Strong Or Subservient? Understanding God’s Design For Women

I grew up watching all sorts of television dramas, from local English and Chinese dramas to American ones. If I could point out one difference between today’s shows and those that aired years ago, it would be in how women are portrayed. In the past, female characters in dramas (especially those set in colonial times) were meant to be seen but not heard, dutifully submitting to male figures of authority, and always being careful not to offend them. These days, on the other hand, women in dramas are often independent and hold positions of power. However, they intimidate and despise men, proclaiming that they don’t need them.

Do either of these extreme depictions accurately portray what God had in mind when He created women in His image (Gen 1:27)? I believe not. So, what’s a girl to do? The conflicting messages that “women are lesser than men” on one hand and “women don’t need men” on the other fail to capture God’s heart for us girls. Instead, we need to turn to His Word for a true understanding of our roles as women. While I’m far from an expert on godly femininity, my hope is to shed some light on God’s special design for girls.  

You’ve probably heard of women being called “helpers.” What exactly does this mean? Let’s go back to Genesis 2:18, where “The LORDGod said, ‘It is not good for the man to be alone; I will make him a helper suitable for him.’” Does this imply girls are somehow inferior to boys, who are supposed to be the heroes running the show while we are nothing more than sidekicks?

I’ve learnt that this is far from the meaning of the Bible verse. The word “helper” here is actually the same Hebrew word (“ezer”; most of the Old Testament is in Hebrew) used to refer to God as — yes — a helper to His people (e.g. Exod 18:4; Deut 33:7; Hos 13:9). If God Himself is described as a helper, this means the biblical role of women is of high importance too! Indeed, we are created to stand with men as equal before God, forming a community that enables and encourages each other to glorify God with our lives. We can reflect the nurturing, caring, and compassionate nature of God; we can seek not to think only about our own desires, but to look out for the needs of those around us.


You might have also heard the word “submit” to describe the relationship between women and men (e.g. Eph 5:22; Col 3:18; 1 Pet 3:1). “Submit” — here is yet another term that tends to have a negative connotation, linked with a life of silent misery. Actually, the word is used in the Bible to mean giving way to each other out of love, whether they are your nearest and dearest, other Christians, or elders (e.g. 1 Cor 16:16; 1 Pet 5:5). Submission in this sense is actually a beautiful thing. In fact, Ephesians 5:21 calls on both men and women to “submit to one another out of reverence for Christ”. Submitting doesn’t mean we are weak or passive and subservient doormats; we are actually displaying strength of will and character by choosing to yield to one another in humility and faith.

I recently completed a Bible study on the Book of Esther and noticed how she was never depicted as being brash or disrespectful to others. Instead, she was courageous, wise, strong, compassionate, and yes, humble. Although the king was caricatured as a drunken and almost ridiculous character, Esther still respected his authority. In addition, she obeyed her cousin Mordecai’s instructions by not revealing her background (Esth 2:10), and deciding to follow his instructions to appeal to the king for the sake of the Jews even though it risked her life (Esth 4:8–16). (Mordecai in turn follows all of Esther’s instructions in verse 17.) Some may tell us that only those who are aggressive and dominant can accomplish great things; however, we know without a doubt that “God opposes the proud but shows favour to the humble.” (1 Pet 5:5). He desires that women, filled with the quiet determination, wisdom and strength that comes from loving like Christ, fulfil His purposes here on earth.


Now, let me address the other extreme — of being individualistic women with no need for men whatsoever. Many ladies these days have the privilege of good-quality education and widespread recognition for our efforts. Not only that, we constantly hear the demand for equal rights and equal treatment as men. It is sometimes tempting to think that we do not need men anymore; aren’t we capable enough to do everything ourselves?

As we have established, girls are equally important in God’s eyes as boys, and we need to help each other. We should not be disrespectful and dismiss them. Esther humbly listened to Mordecai’s wise advice. At the same time, she made a plan and executed it with wisdom. Both of them were needed to make change happen in that situation. The next time you are tempted to disregard a guy’s opinion because ‘he’s just a guy,’ think instead about how both of you can work together and make things even better. Candice Watters, co-creator of Boundless. org, writes, “… biblical femininity requires first, understanding what God designed woman to be and second, deciding to become that woman and living it out.” As we understand more about God’s wonderful design for us girls, let’s strive to live it out and daily desire to become more and more like Christ.