Revive Our Hearts Podcast

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Leslie Basham: There’s a myth that goes like this: If you want to be a godly woman, you have to be demure, like a doormat. Mary Kassian disagrees.

Mary Kassian: God loves strong women! He wants His daughters to be strong, but He wants us to be the right kind of strong. Do we need more strong women? Yes we do, absolutely! But strong in the right kind of way.

Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth, co-author of True Woman 101, for August 12, 2019. 

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth: Well, Dannah, we’ve been here over the last several sessions talking with our longtime friend, Mary Kassian, so I want to say both of you, “Welcome!”

Dannah Gresh: Hello again.

Mary: Good to be here!

Nancy: I’ve said you do the best conversations when you’re with friends, right? And that’s what this has been for me. It’s been refreshing, it’s been challenging, it’s been encouraging, it’s been thought provoking.

I know that both of you in particular have a burden for younger women—for girls. You both have granddaughters. Dannah, you’re working with the True Girl movement, girls 8–12. What kinds of things do you see in the world that they’re growing up in that make you concerned about their view of what it means to be a strong woman?

Mary: Well, they definitely are being told that they need to be strong; that is such a huge cultural message for girls: “You have to be strong! You are strong! You are strong just because you’re a girl!”

Nancy: Where are they getting those messages? They’re not reading these books. 

Dannah: They’re not reading these books, but they’re hearing the songs; they’re seeing the television programs; they’re hearing the overt messages. But one thing that really breaks my heart, Nancy is when I see a tween or an elementary-age girl with one of these T-shirts on that says, “Girls Rule, Boys Drool!” or some other type of message. 

I think, Not only is that really a harmful message, but your mom bought that for you!

Mary: “Strong Girls Rule”—I’ve seen so many different T-shirts and the messages where, if you were to take that same message and substitute “Boys” for “Girls,” it would be offensive. If you were to say, “Boys Rule, Girls Drool,” that would be offensive.

Dannah: Right, yes.

Mary: That would be an offensive message in our culture, yet we push the message girls rule and men/boys are really nothing.

Dannah: A lot of times the message on the T-shirts or in the songs say, “Girls rule the world. They’re in charge. They’re in power. ” And, really, that is not an affront against guys and men so much as it is an affront against God! 

Nancy: Mary, you grew up as one girl with a number of brothers. 

Mary: Five brothers.

Nancy: I’ve heard you tell a story about a fight you got in with one of your brothers. 

Mary: Yes, I got in a fight with one of my brothers because he called me “a weak girl.” That was it! I threw the kitchen towel down, and we went into the living room, and I challenged him to a duel. We were going to fight it out, and we did! He didn’t take me seriously. 

Dannah: How old were you when this happened? 

Mary: My goodness, I must have been maybe eleven/twelve. 

Dannah: And he was?

Mary: He was maybe fourteen, something like that. And so we had it out in the living room. Our parents were gone, so we pushed all the furniture aside and . . .

Dannah: This was serious! 

Nancy: You were going to prove you were not a weak girl.

Mary: I was going to prove I was not a weak girl, because I wasn’t! “Anything that they could do, I could do,” and I was going to school him for calling me weak. And so we got into a fistfight, and it was probably one of the only physical fights I’ve ever had.

I was swinging; I was pulling hair; I was poking. At first he didn’t fight back, because he was bigger and he was stronger. He just let me take some pokes at him, but then I hit him in the nose. He decided, “That’s it! I’m going to show this sister of mine!” And he did. He started fighting in earnest, and I started losing.

I wasn’t going to admit defeat, but I was getting beaten very badly. He took me down to the carpet, and he was holding me there. That’s when my older brother came upstairs and chided my other brother, pulled him off, and said, “How dare you hit your sister!”

And I said, “Yuh!,” in trying to explain myself and, “He called me a weak girl!”

And my older brother looked at me and he said, “You better get it through your head that you are a girl, and that if you get into fights with him, you’re going to get beat!” Such a spiritual analogy there that really relates to what we’re going to be talking about in this final habit of a spiritually strong woman.

Nancy: And yet, in a way, that kind of story probably also illustrates (because girls have been called weak or think that the culture thinks they’re weak) why there may be this rise of “girl power” in the culture.

