Revive Our Hearts Podcast

The Desire to Control

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: My gender, my womanhood is not a biological accident.

Leslie Basham: This is Nancy Leigh DeMoss.

Nancy: The fact that you are a woman is not a matter of chance. God was intentional when He made you a woman. God was intentional when He made me a woman. He did it for a purpose.

Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss for Thursday, January 24. Does it feel like conflicting messages are always coming at you about what it means to be a woman? Nancy Leigh DeMoss wants to help by looking to the Bible. We talk about biblical womanhood all the time, but today Nancy begins a new series that explains the basics. It’s called A Vision for Biblical Womanhood.

Nancy: One of the things I love about this ministry is the chance to read many of the emails that are sent to us from listeners sharing their stories, sharing their hearts, telling us how we can pray for them, and sharing what God is doing in their lives.

Many of those emails come from women—wives—who once upon a time walked to an altar, said, “I do,” and at that moment they had stars in their eyes. They had all kinds of dreams, all kinds of hopes, all kinds of expectations.

But by the time they write to us, they are finding themselves in a world of hurt, a world of tension, a world of frustration. They write to share with us how those romantic dreams they had as younger women have turned into unfulfilled expectations, bitter disappointment, anger, and conflict. Many of these woman are truly desperate housewives.

Let me read to you an illustration. One woman wrote and said:

I’m at the end of myself. My husband has fallen asleep in front of the TV for three years, and I am downright bitter and hateful because he doesn’t love me or hold me as a husband should. I’m feeling weary and hateful, which I know is wrong.

I slam doors and pout, but I cannot tell him why I’m so angry. Now he says he’s tired of being mistreated. All he’s done for years is yell and scream and scare me, so I am the bad guy? I await God’s answer to these prayer requests, but in the meantime I am angry and tired.

Here’s another one. This woman says:

From the very beginning of our marriage and even before it, my husband’s only desire has been the fulfillment of his sexual needs. Sex was and is an idol to him. He was very demanding and would get angry when it didn’t happen.

I got pregnant right away with our first child, and he was angry about that. He forced me into being sterilized at 26 years old after the birth of our third child. He wanted free sex with no chance of a child interrupting his pleasure.

To be honest, at this point I hated him. He was an angry, sarcastic man. His words to me were a double-edged sword, cutting to the bone and marrow. I have no memories of him building me up in Christ, only tearing me down.

If he would have only loved me, Nancy, loved me like he loves himself, was kind to me, he would have had the wife and sex that he wanted. As it is now, I want nothing to do with him. I don’t know where to turn. I hurt so deeply from this man that I trusted to love me and to build me up in Christ.

Now, you may not relate to the details of those stories, but perhaps there’s something in them that you can relate to. Let me say, it’s not just women who express frustration in relationships with husbands or men. Sometimes we receive letters from men who are venting their frustration. This was a heart-wrenching email I received from one of our male listeners.

I am a really frustrated husband. Now, I am far from perfect. In fact, to be fair, I will list some of my struggles up front. I certainly have a problem with my thought life, and I struggle with anger as well. I’ve reacted to my wife’s harassment very harshly and have called her lots of names and told her I wish we had never married, etc., etc.

We have been in marriage counseling on and off since we got married. We are members of a church that has solid doctrinal teaching. My wife owns Lies Women Believe and about five other books for wives about marriage.

She says she believes in the Scriptural view of marriage; however, she’s constantly arguing with me and telling me that I’m wrong about everything. I know everything sounds like an exaggeration, but 40 to 50 times a day sure seems like everything.

The minute I walk through the door, she starts griping at me or refuting things I say. I’m required to do everything her way, or we will argue for hours on end. She believes she is right about everything and most of the time refuses to even consider my opinion.

Well, that email, as sometimes happens with others, brought tears to my eyes. I just thought how sad is this? We know that marriage was intended by the Designer of marriage—God Himself—it was intended to be a picture to show the world the incredible love of Christ and His redemptive relationship with His bride, the Church.

