Book Review: The 7 Hardest Things God Asks a Woman to Do

Image of The 7 Hardest Things God Asks a Woman to Do
by Kathie Reimer, Lisa Whittle
Shepherd Press 2007
Paperback 190

I am currently leading a group of ladies in a study on consecration, using Havergal’s Kept for the Master’s Use (a verse by verse discussion of her hymn, “Take My Life and Let It Be”). The chapter we are now perusing has to do with the line, “Take my will and make it thine—it shall be no longer mine.” That, in essence, is the theme of this book. Though the idea of self denial is not one that has women alone in the Scripture’s crosshairs, Kathie Reimer and her daughter, Lisa Whittle, discuss from a feminine viewpoint seven seeming paradoxes in the Word of God:

  • Have a single focus, yet multi-task
  • Be tolerant toward some things, yet intolerant toward others
  • Fail, and simultaneously succeed
  • Proceed, while also waiting
  • Hold on and, in turn, let go
  • Lead, and still follow
  • Die, and consequently, live more abundantly

An apt sub-title for this book would be, What It Looks Like for Christian Women to Deny Self

Strengths

The chapters themselves are not deep in scriptural discussion for the most part, although Kathie (my favorite of the two authors) tends to offer more to chew on. Most of the book consists in offering what Kathie calls “snapshots” (ch. 7) of how dethroning self will appear in the life of the woman desiring to follow Christ.

If you are looking for sermon illustrations on the topic, this book is chock full of them. There are also some pithy one-liners such as, “Faith is confidence that something or someone is reliable” (p. 157); “The journey to the end of ourselves is a great and necessary place for all of us to go” (p. 78); “Your tongue, when unregulated, is a natural disaster” (p. 52); and “The one last human freedom that remains available to a man, after everything else has been stripped from him is his ability to choose the way he will react to his circumstances” (here quoting Dr. Viktor Frankl, p. 29).

I liked Lisa’s take on submission in Chapter 6 (“Lead and Follow”):

For many of us wives, our view of being submissive to our husbands tends to be somewhat skewed. We look at it as intrusive, controlling, humiliating; but it is not. Submission requires strength, not weakness. It takes courage. It requires a strong belief and trust that God knew what he was doing when he established this ‘chain of command’ back in the days of Adam and Eve. (p. 155)

I was pleased that each chapter offers a substantial list of Scriptures for further study, along with application questions. My inclination would have been to spend more time discussing these verses, rather than offering so many personal sketches for observation.

The final chapter (“Die and Live”) is, appropriately, the most lengthy. I feel it would also have been effective to place it first. The question of dying to self and living unto God really provides the tools for success in the other six contrasting areas.

I enjoyed Kathie’s application of each of the preceding “hard things” and how they come into play with regard to what some often see as the hardest thing—sharing our faith. Readers will find good scriptural discussion from the Gospels there.

Weaknesses

One thing I found objectionable was a repeated setting up by both authors of Mother Teresa as an example. Yes, she led a sacrificial life, but for what purpose? With what ultimate motivation? Where is she now? Are there not good, solid, evangelical heroes of the faith to choose from without looking to the Roman Catholic Church? Someone else who worked selflessly in Mother Teresa’s native India comes to mind: missionary Amy Carmichael.

Various translations (NKJV, KJV, NIV, NASB, NLT) are used in the book. Discussions of particular Scriptures that were weak at times, or absent altogether. For instance, in explaining Colossians 3:2 in Chapter 1, Kathie states that setting your affections on things above means “to fall deeply in love with Jesus”—an expression that is not only inaccurate in this case, but which also uses a sentimentality that makes me squirm. She further refers to Jesus as “our loving, heavenly parent.” Parent? These references are both in the first chapter, which made me wonder if I was to slog through this type of thing throughout the whole book. Later on, Kathie posits of Psalm 55:22,

To all of us Jesus says, “Cast your burdens and cares upon me—and I will sustain you”—a promise from the one who cannot lie. To “cast” means we have to let go [I understand this to be correctly translated “to throw or fling”, which has a very different dynamic], and, like so many other verses in the Bible, this one is very likely a continuing action verb, not just a one-time-will-do-it word.” (p. 110, emphasis mine)

Jesus says? And, I wonder—is there a reason we are guessing about verb tenses? I understand this meaning could be implied, but she develops this idea of continued action even further, so would it not have been the better part of wisdom to find out for sure first? These “warm fuzzies” and “guesstimations” are what drive me away from this type of book and toward plain old study tools, time and time again.