So as you think about how the culture defines power—and woman-power and girl-power—what are the main messages we’re getting from the culture about what it means to be a strong woman?

Mary: I think that a strong woman is presented as someone who always believes in herself and in her own strength, that a woman who is strong believes that she has what it takes to conquer her situation—whatever that might be.

Nancy: So she’s self-sufficient. 

Dannah: Yes, and there’s this underlying undercurrent that a strong woman understands that, “Women are better than men.” I don’t know where that comes from, why we can’t honor and bless the strengths of men, but there is that subcurrent in the message.

Mary: Another thing that we see depicted as strength for women is that they make their own rules, that they don’t listen to what other people say, that they make the rules for themselves.

Dannah: And one of the things that just makes me so sad is that I feel we’re wearing ourselves out in the quest for strength because there’s this notion that we have to be in charge of everything—our bodies, our careers, our bank accounts, our families . . .

Mary: . . . our men . . .

Dannah: . . . everything. And this power and this quest to perfect everything is just exhausting!

Mary: It is exhausting!

Nancy: There may also be a sense that, “I don’t want to have to be dependent on anybody else, because it’s a fear of getting hurt, of being abandoned or rejected. You’ve got to be able to stand for yourself and cope and survive. You’ve got to be scrappy and be a survivor to be a strong woman.”

Dannah: She’s supposed to be able to do everything! 

Mary: Everything!

Dannah: I’ve seen some young women just be so discouraged by that, when they’re not good at everything.

Nancy: Or it’s not the season. You can’t do everything in any season, no matter how good at many things you may be. 

Mary: Or there is this need to have this powerful degree. You need to rise up the corporate ladder, you need to the boss. That’s another image of woman’s strength, that a strong woman is a woman who is a politician or a woman who’s a CEO or a woman who has a lot of underlings she’s telling what to do.

Dannah: If I could jump in and be the devil’s advocate for a moment, are we saying that it’s not okay to be strong? Are we saying that women can’t be strong, shouldn’t be strong?

Mary: Not at all. God loves strong women. He wants His daughters to be strong, but He wants us to the right kind of strong. I think that what Satan often does is, he gives us a partial truth and then he twists that truth, or he puts a little bit of emphasis in the wrong spot. Satan identifies a real need, but then tells us how to fix it in a way that’s not godly. 

So do we need more strong women? Yes we do, absolutely! Do we want our daughters to be strong? Absolutely! I want my granddaughters to be strong. I want them to grow up to be strong women—but strong in the right kind of way. We’ve been unpacking the passage from 2 Timothy 3 about weak women.

That was not a good thing. Paul did not say, “Oh, women are weak and women should be weak and all women are weak.” It’s not a compliment! He, in this passage, is saying, “These weak women were diminished. They were less than they should have been!”

Dannah: And in saying that, wasn’t he saying, “Rise up and be strong!”

Mary: Absolutely!

Nancy: So let’s go back to that passage, and I want to pick up on something that, Mary, you close your book with—The Right Kind of Strong: The Surprisingly Simple Habits of a Spiritually Strong Woman. I hope by now that everybody who’s been a part of this whole series is saying, “Yes! I want to rise up; I want to be that kind of strong woman.”

But the one we’re talking about today, this seventh surprisingly simple habit, is kind of an oxymoron. It’s not what you would think about what it means to be strong. But let’s just back up a moment and get the context. 

Paul says to Timothy, who’s the pastor of this church in Ephesus: 

[There] are those who creep into households and capture weak women, [these women are] burdened with sins, [they’re] led astray by various passions, [they’re] always learning and never able to arrive at a knowledge of the truth (2 Tim. 3:6–7).

Now, we’ve talked about a lot of those. You’ve talked about them in your book and just explained them in such a beautiful and helpful way. But as we come to that seventh surprising habit, what is the bad habit we need to put off and the right habit we need to put on?

Mary: These women considered themselves to be strong women. These were women who lived in a very pro-woman culture at the time.

Nancy: They probably felt a little like you did when your brother called you weak, when Paul calls them weak. “You want to fight about this!?”

Mary: Exactly. I’m sure they weren’t happy about that! If a pastor or a blogger called me out for being a weak woman, I think I’d get my hackles up a little bit still to this day, because I don’t want to be weak.

