FamilyLife Today® Podcast

Strong, Female, and Struggling to Feel Heard: Mary DeMuth

with Mary DeMuth | April 2, 2024
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Ever feel like your spouse doesn't understand you, leaving you to face things alone? Mary DeMuth explores strong women in the Bible who felt misunderstood—and how they shouldered their need to feel heard.

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  • About the Host

  • About the Guest


  • Dave and Ann Wilson

    Dave and Ann Wilson are hosts of FamilyLife Today®, FamilyLife’s nationally-syndicated radio program. Dave and Ann have been married for more than 38 years and have spent the last 33 teaching and mentoring couples and parents across the country. They have been featured speakers at FamilyLife’s Weekend to Remember® marriage getaway since 1993 and have also hosted their own marriage conferences across the country. Cofounders of Kensington Church—a national, multicampus church that hosts more than 14,000 visitors every weekend—the Wilsons are the creative force behind DVD teaching series Rock Your Marriage and The Survival Guide To Parenting, as well as authors of the recently released book Vertical Marriage (Zondervan, 2019). Dave is a graduate of the International School of Theology, where he received a Master of Divinity degree. A Ball State University Hall of Fame quarterback, Dave served the Detroit Lions as chaplain for 33 years. Ann attended the University of Kentucky. She has been active alongside Dave in ministry as a speaker, writer, small-group leader, and mentor to countless wives of professional athletes. The Wilsons live in the Detroit area. They have three grown sons, CJ, Austin, and Cody, three daughters-in-law, and a growing number of grandchildren.

Feel misunderstood by your spouse, facing things alone? Mary DeMuth examines how women in the Bible shouldered their need to feel heard.

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Strong, Female, and Struggling to Feel Heard: Mary DeMuth

With Mary DeMuth
April 02, 2024
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Mary: “A woman who fears the Lord will be praised.” [Proverbs 31:30] It’s not about her charms, it's not about her beauty, it's about her soul. As a woman who’s getting older every year and who, in a society that says she is worth less every year she ages, I go back to that and say, “Lord, I want to have a beautiful soul.”

Shelby: Welcome to FamilyLife Today, where we want to help you pursue the relationships that matter most. I’m Shelby Abbott, and your hosts are Dave and Ann Wilson. You can find us at

Ann: This is FamilyLife Today!

Dave: I’ve got two women in the studio today. And, probably, you know this verse: 1 Peter 3:7. Anybody? Do you know what it says? “Husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way.” And every guy is saying, “Please help me! How do I understand her?” [Laughter]

Why do you think Peter writes that to husbands if women have to be understood? Are you guys that complicated? [Laughter] Are you misunderstood that often?

Ann: We have Mary DeMuth back in the studio with us today. She’s a favorite guest of ours. Mary, I’m going to forward that question to you. How’s that?

Dave: Yes, answer that a little bit, because I do think, as men, we do misunderstand.

Mary: Yes, I think we are misunderstood, and I think, again, that it has to do with communication; that we’re just not communicating well. Maybe it’s that we aren’t communicating well what we are feeling, or that there is something lost in translation, as well.

You guys talk about communication all the time, I’m sure. There’s “the speaker” and “the speaker,” and there’s always this [stressed noise] in the middle—

Dave: —in the middle, yes.

Mary: —yes. It is hard. I think that’s what we want in marriage. At least, I want to be understood. I want that in my friendships, as well. I just want to feel known. We can learn from these women in the Bible who have been misunderstood, and we can learn principles from the Word of God of, “What do you do when it happens?” It is going to happen. It is inevitable. So, how do you go forward from there?

Ann: When you say you want to be known, I think every woman would resonate with that. What do you think that means?

Mary: I’ll say this—it kind of elevates this conversation: when we look at the Trinity, God is—

Ann: —See? She goes to the Trinity. [Laughter] I like this.

Dave: Here we go!

