My friend Mimi seems to have it all – a challenging job, access to promotion, a good income, and supportive friends. At 29, she is confident that God loves her, and she wants to walk closely with Him.

But when she looks online, Mimi feels less confident in her faith. The culture of the UK tells her she should be obsessed about sex, body image, consumer choices, the environment and mental wellbeing, all in one odd package of individualism.

We are incredibly free to choose but find it hard to reconcile that freedom with our desire to serve God. That’s because the freedom the world offers is not exactly the same as the freedom we are promised in Christ.

We cannot have rights without responsibility. In the west, we assume that God’s blessing is personal, but maybe God’s desire to bless is for the whole community and we are to use our freedoms to sustain and bless others in our community.

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Mimi chooses to stay true to God and has been able to talk and pray with friends at work who sense that she is not tossed about by social pressures. That doesn’t mean she is always hyper-positive, but she is real about the fact that Jesus gives her life a firm foundation, stronger than a daily dose of mindfulness. She volunteers her time in all sorts of ways – with a prison ministry, mentoring some students at her church, and demonstrating the freedom’ to be a woman after God’s heart.

There is a fantastic example of women trusting in God’s empowerment at the beginning of Exodus. The Hebrews have become slaves in Egypt and life is hard. They are not free in any sense that we would recognise. But in the face of suffering, two midwives choose to serve God rather than obey Pharaoh’s cruel instruction to kill any boy babies born to the Hebrew women. In making that brave decision to resist Pharaoh, the women release blessing – Exodus 1:20 tells us that the midwives had children of their own and God is kind to all the Hebrew people. 

Mama Sarah lives in a remote village in Liberia, West Africa. Over the last few years her village has had people moving across the borders into her community who are Muslim. The newcomers have been very aggressive in sharing their faith and Mama Sarah has been determined to not compromise who she is in Christ and to ensure her community continues to follow Jesus.

She decided to build a church meeting place. As she lay the foundations, she was mocked, then attacked and beaten, and was blinded in one eye. But that didn’t stop her. She finished building the church and today takes care of 13 children who have been rejected by their family as they follow Jesus. They worship together in the church that Mama Sarah built. I like to think I would be as bold and faithful if I faced persecution!

Operating in God’s freedom can release us from society’s judgements and expectations. The Bible has many stories showing how God notices and blesses women who might be ignored by society. Naomi and Ruth are poor widows (right at the bottom of the social pile) with few choices in life. But they both choose to follow God.

We all know the story but what we sometimes don’t notice is that God releases the women to use their talents, their perseverance and their loyalty to each other. The Law of Israel makes provision for them to survive by gleaning in the fields, but God has a bigger plan of grace and freedom. The women bless Boaz’s life in ways he didn’t see; they help the village to praise God’s goodness; and they receive blessing in the birth of the baby, Obed; and, of course, continue the amazing narrative of God’s salvation story through David to Jesus.

By taking a step of faith, Mimi, Mama Sarah, the midwives Shiphrah and Puah, as well as Ruth and Naomi, show that God can release us in surprising ways, whatever our age and circumstances. We can be freed to blessing for ourselves and for our whole community.

Operating in God’s freedom can release us from society’s judgements and expectations.