Today we are looking at the character traits and demeanor that keep us from receiving all God has for us (see “Is The River of Your Life Calm?” by Nancy Leigh DeMoss and Mary Kassian). I was 10 when the song “I Am Woman” rose to the charts. It was an anthem for feminism, proclaiming “I am woman, hear me roar. I am strong. I am invincible. I am woman.”, and I have an attitude and nobody tells me what to do. This cultural concept of women being strong, invincible and having a brash, sassy, in-your-face I’m in control attitude and demeanor, is focused on “I”. But that attitude isn’t really so new. It didn’t begin in the early 70s. In fact, we see that attitude in the woman in Proverbs chapter 7: the wild woman. That passage describes her in a way that really sounds contemporary. It says in verse 11 that “she is loud and wayward; her feet never stay at home.”
That is the type of attitude that has been fostered in the last thirty to forty years in worldly women, a woman who is in control, loud, opinionated, brash, my-way-or-highway kind of a girl is upheld as the desirable characteristic for womanhood. And if you say, girl you got attitude. You know, that’s almost more of a compliment than saying something negative.
The woman in Proverbs 7 was a young, married woman, and she had all of the right behavior. But she had this underlying attitude. She had the attitude that she had the right to determine how she was going to act and nobody was going to tell her what to do. This loudness and waywardness, this obstinacy is characteristic of a sinful nature and characteristic of a way that womanhood turns when it is not under the Lordship of Jesus Christ.
In contrast, a godly woman has a calm and kind manner that reflects God’s character. If you look at your life closely and honestly, you may find that instead of kindness and gentleness, you have loudness and stubbornness. These are character traits that conceal sin and disobedience. Calmness and kindness, on the other hand, exemplify how God treats us. Letting go of loudness or stubbornness doesn’t mean you have to be a girly girl, nor do you have to sit in a corner and be quiet. But we are to magnify the character traits of a godly woman.
We’re told in 1 Peter 3 that there are certain characteristics that God wants in women and that He created women to be. A woman’s beauty is to be that of a gentle and a quiet spirit. The passage also talks about the submissiveness or the deference, the amenability of womanhood. These things are precious in God’s sight. When we rebel against these images, it shows us how much our hearts are not attuned to God’s way. God sees us as incredibly precious. As a Christian when I approach Scripture and I read this, I am challenged to ask myself, “Does my heart value what God values? Do I see these things in the way that He sees them?”
God created innate differences between men and women that our culture has really tried to obliterate, to blur those lines, those distinctions. But even our physical makeup, our bodies testify to fact that God created differences between men and women that are precious and valuable. In Genesis 2:23 when Eve was presented to Adam, he said, “This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, for she was taken out of Man”. And so, those words woman and man, Ish and Ishsha, are the Hebrew terms. One comes from the word, strength, for man. And the word for woman is probably from the word, softness.
God created us to have a receptivity, be “responders” and “relators”; to be soft and receptive in a very positive way. And God sees that as very precious. Unfortunately our culture often demeans and diminishes how God created us. This demeanor doesn’t relate to one type of personality. A woman who is out there wrangling steers can be just as womanly as the southern belle who is dressed in lace and pink. It’s not what you do, it’s who you are. The more our characters are transformed by the power of Jesus Christ, the more He makes our personality shine for His glory, and the more that we truly become the women that He made us to be. God has given us different personalities that He wants to use for His glory. God has given some outgoing personalities, but He wants to have them fueled by that gentle and meek spirit that is like the Spirit of Christ.
A woman’s softness, her ability to be receptive and responsive is really her greatest strength. When the passage talks about gentleness, we tend to think of gentleness being weakness. But gentleness is really the strength of character that enables me to respond in a kind and considerate way, even to people who are not behaving properly themselves. It’s a disposition where we trust God, where we know that He is in control, sovereign and that He is good. In responding to His Providences in our lives, the circumstances He brings into our lives, we don’t have to buck them or resist them. We deal with them with wisdom, with grace, and with gentleness.
When looking at a river when there isn’t even a ripple on the surface of the water, that’s a perfect example of what being calm is all about. It means that you’re not churned up and agitated and needing to grasp control or manipulate or being anxious. It’s really that depth of character and depth of spirit where we have rock solid convictions. There’s a calmness that comes into our hearts when we (it comes back to this again) trust that God is in control, that He is good, and we’re surrendered to His providence in our lives. Then there can be, even in the midst of turbulent circumstances, a calm, serene trust in God.
The opposite of that, the wild woman, that great verse in Isaiah 57:20, that says, “The wicked are like the tossing sea; for it cannot be quiet, and its waters toss up mire and dirt.” We see this woman in Proverbs chapter 7. She’s loud, and she’s wayward. So she’s obstinate, rebellious, and just like that verse in Isaiah, she tosses up mud and mire and she’s all churned up. She seems all sweet on the outside, but there’s this churning underneath the surface. She gets herself in involved in situations, in circumstances where she ought not to go there. She goes there, and she makes a mess of her life.
Gentle, calm and amenable are descriptors of the wise woman instead of the wild woman. Amenable is a disposition where you are willing to say, “yes.” It’s just an inclination towards being agreeable; it’s a disposition where you are soft and receptive and relational. It’s the opposite of having an obstinate spirit. And so, amenability is based on the word, amen, which means Let it be so. In Luke 1:38, where Mary says to the angel who has just given her news that has turned her world upside down and inside out. And she says when the news that she is going to have a child is, “I am the Lord’s servant. Let it be to me as you have said.” That’s amenable.
Does that mean I just lie down and let the world walk over me and that I have no opinions, I have no voice, I have no input into the situation? That is what the enemy would have women believe. But nothing could be further from the truth. When we cultivate godly character, He gives us more strength than we could possibly have on our own. He is the one that allows us to cultivate and develop these characteristics in our lives.
The whole paradox of it is that when we do things in this way, we gain far more than by doing it in a clamorous, rebellious, me-first, I’ve gotta do it, I’m gonna take control kind of a way. It’s like the paradox that Christ often presents. You lose your life, you gain it. You give, you receive. And it’s the same sort of thing that when we respond to God in the right way, that He gives us the strength and the wisdom to respond to our circumstances the right way.
It’s the way in which you respond that is important. You do need to speak truth. You do need to stand up for truth and for righteousness and not go in the way of sinful behavior. You need to say “no” to sin and to evil. That takes a lot of strength to do that. A woman who is walking in God’s way will do that in a way that honors the disposition He has has given her.
Scripture has so many wonderful promises if you will choose the way of wisdom. Psalm 37:11 tells us that “the gentle delight themselves in abundant peace.” And in Isaiah 29:19, it says that they constantly “obtain fresh joy in the Lord”. I love that verse in Isaiah that says, in quietness and in trust shall be your strength. God is calling us to be strong women, but not women who roar. Women who trust the Lord. Women who manifest a quietness and a meekness of spirit that points people to Christ and makes them desire Him.
Dear Lord, the world sees the biblical woman as someone who is weak. I don’t want to be weak. I want to be strong—in You. I want You to be in control of my life. Help me value what You value. Help me let go of worldly behavior and instead respond more and more like You want me to.