One by one, they took to the stage—a dazzling array of smart, fearless, accomplished women, each with a story to tell and a testimony to share. Authors, speakers, Bible teachers, entrepreneurs, CEOs, and more—these were extraordinary women making big waves for the Kingdom of God in their own unique and impactful way.
Yet as I live-streamed this inspiring conference from the comfort of my living room, something else was tugging at my heart. These women were wives and moms, just like me, but instead of feeling a kinship with them, I felt every inch of the miles between us—and not just the physical ones. From where I was sitting—surrounded by piles of laundry and unfinished Sunday night chores—the contrast was a little too jarring, and left me feeling discouraged, inconsequential, and more than a little bit ordinary.
The feeling was not a novel one. As a stay-at-home mom to a preschooler and a toddler, my day-to-day life teeters mostly on the edge of the unglamorous and the mundane, the majority of my time taken up with the daily demands of keeping everyone alive and maintaining some kind of order in my home. There is not a lot of room for anything else—especially not anything extraordinary.
Yet, I am thankful we serve a God who is in the business of ordinary. As Chip Ingrim writes, “God specializes in using ordinary people to do extraordinary things.”
Even moms who are three weeks behind in laundry and haven’t had the energy to change out of their sweatpants?
Yes, even them.
We need only look to God’s Word to see for ourselves—to meet the mothers whose stories are sprinkled throughout the pages of Scripture. Like the majority of us, they were ordinary mothers living ordinary lives—raising children, serving their husbands and families, and managing their households—except without the sweatpants.
Yet from their lips, prayers were uttered and answered. From their wombs came warriors, missionaries, teachers, and kings. They lived ordinary lives, but through them God built His kingdom on earth and delivered His ultimate story of redemption and rescue.
These women did not have the benefit of hindsight. They didn’t yet know how their day-to-day actions and decisions would shape the future of humanity. They didn’t know how all the pieces would fit together in God’s divine plan and how their lives would become a testimony to God’s extraordinary provision, purpose, and power.
Yet we do. And as we re-visit their stories, tracing their enduring legacies back to such humble beginnings, we realize how much these ordinary, extraordinary women have to teach us.
They Acknowledged the Sovereignty of God
These mothers of the Bible were born long before the existence of gender equality—their lives directed and controlled by their male relatives, their worth and reputation dictated by the fruits of their womb. Yet what so many of these women did have was faith in a Sovereign God, who had ultimate control over their lives and who could bring about change in their difficult circumstances, no matter how unlikely it seemed.
Hannah was one such example. Brokenhearted over her inability to have a child and facing cruel taunts from her husband’s second wife, Hannah turned to God—the only One who could bring about change and give her the blessing she so desperately sought.
“In her deep anguish Hannah prayed to the Lord” (1 Samuel 1:10, NIV). And she kept on praying, pouring her soul out so fervently that she was mistaken for being drunk on wine. “Lord Almighty,” she prayed: “If you will only look on your servant’s misery and remember me, and not forget your servant but give her a son, then I will give him to the Lord all the days of his life” (1 Samuel 1:11, NIV).
Hannah had no doubt of God’s sovereign power. When her circumstances seemed hopeless and despair set in, she chose to pour out her heart to the only One who had the power to change them.
And change them He did.
“…and the Lord remembered her. And in due time Hannah conceived and bore a son, and she called his name Samuel, for she said, ‘I have asked for him from the Lord.’” (1 Samuel 1:19b-20).
Hannah’s story is an extraordinary one. The same woman who knelt before the Lord in deep anguish and pain, finally received the blessing she had dreamed of in the form of Samuel—the Samuel—who would grow up to be a prophet of the Lord and play an instrumental role in the history of God’s people.
In the difficult seasons of life, we are called to be like Hannah—pouring our hearts out to the Lord as our first thought, instead of our last hope. Trusting that He is Sovereign over all, with the power to answer prayers and transform hearts and lives in the process, we are to look to Him for help.
“I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted” (Job 42:2).
