Four Reasons Women Stay Weak
Siblings in Christ,
Most of my articles are prompted by recurring experiences in my normal daily life, that God then highlights, begins speaking about, connects to specific scriptures, and gives rhema-rhetoric for. Seemingly instantly, a scroll starts to unfurl in my imagination.
The following article landed on me through a conversation I had earlier this month. From this one conversation the Holy Spirit leapfrogged my thoughts to other identical conversations and ministry moments. Sisters, mothers, and grandmothers in the kingdom: you are not weak and you are not to be weak. However, if you have learned helplessness, the formal term for what I call cultivated weakness, then your internal system is programmed to be weak, talk weak, act weak, stay weak. The Lord's idea and goal, though, is to change all that. To do in you Hebrews 11:34 (NIV): ...whose weakness was turned to strength; and who became powerful...
The Promise & Command To Be Strong
One of the sweetest promises God has ever made is that He would make His obedient friends strong individuals. Job 17:9 (NASB): ...the one who has clean hands will grow stronger and stronger. Proverbs 24:5 (NASB): A wise man is strong, and a person of knowledge increases power. Hebrews 11:34 (NIV): ...whose weakness was turned to strength; and who became powerful...
The promise is true for both men and women, regardless of age, race, ethnicity, level of income, or any other consideration. It is impossible to bond with, cooperate with, be filled with, an omnipotent Being and not become a potent being yourself. It is ontologically and functionally impossible.
This promise is supplemented by a command to be strong, which means we are actively working with God to develop our strength. He requires some level of personal responsibility, some level of intentional action. 1Corinthians 16:13 (ESV): ...act like men, be strong. Ephesians 6:1 (ESV): Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. 2Timothy 2:1 (NASB): You therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus.
And yet there is a pandemic of weak women in the body of Christ in the West. We have heard much about, and I have written much about, the pandemic of immature men in the western church. The man famine, however, provides cover and distraction for the women in the kingdom who are choosing to stay weak and helpless. These sisters stay weak for a number of reasons, however, there are four I keep encountering. As you read, contemplate how some men, some churches, and some ministries contribute to these reasons. Like the slave girl at Philippi, someone always profits by you staying a weak slave (Ac 16:16).
They will not get away from useless men.
Sloppy agape apostates might cringe at me calling someone useless, but rest assured, I am only imitating our God. He said in Proverbs 6:12 (ESV): A worthless person, a wicked man, goes about with crooked speech. And 16:27 (ESV): A worthless man plots evil... And Matthew 25:30 (NASB): And throw the worthless slave into the outer darkness... And Hebrews 6:8 (ESV): But if it bears thorns and thistles, it is worthless and near to being cursed, and its end is to be burned.
Let's be realistic like our God: some men are thoroughly worthless. And yet, there are Christian women who tolerate them way beyond what is intended by Biblical ideas of patience and unconditional love. By staying Siamese twinned to a man who keeps producing thorns and thistles, the woman is displaying learned helplessness. She is not the selfless martyr-intercessor she imagines herself to be. She has a savior complex, or low self-esteem, or fear of the ultimate invalidation, or fear of being alone, or fear of having to make money, or a multiplex of these.
I have known many dozens of these martyr-wives, martyr-girlfriends, and martyr-daughters over the last three decades of churchlife, ministry, and private counseling. They swear God is telling them to stay and play the savior (not in those words, of course). They swear God is telling them their Nabal-husband or Saul-father will have a great transformation. They swear more than one person prophesied to them and gave them "confirmation" of all this. And yet, after three decades in churchlife and kingdom work, wanna know how many times I witnessed those men having that "great transformation"? Zero. Not a single one. Wanna know how many of those misguided savior-wives, savior-girlfriends, and savior-daughters came back to me with a glowing testimony? Zero. Not a single one.
I am not saying it never happens, I am saying it is exceptionally rare. The Nabal and the Saul distract attention away from the wife/girlfriend/daughter with a savior complex, or low self-esteem, or fear of the ultimate invalidation, or fear of being alone, or fear of having to make her own money, or a multiplex of these. Not distancing, or completely detaching, from a worthless man is learned helplessness. It is cultivated weakness. It is not what the Word has in mind when it mentions patience, grace, and agape love. Time to face accurate truth. Time to face yourself.
Whose Weakness was Turned to Strength
How do we work with God on Hebrews 11:34, and turn that deep inner weakness into strength like Deborah or Huldah?
