Helper: One Way Women Reflect God’s Image

There’s an infamous verse in the King James Version of the Bible with phrasing that sets some people’s teeth on edge. Here, God says, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him.” We’ve sometimes read this as “help-meet” as if it’s all one word and is somehow demeaning women as nothing more than an assistant or something. Really, though, “help” and “meet for him” are two separate words and they mean something different than you might htink.

“Help” comes from the Hebrew word ezer, which we’ll be spending most of our time with in this study. “Meet for him” is an old Englishy phrase that means comparable to or suitable for. It’s from the Hebrew word neged, which speaks of something conspicuously placed before someone, as well as something beside or parallel to something else (Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament [TWOT] 1289a; Brown-Driver-Briggs H5048). For example, God commanded “read this law before all Israel in their hearing” (Deut. 31:11, WEB) once every seven years during the Feast of Tabernacles. His law is important, and so He wanted it placed before His people to regularly remind them of what to focus on.

Setting negad aside for now, let’s go back to the word translated “helper.” The really interesting thing about the word ezer is that with just one exception, it’s only used to describe women and God. The word shows up 21 times in the Hebrew Bible. Twice it’s used in Genesis 2 to describe women. Once it refers to God scattering away anything else His people might try to rely on for help (Eze. 12:14). All the other times, ezer describes God.

Image of people holding hands and praying, with text from Psalm 20:1-2, WEB version: "May Yahweh answer you in the day of trouble. May the name of the God of Jacob set you up on high, send you help from the sanctuary, grant you support from Zion"
Image by Claudine Chaussé from Lightstock

Reflecting God’s Image

Right from the get-go, God makes it clear that He created both man and woman in His image. Though God is consistently described as masculine, both men and women bear His image and reflect who He is. We also have the same spiritual potential as “fellow heirs of the grace of life” (1 Pet. 3:7, NET).

Then God said, “Let us make humankind in our image, after our likeness, so they may rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move on the earth.”

God created humankind in his own image,
in the image of God he created them,
male and female he created them.

Genesis 1:26-27, NET

In addition to being made in God’s image, we’re also supposed to grow into reflecting His character. We don’t look or act exactly like God right now, but He wants us to in the future (1 John 3:1-3). God the Father wants us “to be conformed to the image of his Son” and “put on the new man who has been created in God’s image—in righteousness and holiness that comes from truth” (Rom. 8:29 Eph. 4:24, NET). We’ve “borne the image of the man of dust”–we’re human, just like Adam and Eve– and now we should “also bear the image of the man of heaven” (1 Cor. 15:49, NET).

One of our main goals as Christians is to become like God the Father and Jesus Christ. We’re already like them in a few ways since we’re made in their image, but we’re supposed to become more and more like them the longer we’re in a covenant relationship with them. Studying God’s character traits helps us understand Him better and it also helps us understand what we’re supposed to be like.

Image of people holding hands and praying, with text from Psalm 121:1-2, WEB version: "I will lift up my eyes to the hills. Where does my help come from My help comes from Yahweh, who made heaven and earth."
Image by Prixel Creative from Lightstock

The Lord As Our Helper

Most of the 21 uses of ezer are found in the Psalms . Here, the writers talk about God as their help. Often, He’s described as help and shield. He shows up as a helper when we need a deliverer to protect and save us.

Our soul has waited for Yahweh.
He is our help and our shield.

Psalm 33:20, WEB

But I am poor and needy.
Come to me quickly, God.
You are my help and my deliverer.
Yahweh, don’t delay.

Psalm 70:5, WEB

You who fear Yahweh, trust in Yahweh!
He is their help and their shield.