Father God, help me to be a mom like Hannah—to acknowledge Your sovereignty over my life and turn to You first, trusting that You alone have the power to answer my prayers and change my circumstances for my good and Your ultimate glory. AMEN.
They Surrendered to His Will
Then, there was Mary—a young Galilean teenager with a divine assignment: to birth and raise the Messiah and Savior of the world.
Young and unmarried, from a small, unimportant town, she seemed an unlikely candidate. We might wonder why God would choose her for such a momentous task. Why not someone with means, with influence, with power?
Yet the Lord, who “sees not as man sees” (1 Samuel 16:7), looked at Mary and saw a humble, willing heart—a young woman who, like Hannah, not only recognized the sovereignty of God, but also surrendered to His will completely.
As the angel relayed the holy message, Mary’s response was resolute and clear: “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word” (Luke 1:38).
There were no ‘what ifs’ or ‘buts,’ no hesitations or negotiations—only full acceptance of the calling God had placed upon her life. And in that one defining act of complete surrender, God responded to her willing faith by making her the mother of Jesus. Mary’s ordinary life became extraordinary.
Her decision was not without its consequences: explaining her pregnancy to a stunned fiancé and a speculative community; enduring slanderous accusations and whispers from those who doubted the miracle of her divine conception; delivering her baby in a stable after an arduous journey, and then fleeing for safety to an unknown land; raising Jesus from infant to man, and then witnessing first hand His brutal, public death. But then, oh then, she experienced the wonder of seeing Him once more. Resurrected and risen, His earthly mission was fulfilled, and the fruits of her labor and her womb were finally revealed—her living legacy for all of eternity.
What a journey! And to think it all started with a young, unassuming woman who simply and humbly said, “yes!” to God.
Mary’s story reminds us that when we surrender our lives to God’s divine plan and purposes, He will take us on an unimaginable journey of faith, expanding our horizons and pushing us beyond our wildest dreams, making miracles in the midst of the mundane and filling our lives with true fulfilment, beauty, and joy.
“‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future’” (Jeremiah 29:11, NIV).
Father God, help me to be a mom like Mary—to surrender humbly and willingly to the plans and purposes You have for my life. Help me to trust in Your faithfulness as You guide me through challenging times, and to experience the fulfilment and joy that comes from living a life wholly surrendered to Your will. AMEN.
They Did What was Needed
Shortly after receiving her divine assignment, Mary “arose and went with haste” to the house of Elizabeth—another ordinary woman who was experiencing, first hand, the miraculous power of God (Luke 1:39). She too, against all earthly odds, was pregnant, and would shortly birth to none other than John the Baptist—the prophet and evangelist who would prepare the way for the arrival of Jesus.
And it seems that perhaps Elizabeth, as an older, wiser woman of faith, was chosen for much the same role as her son—preparing Mary for the journey that lay ahead. Receiving Mary at her home, where she would stay for the next three months, Elizabeth quickly encouraged and reaffirmed her role in God’s sovereign plan: “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfilment of what was spoken to her from the Lord” (Luke 1:42,45).
God not only worked a divine miracle in the form of Elizabeth’s improbable pregnancy, but He also used this well equipped and perfectly placed woman of God in a powerful and practical way: to provide encouragement, support, and care to a young woman thrust into the spotlight of God’s ultimate rescue plan. In the same way, God uses ordinary mothers like us to reflect His love and use our God-given gifts, material possessions, and unique life experiences to meet the spiritual and practical needs of the people He has placed in our path.
As Paul writes in Titus 2:3-5: “Likewise, teach the older women to be reverent in the way they live… to teach what is good. Then they can urge the younger women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands…”
As women of God, this is a calling God has placed on all of our lives—and it can be relatively simple! We can run an errand for a friend in need or offer to care for their children. We can deliver a meal, send an encouraging card, or simply visit and offer a listening ear when required. It may not seem like a lot, yet to someone else, it could be everything.
