I’ve heard it too many times: “A man likes a quiet woman.” “Guys don’t respond well to smart girls.” “Educated women are too intimidating to attract good men.”
I understand why we believe these things. It’s a nice story. It makes sense of the success of some women to find husbands, and the failure of others. As Christians (and as humans), we feel very clever when we get to diagnose the cause and cure of singleness. “You’re too opinionated.” “You’re too boisterous.” “A woman should be small, and quiet and delicate.”
Yet, it’s easy to forget in the midst of all our diagnosing: whether a woman is “intimidating” is a factor of male perception, not female personality. Do we want women to be less intimidating? That’s a question to be put to men who experience them as such, and we can only wait for such men to grow. The real question we need to ask is: 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. Why?
1. Strong women expose evil men.
I can’t speak for Christian men everywhere, but I can speak for myself, and for many of the men in the Bible: Godliness is attractive to both men and women (Proverbs 31:30). And often, godly femininity requires being strong, even intimidating. Consider Jael in Judges 4. Jael’s husband, Heber, “had separated from the Kenites,” and “had pitched his tent as far away as the oak in Zaanannim, which is near Kedesh.”
So, when a Canaanite military general Jabin the King of Hazor—the enemy of the people of God—tried to seek refuge, he went to Heber’s tent, “for there was peace between Jabin the King of Hazor and the house of Heber the Kenite” (Judges 4:17). Deborah later sang of Jael, “Most blessed of women be Jael. … She sent her hand to the tent peg and her right hand to the workmen’s mallet” (Judges 5:24–25).
Thank God Jael wasn’t meek and submissive and respectful toward this friend of her wayward husband. She wasn’t one to be trampled on. Strong women reject the requests of evil men.
2. Strong women rebuke good men.
When David set out to kill Nabal—the brash and brute man who embodied pure masculine folly—Nabal’s wife Abigail offered hundreds of fig cakes and loaves of bread and wine skins to David. Yet, she uses the opportunity to warn David that he should “have no cause of grief or pangs of conscience for having shed blood without cause or for my lord working salvation for himself” (1 Samuel 25:31). In other words, Abigail warned: “Be careful. Don’t use your power in a way that will make you guilty.”
David responds, “Blessed be your discretion, and blessed be you, who have kept me this day from bloodguilt and from working salvation with my own hand!” (1 Samuel 25:33).
David was attracted to this strong woman for her strength, for her rebuke and for her character. Abigail made life harder for David. And David, in a moment of grace, was able to see that Abigail’s standing in David’s way was a gift of purity to him. That day, David was seeking salvation for himself, but it was gifted to him by God in Abigail, who, even while she was at his mercy as his subject, told him what he needed to hear.
Strong women rebuke good men, who need help in their weaknesses, who need someone to help them see how to be strong.