I sensed a bit of incongruence between mother and daughter on the concept of self love/self hatred. Kathie tends to lay it out in Jim Berg-like fashion (low “self esteem” is rooted in covetous comparison and a selfish sense of entitlement), while Lisa addresses self-hatred as being a viable something that springs from self love (p. 55). It came across as sort of a psycho-babble/biblical counseling hybrid. I have perceived from various books and biblical counseling materials that self-loathing is not hatred at all, but rather a morbidly ironic manifestation of loving one’s self exceedingly. “I want________ to change; I don’t have ________; I’ll never be ____________” all seem to be at the root. This is self absorption masquerading in martyr’s clothes, a self-deception the Adversary relishes, no doubt. I’m with Kathie on this one.

Toward the end of the book, there is an interesting illustration regarding da Vinci’s “Last Supper.”

He asked a friend for an evaluation. The friend heaped superlatives on the masterpiece and especially praised the wine cup by the Lord’s hand. At that point, Leonardo da Vinci blotted out the cup. “Nothing,” he was said to have answered, “should distract one’s attention from the Lord.” (p 149)

This was my own personal paradox while reading this book—experiencing a draw toward spiritual ideas while often feeling distracted away from the Scriptures by creative analogies and entertaining or touching stories. Analogy and illustrations have their place, without a doubt, but I was disappointed that the greater portion of the book was typified by this, rather than deliberate inviting of the reader into a prevailing, deeper understanding of what Scripture says. I think I’ll stick to my friends, the dead guys.


Diane Heeney is a stay-at-home mom, who enjoys some freelance writing, blogging, and speaking for ladies’ retreats and functions. She received her BA (Church Ministries) in ‘85 grad from Bob Jones University and went on to serve at BJU as a secretary in the Extension office and later as Director of Girl’s Extension Ministries. Diane and her husband Patrick have helped a number of churches in the past 16 years, and are now assisting the ministry of a growing church in Lander, Wyoming. They have three children: Erin (breathlessly awaiting 13), Michael (all camo, all the time at 9), and Kate (their sweet surprise, now 3 yrs old).

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There are 52 Comments

B Thomas's picture

You've brought up all the sappy (and more) little take-homes and illustrations I thought I had purged from my memory. :Sp

Ugh, I've simply stopped going to such things lest I lose my salad and scone and thus soil the "cute" table decorations. I feel like the old lady in those bygone Wendy's commercials and want to yell out "Where's the beef?" I'd like some "real" food both physically and spiritually speaking.

Although, I must say that there are some women who know how to have a Bible study. There's a lady at my church who teaches a Bible study one morning a week. I think she's around 80 years old, but looks and acts younger than me. Anyway, there are no treats, decorations, music, etc. just prayer and the study of the Word -- and hardly anyone attends. There's better attendance at the weekly evening "Bible" study sponsored by the younger ladies which comes complete with music, food, and study around whatever video or ladies' book happens to be currently popular. The best attendance is at the weekly MOPS meeting where you get lunch, discussions about how to feel good as a mommy, and crafts while your kids are in a completely different part of the building for the whole two hours. Instead of attending that meeting, I opted for the one with only prayer and Bible study and I took my 4-year old with me. And, the older ladies welcomed me and my preschooler.

Diane Heeney's picture

B Thomas wrote:
Anyway, there are no treats, decorations, music, etc. just prayer and the study of the Word -- and hardly anyone attends. ..

I'm not 80 (though sometimes I feel it Smile )...but this is our experience as well. By design, I never invited a mentality that there needed to be any refreshments at all (we do have an occasional mug of coffee, without fanfare) at our Bible study. We pray, we discuss, we study. We have a small handful of ladies, but we always have a tremendous time, wonderful fellowship and loads of fun.