Nancy: And they didn’t think that they were. They thought they were strong.

Mary: They didn’t think that they were weak, but here’s the paradox. I think that in order to be a strong woman, ultimately, we need to rely on God. We can’t find our strength in ourselves. We need to find our strength in a Savior. And that is really going back to the story of my fight with my brother.

My older brother came in, pulled my brother off, and said, “You know what? You’ve got to understand, if you fight him, you’re going to lose every time.” Then he said, “Next time you have a problem, call me and I’ll come help you out.”

That’s just a picture of . . . a weak woman thinks she can handle everything. A weak woman really thinks that she’s strong, but a strong woman understands that she is weak and in need of a Savior.

Nancy: Say that again, Mary. That is so powerful and such a good distinction. So it depends how you’re using the word “weak,” right?

Mary: It does, but the Bible redraws the boundaries. It changes the definition of what is actually weak and what is actually strong.”

Nancy: So, the bad kind of weak woman, the kind Paul is talking about here in 2 Timothy, she tries to act strong.

Mary: She thinks that she’s strong, but a truly strong woman recognizes that she’s weak and in need of a Savior. She looks to Christ for strength.

Nancy: And when we say we need to be weak, in a sense, that’s not something the world thinks very highly of. So we say, “You need to be weak and recognize that you’re not self-sufficient.” They say weak means, “insecure,” “feeble,” “frail,” “vulnerable.” And we say, “There’s a kind of weakness that really is strength.”

Mary: There is, and Paul talks about that. He says, “When I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Cor. 12:10). When I am fully dependent on Jesus, when I understand and admit my need, and I admit my need for Jesus and admit my weakness, that’s when His strength can shine through me.” 

I think we want to give women permission here to feel that they are strong and that God is giving them strength, and that they are strong women. 

Nancy: But they’re not strong in and of themselves.

Mary: Exactly. Even when I’m working out of my strength, even when I’m doing what comes very easily to me because it’s in my gifting, it’s in my personality, even then I need to recognize that everything I am, everything I have, everything I do is because of Jesus.

Nancy: Apart from Him, we have nothing, we are nothing, we don’t have anything to offer. We are nothing apart from Him. We are weak.

Mary: The amazing thing about this message is that you can be a strong woman whether you feel like a strong woman or not. You can be a strong woman even when you feel weak. In fact, Christ’s power and His strength is put on display most dramatically through our weaknesses. 

Nancy: It’s interesting, when Revive Our Hearts started back in 2001, I had been teaching women. I had been doing women’s conferences, writing books. And then this opportunity became available to be the successor ministry to Elisabeth Elliot’s Gateway to Joy. First of all, those were huge shoes to fill! Nobody could fill them, and I knew I certainly couldn’t.

I was now being given the responsibility for coming up with programming, Bible teaching, for two-hundred-and-sixty days a year. I just had this overwhelming sense of my own weakness! In fact, that was an answer to prayer, because years ago I began to pray (and I prayed it many times over the years):

Lord, don’t let me ever get to the place where I can do what You’ve called me to do without feeling my desperate need for You! 

That is a prayer that God has been very faithful to answer! So this ministry started, and I now had this responsibility, and I felt so needy . . . so inadequate!

People look at a public communicator, a public person, and they think, Oh, she’s strong. She is talented. She’s good at this. And I’m thinking, If people only knew! That old Twila Paris song, “The Warrior Is a Child”—that is my song. And I remember thinking so many times in those early years (and it’s a sense I don’t really ever want to get over) when I would go into a recording session . . . I still feel a sense when I get up at a major conference or I start to write a book . . . I feel so overwhelmed sometimes.

Mary: Just inadequate.

Nancy: I feel inadequate by the bigness of the task and the limitations I have in my own life, which is not anywhere near where I know it needs to be or I want it to be. I’m so much in process. Well, the Lord gave me a really sweet gift in the early days, maybe the first eighteen months of the Revive Our Hearts program.

Every day—I want to say virtually without exception—when I would wake up in the morning, my first conscious thought I had (And it was a hard year! We were recording like three-hundred new programs, and I was writing a number of books that year, and I just felt perpetually out over my skis.) was that little line from the child’s song “Jesus Loves Me.” It was just this line, “They are weak, but He is strong.”