Psalm 115:11, WEB

There’s a lot of martial imagery here. It makes sense; the root word for ezar “generally indicates military assistance” (TWOT 1598). Yahweh is our shield and deliverer. The connection between helper and battle is even more pronounced when God describes Himself to Israel as “your help.” All of us who are honest will admit we need help, particularly the sort of help God provides. And look at what a powerful sort of help this is:

“You are happy, Israel!
    Who is like you, a people saved by Yahweh,
    the shield of your help,
    the sword of your excellency?
Your enemies will submit themselves to you.
    You will tread on their high places.”

Deuteronomy 33:29, WEB

In addition to God’s role as help being linked with protecting and fighting, it’s linked with happiness. When He’s talking to His people, He says they are a happy “people saved by Yahweh, the shield of your help” (Deut. 33:29, WEB). When they turn away from Him, He tells them, “You are destroyed, Israel, because you are against me, against your help” (Hos. 13:9, WEB). If we go against God, our help, then we face destruction. But when we stay close to Him, we’re safe and happy (Ps. 146:5).

Image of a smiling woman with her hand raised in worship with text from Psalm 146:5, WEB version: "Happy is he who has the God of Jacob for his help, whose hope is in Yahweh, his God"
Image by Pearl from Lightstock

Deborah’s Example

If we were just reading those verses that talk about God as help, shield, sword, and protector, we’d likely link ezer with God as a Warrior and assume helper is a masculine role. But God uses it for women at creation (Gen 2:18, 20). It’s not used to describe human beings in a positive way again, but we can’t dismiss this verse lightly. This is how God describes His intention when creating women. We weren’t afterthoughts because He forgot to create a female version of the human animal. No! He carefully sculpted man in His own image, then carefully sculpted woman from man (also in His own image).

We don’t usually think of women in the Bible as offering military assistance. One notable exception is Deborah, so let’s take a look at how she modeled God’s image as a help to those around her. You’ll find her story in Judges 4-5. She led Israel when King Jabin of Canaan was oppressing Israel. He’d been a problem for 20 years before God called someone to do something about it.

Now Deborah, a prophetess, the wife of Lappidoth, judged Israel at that time. … the children of Israel came up to her for judgment. She sent and called Barak the son of Abinoam out of Kedesh Naphtali, and said to him, “Hasn’t Yahweh, the God of Israel, commanded, ‘Go and lead the way to Mount Tabor, and take with you ten thousand men of the children of Naphtali and of the children of Zebulun? I will draw to you, to the river Kishon, Sisera, the captain of Jabin’s army, with his chariots and his multitude; and I will deliver him into your hand.’”

Barak said to her, “If you will go with me, then I will go; but if you will not go with me, I will not go.”

She said, “I will surely go with you. Nevertheless, the journey that you take won’t be for your honor; for Yahweh will sell Sisera into a woman’s hand.” Deborah arose, and went with Barak to Kedesh.

Judges 4:4-9, WEB

Deborah and Barak went to war together, along with 10,000 men. It doesn’t look like she strapped on armor and fought, but she was there to help. King Jabin’s military commander Sisera met them with 900 chariots and an unnamed number of other fighters described as “all the army.” Israel won the battle decisively. Only Sisera escaped, and then only for a short time. He took shelter in Jael’s tent since he knew her husband had a peace treaty with Jabin, and Jael killed him by driving a tent peg through his head. Deborah and Barak’s victory song celebrates Jael for her military assistance (though I recommend not following her model today if you’d like to help someone). Also in this song, we learn more about Deborah’s role.

Warriors were scarce;
they were scarce in Israel,
until you arose, Deborah,
until you arose as a motherly protector in Israel.”

Judges 5:7, NET

There are some questions about how to translate this section, but it looks like Deborah arose as a leader and protector in Israel to fill a gap when other warriors and rulers were scarce. God used her as a help that the whole nation needed.