I wonder...is the compulsion toward all the "extras" (tea parties and petits fours, favors, trinkets and foofies) the ladies version of what we notice with children in this generation...needing all sorts of bells and whistles in order to make education "fun" and palatable? (I just read the Lamb's Shakespeare version of the Merchant of Venice to my kids last week (no pictures, just narrative), and they loved it.)

There's perhaps something in this equation that is being missed?

"I pray to God this day to make me an extraordinary Christian." --Whitefield http://strengthfortoday.wordpress.com

B Thomas's picture

Diane,

Glad you enjoy a mug of coffee with your study; I'm partial to tea or Coca-Cola myself -- maybe that's why I feel older than I am. At any rate, I'm sure it isn't the coffee that is the draw to get ladies to come to your study and to keep them coming back.

I think what you say about all the "extras" applies to a discussion I read (not sure which thread it was on) about sermon illustrations as well. The more extras you have or the more stories or jokes, etc. seems to indicate there is little substance to the sermon or study itself.

The books that I find to have the most substance, for myself, are hard-cover with no picture or words on the front -- just the title on the spine.

When I tell my kids a Bible story, I make them sit and look at me and I often read straight from the Bible. No pictures, flannelgraph, or silly songs. And, they remember the story when I ask them questions even a week later.

Susan R's picture

EditorModerator

I often ask myself "Why" I enjoyed a particular message or book- was it content, delivery, or a mix of the two? I think it best when it's both, but if I had to choose, I'd take content over presentation.

The compulsion towards 'extras' is pervasive- I know it has always been a part of human nature, but it seems that there is an unabashed pursuit of one-upmanship that affects everything from providing a meal for company to birthday parties and baby showers. If someone describes a ladies meeting as 'wonderful' because the food was great and the ladies were nice and the decorations were so creative, then we're off track.

Anne Sokol's picture

as a missionary in a grey 2-world country, i like froofy stuff. I like it when someone thinks about me down to pretty details, and I can enjoy looking at pretty tables for a few moments. I also like when there's hot running water, toilets (and clean ones at that), and stuff like that Smile Froofy doesn't have to negate real food from the Bible either. It can makes ladies' heart more receptive.

part of it is human nature to like beautiful things, part of it is perhaps how women have been taught, that its' our "role" to have an eye for these things as homemakers.

B Thomas's picture

Sometimes what we think is beautiful is actually not, but that's a whole other discussion.

As far as using "froofy" things to attract, appeal, or persuade, I can't seem to get the James Montgomery Boice quote out of my head: "What you win them with is what you win them to."

Diane Heeney's picture

Anne: "I'd rather look ridiculous with everyone else than plain and sensible all by myself."

Marilla: "Trust you for that!"

She does prize that amethyst brooch though...and the rosebud tea set was saved for important company, so she may have had some latent foofiness.

Though I am not a frilly person, I am an expert on all things Anne. Smile

"I pray to God this day to make me an extraordinary Christian." --Whitefield http://strengthfortoday.wordpress.com

Diane Heeney's picture

Well, some of this is probably a build-up of discussion that has not been taking place in the ladies forums, truth be told. See, if we hang out there, you'd never know how scintillating our conversation can be. You never anticipated that there would be such lengthy discussion about a book that wasn't so hot, huh? Truly, you underestimate us. Wink And this doesn't even count the PM's!

"I pray to God this day to make me an extraordinary Christian." --Whitefield http://strengthfortoday.wordpress.com

Diane Heeney's picture

B Thomas wrote:
"What you win them with is what you win them to."

A worthwhile thought. In the homeschooling realm, I know I've surely seen this. If you begin with bells and whistles, cartoons, puppets and videos, prizes and stickers...and then the next year jump into "Rod and Staff" curriculum, you're in for a wake up call! Ask me how I know. Wink

"I pray to God this day to make me an extraordinary Christian." --Whitefield http://strengthfortoday.wordpress.com

Anne Sokol's picture

i really surprise myself that i am even writing about this. i am a book-freak so i like study and i hate the i-have-a-chance-to-tell-some-stories type of speakers.

but for example, when we have our small groups, I refuse to serve our tea in small plastic disposable cups. having a normal tea/coffee cup is a nice little luxury.

our pastor's wife does a lot of ladies conferences, and we do choose to stay in facilities that are relatively pretty, well-heated, have hot/cold running water, modern showers and toilets, nice food and nice tables and dishes . . . as opposed to our AWANA kids who stay in a place without electricity, barely heated, off/on hot water, mass showering facilities, cafeteria style eating . . .

what can i say? it does make me feel more relaxed and special when i stay in the first place rather than the second Biggrin And our pastor's wife is an excellent Bible teacher. My belabored point is that nice touches don't necessarily mean no substance. I guess that's all i'm trying to say . . .

anne? marilla? . . . charlie?

