This year, Take Heart’s Lent prayer focus is for persecuted Christian women and girls. In this blog series, we highlight four incredible women and girls we serve in Syria, Egypt, Nigeria, and Iraq. Our persecuted sisters in Christ have much to teach us about standing firm with great hope in the midst of suffering.
“I tell you the truth, wherever the Good News is preached throughout the world, this woman’s deed will be remembered and discussed.”
– Matthew 26:13, NLT
Jesus and Women
The time period Jesus chose to walk this earth was a dark one in history for Jewish women. The first century A.D. was when teachings like those of Rabbi Ben Sira were popularized (McLelland, 2019). One of Sira’s infamous statements that echoes the culture of those days was: “Better is the wickedness of a man than a woman who does good; it is woman who brings shame and disgrace (McLelland, 2019).” Women were not seen as worthy of receiving an education. They were primarily valued for their ability to birth children. Women were often degraded and dehumanized.
It is within this context that God incarnate chose to live.
The Gospels clearly reveal that Jesus considered Ben Sira’s teachings about women as rubbish. Jesus came to restore honor and dignity to women. Some of his closest friends and disciples were women (John 11:5; Luke 8:1–3). Financial supporters of his ministry included women (Luke 8:1–3). Jesus radically included women in His parables, something other rabbis avoided (McLelland, 2019). Jesus healed women (Luke 8:43-48). He felt honored by their sacrifices and love, and ensured they were honored and remembered (Matthew 26:13).
In an overwhelmingly patriarchal culture, Jesus even chose to bless women with the first sighting of His resurrection (Matthew 28).
Every interaction Jesus had with a woman lifted her up out of shame into recognizing her own belovedness and how much he delighted in her.
We hope the women and girls we have highlighted in this Lent blog series have reminded you of the dignity and honor Jesus bestows on women.
This week, we will see how God lifted up Amal, a woman Take Heart serves in Syria.
When our local partner ministry, From All Your Heart, met Amal, she was living in a constant state of tension, driven by ongoing anxiety and depression. Sometimes Amal would resort to breaking things around the house in her distress. Shortly after being introduced to Take Heart’s local partners, Amal asked ministry leaders to pray for her and her family. Amal’s spiritual life changed dramatically. She decided to get involved with her local church and study Scripture regularly and was surprised when God used these spiritual disciplines to help give her freedom from anxiety and depression. Amal began working with From All Your Heart, creating handmade goods to sell in local markets. This gave her a sense of financial independence.
Amal knows today like she never knew before how valuable and loved she is.
Pray for Syria
Will you pray this prayer with us every day this week?
Thank you for valuing all women and girls as your beloved image-bearers. Thank you for choosing to come to earth in the first century to bring justice and honor to women. Thank you for helping Amal overcome debilitating anxiety and depression. For all women and girls Take Heart serves who are suffering from mental illness, please bring exactly what is needed for each individual whether through medicine, prayers, community, counseling, or a combination of all of these things. Protect your daughters from shame and help them to feel your immeasurable kindness and love towards them.
Help Girls and Women Thrive in Mental Health
Has Amal’s story inspired you to help more women recover from mental illness? According to the World Health Organization, an estimated 264 million people suffer from depression, and many of these people also deal with debilitating anxiety. One way to combat anxiety and depression is by providing people with the opportunity and dignity of a job. Take Heart’s income-generating projects do just that.
Help Take Heart empower women in Iraq, Syria, Nigeria, and Egypt with the equipment, training, and loans they need to start their own businesses so they can begin to thrive in financial independence and stability. Our goal is to sponsor 100 women this year. Your donation of $400 will provide one woman with the support she needs to start a business that will anchor her in financial stability and will help combat mental illness for years to come.
Learn more and give today at https://missiontakeheart.org/easter/
McLelland, K. (2019). Jesus & women: In the First Century and now. LifeWay Press.