Have you ever thought about what your purpose is as a woman? Not in your personal role (wife, mother, aunt, sister, daughter, etc.) but as a woman in general. When God created woman, why did He create her and how does that relate to us today?
The answer to this question is in two places (Genesis 1:27-28 and 2:18-24), but the one I want to draw attention to in this post is the second. Here is what it says:
“Then the LORD God said, ‘It is not good for the man to be alone; I will make him a helper suitable for him.’ Out of the ground the LORD God formed every beast of the field and every bird of the sky, and brought them to the man to see what he would call them; and whatever the man called a living creature, that was its name. The man gave names to all the cattle, and to the birds of the sky, and to every beast of the field, but for Adam there was not found a helper suitable for him. So the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and he slept; then He took one of his ribs and closed up the flesh at that place. The LORD God fashioned into a woman the rib which He had taken from the man, and brought her to the man. The man said, ‘This is now bone of my bones, And flesh of my flesh; She shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.’ For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother, and be joined to his wife; and they shall become one flesh.”
The emphasis in this passage is on finding a “suitable helper” for Adam which is clearly one of the reasons God created woman. What does that phrase bring to your mind?
Those are the nicer, Biblical answers to the question. But honestly, I’ll confess that I usually included things like:
Yard care worker
But when you are a single woman (which is what I was for most of my life) who is childless (which is what I expect to be for the rest of my life), you can’t fulfill the first three roles on the list. And the roles that follow don’t seem very purposeful, especially when you are just doing them for yourself. When you think about it, it’s really hard to believe that that is all that God meant as “suitable helper”, especially if no woman is a wife and mother for her entire life. ALL of us need to know that we have purpose for our entire lives regardless of our season.
So when I read When Life and Beliefs Collide by Carolyn Custis James and learned what “helper” really means, it was incredibly encouraging! Suddenly I was included in “suitable helper” even though I had no husband.
In Chapter 9 of the book, James describes her insights when she really began to study the word for “helper”. She already knew that the word (“ezer” in Hebrew) was used twenty-one times in the Bible and that most of those times it was used to describe God.* Only twice is it used for woman.
But when she went and looked at all of the references and included the times the verb form of the word is used, she was overwhelmed by the fact that “there is an overwhelming military connotation.” (pg 186) After all of her research, she concluded that God created women to be a strong helper and a valiant warrior. Suddenly, this word gives us all – no matter what stage of life we are in – great purpose!
The men in our lives need us to be “valiant warriors” because life certainly isn’t easy. From the time the serpent approached Eve, life has been a battle. Men need us to come alongside of them and help and encourage them when the fight is difficult. Of course, husbands need us in this way. They need us to be strong beside them in the storms of life, reminding them of who God is and of His promises, and not giving up. But other men in our lives need us to be strong warriors, too, even though it may look different than it does with husbands. For example, my male co-workers needed me to be a strong warrior when our ministry was being rocked by an unexpected crisis. My dad needed me to be a strong warrior with him in the hospital as I fought for good care for him all night long. I’m sure you can think of your own examples.
I love how Carolyn James addresses my original concept of what “suitable helper” meant:
“Strangely enough, Adam didn’t need someone to do most of the tasks we usually associate with the role of the helper. His physical needs were abundantly met in the shelter and bounty of Eden. A wide variety of food was readily accessible in Eden, his well-stocked pantry. There were no menus to plan, groceries to buy, or meals to prepare. There was no house to decorate or clean, no table to set or children to nurture. There were no socks to pick up, not a stitch of laundry. What is more, the first sewing project was a joint effort. Adam didn’t wait behind a bush for Eve to sew fig leaves together for him. He did his own sewing. Hard to imagine that God would announce with fanfare a helper who would do things the man could just have easily do for himself.” (pg 184-185)
So whether you are married or single, a mom or not – you are a “suitable helper” as a woman. God created you with great purpose. You are a warrior. May we all fight on and fight well!
*The other references using “ezer” are Exodus 18:4; Deuteronomy 33:7, 26, 29; Psalm 20:2; 33:20; 70:5; 89:19 (translated “strength” in the NIV); 115:9, 10, 11; 121:1, 2; 124:8; 146:5; and Hosea 13:9.