Mary: God is relationship. He is Father, Son, Holy Spirit, and they existed outside of time in perfect relationship and perfect intimacy. And intimacy is “to know another.” And, even on the human scale, it’s to know the hard parts, too.

And then, He created human beings out of that intimacy, because He wanted to have intimacy with His creation, but He also wanted Adam and Eve to have that intimacy, as well. And that is: to be known is to have all those parts, and you cannot have—it’s false intimacy if two people managing their reputations are getting to know each other but they never let each other behind the mask.

Dave: Yes.

Ann: It’s the beauty; it’s the gospel story, that we are fully known and fully loved.

We talked yesterday, in our previous episode. We’ve hit Bathsheba, we’ve hit Eve, and we hit—is that it? [Laughter] So, today, let’s talk about Naomi—

Mary: —yes.

Ann: —from the story of Ruth.

Mary: Yes. So, the beautiful thing about the book of Ruth—a little teaching is that it is in a chiastic structure. When Hebrew people tell stories, they tell it in chiasm, which is like an inverted “V.” The center of the story is in the middle of the story, whereas we as Westerners, we tell the climax toward the end.

So, the middle part of that story is Ruth at the feet, or on the side of Boaz, and it is like the “aha!” Everything is going to change, and it pivots on that. What I love about Naomi’s story is she is so authentic, talk about being known. She goes back to her hometown, Bethlehem, “The House of Bread,” which she had left because there was a famine. She comes back bereft; no husband, no sons, and she’s got this random lady named Ruth who says, “whither thou goest.” [Laughter]

She even lies in that moment. The ladies of Bethlehem said, “You’re back! It’s Naomi!” and she says, “No, call me Mara,” which is the root of my own name, Mary. I’ve always wondered why the root of my name means “bitter.” She says, “Call me Bitter. I don’t have anything.” And yet she has—her redemption is standing right next to her.

Ann: Oh!

Mary: In grief, if you are out there grieving, understand that grief puts a pallor over everything, and it blinds you to the good things in your life. I believe the Lord wants to bring us through a lament to work on our grief so that we can begin to have our eyes opened to what is going on around us and the blessings that God has for us, even in the midst of that grief.

Ann: Ugh. That is such a good word. Have you ever had to do that? Where you’ve been so bombarded with the heaviness of grief that you couldn’t see anything around you?

Mary: Definitely. A lot of different times. I think back on church planting in France when everything fell apart, and I could not see any good. The Lord brought me through—

Ann: —Did you ask your husband to call you Mara?

Mary: Yes! [Laughter] “I’m not Marie, I’m Mara!” Yes, I felt that way. I worked through some Psalms called Lament Psalms in the book of Psalms, and there’s kind of a way to go through, where you name it: “Why God, why? How long, how long, O Lord, is this going to happen?” [Psalms 22 and 13] And then, you progress all the way through, and at the end you say, “But I’m going to choose to trust You. You are Sovereign.”

You move through by naming the grief, by yelling at God about it, and then by coming through on the other side with hope. Walking through that journey, someone out there needs to hear this today, you have to mourn! It does not work to shove it down. You will miss the blessings of God if you do not walk the valley of grief.

Dave: And so often, we think you can’t yell at God, you can’t complain to God, and yet, it’s all through the Psalms. Like you said, but we’re afraid to go there, not even understanding what you just said: it’s actually a healing journey.

Mary: Right.

Dave: If you’ll verbalize it, right? And do you write it?

Mary: Yes, I write out my lament psalms, and it helps me. There’s something about the physicality of that that helps me see, “Oh, yeah. I am really mad. I am wondering why God is not giving me deliverance in this area.”

Ann: Hmmm. When my sister died, I had that same situation. It felt so bleak. It’s like the world—you can’t even see color when you’re in the midst of it. I’m imagining that was what Naomi was feeling. She’s lost everything.

As we know the story of Ruth, we know her redemption came. We know the story of Boaz coming and—

Dave: —some don’t know the story.

