I'm sure you've seen the "Strong Woman" meme. There are hundreds out there.
These are just three that I picked at random. The thought of writing this today came up because I heard a young man on a reality TV show talk about the two "strong women" who raised him.
What is a strong woman? Is it a woman who has opinions? A woman who says what she thinks? An extrovert? It is someone who has been through something difficult?
According to the "Strong Woman" memes, a strong woman can be anyone who manages to get dressed in the morning to a woman who escapes human trafficking.
I have two problems with the "Strong Woman" meme. First of all, we don't know who this strong woman is. She could be anyone. We are so quick to use the word "strong" to encourage anyone who is facing anything that the word has lost it's meaning.
People tell me I'm strong because of my chronic migraine. I don't know what that means. Am I strong because I haven't killed myself yet? Am I strong because I have a sense of humor about it sometimes? The word strong here is meaningless. I exist with chronic illness simply by continuing to eat, breathe, and sleep.
On the other end of the spectrum are the women for whom "strong" is simply not an adequate word. These are the women who keep their families together while escaping their war-torn homelands or women who face horrific situations, like violence or sexual slavery, and come through it with grace and confidence. These women are beyond strong.
The second reason I have a problem with the "Strong Women" meme is because it does not leave room for Jesus. In the "Strong Woman" meme, a woman is strong because she works hard, does what she needs to, and makes her own way, without a man and without God.
Yet, the New Testament tells us that our day to day strength comes from God. In 2 Corinthians 12:7-10, Paul tells us that God sent him a "thorn in his flesh" which kept him from becoming proud of his own accomplishments. "But he said to me, “My grace is enough for you. When you are weak, my power is made perfect in you.” So I am very happy to brag about my weaknesses. Then Christ’s power can live in me. For this reason I am happy when I have weaknesses, insults, hard times, sufferings, and all kinds of troubles for Christ. Because when I am weak, then I am truly strong." (2 Corinthians 12:9-10)
When I am walking with Jesus, I'm not worried about whether I'm a "Strong Woman". My weaknesses are things God can use to make me strong for Him. My strength comes through faith and with God's grace.
So, the next time that you see one of these "Strong Women" memes, remember that God's strength comes from his working through your weakness, not from you trying to work hard enough to be enough for some mysterious "strength" that has become meaningless anyway. Walk with Jesus. That's plenty enough.