Women As Helpers

Image of two women's clasped hands with the blog's title text and the words "r we aid someone facing a spiritual battle, encourage someone to keep going, or stand up for what's right, we're modeling God's role as 'help.'"
Image by Jantanee from Lightstock

What about us today? Deborah is an Old Testament example, and the idea of women as leaders, protectors, and warriors might not seem like it shows up in the New Testament at first glance. But there’s actually quite a bit of evidence for women teaching, leading, and protecting in the church. Paul mentions several at the end of his Romans letter.

Now I commend to you our sister Phoebe, who is a servant of the church in Cenchrea, so that you may welcome her in the Lord in a way worthy of the saints and provide her with whatever help she may need from you, for she has been a great help to many, including me.

Greet Prisca and Aquila, my fellow workers in Christ Jesus, who risked their own necks for my life. Not only I, but all the churches of the Gentiles are grateful to them. Also greet the church in their house. Greet my dear friend Epenetus, who was the first convert to Christ in the province of Asia. Greet Mary, who has worked very hard for you. Greet Andronicus and Junia, my compatriots and my fellow prisoners. They are well known to the apostles, and they were in Christ before me.

Romans 16:1-7, NET (emphasis added)

Here, Paul mentions four women who played a key role in the church. Phoebe was “a great help to many” in her role as a servant or possibly a deaconess (“servant” here is the same word that’s translated “deacon” in 1 Tim. 3:8, 12). Prisca, also called Priscilla, and her husband worked alongside Paul, hosted a church, and taught God’s way accurately (Acts 18:2-3, 24-26; 1 Cor. 16:19). Mary worked hard enough for the church that Paul noted her in this letter. Junia is a prisoner for her faith, just like Paul was at this time. The Greek wording used here is ambiguous; either the apostles took note of her or she was considered an apostle (Misreading Scriptures with Western Eyes, p. 172).

We could turn to other examples as well, but that seems sufficient to show that women in the New Testament still help in powerful ways. In addition, we’re involved with fighting spiritual battles, just like every follower of God throughout history. For both men and women, you’re a warrior even if you never pick up a physical sword or strap on armor. God puts His own armor on you and arms you with the Shield of Faith and the Sword of the Spirit. Whenever we aid someone facing a spiritual battle, encourage someone to keep going, or stand up for what’s right, we’re modeling God’s role as a help.

Featured image by Jantanee from Lightstock

Song Recommendation: “Onye-Inyeaka (My Helper)” by Mr. M & Revelation (lyrics translation in comments on YouTube)

Women Who Speak In Scripture

One of the things I hoped for when I began a Master’s degree in Rhetoric and Writing at a Christian-founded university was that I’d get a chance to study some Biblical rhetoric. This semester, I’m taking classes on Classic and Contemporary rhetoric. In one of them, we read texts by women written during the Renaissance where they used rhetorical strategies to prove that women have a role in teaching scripture.

It was both fascinating (and a little discouraging) to read Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz using the exact same arguments to defend her ability to teach the scriptures in 1691 that I’ve used in the 21st century. I agree with her that when Paul calls for women to remain quite in church (1 Cor 14:34; 1Tim 2:12), his “prohibition applied only to public speech from the pulpit” not to writing or even to teaching (The Rhetorical Tradition, 2nd ed., p. 788). It’s absurd to think that Paul meant women should never speak or teach when he also gives instructions for how and when it’s appropriate for women to pray and prophecy in church (1 Cor. 11:1-16) and since he directly instructs women to teach other women (Titus 2:3).

Stepping away from Paul’s writings for a moment, we see examples of women speaking, leading, and teaching throughout scripture. Deborah, the Queen of Sheba, Abigail, Ester, Rahab, and Hannah are all mentioned by de la Cruz, and she could have added Miriam, Ruth, Huldah, Anna, Philip’s daughters, and Priscilla as well. We also read another text in my class from 1666 written by Margaret Fell–one of the earliest Quakers and a highly influential teacher. She points out that there’s no indication in scripture that the apostles despised or rebuked women like Priscilla for teaching (The Rhetorical Tradition, 3rd ed., p. 860). Furthermore, God Himself said that His daughters would prophesy (Acts 2:14-18), so who are human beings to say women should not speak when they’re inspired by the Lord?

