2020
CH spent more than three decades in South Asia and the Middle East working in education, community development and the Church, and was part of Interserve’s International Leadership for nine years. Her research has included women’s activism and social change in South Asia, violence against women and missiology. She is currently focussed on developing new streams of ministry among women who live under Islam and enabling women academics and practitioners to shape missiology and mission practice. She holds a PhD in Gender Studies (Australian National University).