First, it means giving up spiritual-sounding excuses for staying weak. I have known too many Christian women who flushed years of divine potential and promise land happiness down the toilet waiting for, praying for, cooking for, smiling for, hoping for, laying on her back for, being a good Handmaiden's Tale for, a real swine of a man. One misguided savior-wife I ministered to many years ago was rewarded by her Nabal with HIV. Another misguided savior-wife, whose pastor told her she could not leave or divorce, wound up being killed by her Nabal. A ministry friend of mine spoke at her funeral. A misguided savior-daughter I knew, for almost thirty years kept ramming her head into a brick wall trying to have a relationship with her Saul father, who was cuttingly insensitive and sometimes inexplicably cruel. The fruit of her misguided "honor your father and mother mission" was regular crippling panic attacks.
What did these, and too many other real-life examples I could give, have in common? They all had exaggerated mental models of patience, grace, agape love, "no one's perfect", yada yada yada. The proof, however, of right or wrong theology is in the fruit: HIV, marital homicide, regular crippling panic attacks, I could keep going with stories that end the same 99% of the time. Agape love, grace, patience, etc. do not mean being the next Handmaiden's Tale.
Second, make an exit plan with God and set it in motion. Your life may be too enmeshed with a Nabal or a Saul to just up and go (if you can, do it). Unless you want to be the next "worthless man horror story" in one of my articles, make an exit plan with the Lord and set it in motion.
Plan Secretly If Necessary
While taking a break from writing this section, someone told me the following story in conversation. Another timely God-moment confirming this article.
A woman told her abusive husband she was leaving, on the day of her planned exit. He blocked the door, and broke her arm into the shape of a Z. To this day she still does not have feeling in the distal part of that arm. If the Nabal or Saul you need to get away from has ever shown even a tinge of a temper, make and execute your exit plan in secret from beginning to end. In the story I just shared, the husband had never been violent with her, but he did display an occasional temper. Remember what I wrote in the last article about warning signs.
They will not stand up to a toxic mother.
The mother-daughter relationship is supposed to be a unique realm where the spirit and antecedents of female maturity are imparted. There are a few interesting scriptures on this, but I want to focus on Song 8:2. The Shulamite said (ESV), I would lead you and bring you into the house of my mother--she who used to teach me...
The Shulamite is saying two things with the phrase, "my mother, she who used to teach me". The first message is obvious: her mother was her womanhood mentor. The second message is subtle. The Shulamite said "she who used to teach me". Used to, past tense. Her mother is not her teacher anymore because she is a grown adult now. It is not appropriate or healthy or Biblical for a mother to keep parenting a grown-up daughter (or any adult child). Mothers who try to keep parenting adult children are not okay inside, and a subset of those have advanced dysfunctions and sin structures, like malignant narcissism or sociopathy.
Daughters of Toxic Mothers
The daughters of toxic mothers suffer more than we could imagine. The fact that the majority of such mothers never own up to, deeply repent, deeply apologize, and make restitution for such wreckage only adds to the paralyzing grief. Toxic mothering cripples a daughter in two main zones: voice and choice.
A toxic mother is the relationship equivalent of a toxic political leader. She will not honor any voice other than her own. She will suppress and persecute independent, individual expression. Because of this, the daughter never discovers and grows into her own voice. She does not (cannot) share her emotions, values, opinions, ideas, and visions honestly and calmly. She learns to share them indirectly through projection or passive-aggressive comments, or, directly through aggressive outbursts.
A toxic mother also will not tolerate independent, individual choices. She will let you pick what to eat for lunch or what socks to wear, but nothing consequential that could challenge her dominion. Because of this, the daughter never learns the machinery of decision-making. She becomes abnormally indecisive, hesitant, scared to choose, assumes she will mess up, lives in perpetual second-guessing, etc. She is used to the matriarchal overlord making all the decisions that have relevance or consequence.
Whose Weakness was Turned to Strength
Stand up to your toxic mother! The specific applications will mean different things in different situations, so squeeze on the Holy Spirit for your specifics. If you do not firmface and defy your toxic mother, you will stay in the dependent, disoriented, "little girl" headspace. She needs you to stay in the world of weakness she cultivated in you. To fulfill Hebrews 11:34 for you, start taking steps to repossess the gift of voice and choice your Creator gave you and all people.
Standing up to a toxic parent (or any toxic leader) does not mean you do not love her. It does not mean you are disloyal. It does not mean you are ungrateful for the good things or practical things she has done. It does not mean you are not "honoring your father and mother". Narcissist or sociopath parents weaponize notions of love and loyalty and gratitude and "honor your father and mother" as weapons of expert manipulation. They handcuff you to them with false guilt. Have the discernment to see that. Get past her words; look at the functional definition of her words. What kind of airspace does she pull you into?
According to the Biblical definition of love (not the sloppy agape apostate definition), the most loving, loyal, grateful, honoring thing you could do for a toxic parent is to accurately represent God's attributes to them, is to display the universal law of accountability and consequences to them, is to display what a healthy adult looks like (something they probably have never seen).
