The COVID pandemic has brought a lot of suffering to women. I have seen it – as a pastor, as a pharmacist working on the front line, and as the founder of a charity supporting women who have experienced domestic abuse.
The pandemic has disproportionately affected women – in all sorts of areas including childbirth, childcare and employment. A recent report by Young Women’s Trust found that an estimated 1.5 million young women had lost income since the beginning of the pandemic. We need to talk about these enormous pressures, and take time to invest in our own mental health.
Finding our strength
That said, what has struck me most in this pandemic has not been the suffering, although it has been great – it has been the resilience and strength in the face of trials.
I have seen women begin to re-build their lives after years of abuse. I have seen them fearlessly step out to start new business, write books and learn new skills. I have seen mothers adapt to juggling new responsibilities and single mothers draw together and support one another.
In challenges and struggle we find growth. This pandemic has reminded us of what women are capable of.
But were does this strength come from? Courage in a time when you might expect women to crumble and fall apart? Deborah, from the book of Judges, served as a judge in a time when there were no women judges. She did what she had to do; she understood God’s mandate for her life and lived it fearlessness – not perfectly, but fearlessly. It was a fearlessness that came from God. In Philippians 4:13 it says: “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (NKJV). Christ is our foundation, He is our strength, our fearlessness.
Working in the NHS on the front line has been stressful and anxious for many. I have a reputation among my colleagues for being 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.”
In this time of struggle so many have been searching for God and growing in dependence and faith in him. Women all around me are becoming more aware of who they are in Jesus Christ and the strength they find in him.
Women have fearlessly put their foot on the gas during the pandemic and now is not time to slow down. Rest and re-fuel is needed, but we mustn’t shrink our ambitions and expectations. God has made women so resilient, even through the toughest adversity. This is a time for women to courageously step into what we were created for.
We step out with God as our foundation, but we do not do so alone. This year’s Uncommon Women conference at Jesus House is called Audacious! Living Fearless! and is all about coming together and building one another up to be who God has made us to be. We will be looking at mental wellbeing, women’s health and the COVID-19 vaccine and finances.
Women have laid foundations during the pandemic that should be built on, not torn down. In God’s strength, and with our Christian sisters around us, we don’t need to retreat. We can live fearlessly.
Catherine Adenrele Runsewe is a pharmacist with the NHS, a pastor at Jesus House and will be a contributor to the Uncommon Woman conference, which is being held 25–27 March. For more information and (free) tickets visit uncommonwomanconference.co.uk