Susan R's picture

EditorModerator

Anne- I can only speak for myself, but I don't think we are talking about just having 'clean, comfortable, and pretty', we are talking about excesses. When I speak of foofies, I'm thinking about crystal candy dishes on every table filled with mints, shiny confetti sprinkled on all the tables, scented candles and dishes of potpourri strewn about, lacey and ruffled tablecloths... then add to that the food- fancy appetizers and rich desserts- basically alot of time, money, and effort spent to make the place look feminine and the event to feel very special. But what is the proportion of time and effort spent preparing the spiritual food? Oftentimes, not so much.

If I walk into a room that looks like the event has been planned by a team of Martha Stewarts, and the devotion is "A Recipe for Friendship" that was printed off the internet, with each ingredient representing a quality like sweetness (sugar), I'm going to want to throw a candy dish at someone.

Example of the typical ladies meetings I have personally attended:

Quote:

Pro 31:19 She layeth her hands to the spindle, and her hands hold the distaff.

This, dear ladies, means that she could sew. We should all be able to sew.

Pro 31:20 She stretcheth out her hand to the poor; yea, she reacheth forth her hands to the needy.

She helped poor people, and we need to help poor people too. We should all volunteer to help with the church's food pantry ministry.

Pro 31:21 She is not afraid of the snow for her household: for all her household are clothed with scarlet.

Her family is well-dressed. There's a sale on winter coats this week at Burlington Coat Factory. You can get a great deal.

Pro 31:22 She maketh herself coverings of tapestry; her clothing is silk and purple.

This verse means that is it OK for us to have pretty clothes. You should buy the best clothes that you can afford. You can earn extra money buy selling Mary Kay or Pampered Chef (see me or Mrs. Jones afterwards and we'll help you get started) so that you can buy some pretty things and look as virtuous as you feel.


I'm NOT KIDDING.

So- if there are any brave men who have ventured into this thread, I plead with you to check into the ladies ministries at your church and see exactly what is taking place there. Read the books your wife reads to see if what she is getting is good meat or vanilla milkshakes. Ask if you can read the notes she takes at the ladies Bible study or monthly fellowship. I double dog dare you. http://www.freesmileys.org/smileys.php ][img ]http://www.freesmileys.org/smileys/smiley-taunt013.gif[/img ]

And if this post sounds goofy, it's probably because I was up until 1am removing a nasty trojan from my son's computer, and I've only had one cup of coffee.

Diane Heeney's picture

I allow fifteen minutes or so at the beginning of our Bible study for visiting...that's where the sale at the Burlington coat factory and anybody's exploits with Mary Kay come up. When we begin the study, it's down to business. Our ladies know that. Our pastor knows that. He is so confident that we are doing something substantive that he will joke at times when he does a pass through our meeting room..."Still discussing curling irons, are we?" Smile He loves it that we want to study. I think Susan's admonition to husbands above is a good one.

Anne, I can certainly understand how having comfortable, attractive lodgings can serve to enhance the experience at a ladies function. To have rested well, because the room was sufficiently warm, and feel "together" because you had a hot shower rather than a cold one that jangled the nerves is valuable. A woman should not feel guilty because she relishes a beautiful tea set (I have a collection of tea cups and pots myself that have all had good use at various functions and many little girl tea parties). Balance. I am not campaigning for asceticism, but we all have to agree that we have a society bent headlong toward hedonism. It knows very little about denying self. How many times have you seen the words "decadent," "luxurious," and "lush" used in marketing things to women? This panders to the innate sense of entitlement in each of us.

I don't feel that pretty things are taboo. God would not have made such a breathtaking world if that were so. But, to my mind, this kinda goes along with the definition of true hospitality...is it about brocade draperies and fancy food? No. It is about people. If a woman's home is set up like a museum and the impression guests have when they depart is all about the "stuff," then I wonder if they have experienced hospitality?