Ann: That’s what I was going to say. We know it, but in the midst of that, do we blame Naomi for her bitterness?

Mary: Right, and there’s no passage in it that says, “And God was mad at her for calling herself Mara.” But at the end, you see her holding this baby. Her family line has been restored. And then this, of course, is not only in the line of David, but in the line of Jesus. And from a Moabitess, someone outside of the commonwealth of Israel is part of the lineage of Christ, which then hints at [the fact that] God is for us all.

The nation of Israel was supposed to be that city on a hill that drew everyone to themselves. And here is a story in the book of Ruth of God doing just that: pulling a Moabitess into the commonwealth because He was for everybody.

Dave: What about the woman or the man who doesn’t get the Ruth—

Ann: —ending?

Dave: —ending?

Mary: Yes.

Dave: There isn’t hope standing beside her or him.

Mary: Right.

Ann: The Savior of the world doesn’t come through her.

Dave: And they hear this and say, “I get it. She lamented, but she ended up with a great story. My story is not turning. My story is still dark. I don’t think it’s ever going to turn.”

Mary: That’s where we have to rest in the sovereignty of God and know that His stories often take longer than what we want the stories to be.

Ann: Yes.

Mary: I have one of my stories of a forty-year prayer. During that prayer, there were times when I gave up on my prayer. I thought, “Okay, obviously You are not going to answer this.” I made my peace with it (this was a prayer for someone to come to Christ). [I said], “Okay, they’re going to have an eternity in hell, and I just have to live with it.” And then, lo and behold, the Lord finally answered that prayer. But it took Him forty long years. That’s a long time!

Ann: That is a long time.

Mary: I think a lot of us as Americans are short-sighted. We think, “Okay, God; here’s my prayer request. And, tomorrow, it would be great if you’d answer that prayer.” We are not long-suffering in waiting on that answer.

Part of it is, it may be coming, and we just have to be patient. And part of it is that we weren’t made for this world. We were made for a Person and a Place, as Randy Alcorn says. A Person is Jesus, that Place is the New Heavens and the New Earth. Those stories are going to make sense someday, and you are going to live in the tension, oftentimes, of an unfinished story. But it will be fully complete when all those tears are wiped away on the other side.

Ann: That’s good. That’s really good.

Dave: So, do we go to the New Testament?

Mary: Or do you want to do P31?

Ann: Yes, let’s do that one.

Dave: Oh! Proverbs 31.

Ann: Let’s do that.

Dave: The perfect woman. Is that a misunderstanding?

Ann: When you started reading Proverbs 31 as a younger woman, what did you think of it?

Mary: I was mad and frustrated.

Ann: Me, too.

Mary: I thought, “Whatever.”

Ann: Me, too. I wouldn’t even read it.

Mary: [Laughter] You were rebelling.

Ann: I was a young mom and thought, “Whatever. Who can do that? Nobody can do that. I don’t think that’s even a real possibility.”

Now, what do you think of it?

Mary: Now that I’ve studied it, the audience for P31 is men, not women. That is revolutionary if you think about it. It is a mom telling her son the qualities of a virtuous woman.

In the P31, when you get to all the things that she does, is a Hebrew acrostic that was meant to be memorized by men as they were searching and looking for a wife.

Ann: I have never heard this.

Mary: [Laughter] Yes, isn’t that so cool.

Ann: This is fascinating.

Mary: So, that takes a lot of pressure off, but then, some scholars believe she is wisdom personified; So, some scholars think that how she lives is the working out of the whole book of Proverbs. What does industriousness look like? What does having fidelity look like? So, if you look at it that way, it is also helpful.

But then, also, the mom is telling the son, “These are the qualities of a woman worthy of you”—because all moms think their sons are awesome and no girl is worthy [Laughter]—but this is her over a lifetime. This is not “a day in the life of P31.” She, over her lifetime, has learned to run this business; she, over a lifetime, has served her servant girls. So, this is over a lifetime. I think that takes a lot of pressure off of people who have probably misunderstood her. I think she’s just a composite human being of somebody.

