Women, if you’re anything like me, you’ve probably heard things like “you’re just too intimidating to guys” or “you have too strong of opinions” or “men don’t want smart, strong women like you.” If you haven’t heard these things, I’m so glad for you. Comments like these seem to suggest that it’s wrong to be a strong woman, or that it’s looked down upon to be brave, opinionated, outspoken, or well-educated.
The alternative is weak women. Even just writing those words together makes me cringe. Is that what we really want in our society today? Really? Is that what Christian men should be desiring?
Paul Maxwell asks the same question: “Do we want women to be weak? And the answer must forever be, on the basis of Scripture, ‘May it never be.’ Strong women are as vital as strong men to God’s purpose in the church.”
It’s not just because I’m a woman that I agree with him. When I read the stories of women in the Bible, I don’t see weakness. I don’t see women being quiet or holding back or living in fear. I see women like Mary humbly and bravely giving their lives for the will of the Lord, saying “May your word to me be fulfilled.” There was nothing timid in that woman, and I don’t want there to be any such weakness in women today either.
I believe women should be strong, and that real men of faith should love strong women for all they are.
Maxwell shares three reasons that strong women are essential in the kingdom of God:
1. “Strong women expose evil men.” There are several stories throughout the Bible that illustrate this well, and Maxwell highlights Jael’s story in Judges 4 . This woman drove a tent peg through the temple of a man who was an enemy of the people of God– “Thank God Jael wasn’t meek and submissive and respectful toward this friend of her wayward husband,” he says. “She wasn’t one to be trampled on. Strong women reject the requests of evil men.” I’m reminded of the story of teenager Malala Yousafzai who “spoke out against the Taliban regime that had overtaken her rural township and banned girls from schools,” Crosswalk.com contributing writer Jeffrey Huston said in a review of the movie about her life. “By the time she was 15, Malala’s voice had become so influential that the Taliban put out an assassination attempt on her life – and nearly succeeded.” She, too, was a strong woman willing to risk her life to speak out against the evil men around her, and the world knows her name because of her bravery.
2. “Strong women rebuke good men.” Let’s look at Abigail’s story found in 1 Samuel 25 . David was setting out to kill Nabal (a mean, surly man) who was married to Abigail (described as intelligent and beautiful). Abigail knows what is about to happen, and she goes to David with an offering of food, wine, and sheep to try to change things. “In other words, Abigail warned: ‘Be careful. Don’t use your power in a way that will make you guilty,’” Maxwell says. I’m sure it wasn’t what David wanted to hear in that moment, when he wanted to lash out, use his force, and end the life of this foolish man… but it was what he needed to hear. The end of chapter 25 shows David thanking Abigail for her good judgment and for keeping him from bloodshed. “Strong women rebuke good men, who need help in their weaknesses, who need someone to help them see how to be strong,” Maxwell says.
3. “Strong women raise believing men.” In 1 Timothy 1:5 , we see Paul reference the strength and faith of both Timothy’s mother and grandmother. Many of us have fathers who are absent or disengaged, and the presence of strong women in our lives is a powerful one. “We live in a world where we need strong women to make men strong,” Maxwell says, “because sometimes there simply are no men there to do it.” If you have a strong woman in your life who has helped shape your faith and raise you into a believing adult, thank them and praise God for them. “In an age where fathers often fail to bestow the gift of faith to their children, the future often hangs on the strength of women to do that gospel work,” says Maxwell.
Women, be strong. Be bold and brave in your faith, and live humbly in service to our good Father. And men? Listen to what Maxwell says: “Real men love strong women, because God’s glory is beautiful, and ‘woman is the glory of man’ (1 Corinthians 11:7 ).” Don’t be intimidated by women of strength, but honor them and give your lives alongside them to bring God praise.
Let’s celebrate strong, brave, beautiful, powerful women of faith. And men, love those strong women well.