My most profound experiences as a guest in someone's home have not been fraught with frills. As a matter of fact, sitting on a bare wood floor with no refreshments, just whiling the hours in great, godly conversation with a friend and her husband is one of my best memories.

As an author, I have to consider--when someone leaves my book (or blog in my case, at least for now Wink ), have I been hospitable to their soul? Or will they depart having been so distracted with extra amenities (stories, sappy poems, jokes, and shallow object lessons) that they did not have the opportunity to know me or my God more intimately? God forbid.

"I pray to God this day to make me an extraordinary Christian." --Whitefield http://strengthfortoday.wordpress.com

B Thomas's picture

Yes, I, too, am referring to "excesses" and applications that have nothing to do with the Biblical passage being hijacked.

I'm all for flushing toilets, working furnaces, A/C units with lots of BTUs, clean floors, real dishes and cups, and good food.

Anne Sokol's picture

Susan R wrote:
Example of the typical ladies meetings I have personally attended:
Quote:

Pro 31:19 She layeth her hands to the spindle, and her hands hold the distaff.

This, dear ladies, means that she could sew. We should all be able to sew.

Pro 31:20 She stretcheth out her hand to the poor; yea, she reacheth forth her hands to the needy.

She helped poor people, and we need to help poor people too. We should all volunteer to help with the church's food pantry ministry.

Pro 31:21 She is not afraid of the snow for her household: for all her household are clothed with scarlet.

Her family is well-dressed. There's a sale on winter coats this week at Burlington Coat Factory. You can get a great deal.

Pro 31:22 She maketh herself coverings of tapestry; her clothing is silk and purple.

This verse means that is it OK for us to have pretty clothes. You should buy the best clothes that you can afford. You can earn extra money buy selling Mary Kay or Pampered Chef (see me or Mrs. Jones afterwards and we'll help you get started) so that you can buy some pretty things and look as virtuous as you feel.


I'm NOT KIDDING.

Picked myself up off the floor, stopped choking on my coffee, and i think we're all agreed that froofy teaching is the crime . . .

I will have to post this somewhere; you should write church bulletin jokes!

Barbara H.'s picture

I appreciate Anne's thoughts about how nice amenities -- even a nicely set table -- can bless one's spirit. I do agree about excess and about shallowness. But I am concerned here that just because some niceties aren't one's cup of tea (pun intended. Wink ) the whole shebang is looked on with scorn or thought to be lightweight. If some people like that kind if thing, as long as it is in balance and the message itself is meaty, I don't see a problem. There is room for different tastes.

I remember in one of Isobel Kuhn's books - can't remember which one -- her refreshment of spirit in being around a group of ladies one furlough, not just spiritually. After being in a stark, barren (in some respects) ministry in the mountains of China, the beauty of their interactions and functions did much for her soul as well as the spiritual nourishment. Edith Schaeffer in The Art of Homemaking makes a good case that, kept in balance with ones time and resources, and keeping the spiritual first and foremost, being decorative around one's home is a reflection of the creativity and beauty we see that God displayed in creation. He could have made everything just to meet basic needs without also creating beauty in the world, but He did display beauty in creation as well. Again, balance is the key word. I know a few ladies get off balance one way or another.

We only do little table decorations, favors, door prizes, etc. at our annual ladies' meeting. but the guest speakers I invite are ones that I am sure are not going to have empty messages like the one Susan described.

At our regular monthly ladies' meeting, we do have a refreshment time which different ladies take turns providing. One month one lady who really does things like that up nicely put on quite a spread, and everyone enjoyed it, but I overheard one lady say, "How am I ever going to come up with anything after this?" So I began to reemphasize that refreshments should be simple. But some months later I wondered if I was stifling some people's creativity and expression, and I wondered why we can't just enjoy other people's gifts without comparing ourselves to them or thinking we have to compete.

We don't have regular Bible studies, but we might have one or two series a year, and some times people bring refreshments to those, sometimes not, depending on who is leading it. One year we had no refreshments during the weeks we met but had a simple potluck lunch on the last day.