Through mentoring others and meeting the needs of our friends and neighbors in practical and meaningful ways, we are spreading the aroma of Christ around our community—demonstrating His mighty love in action, and directing a hurting, broken world toward His Light. And this is what elevates our lives to the level of extraordinary.
“If we are rich and see others in need, yet close our hearts against them, how can we claim that we love God? My children, our love should not be just words and talk; it must be true love, which shows itself in action” (1 John 3:17-18, GNT).
Father God, help me to be a mom like Elizabeth—to respond to the needs of the people God has placed in my life in meaningful, practical ways. Help me to look for opportunities to mentor and support younger women in the faith, and be a powerful witness of God’s love in action. AMEN.
Testaments to His Grace
You might be thinking: What about the other moms? What about the women in Scripture who messed up, took risks, and made terrible mistakes—the ones that had severe consequences for themselves and all of humanity?
Eve, I’m looking at you.
It may be tempting to try and forget about these women and their stain on Biblical history; to simply erase them from the story, hoping their ink blot on the page will fade with time. Yet these women—flawed and imperfect as they were—also had an extraordinary contribution to make to the Kingdom of God. Their lives are a living testament to His grace.
There was Tamar, who tricked her father-in-law into sleeping with her so she could finally conceive the children she had been waiting for. There was Bathsheba, who committed adultery with King David—an affair that ultimately led to the death of her husband and an illegitimate son. There was Sarah—wife of faithful, righteous Abraham, no less—who laughed at God’s suggestion she would ever be a mother and schemed to manage the situation in her own way, at great cost. There were the outcasts: Rahab, who made her livelihood as a prostitute, and the nameless woman at the well who had quite the reputation. And there was Eve, who fell into temptation at the hands of Satan and enticed her husband to sin. We all know how that turned out.
And there were so many more—women whose lives were marked by sin, yet who shared one common theme: grace.
For God, in His unfathomable grace, chose to redeem their shattered stories and restore their broken lives. Babies were born and woven into the lineage of the Messiah. Women, once shamed, were given new lives and opportunities to bear witness to the incredible, life-changing power of God. Hearts were transformed, nations were restored, humanity was saved—all through the miraculous, incalculable grace of our Lord Jesus Christ.
And He can do the same for all of us. When we lay our brokenness at the foot of the cross—every bad decision, every poor judgment, every foolish mistake—something extraordinary happens. We are made new. Our lives are reclaimed from the grave and we are freed from our past sin and shame—from the terrible, unmentionable things in our pasts that we carry with us every single day.
We become ordinary women, redeemed and restored, with an extraordinary story to share.
“You yourselves are a case study of what he does. At one time you all had your backs turned to God, thinking rebellious thoughts of him, giving him trouble every chance you got. But now, by giving himself completely at the Cross, actually dying for you, Christ brought you over to God’s side and put your lives together, whole and holy in his presence. You don’t walk away from a gift like that!” (Colossians 1:21-23, The MSG Paraphrase).
Father God, thank You for Your life-changing grace. Thank You that You choose to redeem and restore our broken, sinful lives into something beautiful. Help us to live as testaments to Your grace, sharing the transformative power of Jesus so that those around us would hear and experience it for themselves.
Hannah, Mary, Elizabeth, and so many more—ancient women of faith whose lives and legacies live on in the pages of Scripture, demonstrating there is no such thing as an ordinary life when it is lived for God. Our to-do lists may tell us otherwise. We may look at our lives in the midst of the exhausting, all-consuming monotony of motherhood and dream of doing something extraordinary for the Kingdom of God. We may look at powerful, accomplished women through a computer screen, or even across the school playground, and wonder what it is that we’re missing.
Do not let yourselves be fooled. For if the mothers of the Bible have one thing to teach us, it’s this: It is not what you do, but God in you, that makes your life extraordinary. Your job is simply to hold on for the ride.
“For it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfil his good purpose” (Philippians 2:13, NIV).
This Article first appeared in the Spring 2020 issue of Joyful Life Magazine