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Focus on the Family Broadcast

How a Strong-Willed Woman Can be Used by God (Part 1 of 2)

How a Strong-Willed Woman Can be Used by God (Part 1 of 2)

Cynthia Tobias encourages strong-willed women to make the most of their abilities by harnessing their will to God's plans and purposes for their lives. (Part 1 of 2)
Original Air Date: August 9, 2021


Cynthia Tobias: I think the enemy ought to be just a little more worried. ‘Cause as strong-willed woman, we’re not easily daunted, and we’re not easily discouraged and we’re not easily swayed. And if you tell us it can’t be done, we just tell you it hasn’t been done yet.

End of Preview

John Fuller: Well, we have, uh, some great encouragement today for strong-willed women and the people who love them on today’s episode of Focus on the Family. Your host is Focus president Jim Daly and I’m John Fuller.

Jim Daly: Uh, John, we won’t name names, but we both have strong-willed women in our homes-

John: (laughs) Yes, we do.

Jim: … and in our workplace too. And our guests, Cynthia Tobias is going to tackle two common problems strong-willed women face. How to channel that strong will to fit God’s purposes, and how to find acceptance among church and ministry leaders who might expect a more meek personality. So, let’s get right to it, John.

John: All right. Here’s Cynthia Tobias speaking to a group of Christian teachers on today’s episode of Focus on the Family.

Cynthia: One afternoon, a big wolf waited in a dark forest for a little girl to come along, carrying the basket of food to her grandmother. Finally, a little girl did come along and she was carrying a basket of food. Are you carrying that basket to your grandmother? Asked the wolf. The little girl said yes, she was. So, the wolf asked her where her grandmother lived, and the little girl told him and he disappeared into the woods. When the little girl opened the door of her grandmother’s house, she saw there was somebody in bed with a nightcap and a nightgown on. She had approached no near than 25 feet from the bed when she saw that it was not her grandmother, but the wolf. So, the little girl took an automatic out of her basket and shot the wolf dead (laughing).

Cynthia: The moral. It’s not so easy to fool little girls nowadays, as it used to be. (laughing) That’s a fable by James Thurber written in 1939. It’s never been easy to fool little girls really. It’s never been that easy. There are strong-willed women from the beginning of time, and we’re not that easily fooled. The interesting thing about this, and I just need to give you a little bit of background, why we’re talking about this and why the book even came about. Strong-willed women, we get a bad rap. I don’t know if you’ve seen any books on strong-willed women that don’t wanna tame you, but I haven’t. We get a bad rap in the Christian world and in churches. If you’re strong-willed, you’re kind of known as pushy. Pushy, broad, intimidating. I’ve had so many wonderful professional women say, oh, you know what, I use my talents and skills everywhere, but the church. ‘Cause I don’t really feel welcome there.

Cynthia: I feel like when I’m part of the church, what I have to do is, is I have to do the Proverbs 31-woman thing, um, which is I, and I always wondered about Proverbs 31 because I mean, I grew up in a parsonage and, but I don’t know, I’ve just never been the kinda person that can you cook, and sew, and so until the fields and… I just, I mean, I thought if that’s what it takes to be a Christian woman, I don’t think I can do that. Is, I don’t, I l- I love the women who do, I don’t have anything against that, but, um, that’s just not me. I can’t sew, or knit, or crochet, or quilt or scrapbook or anything like that. And I just wonder if that prevents me from being a Christian. ‘Cause, you know, you have all the songs about the virtuous woman, who’s quiet and, you know, submissive and, and I believe in submission. Not meekly doing what everybody says, but, but the biblical model of submission to your husband and submission in the church, and I don’t have anything against that.

Cynthia: Uh, I just, it’s just, I, it hasn’t been what I felt like was me. I shared last night, I don’t go to women’s ministries things as a rule, because unless I’m speaking, I don’t know, that just doesn’t seem to be me. I’m just not in the fashion shows and luncheons and teas, and, and all the little options of crafting and aroma therapy. And, uh, I don’t know, it just, you know, it’s just not me (laughing). It’s soft, and quiet and slow paced. And I wanna hit the ground running. I wanna have something fluff free. I want emergency medical response. (laughing) I want kayaking. I wanna know how to campaign. I mean, I want something that, you know, that’s strong, that scares some people. And, and I know there are other women like me, but little by little, we began, I began to discover where they are.