Ann: I was going to say, “Let’s read it.”

Mary: The first part is King Lemuel. That’s the only time in the Bible that he’s mentioned. Some say he could be Solomon, like a new word for him; that this was Bathsheba telling Solomon the story. If you start at the beginning, it’s King Lemuel. She’s telling him, “A virtuous woman, who can find?”

Ann: Which is interesting, too, because as they do the Shabbat dinner—we’ve had many dinners and celebrations of the Sabbath, or the Shabbat, over in Israel—this is part of the Shabbat.

Mary: Yes, yes.

Ann: Which is pretty cool, that it’s almost a blessing over the woman, over the wife, which is beautiful—

Mary: Right.

Ann: —as they read it.

Mary: And, often memorized by men—

Ann: —yes.

Mary: —because it’s an acrostic.

Ann: And they read it out loud to the woman and then bless her, the wife.

Dave: What do you want me to read?

Ann: Yes, let’s hear it. I want to hear it.

Dave: I mean, verse 11, this is what every husband wants.

Mary: [Laughter] He’s picking and choosing. No cherry-picking verses.

Dave: “The heart of her husband trusts in her”—

Mary: —oh, yes.

Dave: —"and he will have no lack of gain. She does him good and not harm all the days of her life.” Every guy is thinking, “That’s the woman I want.”

Ann: I think that can be true.

Dave: Oh, yes. Definitely true. I think that way about you, no question.

Ann: Oh, you’re nice.

Dave: There were days, maybe years—[Laughter]

Mary: —but today—

Dave: —maybe decades—

Ann: Decades, maybe?

Dave: No, we’ve talked about many times—

Mary: [Laughter] —millennia—

Dave: —many times when you’d speak truth to me, which you did in love, but I didn’t feel it was loving—

Ann: —I hadn’t learned how to speak truth yet.

Dave: —and I felt like you were harming me, when now, I realize I’m a better man because of it. But, in those days, it felt like, “Could you just be this woman? She never harms her husband.” [Laughter]

Dave: “She seeks woolen flax and works with willing hands; she is like the ships of the merchants; she brings her food from afar. She arises while it is yet night and provides food for her household and portions for her maidens.”

When you hear that, do you feel like that’s just a burden you have to carry as a woman, a mom, and a wife? Or is that exciting? [Laughter]

Mary: I think it’s overwhelming, but when I read it as a woman over her lifetime, it’s compelling to me. This is the epitome of virtue, and so, as I work my way toward my sanctification journey, these things are going to be true of me. I love how it ends: “Charm is deceitful, beauty is vain; but a woman who fears the Lord will be praised.”

In our beauty-obsessed culture, this flies in the face of that. “A woman who fears the Lord will be praised.” It’s not about her charms, it's not about her beauty; it's about her soul. As a woman who’s getting older every year, and who, in a society that says she is worth less every year she ages, I go back to that and say, “Lord, I want to have a beautiful soul.”

I want people to see this soul that is enlarging as I am declining in years, but that my soul is growing closer to Jesus.

Ann: I’m thinking about my mom at her funeral. She was 90 years old. She had twelve grandsons, no granddaughters—

Mary: Oh, my goodness!

Ann: Yes, and Dave actually did the funeral, and he had each of the twelve grandsons share something about my mom.

Dave: I said it was mandatory, and it was beautiful.

Ann: It was, absolutely. It reminds me of the Proverbs 31 woman. You’re right. She had gotten old, she didn’t have the looks; but there was a beauty to her that was indescribable.

Dave: How about verse 16? “She considers a field and buys it; with the fruit of her hands she plants a vineyard.”

Ann: This chick was a businesswoman, man.

Mary: Which I love. That’s where I think we forget about the beauty of this, is that this actually has a pretty robust view of women.

