Our culture has encouraged the misconception that the definition of a godly woman is weak and quiet, and it is a shame that this flawed mindset pervades the understanding of Christian women today. It is no surprise that women recoil from such a demeaning idea of womanhood. We thought the days of walking five paces behind the man went out with the corset, and yet it is supposed to be the essence of a godly woman? The truth is, the strength of the godly woman far surpasses that of the worldly woman and this is exactly what the world doesn't want you to know.
The Strength of the Worldly WomanThe worldly woman bases all her strength upon her individuality. She is strong if she can prove that she doesn't need anyone else to succeed in life. As Holly Elliff, an author and speaker, said during a Revive Our Hearts program, “What’s applauded for younger women, or for any age woman is to be aggressive, to be in charge, to be in control of the situation regardless of who is around you.” If the worldly woman is going to show the world that she is strong then she has to take matters into her own hands and make things happen. She will have to push until she achieves and continue pushing to achieve more. The strength of the worldly woman depends upon herself.
The Strength of the Godly WomanOn the other hand, the godly woman believes scripture when it says that Jesus is “the way, the truth, and the life.” She is peaceful, confident in her abilities, and patient in her actions and dealings with others because she knows that in the end it is God who is in control and not herself. How does this make her strong? They say there is power in a smile, or an act of kindness, but there is also power in the ability to do the right thing no matter the cost.
When dealing with any issue, the first place we should look is the word of God.
Judges 4 tells the story of Deborah, a judge during the period when Israel was not yet ruled by a king. When I consider what it means to be godly and strong I immediately think of this courageous woman. In my study of her account in an attempt to better understand the biblical role of the woman I have had to ask myself a great deal of questions concerning her actions. Such as why she was in this position (during this time) instead of a man, whether she was overstepping her role, and how did this effect her role as wife. All of which is a topic for another article. But one thing is clear, Deborah was not acting in disobedience to God; no, God Himself put her there for that period. What I find most inspiring about her story is that she chose to use her power, not to build herself up and gain more control, but to build others up. She didn't personally command the army to go out and fight the enemy, though I'm sure she could have. Instead she challenged the rightful leader to step up to his responsibility. She was a strong leader who encouraged others to rise up to the occasion and thus be strengthened themselves.
The Woman Judge
The Jewish Queen of PersiaThen there is Esther, the young Jewish girl who suddenly found herself in a very powerful position as queen of Persia. When trouble came for her people she could have sat back in comfort and played it safe. But she was a woman of faith and valor who risked her life in order to save her people in speaking to the king on their behalf.
There are many women of strength whose stories are recorded in the Bible; Abigail, Sarah, Ruth, Hannah, Mary the mother of Jesus, Mary Magdalene, and so on. These accounts are incredible because each of these women showed the strength necessary in each situation. But the most important thing to remember is that these women all drew their strength from God. They believed His word, obeyed His laws, and received the power to act in return. And yet these are not the only examples of women portraying godly strength.
Missionary to IndiaThe story of Amy Carmichael never ceases to inspire me. As a young woman she went to India and ministered to the lost, living among them as a faithful servant of God to the very end of her days. She had a passion for God and lived it her entire life.
Widowed By NativesAnd last to mention, but hardly the least, is the recently departed matriarch, Elizabeth Elliot. Only a few years into their marriage, her husband was killed at the hands of those he ministered to. Elizabeth returned to continue her husbands work and God saved her husband's killers through her.
Do any of these women look like the downcast doormat of a woman that the world implies is the character of the godly woman? On the contrary, each of them displayed what God considers godly strength and He gave us the accounts in scripture so that we as women could learn the true value of His kind of strength. The fact is, I am sure none of these women would have considered themselves wise women of God, but because of their faith and readiness to act God was able to bring about great things through them.
It is not easy to exhibit godly strength because it is not natural to us. The natural way is the worldly way and the easier way, but never is it satisfying or fulfilling. The woman seeking to please the world and find strength in herself alone will forever be searching and never finding.
A strong, godly woman will find the fulfillment she seeks and is in turn essential to the church, the body of believers. Like Deborah, she has the power to build others up and encourage them in their God-given roles. Her strength doesn't lie in being able to do it all, but in being the prod to encourage others to do more. Paul Maxwell says in his article Real Men Love Strong Women, “Strong women are as vital as strong men to God's church,” going on to say, “Godly femininity requires being strong, even intimidating,” in reference to the courage of Jael in taking the life of Israel's enemy when her husband would not.
There isn't a truer saying than “Behind every great man is a great woman.” This does not imply, as some would have it, that the woman deserves all the credit. It simply means she has the potential to encourage and build others up.
Now that you have had a look at both kinds of strength, which is more appealing to you? Which would you consider more profitable to yourself and those around you?
Real Men Love Strong Women, by Paul Maxwell on DesiringGod.org
It Takes a Lot of Strength to be Soft, a radio program from Revive Our Hearts
The Book of Esther