Cynthia: And, you know, we had a focus group. When I was doing the strong-willed woman, I did a focus group in our church. And it was a small group of us that met every week, and I’d run the chapter stuff by them and then we’d all talk. And it was so wonderful to talk to other strong-willed women. ‘Cause, you, you know, that’s, w- you know, everybody needs a good friend where you can just look at them and go, you know what I mean? And just have nod. And one week, this, this woman that wasn’t strong-willed infantry. (laughing) She came because she was so curious to see what we were like. And first of all, we’re all like prickly when she comes in ’cause we’re so suspicious. We’re so suspicious when you give us books and say, I think you should read this. And I think maybe you should work on your own attitude a little.

Cynthia: I mean, we’re just prickly, prickly with (laughs) that. And, um, she came in, I just wanted to see what you guys were like. And so, I mean, we didn’t talk much, but when we actually did talk, she would sit there and go, oh, I can’t believe you think like that. Really? Why would you do something like that? And we’ll get her out of here. (laughing) I mean, it get her out of here. Not, not to be ungodly, but, you know, the whole thing for so many years and all along has been, you know, in order to be an acceptable woman of God, that just sort of seems to be the stereotype. Now, my sister, that’s who she is. And as we, as I was writing the book, I was, I was kind of struggling with the difference between strong-willed women and compliant women. And I was thinking compliant was, you know, the opposite.

Cynthia: And I had all my notes from my chapter and stuff to re- to write on the compliant woman. When I sat down at the computer, I’m not kidding you, God wrote the chapter. It was entirely different than any of my notes. ‘Cause you know what I found out, compliant comes from the Latin and Spanish word complir, which means to complete, to fulfill, to accomplish is the other hand. Left hand, right hand and is not weak. It has nothing to do with weakness, or insignificance or anything else. And I was talking to my sister about that and she said, well, that’s right. She said, you’re the trailblazer. She said, I’m the trail walker. She said, if there were only trailblazers, there, there’d be an empty trails. If there were only trail walkers, there’d be no new trails to blaze. She said, it takes both.

Cynthia: And I appreciated that so much ’cause my sister, the trail walker, you know, she’s there when I go out on that limb, she’s down in there with a first aid kit if it doesn’t work out, and support if it does work out. (laughs) And she didn’t want to be a trailblazer, but she champions the trailblazers. I don’t wanna be a compliant woman, but I am so thankful for them. I, I rely so much on that. And in that positive, godly way, we can compliment each other. Here’s the other little secret as we talk about the strong-willed woman. It’s the same as a strong-willed man, but it’s cool to be a strong-willed man. It is. No, yeah, I mean, that’s macho. That’s pretty cool. Testosterone, manly men. I mean, that’s cool. And a strong-willed man is n- it’s okay to even be stubborn and, but that’s not cool in a woman. So, I wrote it for women, because I think that there aren’t enough of us stepping forward in the church to say, you know what, I think the enemy ought to be just a little more worried.

Cynthia: ‘Cause a strong-willed woman, we’re not easily daunted and we’re not easily discouraged, and we’re not easily swayed. And if you tell us it can’t be done, we just tell you it hasn’t been done yet. And if there’s somebody that has been told it is impossible, who are you gonna go to? I’d go to the group of strong-willed women at the church. And I’d say, they told me I couldn’t do it. And we’d say, sit down, honey, you just wait. (laughing) We’re going to find a way to do this. I mean, there’s just, there’s such a niche for us. It is way overdue, but there is a niche for us in the church. Now, I’ll give you this word of warning. I’m not talking about Christian feminism.