Fell also points out something I hadn’t thought of before. Women’s words are recorded throughout scripture and men often base sermons on their words. Fell accused men in the churches of her day of hypocrisy in this area, saying, “you will make a Trade of Women’s words to get money by, and take Texts, and Preach Sermons upon Womens words; and still cry out, Women must not speak, Women must be silent; so you are far from the minds of the Elders of Israel” (The Rhetorical Tradition, 3rd ed., p.865). Even if ministers today aren’t profiting off their work the same way the priests Fell criticizes were, many will still use Biblical women’s words as a sound foundation for teaching while telling modern women not to teach.

Last week, I wrote about a woman from the Bible named Hannah in my post “What Potential Does God See In You?” She’s one of the women whose example and words–including her recorded prayer–are still used to teach people today. God saw her and regarded her with favor though she was initially judged harshly by the priest. And Hannah is far from being the only example of women whom God takes notice of and whom He gives a key role in His plan. Let’s look at some others today.

Huldah

King Josiah was one of the very few righteous kings in the years following David’s reign over Israel. He became king at just eight years old, and when he was 26 he asked his scribe to make sure the priests had the funds needed to repair the temple in Jerusalem (2 Kings 22; 2 Chr. 34). While working in the temple, the priests found a book of the Law. They read it to Josiah, and he tore his clothes in grief when he realized how badly his nation had strayed from following God. He told his advisers, “Go inquire of Yahweh for me, and for the people, and for all Judah, concerning the words of this book that is found.”

So Hilkiah the priest, Ahikam, Achbor, Shaphan, and Asaiah, went to Huldah the prophetess, the wife of Shallum the son of Tikvah, the son of Harhas, keeper of the wardrobe (now she lived in Jerusalem in the second quarter); and they talked with her.

She said to them, “Yahweh the God of Israel says, ‘Tell the man who sent you to me, “Yahweh says, ‘Behold, I will bring evil on this place, and on its inhabitants, even all the words of the book which the king of Judah has read. Because they have forsaken me, and have burned incense to other gods, that they might provoke me to anger with all the work of their hands, therefore my wrath shall be kindled against this place, and it will not be quenched.’” But to the king of Judah, who sent you to inquire of Yahweh, tell him, “Yahweh the God of Israel says, ‘Concerning the words which you have heard, because your heart was tender, and you humbled yourself before Yahweh, when you heard what I spoke against this place, and against its inhabitants, that they should become a desolation and a curse, and have torn your clothes, and wept before me; I also have heard you,’ says Yahweh. ‘Therefore behold, I will gather you to your fathers, and you will be gathered to your grave in peace. Your eyes will not see all the evil which I will bring on this place.’”

2 Kings 22:14-20, WEB

Though this group included the high priest, he didn’t ask God for advice directly. Prophets and priests had different roles–the priests served in the temple and a prophet or prophetess delivered God’s messages to people. At this time, the go-to person for making inquiries of God was a prophetess named Huldah. She delivered God’s message, and King Josiah listened (2 Kings 23:1-30). There was no question of whether or not God could speak through her because she was a woman; He simply did, and that was that.

Priscilla

The first time in the Bible that we hear of Priscilla and her husband Aquilia is when Paul went to Corinth (Acts 18). They were tentmakers like Paul, and so he stayed with them to practice his trade while he preached Jesus Christ. When Paul left, Priscilla and Aquilia went with him to Caesarea. They stayed in that region while Paul went on to preach in Galatia, and they were there in the city of Ephesus when Apollos showed up.

Now a certain Jew named Apollos, an Alexandrian by race, an eloquent man, came to Ephesus. He was mighty in the Scriptures. This man had been instructed in the way of the Lord; and being fervent in spirit, he spoke and taught accurately the things concerning Jesus, although he knew only the baptism of John. He began to speak boldly in the synagogue. But when Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they took him aside, and explained to him the way of God more accurately.

