Working in the NHS on the frontline during the pandemic has been a stressful and anxious time, but I have a reputation amongst my colleagues for remaining calm and cheerful in the face of everything. The other day a colleague asked me, 'How do you cope?' and I simply replied, 'To be honest, I don't cope – I believe in God and He holds me together.'
The pandemic has brought a lot of suffering to women. I have seen it as a pastor, as a pharmacist working on the frontline, and as the founder of a charity supporting women who have experienced domestic abuse. However, what has struck me the most during this pandemic has not been the suffering, although that has been great, it has been the resilience and strength many women have shown in the midst of trials.
I have seen women begin to rebuild their lives after years of abuse. I have seen them step out fearlessly to start new businesses, write books and learn new skills to reinvent themselves. Mothers have adapted to juggling new responsibilities, and single mothers have come together to support each another. And throughout this period, I have seen women use social media to celebrate and empower one another.
Foundations have been laid during the pandemic that should be built on, not torn down. God has made us so resilient, able to bounce back, through the toughest adversity. In the midst of our challenges and struggle we can find growth and hope. This pandemic has reminded us of what women are truly capable of.
And where does the strength come from to deal with these trials? How do you find the courage when you feel you are going to crumble and fall apart? Deborah, in the book of Judges, served as a judge during a time where there were no women judges. She did what she had to do; she understood God's mandate for her life and lived it in fearlessness - not perfectly but fearlessly, nonetheless. This fearlessness was from God.
Scripture is full of fearless women. Women like Mary, who submitted to the Lord's will for her life, even though it seemed at the time to put it at risk. Like the Samaritan woman at the well who accepted Jesus into her life, even in the face of shame; she didn't hide away, she rejoiced and called others to do the same. These women are by no means perfect, but they all stepped out in faith and fearlessness.
Whoever we are, whatever we have done, we can come together before God, without judgement and find strength. In Philippians 4 v13 it says, "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me." Christ is our foundation - He is our fearlessness, our strength.
In this time of struggle so many of us have been searching for God, growing in dependence and faith in Him. Women all around me are becoming more aware of who they are in Jesus Christ; of their strength in Him. The growth we have experienced together can't stop now; it needs to become a way of life, a new habit to feed.
In this, our spiritual health is key; it is the source of all our resilience and courage. Spiritual strength gives mental resilience, the truths to cling to when mental battles come. It also gives us physical courage. If we're truly tuned in to the Holy Spirit and trust in the Lord, He will help us take that leap of faith in starting a business, taking a course, joining a ministry; allowing Him to take full control of our lives, so that we can live fearlessly.
So many of us have fearlessly put our foot on the gas in the pandemic and now isn't the time to slow down. Of course, rest and re-fuelling is needed but we mustn't shrink our ambitions and expectations. This is not a time for timidity and procrastination. It is a time for women to courageously step into what we were created for. Stepping out with God as our foundation is paramount and doing this together only makes us stronger.
As we edge closer and closer towards the end of this pandemic, I believe lockdown has only increased our empathy for one another. Churches have gone above and beyond to care and minister to people, single people and those who have experienced loss. I am blessed by overseeing the ministry to single mothers at Jesus House. During lockdown our ministry has called women regularly to share their needs and give support and encouragement. It has been powerful to watch how we've held each other up through trials. This has been a real demonstration, an outpouring, of God's love in the church – a clear reminder that we need one another.
This year's Uncommon Woman conference at Jesus House is all about coming together and building one another up - to be who God has made us to be, to be audacious. In fellowship we empower one another, giving encouragement and strength. In community we find the support we need to step into God's strength and live fearlessly. We welcome you to join us and be encouraged!
Catherine Adenrele Runsewe is Pastor at Jesus House and part of its Uncommon Woman Conference taking place from 25 to 27 March.