ANN MAREE GOUDZWAARD|GUEST
I have the privilege of working with some of the godliest women in our congregation. The seasoned saints that sit in our church each Sunday are a treasure. Their collective wisdom, derived from walking closely with the Lord through unique experiences, provides such rich material from which to give care to hurting women.
One reader of Help[H]er wrote,
Shepherdesses must be very special people. I’m convinced that I would not be able to do such a demanding task…The women you described must be spiritual giants.
I agree! Although the shepherdesses would probably cringe to hear that. So, it is my pleasure to encourage them to believe God has graciously equipped them with every good gift and they are competent for one another care (2 Tim. 3:17).
And so are you.
Called to Care for One Another
There are three things that help us understand what it means to be “competent.” First, it is to recognize the position. Second, recognize the gift, and then third; recognize the need to respond. God provides the calling and gifts, we respond. Let’s look at these one at a time.
First, recognize the position. Scott Mehl, in Loving Messy People says, “There are no bench warmers in the body of Christ.” In Ephesians 4:12, Paul tells us that the office gifts (apostles, prophets, evangelists, shepherds and teachers) are given to the church so that the saints will be equipped to build the body of Christ. That’s you and me. WE are called to build the church. In fact, there are over a hundred “one-another’s” in Scripture confirming this call. For example,
Every one of us is called to one another care. Chances are, you already have a relationship with a woman in crisis. God does that. He strategically places us in each other’s messes. Sometimes it’s because we ourselves have walked a similar journey. God expects us to use the comfort we’ve been given to comfort others (2 Cor. 1:6).
So, recognize the position.
Use Your Gift in One Another Care
Second, recognize the gift. Each one of us has spiritual gifts for the purpose of building up the body (1 Cor. 14:12). Each person’s unique contribution is God-given and Holy Spirit infused. But we also have a natural gift which fits perfectly in relationship with other women.
Think high heels.
Just the mention of those two words sent some of you back in time to a wedding you stood up in and had to wear heels the entire day. Or that night when you hosted the Christmas party for your office. You remember your sore back, you could almost feel those blisters you had on your feet. Am I right? It seems most women have that experience.
In the same way, when a woman tells you her story, you instantly feel her burden. You may not have faced the exact same circumstances she has; however, when you hear her pain, fear, or suffering, you immediately sense her experience in a similar way. Women get other women. We hear desperation and we feel desperate. We hear brokenness and we comprehend ruin. We want to do something. We want to help in some way. Other words for this are empathy or compassion. This is what propels us to move towards another in love, kindness, and mercy.
So, recognize the gift.
Respond to One Another
Third, recognize the response. We are called. We are gifted. Therefore, we must respond. What does a biblical response to position and gift look like? Well, it is to,
- Live a lifestyle of attentiveness to come alongside women in redemptive relationships. It means intentionally looking for women who are struggling and using our gifts to serve them in their need.
- Listen with good questions. Listening involves more than silence. It is to be curious. It is to desire to hear from another person in such a way as to show you actually want to know them. Good questions spring from genuine concern.
- Follow through. Pursue those who share their difficulty with you and reach out to them in practical ways. Remember, the people who are the most quiet have the most need. Push past their awkward silences and press into their need.
- Humble yourself. Be the “chief repenter” in your world. Be the first to admit wrong, the first to seek forgiveness, and the first to initiate peace in your relationships.
- So often the burdens seem impossible for the people we help. In Mark 9:29, the disciples asked Jesus why they couldn’t drive out a demon. Jesus said, “This kind cannot be driven out by anything but prayer.” Do not neglect this awesome gift. Many of the people we help will fall into the category of “seemingly hopeless.” Don’t neglect to bring them to the throne of grace.
God has graciously equipped us with every good gift to make us competent for one another care. Recognize the position, recognize the gift, recognize the need to respond, and then serve the Lord unreserved.
Oh. And by the way, you don’t need an official Shepherdess Ministry in your church to provide this kind of care.
 Credit to Karen Hodge, CDM WMLT 2019.
About the Author:
Ann Maree Goudzwaard
Ann Maree Goudzwaard serves at her home church, Christ Covenant in Matthews, NC, counseling those in need and training in one another care. She is the co-author of Help[H]er, A Churchwide Response for Women in Crisis. Ann Maree is a biblical counselor, has an MDiv with a counseling emphasis from RTS Charlotte, and is a DMin candidate. She is married to Bob, mother of three, and grandmother to eleven.