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2 All Scripture quotations are taken from The Holy Bible, New International Version NIV. Copyright 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide. Cover by Koechel Peterson & Associates, Inc., Minneapolis, Minnesota Cover photo istockphoto / piskunov BECOMING A WOMAN OF EXTRAORDINARY FAITH Copyright 2011 by Julie Clinton Published by Harvest House Publishers Eugene, Oregon Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data Clinton, Julie, Becoming a woman of extraordinary faith / Julie Clinton. p. cm. ISBN (pbk.) ISBN (ebook) 1. Christian women Religious life. I. Title. BV4527.C dc All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means electronic, mechanical, digital, photocopy, recording, or any other except for brief quotations in printed reviews, without the prior permission of the publisher. Printed in the United States of America / VP-SK /

3 Contents Week One... 5 Extraordinary Hope: Breaking Through Fear and Doubt Week Two Extraordinary Beauty: Radiance from an Authentic Heart Week Three Extraordinary Healing: When Life Hurts Week Four Extraordinary Forgiveness: From Guilt to Grace Week Five Extraordinary Me: Searching for Approval and Significance Week Six Extraordinary Love: Pursued and Cherished by a Relentless God Week Seven Extraordinary Dreams: Free from Disappointment and Regret Week Eight Extraordinary Connections: From Loneliness to Laughter Week Nine Extraordinary Passion: Living Free from Secret Bondage Week Ten Extraordinary Faith: Believing God Even When Life Doesn t Make Sense Notes

4 Day 1 Tenacious Hope If I do not look with eyes of hope I know nothing of Calvary love. AMY CARMICHAEL There s nothing like a good hard cry, but for Hannah, tears were a daily reality. For years, this woman of God had prayed for a child, and still her arms were empty. When God doesn t come through the way we think he should, it s easy to become jaded. Bitter. To give up. However, Hannah chose to cling tenaciously to the hope that God was real, present, and working for her good. In the Word Read 1 Samuel 1 today and pay special attention to verses 10-11: In her deep anguish Hannah prayed to the Lord, weeping bitterly. And she made a vow, saying, Lord Almighty, 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 for all the days of his life. Many of us live such frazzled lives as mothers that we long for a few minutes of peace and quiet to get away from all the noise and demands of our children a warm, unhurried bath sounds like heaven! But I ve talked to women who would give anything to face those demands. They feel terribly empty because they can t have children. Each day, they wake up to the reality of the hole in their hearts that simply can t be filled by anything else. 7

5 8 Becoming a Woman of Extraordinary Faith Hannah felt exactly the same way. In a story reminiscent of others we ve read, her husband Elkanah had two wives, and the other wife, Peninnah, had several sons and daughters. In their culture, a woman s inability to conceive wasn t just a psychological blow; it was considered to be a sign of God s disapproval. Elkanah, her husband, was a good and sensitive man. He loved Hannah with all his heart, and he honored her in every way he could. When he found her crying because she was so grieved, he asked, Why are you weeping? Why don t you eat? Why are you downhearted? Don t I mean more to you than ten sons? (Sounds just like a man!) He meant well, but Elkanah simply didn t understand the depth of her sorrow and shame. The other woman in the family didn t match Hannah s husband s comfort and understanding. Jealousy goaded Peninnah to make fun of Hannah, and I m sure Peninnah took every opportunity to talk about her children in front of her. Hannah could have given up on her dream of having a child, but she didn t. Through her heartache, despite the ridicule she endured in her own home each day, and in the face of the shame she felt when she walked out in public, she kept asking God to answer her prayer. And after years of praying, pleading, and waiting, God gave her a son but not just any son. Little Samuel became a mighty prophet and anointed the first kings of Israel. Hannah s name means grace or favor. God certainly rewarded her persistent hope with his favor. Make It Real Most women struggle with holding on to hope. Should we ever give up on our hopes? No one can answer that for us. Novelist Pearl Buck once commented, Life without idealism is empty indeed. We must have hope as we must have bread; to eat bread without hope is still slowly to starve to death. 1 God s delay is not necessarily a definitive no. It takes wisdom to tell the difference between his voice and our personal longings. Sometimes, God wants to provide a miraculous answer. The process of waiting and hoping purifies our motives, strengthens our faith, and prepares us to accept God s answer with gratitude.

6 Tenacious Hope 9 What is something you ve hoped for over a long period of time? Has God answered your prayer? Describe what happened and how it affected you. Look over 1 Samuel 1 again. Describe Hannah s emotions and relationships in the years before Samuel was born. Do you think she regretted making her pledge to offer her child to God if he would give her a son? Why or why not? How do you think we can discern the difference between God saying, Keep hoping and waiting, and No, it s not my will? How can you leave your heart open to the idea that God may answer differently than you expect? Take a moment to read each one of these verses and think about how they apply to your life. Wherever you can do it, insert your name in the verses. Pray these passages over your heart. But now, Lord, what do I look for? My hope is in you. Save me from all my transgressions Hear my prayer, Lord, listen to my cry for help; do not be deaf to my weeping (Psalm 39:7-8,12). For you have been my hope, Sovereign Lord, my confidence since my youth. From birth I have relied on you; you brought me forth from my mother s womb As for me, I will always have hope; I will praise you more and more (Psalm 71:5-6,14).

7 10 Becoming a Woman of Extraordinary Faith But blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence is in him. They will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit ( Jeremiah 17:7-8). Heart to Heart One of my favorite quotations about hope is by Anne Lamott: Hope begins in the dark, the stubborn hope that if you just show up and try to do the right thing, the dawn will come. You wait and watch and work: you don t give up. 2 Coming to God with a spirit of expectation gives us the freedom to live before God and others with deep joy, not anger, resentment, or bitterness no matter what the outcome, no matter how long the walk. This is one of the most difficult journeys of a woman s heart. Our challenge is to cling tenaciously to hope the way Hannah did, but to realize that God sometimes says no instead of keep trusting, hoping, and waiting. - Lord, give me hope in the areas of my life where I ve quit believing that things could be any different. Give me wisdom to know the difference between my heart s hopes and your plans for me. Even when you say no, God, I want to trust you.

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