It’s heartbreaking to me to see how the enemy has perverted that picture. He has distorted and destroyed God’s created plan for men and women. It’s heartbreaking to me to see how far each of these couples is in their marriage from experiencing the oneness and the blessing that God intended for husbands and wives to enjoy with each other.

I realize that most cases are not as severe as the ones I’ve just read. However, in varying degrees what we just heard illustrates the battle of the sexes—whether in marriage or out of marriage, it is something we have all encountered. Let me add, it is something we have all contributed to. There are no innocent parties when it comes to men and women offending and wronging and hurting each other.

Sometimes we have engaged in that battle in our closest relationships. Why is it that the ones we love the most, we hurt the most? We know that conflict and pain in husband/wife relationships ultimately are the result of sin. Now, when I say there are no innocent parties, that doesn’t mean that in every altercation or every marriage issue that both parties are equally responsible.

Sometimes you can have a very godly mate whose mate does not follow Christ and makes life very difficult. But we know that ultimately all those conflicts go back to the Fall. The consequences of the man and the woman saying, "I’ll have it my way rather than God’s way.”

When you go back to the description of the Fall in Genesis chapter 3, you see Adam and Eve made that choice. They sinned and then God came and found them hiding from Him—trying to hide, not that they could. God spoke to the woman; He spoke to the man, and He spoke to the serpent. He said there are going to be consequences for the sinful choice that you have made.

Those consequences were not just for Adam and Eve, but they’re consequences that we experience as women and men and in our male/female relationships to this day. God said to Eve in verse 16 of Genesis chapter 3, “Your desire (this is the consequence of your choice) shall be for [against] your husband.”

Theologians have talked a lot about what that phrase means, but here’s what I think it comes down to. God is saying you will have the urge or the impulse to oppose your husband, to control your husband, and to act against him.

Where you were intended to function in oneness, one flesh, in harmony, in peace, in oneness of relationship, there’s going to be a barrier between you. Your impulse, your fallen impulse is going to be to try and control your husband, to oppose him, to act against him. The one that you’re supposed to be on the same team with, you’re going to end up on opposite teams.

The end of that verse says not only will your desire be against your husband, but “he shall rule over you.” Now again, there’s a lot of theological discussion as to exactly what that means. The explanation that has helped me the most is, when it says he shall rule over you, at least part of what that means is that he will respond to you with a rule, a headship, an oversight and authority that would at times be forceful and harsh. He will not always lead in godly ways. Sometimes he will be autocratic or dictatorial or harsh.

Here we have right in the third chapter of the Bible, after two incredibly beautiful chapters about God making everything and seeing that it’s good and God’s incredible design and blessing on His universe, this consequence of the woman saying no to God and yes to her own desires. God says this is going to affect everything in your life, starting with the only human relationship you have at the moment, which is with your husband.

So the man and the woman who were intended to live in oneness and harmony, God says now your impulse as women will be to control the men, to act against them. Battle of the sexes. He will rule over you sometimes in ways that are not appropriate.

Over the next several days, I want us to consider an important theological issue. It’s one of the most counter-cultural things we have discussed on Revive Our Hearts. We’ve talked about it before in different ways, but I want to come back to it.

That’s this whole issue of biblical manhood and womanhood.

  • What was God’s plan?
  • What went wrong?
  • How does God intend for us as women to function?
  • What is God’s vision for biblical womanhood as it relates to our responsibilities toward men?

I shared the examples that I started out with at the beginning to demonstrate that this theological issue is at times complex. There are Scripture passages on this subject that are not easy to understand. We were just talking about one of those in Genesis, chapter 3. But I want you to see that this is not just a theological issue. It has a very personal face.

This is an issue in which we have seen a massive change within the evangelical subculture within my lifetime. If you are under 40 and did not grow up being taught in the ways of God today, you have been taught a whole different way of thinking about manhood and womanhood than what the Scripture teaches.

That shift within the evangelical culture has followed on the heels of a seismic shift in western culture as a whole. Points of view about womanhood and manhood that were once considered radical or fringe, extreme—those points of view have become mainstream. They are in the air that we breathe today. They’re everywhere, including in the church.