Acts 18:24-26, WEB

Here, both Priscilla and Aquilia explained the way of God. She was teaching alongside her husband. In his letters, Paul sends greetings to them both and describes them as his “fellow workers” (Rom. 16:3-4; 1 Co. 16:19-20; 2 Tim. 4:19). Not once does he tell Priscilla to stay silent or stop teaching and let her husband do all the talking. That’s particularly worth noting because sometimes people will argue that Paul’s instruction for women to be silent applies only to wives (the Greek word could be translated either way), but both Priscilla and Huldah were married when they acted as teacher and prophetess. The more evidence we look at, the clearer it becomes that silence for women is situational (e.g. they shouldn’t disrupt church services, and typically don’t hold public/authority roles in the church).

Thoughts for Further Study

There are so many more examples we could look at. We could go to Exodus 15 where Moses’s sister Miriam is called a prophetess. We could turn to Judges 4-5 and read about Deborah the prophetess, a judge and leader of Israel. We can read in 1 Samuel 25 of how Abigail’s words and actions turned King David away from vengeance. Or we could travel in the New Testament to Luke 2 where Anna the prophetess proclaims Jesus to those looking for redemption. Then we could go to Acts and read about Philip’s four daughters who prophesied. We can also look at the end of Paul’s letter to the Romans and see how many women he mentions helping forward the gospel including Junia, who is “notable among the apostles,” and Phoebe who is “a servant of the church in Cenchrea” (the word translated “servant” is the same as the one translated “deacon” in 1 Tim. 3).

One of the things I appreciated about both Sor Juana’s and Margaret Fell’s writings is that they were careful about how they used scripture. Rather than saying Paul was wrong or that his words could be dismissed as outdated, they argued from scriptures that Paul’s letters were misinterpreted. That misinterpretation led to hundreds of years of women needing to fight for the roles in modern churches which God already gave us in His Bible. Thankfully, women are far more fully involved churches today than they were several centuries ago. Even so, I still occasionally hear things like, “Is it okay for you to have a blog where you’re teaching? Women shouldn’t do that, you know.”

There are ways that God has different roles for men and women to play (see, for example, Paul’s words on how marriage pictures Christ and the church). This includes some differences in how they serve in the church. Women in the Old Testament didn’t serve as priests in the temple, but they did serve as prophetesses and they continued that role into the New Testament. And while we don’t see women spoken of as pastors or church leaders in the New Testament, they are clearly serving in the congregations and sharing the gospel. It makes sense that there’d be plenty of areas where our serving roles overlap. We’re all children of God and we’re all one in Christ Jesus (Gal. 3:26-28). God pours out His spirit on all of us alike, and gives us gifts and roles to serve and build up the church congregations (Acts 2:17; 1 Cor. 12).

Women have always been closely involved in God’s church and in His plan. They prayed, taught, sang, preached, and followed Jesus. In His time here on earth, He interacted with women as equals in a way that shocked His disciples (John 4:27). He included women in the gospel and pointed out that their actions should be recorded (Mark 14:3-9, for example). Women traveled with Him during His ministry, and they’re the ones He appeared to first after His resurrection and entrusted with taking the news to His disciples (click here to read that account across gospels). In Acts, women and men both received the gospel, got baptized, and endured persecutions together (Acts 5:14; 8:3, 12; 9:1-2; 17:4, 12). God even uses feminine imagery for the church as a whole, calling it calling it a Bride fully involved in serving alongside her Bridegroom, Jesus Christ. He doesn’t have a problem with women being fully involved in His church; He thinks it’s a good thing.

Featured image by Ben White from Lightstock

What Potential Does God See In You?

