Revive Our Hearts Podcast

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Dannah Gresh: I sent a Revive Our Hearts team out on the street to ask women this question.

Interviewer: Can you name one woman you think most other women look to as an example of a strong woman?

Woman 1: A strong woman . . .

Woman 2: I think a lot of people look toward Jennifer Hudson.

Woman 3: Margaret Thatcher.

Woman 4: The Kardashians.

Woman 5: Angelina Jolie.

Woman 6: Oh, Oprah Winfrey.

Woman 7: Hillary Clinton is a strong woman.

Woman 8: Off the top of my head, I’m going to go with Michelle Obama.

Woman 9: Michelle Obama.

Woman 10: Michelle Obama!

Leslie Basham: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth, author of Lies Women Believe, for August 1, 2019.

If you’ve been around Revive Our Hearts any length of time, you probably know the name Mary Kassian. She has a new book about how we can develop the right kind of strength as women. Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth and Dannah Gresh sat down to talk with Mary not long ago. Before we get to that conversation, Dannah Gresh will continue exploring what the average person thinks of when they hear the phrase “strong woman.”

Interviewer: What qualities do you think make her a role model for many of today’s women?

Woman 1: I think that they look up to her because she’s strong.

Woman 2: She’s physically strong.

Woman 3: She’s independent.

Woman 4: Successful.

Woman 5: Success and power.

Woman 6: Style.

Woman 7: Well-educated.

Woman 8: She seems very business-savvy but also very personable.

Woman 9: She’s not afraid to voice her opinion.

Woman 10: Verbally active about what they believe.

Woman 11: Because she’s a leader.

Woman 12: Respected leader.

Woman 13: Their followers on Instagram.

Interviewer: Do you think these qualities exhibit the right kind of strength for women?

Woman 1: Wow. Um . . .

Woman 2: Um . . .

Woman 3: Um . . .

Woman 4: Um . . .

Woman 5: Um . . .

Woman 6: Um . . .

Woman 7: In many ways, yes.

Woman 8: No.

Woman 9: I would say no.

Woman 10: Oh, I really don’t know.

Woman 11: These are really hard! Do I have to answer these?

Dannah: What does that tell us? They’re not really even able to verbalize, “Is this the right kind of strength?” They’re insecure about it. They think maybe no it’s not. What does that tell us?

Nancy: Well, I don’t think it’s just the people who answered those questions. I think a lot of us have maybe some confusion about what it means to be strong, and particularly in the Christian world. Is it good to be strong? Is it okay to be strong? 

Dannah: Well, is it?

Nancy: That’s why we’ve brought on a guest to help us with that question this week. Mary Kassian is a longtime friend of ours and of Revive Our Hearts. Welcome, Mary!

Mary Kassian: Thank you; it’s good to be here.

Nancy: We’ve brought you in to answer the hard questions. I think we want to say right at the outset that it’s not wrong to be strong, that there’s a right kind of strength. Actually, somebody should write a book by that title.

Mary: Somebody should write a book by that title!

Nancy: I think you did.

Mary: I think I did. 

Nancy: The Right Kind of Strong

Mary: The Right Kind of Strong

Nancy: For those who aren’t familiar with Mary Kassian, besides being our friend, a longtime supporter and friend of Revive Our Hearts, she’s a Canadian. Can you give us an “eh”?

Mary: How’s it going, eh?

Nancy: Exactly.

Dannah: Oh, that was really well done.

Nancy: So, she lives up in the tundra where it’s kind of just cold most of the year, and . . .

Dannah: She watches a lot of sports.

Nancy: She watches a lot sports, because your husband is . . .

Mary: He’s chaplain for the professional football team, the CFL team up there, and also for the soccer team. My sons have been in professional sports.

Nancy: Three sons.

Mary: Three sons. 

Nancy: So that’s another reason you . . .

Dannah: Hockey players.

Mary: Hockey players.

Nancy: That’s what they do up there, right?

Mary: They do a lot of that up there!

Nancy: You’ve written a number of books. You teach at conferences, but a lot of those have been based on your books. We have partnered together; we’ve co-authored two books, True Woman 101 and True Woman 201. Mary, Dannah, and I were both in South Africa last year. We ran into so many people who said, “Our group at our church in this country, that country,” women from all kinds of backgrounds, “we’ve studied True Woman 201; we’ve studied True Woman 101.” When we wrote that, we didn’t know if it would be cross-cultural, if it would translate well to other cultures.