In blogging, I look at my blog as kind of visiting over the fence with neighbors, and when I do so with real life neighbors, we don't preach each other sermons every time we meet. Sometimes the not-specifically-spiritual exchanges can draw people to one another in a way that then opens the door for a spiritual exchange that would not have taken place if every exchange was strictly "spiritual" exhortation. A former pastor and his wife had an open door with my unsaved father that began when, in meeting, they found out they were originally from little tiny towns near each other in TX. No one had ever heard of the town where he was from, and the fact that she was familiar with it was just one of those little things that God used to break down the barriers a little bit and open his heart to them, and later to the gospel.

I'm having to rush off here, but again, I do understand the need for balance and for substance, but everything with pink and lace and mints and such isn't in and of itself an indication of emptiness and frothiness. What's "feminine" versus "girly" is sometimes in the eye of the beholder.

Diane Heeney's picture

Well, I think we've all concluded that "balance"...whether in writing a book or in hostessing a ladies function...is of great importance. Smile Another interesting thing that popped into my mind this afternoon...I wonder how much our own particular gifts and talents affect our views on things like this? Susan and I both seem to be "exhorter" types...so are we more sensitive to these aspects perhaps than others with different strengths might be? Or maybe it is just personality and preference. Dunno. I do know I enjoy these iron sharpening discussions. It's like...

--A knife is an everyday tool, just like we are all instruments in God's hands.
--A knife must be sharp, just like we all must try and study to shew ourselves approved unto God.
--A knife cuts things, just like we fundamentalists must divide and separate from things unpleasing to God.
--A knife always has the blade facing inward in a table setting, just like each of us is supposed to be humble and not "cutting" in our personality.
--A knife is always next to the spoon, just like we all need each other in the body of Christ. I'm not sure who that lone fork is.
--A knife is great for eating peas, if you put some honey on it, just like we are always more useful when we have some added sweetness from the Word, which is sweeter than honey.

Anyway, I'm gonna take a shot at starting something over in the ladies forum...another book discussion I think we might all enjoy, and which does not employ the word "foofie" even once. Smile Not to say we have to end this one...it might be fun to make a marathon out of it, just to entertain Charlie. :bigsmile:

Wanna come join me http://sharperiron.org/forum/thread-book-wish-list-0 ]here ?

"I pray to God this day to make me an extraordinary Christian." --Whitefield http://strengthfortoday.wordpress.com

Charlie's picture

Just about everybody on this forum has things they're passionate about, currently interested in, been wondering about for a long time, etc. You just never know which threads are going to pluck those heartstrings (sentimental imagery for you, Susan) and bring out the posts. And when they do, you can never tell just how the discussion will proceed. For example, has anybody really discussed any of the 7 things? But that's ok. Opening posts "facilitate" conversation, right?

My Blog: http://dearreaderblog.com

Cor meum tibi offero Domine prompte et sincere. ~ John Calvin

Susan R's picture

EditorModerator

Bro. Sansone covered the 7 things- they are paradoxes not unique to women, although the way men and women deal with balancing them will be different. For the most part, I think the thread has been related to the discontent Diane felt with the book, because "experiencing a draw toward spiritual ideas while often feeling distracted away from the Scriptures by creative analogies and entertaining or touching stories" is something that happens quite often in books, messages, seminars, etc. The topic of doctrinal content in resources for women is something that has weighed heavily on my mind for a long time. Many ladies' groups use popular books as their 'curriculum', so I think it is important that we can be open in our assessment of these materials.

I do agree that you never know what is going to generate conversation around here. It's funny when someone tries to analyze why certain threads become popular and others don't- one can't make a judgment about about a forum because we don't know what people are thinking about, reading, experiencing in their lives... and sometimes we don't want to solve the world's moral and spiritual problems- we just want to chat with some like-minded people. http://www.freesmileys.org/smileys.php ][img ]http://www.freesmileys.org/smileys/smiley-talk024.gif[/img ]

Diane Heeney's picture

Ahem. I call your attention to post #20. Never mind that it took halfway through this discussion for it to come up... Wink Actually, we all took Susan's lead...it's all her fault. She's very influential. :bigsmile:

"I pray to God this day to make me an extraordinary Christian." --Whitefield http://strengthfortoday.wordpress.com

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