Our culture is moving faster than ever before. News flies at us in real time. Kids start academic study earlier than any previous decade. Technology has flung forward in the digital/mobile age. It’s mind-boggling, head-spinning stuff. The mix of information, cultural ideals, comparison, and distraction can make modern Christian women feel crushed under the pressure to do it all.
The endless choices and the weight of responsibility make for a heavy burden to bear. It’s no wonder women are facing record high levels of anxiety, depression, and general dissatisfaction.
Adding (But Rarely Subtracting)
There may never have been an age in which womanhood was simple, but we can look back in history and see points in time when expectations were more clearly defined. Let’s take the 1950s. For better or for worse, history tells us that there was a culturally accepted role for the prototypical woman. She was expected to get married, keep her home tidy and clean, and work hard to provide a beautiful life for her husband and kids.
Fast forward to 2016 and here’s what we find: By and large women, still bear the brunt of domestic expectations. They’re still expected to build a vibrant home life and give of themselves to their surrounding community. But when we look closer, we can see a few additions that have been made to the cultural expectations.
A 1950s housewife may or may not have been educated, but many women today feel lacking or insecure if they move to the next life stage without a college or post-collegiate education. A modern woman still feels that age-old pressure to settle down and build a family, but she also probably feels the burden to put her expensive education to good use and make something of herself career-wise.
The modern Christian woman, if we’re honest, feels the pressure to do all those things the ideal 1950s woman did, but she feels the pressure to do it with a Pinterest-perfect house; creative hobbies; a tight and fit body; a slew of friends that she cares for and loves well; a vibrant and exciting marriage; some kind of side business that blesses her family; ministry to the lost and to the found in her community; and an all-natural, Happy-Meal-free, gluten-free, fat-free meal plan.
Rather than allowing ourselves to be crushed under such unrealistic expectations, as women of God, we must to look to our Father, with our hands open, ask him what he’d have us do. We must ask him what he wants us to add, and, by his grace, what he’s asking us to subtract.
War stories flicker across television sets. Murder-suicides top headlines every single day of the week. WebMD lists the symptoms and prognosis for all that ails us. We can Google how to build a house, start a nonprofit, can our own tomatoes, or take up photography. In 2010, then-Google CEO Eric Schmidt said that more information is created every 2 hours than had ever been created from the beginning of time through 2003!
Today we have access to a viscerally immense amount of data, but our brains haven’t grown to be able to process it any faster or more correctly. This kind of information exposes us to more ills we feel responsible to rectify, more possible jobs we might love, more mates we might find compatible, and more worries and fears than ever before. It’s no wonder women are feeling overwhelmed by life’s possibilities and underwhelmed with what they find in their everyday reality.
When we see everything that’s out there in the world, it can be easy to forget that everything has a season. Every person has different giftings and callings. We can trust that God will sift through the unending stream information and help us make sense of our lives. We just have to follow him and do the next right thing.
Peering into Each Other’s Living Rooms
This is where social media tends to get a bad reputation, right? If we couldn’t see what other women were doing, then we wouldn’t be distracted or struggle with comparison. We wouldn’t get tripped up and want to keep adding things on, if we weren’t constantly bombarded by the works and good graces in other people’s lives.
But there is a more freeing option that doesn’t leave us with our heads buried in the sand. What if we looked at what God has added and subtracted from the lives of our sisters and then praised him for it? What if we cheered them on and blessed them in their individual endeavors? What if we thanked him for their growth and the fruit in their lives?
When our hearts are busy praising, they don’t have time to struggle with conceit or comparison. We not only act out the wild and free intimacy with God he desires for us, but we also enter into wild and free relationship with one another when we cheer them on and run our own race.
Deafened by Distraction
Even for the non-Luddites among us, it’s impossible to deny that people today are more distracted than when we were growing up. Or maybe we’re simply distracted differently. We have our own personal brand of distraction available at a moment’s notice. There are times when it can become difficult to connect with others because the distraction becomes so magnetically desirable. After a long day, flip on Netflix. While you’re waiting in the carpool line, flip through Instagram. These two examples barely scratch the surface.
When we’re so distracted, it can become difficult to recognize the sound of the Lord who tells us his burden is light. We can become so used to seeking out noise that we can no longer discern or desire to hear that still, small voice. However, even taking intentional time each day or week to find wide open time, we can learn to listen again. Our Father is not hiding himself from us, we just need to tune our ears to his voice again!
There Is so Much Hope
You may feel crushed by the pressure to do it all. But hear this: In the name of Jesus, nothing is hopeless. We are here in this time and space for a reason. We were made to inhabit this particular time, and it does not surprise God that we find ourselves in a noisy pressure-cooker.
Ephesians 2:10 says that God has already planned our good works and we only need to walk with him. He is not caught off guard by our gifts nor our sin! His hand is still firmly on the wheel, and he’ll help us overcome the distractions and the disappointments if we ask.
We weren’t made to live a life dulled by the world and its pressures. He made us in his image, and we were made for his glory! He’s looking to shine brightly through us, and we can rest in the work he’s done and is doing in our lives.
Jess Connolly and Hayley Morgan are cofounders of the Influence Network. Jess is also the founder of the Naptime Diaries print shop. Hayley and her husband run Wildly Co., an ethical children’s clothing line. Jess and Hayley are the authors of Wild and Free: A Hope-Filled Anthem for the Woman Who Feels She is Both Too Much and Never Enough (Zondervan, 2016). Connect with Jess and Hayley at JessConnolly.com and HayleyEMorgan.com.