Esther Kuku explores what it means to be a strong woman by examining the life of biblical character Deborah, and argues that true strength is derived from having godly characteristics.
The perennial discussion as to whether ‘strong women’ are less attractive – and likely to remain single – reared its head in an online discussion recently. Yes, another one! These days of observing social media debates has become an early morning ‘new mother’ hobby of mine!
So, strong women, is strength a bad thing? Or is it better to be weak? I thought about this for a while and decided that, in order to understand exactly which characteristics were appropriate for a woman to possess, and in what measure, I was going to spend the next few months doing a study on women in the Bible.
I start this month with Deborah. Is it just me, or don’t you hear much about Deborah in sermons these days? My namesake, Esther, and Ruth seem to get far more attention.
Deborah was very cool; she was a judge, leader, prophetess and a wife. So you can already see that, like most women today, she wore many hats. I imagine that to be excellent in all these roles would have required a certain amount of strength…
And excellent she was. Deborah stood for courage in a period when many people were afraid. She embodied godly wisdom, at a time when human reasoning and chaos were the order of the day: ‘After Ehud died, the Israelites once again did evil in the eyes of the Lord’ (Judges 4:1). To put it simply: Deborah was a leader, who was an exception to the rule in her time.
Her story is told in Judges 4. It states that: “She dwelt under the palm tree of Deborah between Ramah and Bethel in Mount Ephraim, and the children of Israel came to her to settle their disputes.”
For people to seek Deborah out, she must have had a reputation for making just and sound decisions. In fact, endowed with the prophetic gift, Deborah was able to discern the mind and the purpose of God and declare it to others. All Israel was under her jurisdiction. A woman in a man’s world, she pronounced legal decisions; governed Israel; stood as God’s messenger, through whom He issued the call to general Barak, yet she remained humble and her heart was fixed on God.
There is no doubt about it: Deborah was a strong woman, but she did not use her strength and intellect as an opportunity for the flesh. Deborah was recognised for her good character, yielded to God. She didn’t say, ‘Because I am a woman I cannot do this’, neither did she seek to usurp authority that didn’t belong to her. As a result, God used her, with a little help from another woman, called Jael, to deliver Israel.
Strength isn’t an unattractive quality. Strength is a gift from God that we will need to activate in every season of our lives – whether we are in God’s waiting room, or about to walk into destiny. It isn’t about gender, as we are not talking about lifting weights; it’s about having embedded within us one of our heavenly Father’s main characteristics.
Strength is about enduring hardship without allowing those battles to embitter you. It’s about staying faithful to your values – even when it’s more expedient to compromise – and accepting our frailties and vulnerabilities, without allowing them to define us. Finally, strength is about demonstrating love to others without the expectation of anything in return.
“Strength isn’t an unattractive quality. Strength is a gift from God that we will need to activate in every season of our lives.”
We must not allow such a godly characteristic to be taken over by lazy stereotypes. There is definitely a media agenda that employs women who appear ‘strong’ and who tend to exhibit masculine or aggressive behaviour; you will find plenty of examples in reality TV shows. These women feel the need to announce: ‘Men are intimidated by me because I’m a strong woman’ or ‘I earn a lot of money and am very successful, so men are intimidated by me’, etc. This is not strength; it’s insecurity. Maturity doesn’t need to announce itself – it just is… And, for the record, I am yet to come across a real man of God, who doesn’t find a strong and secure woman attractive.
In March, we celebrate International Women’s Day, and each one of us needs to be secure in the reality that we are fearfully and wonderfully made by God, and that true strength is hidden in our Christlike nature, not in material things. When we get hold of this revelation, we will attract friendships, divine connections, destiny and favour into our lives.
Male or female, we can all learn from Deborah’s story, and have a life that is recognised for its sense of order, decency and humility. We will not get it right straightaway. The longer I walk this journey in Christ, I feel the less I know. I imagine I am not alone here, but mistakes can often mean we are trying – and try we must, for what a privilege it must be to be used by God to help deliver others.
Esther Williams love God, love life, love people. www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/esther-williams Twitter: @mew36