I have always been addicted to tales of damsels in distress, but maybe that’s just me. I practically had the page numbers memorized in the Elsie Dinsmore series wherein she either fainted, became sick with the ever convenient “brain fever,” or was rescued from a villain. I loved the G.A. Henty books, but I especially adored the predictable rescue scene in each where a lovely, virtuous young woman was rescued by a chivalrous, broad-shouldered young man. My sisters and I reveled in a particular episode of The Waltons in which
That is all a bit embarassing, sappy, silly, corny, and sentimental. Nevertheless, within balance there is nothing inherently wrong with the storyline of a man rescuing a woman, except, perhaps, from a literary standpoint. After all, women are the weaker vessels, and God did create men to protect and lead women. I Peter 3:7 says,
“Husbands, likewise, dwell with them with understanding, giving honor to the wife, as to the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life, that your prayers may not be hindered.”
I don’t see myself joining the ranks of the feminists who find the damsel in distress tale revolting any time soon. However, one tiny verse in Proverbs has recently challenged me to consider this storyline on a deeper level. Proverbs 24:10 says simply,
“If you faint in the day of adversity, your strength is small.”
While there are worse things than fainting when that snake slithers over my hand, necessitating a rescue by my little brother (it will teach him manliness, right?), what will happen if I am faced with a poisonous snake ready to bite my toddler?
While getting all lightheaded when a sibling whittles his finger may not seem like a crucial weakness, will I be weak-kneed and chicken-hearted when I’m in a life-and-death emergency involving gushing blood and a machete instead of a pocket-knife?
While needing to be rescued may seem romantic and beautiful, what will I do when I am being mocked and threatened for my faith and there is no one around to rescue me?
We may love to read tales of fainting princesses being rescued by knights, and while rescues have their place, God wants His princesses to have strength in the day of adversity. The good news for us is that strength isn’t always physical. Only a few verses earlier in Proverbs we are told,
“A wise man is strong, Yes, a man of knowledge increases strength.” –Proverbs 24:5
Perpetua didn’t faint in the face of the lions—she was a woman of strength. Dolley Madison didn’t faint in the face of enemies and fire—she, too, was a woman of strength. Mary, mother of Jesus, and Jael, tent-peg-dispatcher of the enemy Sisera, hold their own places in the Feminine yet Strong Hall of Fame.
Being a feminine woman does not at all mean playing the part of the damsel in distress when adversity comes, contrary to the boxed-in stereotype. In fact, you have not attained true Biblical femininity unless you have cultivated womanly strength. What better passage can I appeal to on the subject of femininity than Proverbs 31? Proverbs 31:25 indeed says,
“Strength and honor are her clothing; She shall rejoice in time to come.”
It is true that we women are weaker, and our bodies cannot tolerate as much as men can. That is how God created us. Therein, dear sisters, lies our secret. Ours is this promise:
“And He said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.”-2 Corinthians 12:9
I was truly a damsel in distress when Christ redeemed me. I now can boast with great boastings that I am the weakest, the shortest, the scrawniest, and the most foolish, so that anyone who says, “There is a damsel of strength!” will know that it is nothing, nothing in me. It is only and all the power of Christ resting upon this damsel.
Scripture taken from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.