Mary: We had no idea just the extent of it or how far it would go. I get those kinds of stories all the time, as well, just from emails. Various people I talk to around the world have said, “That book has made such an impact, the True Woman series, 101, 201.”

Nancy: And you wrote another one, Girls Gone Wise in a World Gone Wild. That’s had a lot of impact. I got to take a group of young women through that study in my home shortly after it came out. Now all those women have children who are growing up and they’re living out the principles that you helped them discover about how to be a wise young woman.

Now I think, Dannah, that the book Mary has written most recently, The Right Kind of Strong, I think it’s going to be another seminal work. It’s the heartbeat of Revive Our Hearts.

Dannah: It’s so important, yes. As I was reading through the content, I was like, “Oh! This is like the heartbeat of Lies Women Believe. Oh! This is like the heartbeat of . . .” and I would name books and resources.

Nancy: And the True Woman Movement.

Dannah: I mean, this is just the DNA of Revive Our Hearts and True Woman.

But when you say that these young women are growing up and they have children of their own now, that’s where I think I’m concerned. Because as we listened to those women talk about what makes a strong woman, we’re passing that on. We’re passing on either a good strength or a bad strength. 

Recently I was reading a New York Times article, and it was saying that, in a proud way, the wonderful strength of women we see today—which probably is close to what we just heard from those women on the street—is credited to the 1970s. 

So, Mary, take us back to the 1970s. Tell us, where were you? How old were you? What was happening in your life? What was influencing you to become the woman you are today?

Mary: 1970s was the height of the feminist movement. 1972 was Helen Reddy’s song, “I am strong. I am invincible. I am woman.”

Dannah: Do you want to sing it for us?

Mary: “I am strong. I am invincible . . .”

Dannah: Maybe we should let Helen Reddy sing that.

Mary: Maybe we should let Helen Reddy sing that.

Music: “I am strong (strong!). I am invincible (invincible!). I am woman!”

Mary: I remember singing, “I am strong. I am invincible. I am woman.”

Dannah: Me, too.

Mary: That actually helped shaped my idea of what strength meant and what a woman was. I think it did for many women of my generation. Now, this generation has a whole new set of songs and music that is influencing them, but the message is the same: that women ought to be strong.

Now, that in and of itself is a good message. I think the Bible has that message as well. Proverbs says that a woman, a godly woman, “arms herself with strength.” She makes her arms strong; she clothes herself with strength.

Nancy: In fact, that whole Proverbs 31—where that verse comes from, the virtuous woman sometimes we call it—that Hebrew term is actually “a woman of valor.” It’s a woman of strength. She is a strong woman.

Mary: That’s right. God definitely approves of strength in women, and He wants His women to be strong. But I think that our concept of what it means to be strong in culture isn’t always congruent with what the Bible says that strength is for women. 

I think that oftentimes women who think they’re strong are merely just being arrogant or bossy or pushy. Sometimes we equate financial success with strength. A lot of the women that we look up to, in terms of emulating as our role models for strength, are not necessarily women who would have godly morals, they’re not necessarily women who know what it is to have a quiet kind of strength that walks in humility before God.

Nancy: I’m thinking of how today, also, there’s a lot of emphasis on professional achievements and accomplishments.

Dannah: Power.

Nancy: You have the concept of leaning in, make sure that not only you know you are strong, but that others perceive you as being strong. Again, there’s kind of a mixed message there. How much of this is the way God wants us to think about strength and how much of it is our culture’s counterfeit for what is true strength?

Dannah: What makes me sad as a mother of a son, is so many times the underlying message is that our strength as women means less strength for men, or that our strength is at the expense of men. Why does our strength have to be at their expense?

Mary: Or we compete with them.

Dannah: Right, that we compete with them. Why can’t we appreciate their unique strengths and also embrace and appreciate our unique strengths? I mean, I love that I can vote. I love that I can own property. I love that I can make money. Those are good things. But why does it have to be at the expense of my son, my grandson, my husband, other men that I love in my life? That troubles me.