Cynthia: I was doing, I wa- I was strong-willed women and the men who love them seminar a while back, and this we, we broke up into the men and the women and this one woman said, well, I’m a Christian feminist. I’m going, okay. (laughing) What does that mean? She goes, I’m going in and I’m making sure that the churches pay attention to women, and that they don’t just have pictures of men missionaries without their wives. And I’m demanding this and this and this. And I’m thinking, uh-uh, I just don’t think you can use your strong will as an excuse to be obnoxious (laughing).

Cynthia: If you truly wanna bring honor and glory to God, I believe that he can use are strong will to do that. But I don’t believe that it brings him honor and glory if we use our strong will in an obnoxious way. And I believe in strong-willed women in the church, I believe that we have a place. But I believe we get it not by demanding it, but by demonstrating our ability to do it with a sweet spirit, with a compassionate heart, with a totally sold-out life to God. That’s what I’m talking about. I’m not talking about a pushy broad, I’m talking about a woman who has taken every fiber of her strong-willed being and laid it at the foot of the cross, and willingly, voluntarily given it to God to use however he will. Do you know how hard that is for a strong-willed woman, really to take all the power that we have over ourselves and give it up?

Cynthia: No one can make us do it. No one else can do it. It takes much more strength of will to back off of something that it does to move forward. It takes more strong will to surrender, than it does to control. And when we talk about the strong-willed woman for God, in a moment we’re gonna go through some of the, the characteristics, but there are two very distinct women. The strong-willed woman with God, and the strong-willed women without God. And when you have your strong will and you use it without God, it’s trouble. Every time, all the time, in a really big way. And nobody knows it better than us. Now, even as a totally sold-out strong-willed woman for God, I have to admit to you, I walk a fine line. Really, every day I think is more of a struggle for us than it is for the more compliant woman.

Cynthia: ‘Cause I walk a fine line, you know, righteous, indignation so easily turns into indignation more than righteous. And I just, I mean, I’m, I don’t mean to, to run over somebody, but, you know, I, I’m sorry. I ran over you. Well, we don’t know the tracks anyway. Um, (laughing) I can so quickly without even thinking, my tongue can turn sharp. My attitude can turn bossy. I can become so pushy, and the only thing that keeps me on the straight and narrow is the fact that I have given God control and permission to pull me back and hold me accountable. ‘Cause if I use my strong will as an excuse, it isn’t glorifying to God. So, I’m not talking about empowering women to say, I’m woman, hear me roar, strong. We’ll deal with it. Uh-uh. I’m talking to women and you know who you are, who with all of our hearts, we have wanted to do this.

Cynthia: We want to be sold out to God. But people have pushed us into a corner sometimes and said, you’re not a Christian ’cause you don’t and you can’t do this, ’cause you can’t. And, uh, and we start feeling like there’s something wrong with us. And we spend so much of our energy being defensive of who we are, that we don’t have any leftover for anybody else. You know what happens when you find out that it’s, that who you are is who God created you to be and that it’s okay? We have more energy leftover to accommodate other people. ‘Cause it’s not that I won’t do what you say. It’s not that I refuse to obey. It’s how it’s communicated to me. It’s how we walk together. It’s how, and, and I’ll read you at the end, the Proverbs 31 piece out of the message that finally spoke to me and said, it’s okay.

Cynthia: If I voluntarily give you my strong will, you don’t have trouble with me. If you fight me for it, if you wrestle it away from me, you’ll never get it. You’ll never get it. And we are driving many strong-willed women and kids out of the church by wrestling it away from them. Many of them. And there’s a huge niche in the population. I’m willing to guarantee every single one of your churches. There is a population that you are missing of us, strong-willed women. We’re not coming to your women’s things. No offense. They’re fine. I’m just not coming. I was just at a church last week and they had, you know, it’s, uh, I would have come if I’d have been in town. ‘Cause they did for their women’s thing, they did the savvy traveler. How to pack a week’s worth of clothes in an overnight bag.