If Your Mother has Passed
If your mother has passed away, you still need to stand up to her in your prayers, mindspace, words, choices, life structures--all of which are probably still under her spell. One thing I have seen to be unusually effective in counseling is writing a letter, venting and vomiting all the things that need to be said and should have been said, but never were. Once the letter is written, which is therapeutic and tough in and of itself, the daughter then seals it in an envelope. When she is able, she goes to the gravesite of the passed mother, opens the letter and reads it out loud. When she is done she burns the letter (on pavement or stones, not dry grass), then speaks as many "I forgive you" statements as she needs to cover the wrongs inflicted.
Every time a sufferer has done this healing module I saw breakthroughs in their mental health. It is not a magic pill, but I have seen significant leaps forward with this. It can be applied to any perpetrator that has passed.
They assume they cannot prosper financially.
I love the above picture for so many reasons (photo courtesy Cosmopolitan). The woman is not swimming in money (implying she is one with it), she is sitting on money (implying she has mastery and rule over it, not vice versa). The woman is dressed plainly, implying soberness and realistic wisdom. Luxury is not a sin, but one must be emotionally free to not act rich sometimes or not look rich sometimes in order to stay rich all the time.
Women & Wealth
I have known only a few sisters in Christ who were financially prosperous in and of themselves (independent of a husband, ex-husband, parents, or an inheritance). The other 95-ish percent lived with "barely enough" or "consistently not enough" or secondhand prosperity (husband, ex-husband, parents, inheritance). While the women of Babylon cash in bigtime on music deals, movie deals, makeup companies, clothing lines, media jobs, or supercreepy supergross OnlyFans accounts, born-again women seem to struggle endlessly for independent wealth. Several reasons could be given for this. Here are two I think are most pressing.
Born-again women tend to link prosperity to a husband.
Women tend to idolize marriage the way men tend to idolize sex. One form of idolatry is no worse than the other: both are detestable replacements for God as our #1 mind-filler and ideal experience called There. Both genders in the kingdom can be more conscientious about the staggering idolatrous pull the other must face and overcome.
Part of the compelling female drive towards marriage is the hope of financial and practical security. This desire is not necessarily wrong, in and of itself. However, without ongoing sanctification within a daily experience with God, the security wish only makes the marriage idol deeper and more complex. In another sense, focusing on marriage as her financial future gives the woman a false vacation from having to prosper independently. If you simply assume you'll be "good to go" and "taken care of" once you get married--and your only personal development is cooking, cleaning, and looking desirable for babymaking--you will not develop the qualities and skills that precursor individual wealth.
Maybe you do get married to a man who provides financial bounty. What happens if the marriage ends? What happens if he dissipates the marital assets? Spousal support, child support, and lawsuits are not automatic gimmes. Judges are increasingly siding with husbands and fathers, or at least calling it even, for a number of reasons. Our churches, consequently, are filled with women who are struggling financially because they (1) put disproportionate hope in marriage and marriage money, and (2) never really developed themselves as dynamic individuals and moneymakers.
Born-again women tend to think faith and prayer are enough to get money.
I have known many spiritual women who could pray for hours and believe God for great things, but who stayed poor or in barely enough longterm. They would keep saying better days were ahead financially. They would share ideas and dreams that would require significant money. They would, quote-unquote, "pray and believe for financial blessing" regularly.
However, like the Nabals and Sauls who do not change 99% of the time, I almost never saw these faith-filled intercessors ever evolve into anything better than basic provision. They would occasionally get a larger than normal financial gift, or free roundtrip tickets, or a stockpile of groceries, or a free service for their car, or a low-cost vacation...but their baseline economic reality never changed. They hovered around the poverty line, or at best, the lower middle class zone. Strangely, they kept insisting faith and prayer were all they needed.
They had streaks of laziness they seemed to never see. They struggled to process, much less act on, Biblical wealth designs like personal inheritance (Ps 16:6, Ecc 7:11, Col 3:24), signature gifts and strengths (Ecc 5:19), skill level (Pr 22:29), financial allies (Ecc 4:9-12), moneymaking wisdom (Ecc 10:10), markets and niches (what the Bible calls spheres), environment, and so on.
Basic Provision vs Inheritance Wealth
Sisters, your relationship with money reveals how far into the new creation you really are. If you are waiting for Boaz to usher you into a world of wealth, you may be waiting in the nursing home on government programs or family benevolence. Even if you do manage to reel in a Boaz, nothing is guaranteed in this life--not a good man staying good, not job security, not asset permanence, not life insurance, not spousal support if there is a divorce, not child support. Nothing is guaranteed. Learn how to build independent wealth Biblically. If you are not willing to do this, if you are stubbornly hoping a husband or ex or parent or the government will be your treasury, you have what is called learned helplessness. I call it cultivated weakness.