Mary: It is troubling, and I think that it has been set up as though a woman’s strength is in competition with a man’s strength, and it needs to be the same. I remember getting that message through the ’70s and through the ’80s as I went to university and got a professional degree. I got that what it meant for a woman to be strong was to take control, to be in charge, to be professional, to earn a lot of money, to rise up through the corporate ladder, break the glass ceiling—that was a big emphasis.

Dannah: Did that affect you, Mary? Did that impact you? Were you always this woman who was studying her Bible and becoming a biblical woman, or did some of that 1970s philosophy infiltrate your thinking?

Mary: It certainly did infiltrate my thinking. I love Jesus; I love the Word of God, but I was impacted by what was going on in my culture as well. 

I remember one woman who really challenged me in that. Her name was Pearl Purdie,

Dannah: For real? That was her name?

Nancy: What a name?

Mary: That was her name, Pearl Purdie.

Dannah: You didn’t just make that up?

Mary: I didn’t make that up. Pearl.

Dannah: That’s not from Hee-Haw.

Mary: No. Pearl.

Dannah: Okay.

Mary: Actually, her name pretty much describes what she would have been like. She was just this little, wee woman, Coke-bottle glasses, about eighty years old. She never went to college; she didn’t have a professional degree. But she took me under her wing, and she invited me over to her home. We used to go play shuffleboard, of all things. I was playing shuffleboard with an eighty-year-old woman!

Nancy: When you were a college student, young woman?

Mary: I was, yes, probably about twenty years old.

Nancy: What attracted you to her?

Mary: She was just persistent. I mean, she was cute, but she was persistent. She was just so sweet and lovely, and she invited me.

Nancy: She took an interest in you.

Mary: She took an interest in me, invited me over to home.

Nancy: By the way—I want to interrupt you there for a second—just a note to those of us who are older women, who are maybe being perceived in the eyes of younger woman like Pearl Purdie was. If we take an interest in the younger women . . .

Mary: It’s huge.

Nancy: . . . it’s amazing how many connections and relationships can be established and how much influence can be had.

Okay, commercial over. 

Mary: She had an amazing influence on my life. She used to invite us over, invite me over or invite a few of us girls over, to have tea and play shuffleboard. (Laughter)

Nancy: I’m picturing this.

Mary: That’s what we’re doing!

Dannah: Somehow I picture a Coke with the shuffleboard, but the tea?

Mary: Tea!

Dannah: That’s fitting with her name, Pearl.

Mary: It had to be British tea, and it had to be made the right way. But here’s the thing about Pearl. I began to see a strength in her, the type of strength that was not presented by the world as strength, but a strength that was a godly strength. It was so attractive and so strong.

So my girlfriends and I were trying to be strong in the way that the world told us to be strong. We were becoming professional women. We were becoming women who had money, had clout, who made our voices heard. Yet here was here was Pearl Purdie, and I’m going, “Wow. This is a strong, strong woman.”

Strength, obviously, comes in different shapes and sizes in different personalities. Whether or not you have a professional degree, you can be a strong woman if you do or if you don’t. But there was just something, there was a quality of strength in her, because it was a spiritual strength. It was a strength of character, a strength of conviction, a strength of faith, something that I wanted to develop in my life.

Dannah: Was her friendship with you kind of a turning point, in a way, for how you thought about strength?

Mary: I think it certainly contributed to being a turning point. I’ve always had faith in God’s Word. From the time when I was very young, I had an understanding that the Word of God was true, and it needed to be applied to my life.

Nancy: And that’s a great foundation that God has given to each of us.

Dannah: Yes.

Nancy: I mean, all three of us have that in our background, and I know how grateful we all are for that. I’m thinking of women who maybe are listening to this conversation who don’t have that kind of background, and they think, I came out of . . . Who knows what, a very secular or worldly or ungodly background, but it’s not too late to start getting your heart anchored in God’s Word.

What a calling it is for moms and dads and grandparents to plant those seeds of truth! That’s why we talk about True Girl; that’s why we talk about mentoring and older women teaching younger women. All three of us have faced times when we were challenged or maybe could have been drawn away by wrong ways of thinking about life. God’s drawn our hearts back to His Word.