Cynthia: Now we’re talking. (laughing) Now we’re talking. You know what they do during the summer for their women’s ministries? They feed needy children in the, in the neighborhood and they feed them. All you got, you, you donate time between 11:00 and 1:00 for one week out of your summer. Now you’re talking. Now you’re talking. Now I’m com- it, uh, it’s not that I’m not compassionate. I wanna do it. I wanna be part of it, but you gotta pick up the pace. You know, you’ve gotta offer some things with a little edge and a little relevance, and you gotta stop being afraid of me. I’m not trying to take over and be intimidating. You need to give me something to do, because I wanna be involved.

John: You’re listening to Cynthia Tobias on today’s episode of Focus on the Family, and you can get her book called A Woman of Strength and Purpose and, uh, also a CD of this broadcast when you call 800-A-FAMILY. That’s 800-232- 6459, or you can donate and request those resources at focusonthefamily.com/broadcast. Let’s go ahead and return now to more from Cynthia Tobias.

Cynthia: Now, how many of you already know you are a strong-willed woman? And you want to live all out for God, do you not? We do and then nobody does it better or worse. (laughing) It can go really either way. Oh man, when we talk about mentoring the younger generation of strong-willed women, it’s never been more important. ‘Cause you watch, you look at those young girls. And when they get to be about 13 or 14 and you’re thinking, oh my goodness, they are headed for so much trouble. If we could start as early as possible, and instill in them the idea that this is who God made you to be, but he wants to use it. He wants to use it. I do substitute teaching at my children’s Christian school when I can, when I’m in town. And, um, ’cause I always wanna stay in the classroom enough to make sure I’m still right, (laughing) and, um, talk to the kids and be with them.

Cynthia: And last year there were, oh, one of the biggest troublemakers in the whole school was Nina. I mean she, Christian school or not. She made it her business to disrupt everything and bring everybody along with her. And she was just terrible. And I substituted for this one class and she, and a couple of her girlfriends were in there. You know, trying their stuff, you know, and being really smart alec and oh, it just a bunch of blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. And so while everybody’s working, I, I walked over to, to Nina and her friends and I, I brought a copy of the book with me. And I said, “You know, Nina, I’m a strong-willed woman too.” She goes, “Yep. That’s me. We’re all strong-willed women.” I said, um, “I gave my strong will to Christ years ago.” She goes, “I’m not ready for that.” I said, “I understand that, but I’m gonna give you a copy of this book.

Cynthia: And I’m going to pray for you every day by name, every day, that God will use your strong will in a way that brings people to Him. Instead of drives him away.” She didn’t say a word. She picked up that book. And I know for sure she read it ’cause she caught me couple of times in the hall afterwards. I’m not saying there was a night and day difference right away. But see, instead of arguing, and screaming and railing at me, uh, maybe I was the first person who said, I’m not going to push you into it. I just want to let you know, I will love you enough and pray for you enough that God will use you in a mighty and a powerful way. ‘Cause the world can be changed by you. One way or the other, it’s going to be.

Cynthia: See, we don’t let the world change as much, but we can sure change the world. Let’s look at a few ways. Let’s just find out how many of us maybe are more strong-willed than we thought. And each one of these traits, I kinda put what the upside is and what the dark side is. (laughing) When I was writing the book, one, one, one guy, um, said, why don’t you put, why don’t you put something in the book about the dark side? And I went, dark side. I said, we get enough about the dark side. We don’t have a dark side. I’m so defensive (laughing). Then I got to thinking about, and I thought, if there is a dark side, it’s the side without Christ. It’s the side where I don’t let God take control of it. And there are several places where it can go either way. For example, as a strong-willed woman, and, and this comes as a result of talking to hundreds of strong-willed women, just like you.

Cynthia: All of us said, deep in my heart, there is a desire to make a difference. I do not want to leave the world the same as I found it. Even if it’s the smallest little corner, I want to make a difference. I wanna step up. I wanna make a difference. I wanna change the world. Now, the dark side of it, without God, I can do anything just to be different. I can make people miserable. I can rebel. I can be horrible. But the upside is, I wanna change the world with my whole heart. I wanna change the world. I’m content, and this is a big one. I’m not content to coast. I have to keep pedaling. Uh, I have never met a strong-willed woman yet who was lazy.