We know God’s mind works differently than human minds do. He knows more fully, sees the big picture, and understands motives in a way that we can’t. His thoughts aren’t like our thoughts nor His ways like our ways (Is. 55:8). This means that when He looks at human beings, He often sees something different than others see, or even something different than the person sees about themselves.

Yahweh, you have searched me,
and you know me.
You know my sitting down and my rising up.
You perceive my thoughts from afar.
You search out my path and my lying down,
and are acquainted with all my ways.
For there is not a word on my tongue,
but, behold, Yahweh, you know it altogether.

Psalm 139:1-4, WEB

There’s a comfort as well as a nervousness that can go along with being known this well. We may long for someone to really know the truest version of us, but the idea of being fully seen can also be frightening. It’s reassuring, then, to look at what God shares in His word about how He sees the people He works with. In many cases, He has a higher opinion of us than others do and a greater belief in our potential than we do ourselves.

Gideon

In the book of Judges we see a pattern emerge in Israel’s history. After the death of Joshua, the people would rebel against God, God would punish them using their enemies, they’d turn back to God, and He’d raise up a judge to deliver them and guide them back toward righteousness. This went on for many years. At one point, “The children of Israel did that which was evil in Yahweh’s sight, so Yahweh delivered them into the hand of Midian seven years” (Judges 6:1, WEB). When they cried out to God for help, God called Gideon as the next judge.

Yahweh’s angel came and sat under the oak which was in Ophrah, that belonged to Joash the Abiezrite. His son Gideon was beating out wheat in the wine press, to hide it from the Midianites. Yahweh’s angel appeared to him, and said to him, “Yahweh is with you, you mighty man of valor!”

Judges 6:11-12, WEB

Gideon is hiding in a winepress trying to thresh wheat when the angel shows up with this greeting. Then a little later, when Yahweh tells Gideon to tear down the altar to Baal that Gideon’s father had created, Gideon “did as Yahweh had spoken to him. Because he feared his father’s household and the men of the city, he could not do it by day, but he did it by night” (Jug. 6:27, WEB). Again, he hid what he was doing because he was afraid. Gideon is also the one who famously asked Yahweh for a sign twice before he could muster the courage to go and do as Yahweh commanded in order to drive out the Midianites (Jug. 6:36-40).

That doesn’t sound much like a “mighty man of valor” to us. It sounds like someone with low self-confidence and a lot of fears and worries to overcome. But God saw something different, and He used Gideon in mighty ways (Judges 6-7). Gideon’s fear, second-guessing, and his statement that “my family is the poorest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my father’s house” (Jug. 6:15) didn’t stop God from doing something mighty with him.

David

King David is the most well-known example of God looking past the outward appearance. In this story, God sent Samuel to Jesse’s house with instructions to anoint one of his sons as the next king of Israel. When Samuel sees the first son he’s so impressed he says, “Surely Yahweh’s anointed is before him.” God has a different perspective (1 Samuel 16).

But Yahweh said to Samuel, “Don’t look on his face, or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him; for I don’t see as man sees. For man looks at the outward appearance, but Yahweh looks at the heart.”

1 Samuel 16:7, WEB

They go through seven sons before finally running out of the ones that are close at hand. Brining in David is an afterthought; he’s just the youngest boy, out tending the sheep. He wasn’t important enough for his dad to call him to the sacrifice earlier in this narrative and he certainly wasn’t one of the options for being the next king of Israel. God turns that expectation up-side-down. David becomes the greatest king of Israel. God even calls him “a man after my heart” (Acts 13:22, WEB). Once again, God sees potential for greatness in someone others overlooked.

Hannah

At the beginning of 1 Samuel we’re introduced to Hannah. She was one of two wives of an Ephramite named Elkanah. Her husband loved her, but she had no children and the other wife teased her mercilessly for it, especially when her family went to Shiloh to worship at Yahweh’s temple. One year, grieving Hannah goes off alone to beg Yahweh for a son. She was “in bitterness of soul, and prayed to Yahweh, weeping bitterly.”

