Can a Woman Be Strong AND Submissive?

by Julie Barrier

Can a wife be both strong and submissive? A tough question….Here’s my story. I’ll be brutally honest. My Dad wanted a son to take over his business. He had two girls, and I was the heir-apparent. My “Daddy” issues carried over into my marriage. I was driven, to say the least. At best, I was a hand full.


As a pastor’s wife, I didn’t fit the “bun-wearing, casserole-carrying church hostess” model. I burned food. Badly. Instead, I was more comfortable wearing leopard leather pants, playing keys in the youth rock band. But my husband was stellar. He was a man to be respected, and I even in my “rebellious” stage, I seldom doubted his judgment. We became partners in life and partners in ministry.


My husband Roger often quotes Genesis 2:18. The KJV version states:


“And the Lord God said, ‘It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an helpmeet for him.’”


The Hebrew word helpmeet is not a healthy protein; it is a term that describes interlocking fingers-distinct yet united, completing each other.


Lory Byerling1 wisely described the Hebrew phrase ezer kenegdo (helpmeet) in this way:


“Eve’s creation reflects a kind of strength and was a rescue for Adam. All of creation was good and very good, but there was one thing that was not good. Adam was alone and God’s solution was an ezer kenegdo.  The words ezer kenegdo couldn’t be found (in the rest of creation), so God made one.”


Ezer is often used in the Old Testament in reference to someone who is very strong and capable coming to the rescue of another in serious trouble! Most of the verses using “ezers” concern God being the help of His people in battle (1 Samuel 7:12). Kenegdo signifies “what is in front of, corresponding to, or facing opposites.” Picture male and female counterparts reflecting the full image of God!


Wives, God created you and your husband to be a team-interconnected, stronger together and yet distinctly unique. Eve was created to be half of a strong partnership divinely designed by the Creator.


Ladies, what if you don’t have a “Roger?”


Perhaps your husband is threatened by your success, intimidated by your talents. Do you belittle him or neglect to honor, respect and encourage his strengths? We all need appreciation, approval, acceptance, support, security and comfort. Humble yourself. Learn to be content in God’s arms. Remember David’s sweet prayer in Psalm 131:1-2:


“My heart is not proud, Lord,
My eyes are not haughty;
I do not concern myself with great matters
or things too wonderful for me.
But I have calmed and quieted myself,
I am like a weaned child with its mother;
like a weaned child I am content.” NIV

You may be a frustrated young mom at home chasing babies and changing poopy diapers. Contentment is the last emotion you are feeling right now. I sat enthralled, listening to Jill Briscoe speak at conference for pastor’s wives. I wept. “God, why am I on the shelf instead of at the podium? I am so tired of chasing kids, drowning in loads of laundry. Will I ever be able to express the passionate calling I feel for ministry?” I heard a loving whisper. God said, “Wait, my Daughter…My timing is perfect.” A weaned child is one who leans on mommy’s breast without any milk. He can find contentment just being close to Mom. I learned to be content during that time just resting, loving my babies and being close to Him.


Paul’s wise words in Romans 12:3 also challenged me.


“I’m speaking to you out of deep gratitude for all that God has given me, and especially as I have responsibilities in relation to you. Living then, as every one of you does, in pure grace, it’s important that you not misinterpret yourselves as people who are bringing this goodness to God. No, God brings it all to you. The only accurate way to understand ourselves is by what God is and by what he does for us, not by what we are and what we do for Him.” The Message


All that I am is from God and to God. The gifts I hold are His and not mine. They are to be used as He chooses.


What if your husband is not a believer? You may be the only spiritual leader in your home. Perhaps you have children to raise and they need to know Jesus. My favorite verse in this regard is 1 Peter 3:1:


“In the same way, you wives, be submissive to your own husbands so that even if any of them are disobedient to the word, they may be won without a word by the behavior of their wives, as they observe your chaste and respectful behavior.” ASV


Many Christians paint this verse as a picture of slavish subjection. “Wives, keep your head down and your mouth shut. Your husband will be won to Christ without your preachy nagging.”


I believe this is a beautiful opportunity for a woman to express the gentle character of Jesus. She loves her Lord, prays earnestly for her hubby, and nurtures her children.

A strong woman does not have to be bossy, “large and in charge!” She listens to God, looks for His will and patiently allows her Creator to fulfill her potential.

We are delightfully made. We are not just an appendage for a husband, like an extra arm. We are meant to be strong partners. We are needed in the body of Christ to help reflect the image of God to a world in desperate need of a Savior. We are not somehow inferior or less than. We are made of the same substance as “man” but fashioned a little differently. Not better, not worse, just delightfully different.

1Lori Byerling,







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