Cynthia: I just haven’t. They don’t sit and watch soap operas. They don’t eat bon bons. They don’t lay around on the couch wondering what in the world they’re gonna do next ’cause they’re sort of bored. Uh-uh. Uh-uh. If anything, we are driving other people crazy ’cause we’re going, okay, so let’s do this. So, shouldn’t somebody be doing, shouldn’t somebody be doing something? ‘Cause like, couldn’t we, if it’s the wrong thing, we could just do another thing, right? But could we go ahead and do this? (laughing) Why is everybody just talking about it and nobody doing it? Fine, give it to me.

Cynthia: Now, the downside is we can tend to be calm and come across rather impatient, because we just don’t understand why everybody isn’t snapping to it. Let’s go get a grip, get over it. Move on. (laughing) It’s hard for me to remember that God couldn’t possibly have designed us all to do that, ’cause the world would be like frantic. We would all be at such a breakneck pace that there would be no relaxation for anybody and there’d be no break to it. Uh, I’m terrible at being patient. I’m terrible at just waiting around. God works with me all the time on that. And I hate that patience isn’t a gift. Why can’t it be a gift?

Cynthia: (laughing) Why does it have to be a fruit of the spirits? (laughing) I want it to be a gift. ‘Cause if you pray for patience, you know what you get. You get all the things that work patience in you or not. And without God in the wrong direction, again, I just live in a constant state of impatient. Move, move, move, move, move, move, move. Pushing my family, pushing my friends, pushing the church, push, push, push, push, push, push, push. That isn’t the way to bring honor and glory to God. But it is a way that I can easily slip into if I don’t watch myself. Now, I need to tell you, and I’ve made myself not only accountable to God, but to my family and a couple of close friends. I have given them permission, when they see me not going the right direction to give me some sort of signal like, you know, (laughing).

Cynthia: Keep a sense of humor low. No, I don’t take criticism from everybody. Very well at all. But the people I have empowered to give it to me, I hand it to them willingly. Every strong-willed woman I believe needs at least one accountability partner like that. Someone you trust, someone that you are asking deliberately, keep me honest. Sometimes I get carried away and there’s no way to pull me back. You need to just be there and just remind me. I’m giving you that authority and giving you that power. That way I have to resent the rest of the world for wanting to step in and do it. I need to be involved, become part of the solution to compelling problems (laughs). You know, and especially as a kid, I don’t wanna list the chores to do. I want compelling problems to solve. If there is a compelling problem to solve for which a solution is my taking out the garbage, it is much more likely I will take out the garbage than if it’s just my job.

Cynthia: I wanna know what’s the point. When I was doing a principles thing a while back for private schools, one principal was saying that they had a terrible time with their dress code. They were having all kinds of problems, and one teacher even, um, quit because they were gonna make the dress code for teachers too. And I said, well, first of all, let me ask you this. I said, what’s the point of the dress code? Well, the school board has decided that we now need it. I know. I know, but I mean, what problem do you have that the dress code solves? Well, we haven’t really talked about that. I said, well, how many kids are on the panel that’s discussing what the dress code should be? Well, none. Okay. So, let me get this straight. (laughing) You don’t have a compelling problem you’re trying to solve that you can share with us. You’re not including us in the whole decision-making process, and it’s being handed down as an edict on high. He says, yeah, that’s pretty much it (laughing).

Cynthia: I said, you are doomed. (laughing) He said, I know, but we’ve already printed it all up and we’re not going back now. (laughing) I don’t have to tell you when I talked to him a few months later, it was disastrous. It doesn’t mean that I won’t follow your dress code. It means that you don’t just hand down edicts on high, but that you involve me in the process. If I am involved in the process, you have a thousand times more likelihood of getting it accomplished. Now, the way it can take a negative direction, um, we get a little nosy (laughs). ‘Cause then there’s no such thing as none of our business. You know, we put our nose into everybody’s business. That’s without God. We do it so easily. It comes naturally, don’t you think? It does come naturally. You know, you walk by somebody and they’re having a problem. You just stop and you just straight up (laughing). We’re so good at it. Any problem in the church, just hand it to me. I can solve it for you (laughing).