Moreover, as sweet and magnanimous as our Father is, He will not do everything for us. He requires your participation and development in every area of life. He has promised to give all His children basic provision in response to prayer (Mt 6:25-33, 7:7-11), however, this is not the case with inheritance wealth. God will not casually drop inheritance wealth into your purse as you simply pray and believe with perseverance. If you think that you are dismissing the majority of the Bible, which devotes many books and hundreds of verses to the idea of inheritance and how it works. Prayer and faith are always a part of everything in the born-again life, absolutely, however, they are limited when practical action or longterm action trajectories are needed (Jsh 7:10, 1Sam 16:1, Mk 1:35-39, 14:42). Learn how inheritance drives the Biblical storylines, including the storyline of your life. Learn the mechanisms differentiating basic provision from inheritance wealth.
They think their emotions are more important than the Word of God and actual reality.
If your emotions are your final authority, your inner law, your reality-definer, you will always be weak. That is true for both women and men.
Myth & Meaning Regarding Emotions
There are those that say, in a patronizing New Age tone, "Listen to your heart." Or, "What is your heart telling you?" Problem is, God says (Jer 17:9 ESV), The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?
God is saying here the human heart is the greatest trickster in all existence, "deceitful above all things". That is a mind-boggling statement considering Satan is in the race for the same accolade. If my heart, my total emotional realm, is the greatest trickster in the cosmos, even above Satan the father (originator) of lies, I have a lot to think about. I need to modify how I see my inner world and how I relate to it.
A New Testament version of Jeremiah 17:9 is Matthew 15:18,19, spoken by Jesus into the Pharisees' legalistic hangups (ESV, underline mine): But what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this defiles a person. For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander.
It is for this reason we are given explicit divine injunctions to process and purify our hearts (Jas 4:8, 1Pet 1:22, 3:15), thereby decreasing its deceptive capabilities and increasing its honesty and authenticity.
There is, therefore, both myth and meaning in our emotional world. Myth, in that our emotions and gut-feelings are not always honest, straightforward, accurate, updated, or realistic. Meaning, in that our emotions and gut-feelings can indicate to us what we need to probe, process, purify, and update with God.
Women & Emotions
Men are daft and uninformed when they condescendingly snark out, "Women are so emotional." Wrong. Every human being is emotional because every human being has emotions, because God designed us in His image and He has emotions. What differentiates men and women, in general terms, is how directly or indirectly they express those emotions, and that is often preset by cultural programming. In many societies men are supposed to be rational and stoic, while women are supposed to be the heartstrings and soft landing places. This cultural frame boxes women in to homemaking, childrearing, caretaking roles, comfort roles, and seduction, while boxing them out of roles and zones that engage other parts of their being, like executive decision-making and roles that require more stoic behavior patterns.
This cultural boxing in and boxing out implies to women they should value their emotional world above all else. Without ever-increasing self-awareness and a panoramic understanding of culture and subculture, a woman can just go with the flow and, by default, make her emotions more important than God's truth and even reality. She becomes exceedingly vulnerable to illusions, delusions, and conspiracy theories, whether they be about her personal world or the larger society around her.
Dethroning & Rightly Positioning Your Emotional World
If your emotions are your final authority, your inner law, your reality-definer, you will always be weak. Always trickable. Always controllable. Always led by something or someone else. This is because there is a lot of myth in our emotional world--our surface-feelings and gut-feelings are not always honest, straightforward, accurate, updated, or realistic. This is idea of Jeremiah 17:9 and Matthew 15:18,19. There is also meaning in our emotional world--our surface-feelings and gut-feelings can indicate to us what we need to probe, process, purify, and update with God. This is the idea behind scriptures about God probing, illuminating, processing, purifying, and updating our hearts, like Hebrews 4:12 and James 4:8.
Sisters, beware of mindlessly going with the flow and accepting that you are only or mainly an emotional creature fit for heart-themed roles. That is not true. You are all of Deborah, Abigail, Huldah, Mary, Elizabeth, Phoebe, etc. potentiated into one being. You were made in the image of God too (Gen 1:27). You were given the rulership blessing and mandate too (v28). Do not be confused by post-Fall scriptures that seemingly relegate you to a heart-shaped box. Those post-Fall arrangements were contingencies and cultural necessities at certain periods in redemptive history. They had their purpose for a time and place. Genesis 1, the original intent of the Maker, says you were made for so much more than just figuring out how you feel.
Dethrone and rightly position your emotional world. Then your weakness will turn to strength.
Hebrews 11:34 (NIV): ...whose weakness was turned to strength; and who became powerful...