As a result, there is epidemic confusion. Women are confused, so are men. There’s disorientation among men and among women.

  • Who am I?
  • What am I supposed to be?
  • How am I supposed to function?
  • How are these relationships supposed to work?

The consequences are costly. We see that in the illustrations I just read. Those emails that we’ve received.

So this is not just a theoretical exercise. We’re talking about real life implications in our homes, our churches, in the workplace, in our culture. We’re talking about real people, real marriages, real families, real children, real hurts, and in many cases, such as some of those I’ve just read, real deep hurt and despair.

The theme of manhood and womanhood is woven into the warp and woof of Scripture. It’s in the very fabric of Scripture. It’s not an afterthought on God’s part. It’s not something that’s inconsequential. It’s very significant that God made men and women. We’re going to see why and how. This is a crucial aspect of God’s plan in creation and in redemption.

The potential for blessing is enormous if we recognize God’s plan and embrace it for our lives as women and if men would do the same. You see the enemy knows that and that’s why he made his first appearance in the Garden to start with.

That’s why he’s been making appearances in our lives ever since, deceiving us through pop-culture, through literature, through movies, through the way that we think, through our fallen nature. The enemy wants to steal the truth from the church, and he wants to steal the truth from you.

I want to take a few moments in this first session to share with you how I’ve come to have this burden for biblical manhood and womanhood—biblical womanhood in particular because our mission at Revive Our Hearts is teaching women and helping them experience freedom and fullness and fruitfulness in Christ.

I want to give you a little glimpse of my own personal journey as a woman in ministry and try to communicate why I think it’s so important for us to grapple with and embrace the implications of a biblical perspective on our manhood and our womanhood. My own understanding of God’s calling in my life as a woman has been a many-year personal journey. It’s been a pilgrimage. It’s one that I’m still on.

As a young woman from the time I was actually a little girl and into my teenage years, I had a great passion for God. I was saved at the age of four. By the time I was six or seven, I knew that God had His hand on my life, that He had called me, that He had set me apart to serve Him in some way. I had no idea what that would look like, but I had this passionate desire to serve Christ.

All through high school and college I was teaching the Word, many times to children and young people. I was a visionary. I had a heart for ministry, but there were many times honestly when I felt somewhat frustrated and limited. I had this kind of gnawing, underlying sense.

I don’t think I could have put words to it or would have dared to say it at the time. But as I look back, there was this sense of feeling that if I had been a man, there was more I could do to serve God than there was that I could do as a woman.

When I was 21 years old, I was serving on the staff of a large local church, serving in the children’s ministries area. One day the pastor of that church came and asked if I would be willing to launch the women’s division for a new ministry that he was starting.

Part of my responsibility would involve doing women’s seminars called “The Battle for the Family: The Woman’s Role.” Well, I would not have said this to him, but the truth was at that point I wasn’t even sure I liked women. Honestly! I could not imagine giving my life to serving women. You say, “That seems kind of strange.” But the Lord led and directed that this was what I was to do. I agreed to serve as he had asked.

So as I got into my 20s and into my 30s, I sought to do what I had been asked to do and that is to serve women, to minister to the spiritual needs of women. In the course of doing those conferences and seminars and talking with women, I encountered many women who had been deeply wounded by men and were struggling with deep-seated resentments and fears and reservations when it came to their relationships with men.

Then I found other women who had little or no framework for what it means to be a Christian woman, from a biblical perspective. So as I ministered to women—hurting women, confused women, disoriented women—I found myself looking to the Scriptures for wisdom, which is the place to look for wisdom. That’s where you get wisdom. Wisdom comes from the Lord. I was asking God to help me help these women.

I began to look for answers to tough life issues related to our womanhood. As I did, God began to give me a deeper understanding of what it means to be a woman versus a man. Why God created us as women and what it means to relate to men in godly and healthy ways. I began to discover in God’s Word ways that we could glorify God as women.