Cynthia: Wow. No wonder they don’t want us around when we act like that. (laughing) It’s, it’s the dark side (laughing). The side I have to fight myself on to resist and let other people have good ideas too. And, and to be asked to do it and not always insinuate my position and my opinion. It’s no wonder they don’t want me around if I do that all the time. Because we, and we have a woman in our church that does this. I know you do too. She criticizes every single Sunday school teacher. No one can do it as well as she can. And everybody, you know, when she walks down the hall, everybody goes, oh, no don’t you have one of the mothers like, uh, don- isn’t there like a parent that you just dread. Man, you just dread when she her kid around, ’cause you’re going, oh man. Or she says, I just need to talk to you about one of your teachers. We can be so obnoxious without God. I have no reverse gear (laughing). On the drive. If I have to go backwards, I have to go around the block to do it (laughing).

Cynthia: ‘Cause when I’m out there, man, I’m up there. No reverse gear. I sta- I know the branch won’t support me, but I’m staying out here til I drop. ‘Cause I don’t have a reverse gear and I don’t have any other options. So, there I am and it’s either gonna work or it’s not. Now, that could be very positive, but you can see what the negative is. Push forward no matter what, no matter what the cost. Bulldoze everything in my way, do it. No, take no prisoners, no holds barred. Go for it. I am a human bulldozer. It’s so unattractive, (laughing) but it comes so naturally. It does come naturally. My carnal nature takes over just, uh, just like that, it can take over. Unless I have totally sold out to God. And then it even still creeps back that I have to go back, and go back and go back. ‘Cause with my whole strong-willed heart, I want to be His, I want to do it for His glory and it doesn’t come naturally.

John: Cynthia Tobias has been our guest today on Focus on the Family, explaining the positive and negative traits of a strong-willed woman. And, uh, we’ll continue this presentation next time.

Jim: (laughs) Uh, John, Cynthia has such a great perspective on this. As a strong-willed woman herself, uh, she understands that struggle between self-will and God’s will. And I think when it comes to God’s will, that’s something we all need to be sensitive to, and work in tandem with. I don’t know about you, John, but I can tell you the times that I’ve made a big mistake are usually the times when I did not seek God’s will for the situation.

John: It’s so easy to just act out of what we think is gonna be the right thing without pausing and just asking God, what do you want here?

Jim: Well, and following God’s will is something that we should be modeling for our children as well. Uh, let me remind you, Focus on the Family is here to strengthen your walk with the Lord, help you have a strong marriage. And for those of you who are parents, we wanna help you in that journey as well. And of course, we need your support to continue this important work. Uh, you can become a part of our pro family team by making a monthly pledge. It doesn’t have to be a large amount. It’s the consistency that really helps us month to month. And when you make a pledge of any amount, uh, we’ll send you a copy of Cynthia’s book on this topic called A Woman of Strength and Purpose. And if you can’t commit a pledge right now, we understand. We can also send you the book for a one-time gift of any amount. But the main thing is, get your copy today.

John: And you can do that by calling 800-A-FAMILY 800-232-6459 or donate online and request your book at focusonthefamily.com/broadcast. While you’re online with us or have us on the phone, be sure to, uh, find out more about the Focus app, where you can access a huge library of our content, and it’s not just this broadcast. Next time we’ll hear more from Cynthia Tobias.


Cynthia: I’ve been through some terrible personal crisis in the last couple of years, and there are more than one time. When I’ve gotten up in the morning and said, to the enemy, who in the world do you think you’re dealing with? You’ll need your strong will in times like that.

End of Preview

John: On behalf of Jim Daly and the entire team, thanks for joining us today for Focus on the Family. I’m John Fuller, inviting you back as we once again, help you and your family thrive in Christ.

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A Woman of Strength and Purpose

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