The melody would come to my mind as I would be coming out of sleep and into consciousness: “They are weak, but He is strong.” I just want to say what a gift it was, and is, to know that when I go do whatever God has called me to do now—to be a wife, in whatever the season is—I am weak, but He is strong.

Dannah: Let me bring that to the domestic domain, if I can. This past summer has been a year when I have really realized that in a new way. I have three adult children, all grown. One is marrying a boy from Taiwan with fiancé visa problems. I’m not in control. My son and daughter-in-law are expecting their first child, which turned out to be twins‚high-risk pregnancy. My third child was trying to buy a house in a market where houses are selling in twenty-four hours, and she’s just getting, “No, no, no.” 

I realized in a new way how very out-of-control I have been my entire life as a mother, but God is allowing me to see it in a new way. I had to enter into the realization of how truly weak I have always been, without even knowing it, and enter into the strength of who He is for this time.

Nancy: When we realize that we are weak, then we are pressed into His strength. We say, “I can’t do this. I can’t love that husband, I can’t love that child, I can’t parent that toddler, I can’t do this job in the marketplace, I can’t teach this Bible study.” You know, somebody comes and says, “Would you lead a small group?” and you’re stammering and stuttering. You think, Who? Me?

Well, that very weakness—that very sense of weakness—is what makes us a candidate for God’s grace! Because it’s the grace of God that enables us to do and to be. 

We read Proverbs 31, this woman of valor, and we say, “I’m not a woman of valor! I’m a scared woman! I feel so weak, so small, so inadequate!” That’s what presses me into His grace every day of my life.

Mary: Our friend, Joni, she’s lived her life as a quadraplegic, and she speaks a lot about strength and about how her weakness has made the power of Christ even more real to her. And I know there are a lot of women in our audience who are dealing with things—not just ministry things or family things—but situations that are so, so difficult when it comes to pain, chronic pain, suffering, physical issues, or watching their loved ones go through just such very challenging situations. 

I just think of what a testimony it is when I see women who have walked that path, and it is in their weakness and in their moment of having nothing—having no strength, having no resources, knowing that they’re going to reach into their stores—and there is nothing there except Jesus.

Dannah: You mentioned Joni Eareckson Tada. Now, there’s a role model! We started this series talking about the role models our culture offers us as women, and they don’t point us toward the paradox of weakness and strength. But Joni does. I think that there’s a craving in us for role models like that. What do you think?

Mary: I think there is a craving. I started out with a role model who was this little Pearl Purdie. And she modeled strength for me. She was a powerful, strong woman, but not in the way the world upheld strength. She was a spiritually strong woman, and it was powerful in my life. It was beautiful.

Nancy: I think there’s not only a craving for role models, but there’s a calling for us to become the role models. The three of us are in our fifties, well, I’m in my sixties now. I just feel more and more the challenge, the calling, to not only look for godly role models but also to become that kind of woman.

I think of your daughters and your granddaughters, and the younger women who serve in our ministry and who are attaching to this ministry and who are reading books like Mary’s (which are so helpful and what a great thing for them to be able to read this kind of book, get this kind of teaching).

But how much do they need to see this lived out, these surprisingly simple habits of a spiritually strong woman? I’m saying to myself as we’ve been talking about these habits, “I want to be that kind of woman. I want to become that kind of woman.” You don’t just wake up in your sixties or seventies or eighties and find, “Oh, I’m spiritually strong now!” It’s a day-after-day journey.

But I realize this is not just about me and my relationship with the Lord. It’s about legacy; it’s about influence; it’s about, “Why has God left you and me here on this earth?” I know there are people going through this study, people listening to this conversation, who are thinking, Well, Nancy and Dannah and Mary, of course you’re role models! That’s what you’re supposed to be. That’s what you guys get paid to do. 

Dannah: Are we getting paid for this?

Nancy: Oh, right, we didn’t tell you? But this is a calling for all of us as older women, to put on those surprisingly simple habits of a spiritually strong woman, so that we can be planting the seeds of grace, and we can become the Pearl Purdies to the Mary Kassians and the Dannah Greshes of the next generation.