Now Eli the priest was sitting on his seat by the doorpost of Yahweh’s temple. … As she continued praying before Yahweh, Eli saw her mouth. Now Hannah spoke in her heart. Only her lips moved, but her voice was not heard. Therefore Eli thought she was drunk. Eli said to her, “How long will you be drunk? Get rid of your wine!”

1 Sam. 1:9, 12-14 WEB

The priest thought she was drunk and accused her without knowing all the facts. Eli softened toward her when he heard her story, but God already saw her heart and heard the prayer she spoke in His temple. The next time “Elkanah knew Hannah his wife,” we’re told “Yahweh remembered her. When the time had come, Hannah conceived, and bore a son; and she named him Samuel” (1 Sam. 1:19-20, WEB). It’s not just the kings and great leaders that God sees with compassion and clarity. It’s also those longing for specific blessings and desiring good things in line with His will.

Moses

Moses grew up as a prince of Egypt, then fled after murdering an Egyptian. He spent 40 years as a shepherd before God showed up in the burning bush and told Moses that he’d be the one God used to deliver Egypt (Exodus 3-4). Moses was understandably shocked by this.

Moses said to God, “Who am I, that I should go to Pharaoh, and that I should bring the children of Israel out of Egypt?” …

Moses answered, “But, behold, they will not believe me, nor listen to my voice; for they will say, ‘Yahweh has not appeared to you.’” …

Moses said to Yahweh, “O Lord, I am not eloquent, neither before now, nor since you have spoken to your servant; for I am slow of speech, and of a slow tongue.” …

Moses said, “Oh, Lord, please send someone else.”

Exodus 3: 11; 4: 1, 10, 13

Moses saw himself as unable to speak, utterly unqualified, and unwilling to do something so dangerous and so great. God had an answer for each of these protests, promising Moses could do what needed to be done because God would be there providing guidance and power. They finally reach a sort of compromise, with God letting Moses’s bother Aaron act as spokesman. Despite this rocky start, God helped Moses live up to the potential He saw in him. Moses even became one of God’s closest friends (Ex. 33:11; Num. 12:6-8).

What About Us?

Those are just four of many examples in the Bible of God seeing something in people that no one else did. Gideon was hiding and uncertain, David was overlooked by his family, Hannah was misinterpreted and rebuked by a priest, and Moses was convinced he couldn’t do the things God called him to do. But God looked at those situations and saw great potential for valor, kingship, motherhood, and leadership.

“For I know the thoughts that I think toward you,” says Yahweh, “thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you hope and a future.”

Jeremiah 29:11, WEB

I’ve written before about how God defines our identities in Him. God sees you as someone worth dying for (Rom. 5:8). He says you belong to Him (1 Cor. 6:19-21). He sees you as salt and light in this earth (Matt. 5:13-14). He says you are called, holy, and chosen (1 Pet. 2:9). You are friends and siblings of Jesus Christ (John 15:14, Rom. 8:16-17). You are greatly loved and highly valued by both the Father and the Son (John 3:16; 15:13-14). We’re precious to God and He sees a glorious future for us where we’re part of His family, partaking in His divine nature. In Him, we can be courageous overcomers, recipients of abundant blessings, and eventually kings and priests in His kingdom (1 Pet. 2:9; Rev. 5:7-10). That’s the potential God sees in each of us.

Featured image by Manfred Richter from Pixabay

Song Recommendation: “You Say” by Lauren Daigle

Personality Type Myth-Busting: What’s The Rarest Personality Type?

Note: before you read this post, you should know that it quotes outdated information about type distributions. Currently, ENTJs are the rarest type in the population. I may rewrite/update this post at some point in the future, but for now you can read more about current type distributions at this link: “How Rare Is Your Myers-Briggs® Personality Type?”

