Can you be a strong-willed woman and honor God? This question comes up among my readers on a monthly basis. Many Christian women possess a strong sense of purpose, inner confidence and self-assurance the world would celebrate. Yet we look in Scripture and see verses like 1 Peter 3:4, which says: “Your beauty should not come from outward adornment such as braided hair or gold jewelry or fine clothes, but from the inner disposition of your heart, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is precious in God’s sight.”
For strong-willed and strong-hearted women, this verse may seem like a condemnation of their natural gifts. Would God give us this confidence only to have us “put it under a bushel”? Is it possible to be a strong-willed woman and not only honor God, but have a godly relationship?
A Strong Will Is Not a Bad Thing
Our will is what gives us the ability to make moral decisions. This ability makes us different from the rest of God’s creation—after all, dogs and cats do not think killing mice is murder, and have no real consciousness of right and wrong.
As image-bearers of God we possess this ability through our will. God gives us our will, and the ability to use it decisively is not wrong in itself. A strong will is not a bad thing; a strong will bent to selfish purposes is a bad thing. Actually, it’s a sin!
When we allow our will to be used only for the furtherance of our glory, we elevate ourselves above God. But when our strong will is used to bring attention to God’s kingdom—by decisively choosing His way at every opportunity—we showcase Jesus through our obedience. This is how strong, godly women honor the Lord.
In a godly relationship, this means we submit our will to God and His design for relationships. When we bend our will to God’s intentions, we understand what it means to put our partner first. We understand that God is in control—not us, and we release control on our time frame and circumstances. A strong will bent to God’s will makes all the difference.
Understand God’s Vision for Relationships
In order to bend our will to God’s when it comes to relationships, we have to understand God’s vision for those relationships. What does God want for His men and women?
Romantic relationships are the segue to marriage. In marriage, the relationship between man and woman is an echo of God’s relationship with us, the Church. In this example we see Jesus’ sacrifice on our behalf, His submission to the Father’s plan, and the Holy Spirit’s promised comfort. All of this happens within the unity of the Trinity. Thus in marriage, we are called to “submit one to the other” (Ephesians 5:21) in order to maintain the order God ordained for the family, but that doesn’t mean we’re doing it blindly. To the contrary, we willingly (using our will) submit to that order for the sake of peace and unity, and to spread the gospel as one unit with our spouse.
A strong will actually comes in very handy in this relationship setting. A woman whose will is firmly established in God’s intentions will exert all her strength toward godly purposes. She will be an honor to her husband, a guiding light to her children and a pivotal piece for the kingdom of God.
Gentleness Takes Strength
So what about that “gentle and quiet spirit”? “Quiet” doesn’t mean you never speak up or lead spiritually. It means your soul is restfully rooted in God’s sovereignty. Gentleness, too, reminds us of Jesus’ meekness—“strength under control.” Gentleness is not passivity. It takes incredible strength to be gentle in the face of conflict or persecution.
The “gentle and quiet spirit” is just as essential for a strong-willed woman as it is for someone with less strength of spirit. Gentleness is, after all, a fruit of the Spirit of God (Galatians 6) and something we are called to emulate. A gentle and quiet spirit actually helps maintain a godly relationship, especially when you’re prone to selfish willfulness.
For strong-hearted women, a godly relationship is not off-limits. Strong-willed women who love God are some of the best candidates for healthy marriages! But we need to understand our will in light of God’s sovereignty, and be willing to put His intentions for relationships above our personal priorities. This is a will bent not to selfish pursuits, but to the eternal directive of our loving God—from a heart that loves Him most.