Ann: Yes.

Mary: Industriousness and leadership and service, and she’s wearing a lot of hats. And I wear a lot of hats, so I just relate to that. I think it’s beautiful. But, again, we don’t need to get mad at her. She’s a composite of all the best parts of what it means to be a woman.

Ann: Right.

Dave: Yes, it’s beautiful to realize [that] this is over a lifetime.

Mary: Yes.

Dave: That’s a really good insight. Let me read the last one, verse 23: “Her husband is known in the gates as he sits with the elders of the land.” How is that a part of a woman’s role?

Mary: Well, I think it’s funny that he is hanging out and sitting, and she is “da, da, da, da, da.” [Laughter] So, that part kind of makes me laugh. But she is honoring her husband, and I think that’s important, giving him honor and dignifying his role that he’s playing in society and in the community that he’s in.

Ann: Maybe the Proverbs man is sitting there because the woman really had an effect on his life and helped him to become the man that he was.

Mary: Yes.

Dave: Do we have time for Phoebe?

Mary: Quickly, I think so.

Dave: Let’s do it.

Mary: We don’t know much about her. She’s in Romans 16 [verse 1], and Paul commends her. He says, “I commend to you my sister, Phoebe.” And the thing about her is that most scholars think that she is the one that carried the book of Romans to Rome. Because when Paul commends somebody, he is usually saying they are the person carrying the letter. He’s basically saying, “I commend her. She is the one that is going to deliver this.”

But not only the deliverer of the letter, she would, most likely, have memorized it. She would have—she was coming from Cenchrea and Corinth, around Italy, so, it was a perilous journey. So, not only that, but she would have had to know Paul’s inflections. She would have elocuted the book of Romans to the Romans she met, Priscilla and Aquila, and all the church that was meeting with their tent-making enterprise and business.

So, she’s not known well, but most likely, we wouldn’t have had the book of Romans if Phoebe had not done that. And then, she also was able to emphasize what Paul wanted to emphasize in that letter, and to have his heart.

Dave: Just a light-hearted little letter, you know?

Mary: Yes; [Laughter] not a big deal—

Dave: —I mean, seriously, think about—

Mary: This is a theological treatise of the whole Bible!

Dave: Yes.

Mary: It’s so beautiful. And here we have this woman. I heard about a seminary where they would teach the whole book of Romans, and they would stop and wouldn’t teach chapter 16, which just made me mad, because there are all sorts of women in chapter 16—

Ann: —oh, yeah.

Mary: —and they didn’t want to deal with that, so they just didn’t teach it. This is part of Romans! And she is commended, because she is grabbing it and bringing it, most likely, to the—we don’t know for sure. We’ll find out on the other side.

Dave: How was she misunderstood?

Mary: Well, misunderstood by us, primarily, because she’s just like this little blip, and most people don’t understand—especially when we look at the New Testament with Jesus and how he dignified women, and how women were part of His entourage, and how they paid for His ministry. He had ministry because they were supporting.

We gloss over women, and here we have one who is so gutsy and bold and probably single and wealthy. We don’t talk about that much in the church. Single women are often maligned and unseen and misunderstood. And here we have one who is definitely a Greek person who probably has a pagan background, who meets Jesus and does this amazing thing. That’s why I think we need to know about her.

Ann: I think that’s fascinating. Even the—how perilous this trip was, and what it took for her to accomplish it, is really staggering. I don’t think most people do know that.

What’s the application from Phoebe that we can have today?

Mary: I think we limit ourselves, as Christ-followers, to our own experience. I don’t think she was a letter carrier prior to this. She could have been thinking, “Ah, that’s a lot to ask!”

Ann: “I’m a woman—”

Mary: —”I don’t want to travel the seas; it could be dangerous.” Walking up the Appian Way, she had a lot of traveling to do.