Mary: I think that’s one of the things that I knew, because I knew that there were verses in the Bible that talked about strength, things like, “When I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Cor. 12:10). Things that showed that weakness, or weakness in terms of being dependant on God, was really a very strong thing to do. 

Dannah: Yes, or, “A soft answer turns away wrath” (Prov. 15:1). So there you have softness being strong. There’s this . . . what is it? It’s oxymoronic. It’s a . . .

Nancy: Paradox.

Dannah: Paradox! There, that’s the right word. It’s a paradox.

Mary: It’s a paradox.

Dannah: God’s strength.

Nancy: And even humility, which is a great strength, but the world often thinks of that . . . we often think of that as being a pushover. You’re not strong because you’re not standing up for yourself. To be meek we think of that as weakness, but in Scripture meekness is actually great strength.

Mary: Where it talks about women having a quiet, gentle spirit, that is seen by God as very precious and as a great strength. So the world’s definition and the Bible’s definition do not approach strength in the same way.

Dannah: Our culture’s not the first to get this wrong, to have an example of what a woman should be that’s off course from what God’s Word says. So let’s go back to the cultures in the Scripture.

Nancy: In fact, Mary, you’ve based this book on a passage from 2 Timothy 3, where the apostle Paul is writing to his young protégé pastor Timothy, who pastored a church in Ephesus.

Mary: He is writing to Timothy, and as he’s writing to Timothy he mentions something about a group of women in Timothy’s church in Ephesus. He mentions that these particular women were weak women.

Nancy: In fact, can we just read that passage so we get some context for what we’re talking about here and why this whole background of Ephesus is important? In 2 Timothy 3, Paul talks about, “In the last days there will come times of difficulty,” and some of the ungodly qualities that people would have. Then he says in verse 5, 

They have the appearance of godliness, but they deny its power. 

He says, “Avoid such people.” That’s really strong language, and we’re going to talk in this series about some of the kinds of people we need to avoid.

Then he says in verse 6—and this is so fascinating, because I heard you speak on this years ago, and now you’ve written this whole book to unpack just a couple of verses here; so powerful. 2 Timothy 3:6:

For among them [among these people you’re supposed to avoid] are those who creep into households and capture weak women [we’re going to talk more about that] who are burdened with sins and led astray by various passions, always learning and never able to arrive at a knowledge of the truth (vv. 6–7).

So the women whom Timothy pastored, who would have first heard these words, what kind of background, city context, were they living in?

Mary: It’s interesting that Timothy calls them weak women, because I don’t think that they would have considered themselves to be weak. Here’s why. They lived in Ephesus, and Ephesus was a bustling metropolitan city.

Nancy: I’ve been there, to see the ruins of it. I think you have as well.

Mary: I’ve been there. I’ve seen the ruins of Ephesus.

Nancy: It’s massive.

Mary: It’s massive, and it’s spectacular.

Nancy: Yes.

Mary: It was actually one of the largest cities in the world at the time. Historians think that it was probably a quarter of a million people. It had this massive colosseum on three levels. It sat 24,000 people in the colosseum.

Dannah: Wow, that’s a lot of people!

Mary: The colosseum opened up with these marble pillars out on to their big marketplace street, which was marble stones and all sorts of shops.

Nancy: Huge commerce center.

Mary: It was a huge center of commerce. It was on the waterways. It was a harbor, so they had people coming in from all over the world.

Nancy: Cosmopolitan.

Mary: Cosmopolitan, very cosmopolitan.

Nancy: Sophisticated.

Mary: Very sophisticated. It was a wealthy city. When you look at the houses in that city, they were like mansions, even by our standards! Those houses were over 10,000 square feet. They were multi-story houses. They had all sorts of mosaics and artwork. They had running water! And not only running water, but hot and cold water, in their bathrooms. These were spectacular houses.

Nancy: And women had a lot of influence. They were not suppressed in the ways we might think of in some cultures.

Mary: They were not suppressed at all in terms of the way that we think of in many cultures. They had economic freedom. The property laws were such that women inherited property along with the men. Actually, by law their property was kept separate, so that if there was a divorce that happened they would get all the money back.

There were women who were businesswomen, independently wealthy women, women who were patrons. It talks about a lot of those types of women in Scripture. So these women in Ephesus were also educated under Roman rule. They really valued education in Greek society, so boys and girls attended school.