And then I would say to the younger women, don’t think you can just wait until you’re an old woman like us. (You know, we seem really old to some who are listening to this conversation!) Don’t wait until you’re that older woman to become that role model. The decisions you’re making today . . .

Dannah: Well, they’re an older woman to someone.

Nancy: You’re an older woman to someone, and you are what you have been becoming (as my dad used to remind us) through your habits and the choices you’re making today that may not seem that significant. They are building habits that are determining what you will be down the road. 

I think there’s a challenge, there’s a calling, there’s a craving for us to follow Christ together and to be those strong women!

I would hope that if Paul were going to write a letter to the Christian women of our day, he would say, “I’m glad to see in you the qualities of spiritual strength!”—which means you acknowledge your weakness. You know that you are only strong in and through Him. But God is using you to be women of valor—mighty women of God—to make a difference in the lives of the women around you.

Mary: Women who dress themselves with strength and make their arms strong, as Proverbs 31 says.

Dannah: You know, one way that you can clothe yourself with strength is to get a copy of Mary’s book, The Right Kind of Strong: Surprisingly Simple Habits of a Spiritually Strong Woman. And we’d love to send you a copy when you make a gift in any amount to Revive Our Hearts this month. It’s our way of saying “thank you” for helping us help women experience the right kind of strength through Christ.

Nancy: And you can make that donation at month, as we come to the end of the summer, we need a fresh infusion of funds to help us get into the fall up until the year end, so your contribution at this time really does make a difference. 

If you’d like to call us instead to do that, you can make that call to 1–800–569–5959. When you contact us, make sure and let us know that you’d like a copy of Mary’s book, The Right Kind of Strong.

What a sweet conversation this has been over these days! It’s been just eight days of conversation about this book, but it’s rooted in life that we have lived together as friends over many years now. I’m so thankful for you, Dannah, and you, Mary, and what you both have meant in my life and how your example has spurred me on to love Christ more, to want to be more of the kind of woman He made me to be.

In fact, Mary, you taught me the word “amenable.” That was a new word to me. You made me realize that a spiritually strong woman is amenable—she’s flexible, she’s responsive. Both of you women have helped me so much in my walk with the Lord. And I know you’ve helped our listeners as well and those who are going through this book, going through this study.

So I’d love to just ask if we could close our time, Mary, by having you pray for us that God would raise up a generation of women who are spiritually strong and will be the role models that the next generation needs.

Mary: Absolutely! Heavenly Father, thank You for this time. Thank You for Your Word, thank You that You guide us into truth. Thank You that You care about Your daughters and that You want us to be strong. Thank You that Your Word teaches us the path, and it corrects the misconceptions that we get from culture. 

I pray, Lord, for those women who are listening to this whose hearts are stirred. Either they say, “I am a strong woman!” or they say, “I am such a weak woman!” For both of those stories, You are there. For the women who feel that they are strong women, You want them to be strong in the right kind of way. And for women who feel that they are weak, You want to shore them up with Your strength.

You give strength to the weary. You give strength to those who have no strength. You are strength to those who call on You. So, Father, I just pray that we may turn to You, that we may learn from You, that we may rely on You, and that we may become the right kind of strong! In Jesus’ name, amen.

Leslie: If you forget who you are in Christ, it will lead you to despair! Tomorrow Karen Loritts will help you learn how to overcome fear and panic with the confidence that only comes from Christ. Please be back for Revive Our Hearts.

Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth is helping you find strength in the Lord. The program is an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

All Scripture is taken from the ESV unless otherwise noted.


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About the Teacher

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth has touched the lives of millions of women through Revive Our Hearts and the True Woman movement, calling them to heart revival and biblical womanhood. Her love for Christ and His Word is infectious, and permeates her online outreaches, conference messages, books, and two daily nationally syndicated radio programs—Revive Our Hearts and Seeking Him.

She has authored twenty-two books, including Lies Women Believe and the Truth That Sets Them Free, Seeking Him (coauthored), Adorned: Living Out the Beauty of the Gospel Together, and You Can Trust God to Write Your Story (coauthored with her husband). Her books have sold more than five million copies and are reaching the hearts of women around the world. Nancy and her husband, Robert, live in Michigan.