I have to tell you that this has been an incredibly liberating journey for me. It didn’t happen overnight, but over a period of years God began to set me free to love Him as a woman with my whole heart, soul, mind, strength and to serve and glorify Him as a woman.

I came to passages like this one that’s familiar to you in Genesis chapter 1, where God said in verse 26, “Let us make man [or mankind] in our image, after our likeness. . . . So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them” Genesis 1:26-27).

In the second chapter of Genesis, we get a little bit more detailed account of how God created the woman, the female part of that equation, and we see that God tailor-designed the woman for a specific purpose, to meet a specific need.

As I saw that, I began to realize that my gender, my womanhood is not a biological accident. The fact that you are a woman is not a matter of chance. God was intentional when He made you a woman. God was intentional when He made me a woman. He did it for a purpose.

Then Genesis 1:28 goes on to tell us, “And God blessed them,” both male and female—blessed them. “And God said to them [both male and female together], ‘Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.’”

God said to the man and to the woman, the male and the female, "You’re blessed. Here’s your purpose. Here’s the design I have for you. Here’s what I want you to do. I want you to work together. I want you to complement each other. I want you to serve and glorify Me together."

Then we see in verse 31 of Genesis 1, “And God saw everything that he had made [the trees, the plants, the fruit, the animals, the birds, the fish, the man and the woman], and behold, it was very good.” It is good. Over these last years, God has given me a fresh vision for the wonder and the beauty of God’s plan—God’s plan for men and God’s plan for women—and the ways that they are distinct.

I began to see my womanhood not as a burden, but as a blessing, as a gift, as something to be received and embraced. I began to see that my womanhood is a means by which I can glorify God. It’s a means by which I can reflect His image. It’s a means by which I can experience true freedom and fullness and fruitfulness as a child of God.

Over the days ahead, we want to explore what that vision for biblical womanhood looks like and how we can experience that freedom and fullness and fruitfulness as women. Let me say that if you are willing to embrace that vision, you may find that you will be spared a lot of the heartache that we read in those emails.

In fact, there are women in this room today who wish that years ago they had understood and accepted, received God’s calling to be a woman as a gift. You know that there are consequences that you’re experiencing in your life and relationships today because you have not fit into God’s plan and God’s design for your life as a woman.

So this is a mystery. It’s a wonder. It’s a blessing. And it’s something we want to explore together in the days ahead.

Leslie: Nancy Leigh DeMoss will be right back to pray. She’s been casting a vision for us as women. Today’s program begins a much-needed series called A Vision for Biblical Womanhood.

Maybe you can relate to some of the things you’ve heard today. You don’t view femininity as a gift. Maybe you’re in a tough relationship. Maybe you don’t want to follow male leadership because you’re afraid you’ll be left behind or taken for granted.

Would you explore these issues further with a couple of very helpful resources? The first is a booklet by Dr. John Piper called What’s the Difference? It will give you a solid overview of what the Bible says about men’s roles and women’s roles.

We want to send you What’s the Difference? along with a CD from Nancy called Embracing the Gift of Womanhood. This is a condensed version of our current series. We’ll send the CD and booklet when you make a donation to Revive Our Hearts. Ask for it when you call 1-800-569-5959 or visit ReviveOurHearts.com.

Does the Bible teach that men are more valuable or more important than women? Nancy addresses that tomorrow continuing in this series. Now she’s here to pray.

Nancy: Lord, I just want to thank You as I reflect back on my own journey for the way that You have opened Your Word and Your ways to me, that You have transformed my heart, and that You have given me a sense of gratitude for Your plan, for the wonder of it. Thank You for Your grace to my life as a woman. Thank You for the privilege of serving women and the privilege it is to do that through this ministry.

I pray that as women, as we listen to Your Word over these days ahead, as we search Your Word, that You will give us wisdom and understanding and insight and that we will be quick to surrender our hearts and our wills to You and to Your plan. May we glorify You as women, O Lord, and fulfill the incredible purpose for which You created us. I pray in Jesus’ name, amen.

Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss is an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

All Scripture is taken from the English Standard Version.

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