Nancy: So when Paul says these were weak women—sorry for interrupting there—they don’t sound like they were weak.

Dannah: They sound like they were strong. I think that the women on the street that we interviewed would probably say, “Oh, that sounds like a very pro-woman culture!”

Mary: It was a very pro-woman culture.

Nancy: So why did he call them . . . actually, the term, as you help us understand, is “little women,” in a diminutive sense, not a complimentary sense.

Mary: Yes. I like that you brought up that word “diminutive,” because that’s actually what it is. It’s the word for “woman” in Greek, then with a diminutive ending.

A diminutive is when you think of something as being less than or smaller than. So, you know, you have a pig and you have a piglet; you have a book and booklet.

Nancy: A woman and a little woman.

Mary: Little woman, a women-let. (laughter) 

That’s actually what Paul called them. It was a term that indicated that they were less than they ought to have been. These were not women who were living up to their full potential in terms of who God created them to be.

Nancy: And there were ways that they thought they were strong when they actually were weak.

Dannah: So Mary, what about these women was Paul observing that actually brought him to the conclusion that they were weak? What were the things he was noticing? What were the symptoms?

Mary: It’s so interesting, when you take a look at these verses in chapter 3:6-7, it actually breaks it down into some of the things where they were weak. 

First of all, they were letting creeps in. They let creeps come into their homes and creep into their households. They were being captured or captivated, so they were entertaining ideas and accepting these ideas. The creeps were actually messing with their minds. They weren’t taking their thoughts captive.

It says that they were burdened by sins, so they weren’t in a habit of confessing sin. They were having these sins weigh them down and be burdened.

They were led astray by various passions, and passions are desires. So they were following their feelings! They were letting their feelings drive them around.

They were always learning, they had a love of learning, but they weren’t applying what they were learning. It says that they were “never able to arrive at a knowledge of the truth.” So they didn’t have convictions. They were always spinning their wheels and never getting anywhere in terms of their Christian life.

If we break these seven habits down, they had some habits. I think that if we turn those habits around and have a look at them, we can see that if we counteract those habits in our lives, then we will become stronger and stronger.

Nancy: And that’s why you’ve written this book, called, The Right Kind of Strong, and the subtitle is Surprisingly Simple—I like that—Surprisingly Simple Habits of a Spiritually Strong Woman.

Dannah, over the next several days we’re going to, with Mary’s help and just in this conversation, unpack what are the habits we want to put off and what are the surprisingly simple habits, seven of them, that we want to put on in order to become spiritually strong women.

Dannah: Yes, and I’m excited, because I want to know this. I don’t want to be like, “Am I strong in the Lord? Am I a spiritually strong woman?” I really want to know that.

So this is a diagnostic tool that we’re going to use over the next few days to discern, are we showing up with the weakness that Paul saw as a symptom of those women in Ephesus, or are we walking into and putting on those habits of strength?

Nancy: We want to make this book available to any of our listeners and encourage you to go through it. Mary, I’ve had the chance to read through this book, and it’s so powerful. You just summarized things you’ve been pondering and learning and teaching for years. Dannah and I have said to each other that we’ve been personally touched by parts of this message. 

Dannah: I would say convicted.

Nancy: Convicted, exactly.

Dannah: That’s the word that I’ve used multiple times.

Nancy: So we want our listeners to be convicted, too!

Dannah: Yes, yes. We want you to share in this with us.

Nancy: So we’re making it available to any listener who makes a donation of any amount to Revive Our Hearts.

Dannah: Yes. It’s our way of saying “thank you” for helping us really help other women define their strength by God’s Word, not the culture. You can make that gift by calling 1–800–569–5959, or of course, you can go online to ReviveOurHearts.com. Make sure you ask for a copy of Mary Kassian’s new book.

Nancy: The Right Kind of Strong. Be sure and join us tomorrow on Revive Our Hearts when we start into what is that first habit. And what are these creeps? How do we avoid them? How do we avoid being influenced by their message? Be sure and join us tomorrow for Revive Our Hearts.

Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth wants to help you develop the right kind of strength. It’s an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

*Offers available only during the broadcast of the podcast season.

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