As a woman I (and you too if you are a woman!) have been uniquely created in the image of God to reflect his attributes in a way that a man does not. One of these attributes is in the way I mother and nurture life around me. As a woman, nurturing is in the very nature of how God designed me. Whether this is a new idea, or something which seems foreign to your own desires, Scripture points to this design and it can take great effort on our part as women to walk this out faithfully in everyday life.
Nurture in Our Nature
In our women’s ministry this year, we read through “Disciplines of a Godly Woman” by Barbara Hughes. In the book, Hughes says to nurture is, “to further the development of, to train” and defines mothering as, “to nurture life”. With these definitions in place there is a beautiful statement she makes, “Motherhood [furthering the development of and training life] is the essence of womanhood. I believe that whether or not a woman has children, she is called to embrace the discipline of nurturing [furthering the development of and training another]. This aspect of womanhood goes far beyond the physical bearing of children.”
We see this training and developing of life demanded of us in the Scriptures.
“All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.” 2 Timothy 3:16
“[Older women] are to teach what is good, and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled.” Titus 2:4
Our nurturing is more than just a physical caring for one another, though it is no less than this. Scripture tells us that the way we train and nurture one another as women holds value. A woman’s nurturing should point others to the gospel and grow another’s faith in Christ. It is equipping one another for every good work that God has put in front of us. In the church, older women nurture younger women as daughters whether it is the teenager in the nursery, the college woman meeting with the high school student, or the empty nester helping the new mom. Acting in a motherly way, training and developing life makes us more womanly. We should embrace this God given design as women and use it to minister to those around us, especially in the church body.
Nurturing in the Scriptures
The Bible gives us examples of women who walk out this kind of nurturing in many ways.
In the book of Ruth we see a beautiful strong woman of God that once worshiped idols in a pagan land, and then refuses to let her mother in law, Naomi, go alone back to Judah. In submission to God, Ruth nurtures the life of Naomi in actively working in the fields from morning to night.
Esther puts her very life in danger for the sake of her people. She is a strong woman that hoped in God and did not fear man but, in reverence for God, desired the lives of her people to continue over her own safety.
Lois and Eunice nurtured and helped to grow the gospel in young Timothy. (2 Timothy 2:5)
Mary was chosen by God to carry our Lord and Savior Jesus for nine months and to raise him in the Lord and protect and nurture his life. She did this even in the face of being ridiculed and divorced. When approached by the angel of the Lord in Luke 1, her response is breathtaking, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.”
These examples do not show us a overly sappy and undefined kind of nurturing, but nurturing done with hope in God, without fear of man, and in reverence for God and his word (1Peter 3:5a, 6b) .
The Battle to Nurture
In our lives, as Hughes points out, “It takes great effort to develop the nurturing instinct in ourselves and others, primarily because all around us women are intentionally being encouraged to reject roles of service and caring.” For some women this rejection is willful, for other women it may seem that this desire to nurture is unnatural to them. It may seem like God forgot to give you this gift! But this nurturing spirit must be cultivated. It will take work to grow and flourish in this as a woman in our culture. Titus 2 tells us that we are actually to train one another as women. Training means there is work to be done here.
We want to care and nurture all life well. Furthering the development of life by discipling, training, teaching one another, caring for lives around us, caring for the lost souls, tending to needs in practical ways, and birthing and raising children that grow in a life-nurturing environment is gospel work. Doing all of this should be a response to the love that Jesus has shown us in how he has saved us: laying down his life to die in our place, and giving us the Holy Spirit to grow us in our faith. This gospel is our motivation.
As Barbara Hughes says in the end of the chapter, “In Christ, our life is not about what we get, but what we give. Life is about living in submission to God's will regardless of what it may cost us. Mothering is at the essence of womanhood. To live out life as a nurturer in this self-centered, godless culture will cost you. But the rewards are rich indeed. “
The work we do in nurturing and learning how to better care for life is not without reward. As we embrace what God has designed us to do as women we will experience more joy. God uses all things to conform us to the image of Christ for our good. God is after our hearts and our joy as we nurture those around us. May we, “Serve the Lord with gladness! Come into his presence with singing!” as we care for those that God has placed in our lives (Psalm 100:1).
This article series is adapted from lectures given by the authors in our Women's Ministry the fall of 2017. The content and lectures were based off the book, "Disciplines of a Godly Woman," by Barbara Hughes.