I think for us it’s that, sometimes the Lord will call us into uncomfortable spaces, and He wants us not to shrink back, but to trust Him, and then amazing things can happen. For example, the Book of Romans can be delivered to the Roman Christians, and then to all of Christendom forever in eternity. So, that’s pretty cool.

Ann: I’m thinking, too, Mary, [that] we as women can limit ourselves. Especially during certain segments of our lives. We get older, and we think, “Well, I’m too old to do that now.” We can always have an impact on other women and people in our community around us.

There’s never a time that you are overlooked as a woman. God always sees us. He’s always wanting to use us and our gifts. He’s always wanting to talk to us and highlight His Word, saying, we can find ourselves in the Scriptures. Even if we are feeling misunderstood, now, we find that there are women in the Bible that were misunderstood, too.

And, Dave, I think you’ve been a good host today.

Dave: Thank you. Talking about misunderstood women in the Bible. We need a Misunderstood Men in the Bible book.

Mary: Oh, yes. Here we go. [Laughter]

Dave: My last thought for the men is, “See the greatness in your woman.” Your wife, your daughters, your mom, the women in your church—because I think there’s probably some guys who are thinking, “Paul, you don’t send a woman on this trip. This is a tough journey.” And yet, somebody, whether it was Paul, somebody said, “No, this woman can do it.”

I think, often, we do not see the greatness in the women God has put around us, and we need to stop and look and speak out what we see and appreciate and give them tasks that we think they can’t do. They can probably do it better than we can!

Ann: I’ll add that we, as women, need to stick together. We need to speak life into each other and encourage each other. We’re so filled with doubts at times, “Can I do this?” I hope that, as women, instead of competing against one another, we can come together, because we’re a force together.

Shelby: That’s just really true! What would our churches and Christian communities look like if men consistently spoke life into our wives and other women and women banded and bonded together without a spirit of competition. We’d change our neighborhoods! We’d change our towns! We’d change our cities, our communities. It would drastically be impacted by the goodness of the gospel, and lives would be transformed. So, let’s do it! You ready? Let’s do it.

I’m Shelby Abbott ,and you’ve been listening to Dave and Ann Wilson with Mary DeMuth on FamilyLife Today. Mary has written a book called The Most Misunderstood Women of the Bible: What Their Stories Teach Us About Thriving. This is a book about how timeless stories about misunderstood women in the Bible actually offer us today real world practical, life-application and inspiration.

You can get your copy right now of Mary’s book by going online to You can also find it in the show notes. There’s a link there. Or you can give us a call at 800-358-6329; again, that number is 800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word, “TODAY.”

And, you know, I wanted to pause here and just say “thank you” to all our ministry partners who make this ministry possible. We are a donor supported ministry here at FamilyLife Today, and the people who give monthly in order to make this ministry happen are the ones who support us, who care for us, and help this ministry move forward and thrive by getting the gospel into people’s homes “one home at a time.” We are so grateful for you; and I am personally so grateful for you.

Earlier, Mary talked a lot about being misunderstood. That’s been the theme of her book and the context of the conversation. It’s kind of easy to feel that way in life, which is one of the reasons why FamilyLife hosts our Blended and Blessed One-Day Marriage Live Event for couples in blended families.

This is going to be a live event that is happening from the Dallas/Fort Worth area on Saturday, April 27. So, I want to encourage you to join us for the Blended and Blessed live-streamed event as we explore different ways for you to have peace in your home and between your homes. There are going to be speakers like Ron and Nan Deal, Gil and Brenda Stuart, and Gayla Grace. You can find out more information about the Blended and Blessed live stream event in the show notes. And if you can’t make it to the live event in Dallas, it’s going to be streamed everywhere, and you can watch it later on. More details in the show notes.

Now, tomorrow, speaking of Ron Deal, we’re going to have Ron join us with Gayla Grace as they discuss working smarter, specifically in the context of blended families. That’s tomorrow, I hope you’ll join us.

On behalf of Dave and Ann Wilson, I’m Shelby Abbott. We will see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.

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