As an INFJ, I often see people talking about how it’s the rarest personality type. According to every type distribution I’ve seen this statement is true. However, I’ve also seen quite a few INFJs treat this rarity as if there’s a huge gap between how rare we are compared to the other personality types. Some also treat this rarity as meaning that we INFJs are so rare no one else can relate to us and/or that it makes us extra special.

While INFJs are the rarest type overall, there are other types that are almost as rare. And when we break type distributions down by gender, INFJ is not the rarest type among women (though it is among men). You can see the Estimated Frequencies of the Types in the United States Population in this chart:

Personality Type Myth-Busting: What's The Rarest Personality Type? | LikeAnAnchor.com

Relative Rarity For Each Type

As you can see from the type distribution chart at the start of this post, most of the Intuitive types each make up less than 5% of the population. The estimates from Center of Application for Psychological Type cover a pretty broad range, though. The Myers-Briggs® Foundation offers more specific estimates in addition to the ranges. These percentages pin-point INFJ at 1.5%, ENTJ 1.8%, INTJ at 2.1%, and ENFJ at 2.5%. They’re all pretty rare. Read more

Lust, Murder, and Deception from Shakespeare to Today

I know this blog isn’t really about literature and reading, but I just finished two Shakespeare plays that I can’t resist writing about. I hope some of you will find this an interesting digression from our usual topics of Christianity, Myers-Briggs, and personal growth. And if not, don’t worry — I’ll get back to my more usual type of posts this weekend.

Four and a half years ago, I committed to reading 50 Classics in 5 years. You’d think someone who read 74 books just last year wouldn’t have any trouble doing that, but I let other books distract me too much and I have some catching-up to do before August 18 arrives. Today’s article is about two of the four Shakespeare plays on my classics club list (click here to read my thoughts on the other two).

These last two plays are The Tragedy of Othello, the Moor of Venice and Measure for Measure. On the surface they’re very different stories, but I was surprised to find they touch on the same core themes. Lust, murder, and deception lie at the center of both plays, and these topics are handled in a way that puts me in mind of things happening today in our modern society.

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Elizabeth Gaskell’s Strong Female Characters

I’m fascinated by female characters who find ways to live life on their own terms within their culture’s ideas of femininity. Many of my favorite “strong female characters” from Classic literature (like those in Jane Austen, Charlotte Bronte, Francess Burney, and Elizabeth Gaskell’s books ) already have a sense of their own worth and, while they may push against certain confining ideas on appropriate female behavior, they don’t hate their own femininity or attack other women for being feminine. When they fight for their rights, they do it as women who are inherently equal to men — not as women trying to be men.

My two latest books for The Classics Club list are both written by Elizabeth Gaskell. North and South is a re-read for me and Cranford was a new one. I decided to blog about these two books together so I wouldn’t be devoting quite so many articles here to book reviews. I’d expected them to have enough similar themes that this would be easy to do (similar to blogging about Cooper’s sea tales together). But I was pleasantly (if somewhat inconveniently) surprised to find out that the two books are very different. Gaskell is a much more versatile writer than I’d been giving her credit for in my mind.

Characters Who Need Each Other

The contrast is immediately apparent. North and South (1855) opens with a wedding while Cranford (1853) opens with the line, “In the first place, Cranford is in possession of the Amazons; all the holders of houses, above a certain rent, are women.” Men are extremely rare and viewed with much suspicion in Cranford, but in the world of North and South most of the action is driven by or centers around men. One might say Cranford is defined by the absence of men and North and South by the actions of men.

That wouldn’t quite be fair to the women of these books, though. Both stories are filled with what I would call strong female characters. They don’t punch things, shoot stuff, or walk around talking about how empowered they are while wearing sexy clothes. But I would submit to you they’re actually better-written and even “stronger” than the female characters who run around modern films insisting they don’t need anyone’s help. Gaskell’s characters model a connected community of both men and women who are stronger together. Read more