Character Close Up: The Proverbs 31 Woman

I wish we knew her name… but there’s probably a reason we don’t.

So often Christian women hear that they should be just like the Proverbs 31 woman, but are so intimidated by the passage that they never pursue that goal purposefully.So instead we do to her what we do to so many other women – we compare ourselves to her.

Seriously, who do you know who actually lives like that? I’ve always been pretty overwhelmed by this passage personally. She seems to be the unattainable goal. For a long time, in my mind, I evaluated the Proverbs 31 woman the same way I would a Barbie doll. She sounds like “perfect woman,” and though she sounds amazing,  I’ve often flipped back and forth between wanting to be just like her and then wondering if I even wanted to try.

And if you’re like me – big dreams, a strong personality, ample will, and a desire to change the world, this chapter might inspire fear in your heart. You might begin to wonder if there’s something wrong with you if the majority of this passage doesn’t sound appealing or sound like it matches the dreams you have for your life. However, the truth about the Proverbs 31 woman is that she is strong (vs. 25). But the woman who desires to be like her has to recognize that she cannot accomplish the things that the Proverbs 31 woman did in her own strength. Instead, all that she is and does must flow out of her relationship with Christ.

I love the way that Josh Harris taught on the Proverbs 31 Woman in Fall 2009 at Covenant Life Church. You can listen to his message here. The high points are below, but I strongly encourage you to listen to what he has to say about the life of a godly woman.

Context of Proverbs 31:

1. It was written by a mother to her son (vs. 1). Thus, it’s not a man’s view of “the perfect woman,” it’s a mother telling her son what kind of attributes to look for in a wife.

2. It’s an acrostic poem (beginning in vs. 10 – A-Z characteristics of a godly woman). It’s a poetic expression of how godly wisdom plays out in the life of a woman.

3. “It’s not a demanding description of every characteristic you should embody. No, it is a joyful celebration of womanly excellence, resourcefulness, and skill.”

4. “These characteristics are like a person stringing pearls on a necklace” – John Piper. God is describing the unbounded potential of a godly woman.

4 Characteristics of a Valiant Woman:

1. She fears the Lord. This is what is most important (vs. 30). “This is the key quality that holds up everything else about her. She has placed God as the center of her life. This is the starting point of wisdom.”

– Read the rest of Proverbs 31 and understand that this verse is the context for how she accomplishes the rest of her life.

– The fear of the Lord is the quality that really matters. This is the non-negotiable. The other qualities and characteristics will vary by woman, but the fear of the Lord must be present.

– Proverbs 31 is not a list of all the household chores a woman has to do. It’s a description of what wisdom in motion looks like in the life of a godly woman. It’s wisdom applied. This is what knowing and loving God unleashes in the life of a woman who loves God.

2. She is others-centered. What she does, she is not just doing for her own gain. What she does is motivated by a desire to be a blessing to others around her. Her life is interwoven with the community around her and she is spending herself for the benefit of others. It’s not about a certain list of activities. It’s all about your heart before God and your motivation for doing things. She courageously turns her back on independence and selfishness.

3. She is capable. These capabilities go beyond mere abilities. She’s been educated and has cultivated her mind in different ways. 1 Peter 4:10

4. She is influential. Proverbs 31 shows us a woman who has incredible power. Her godliness, her example, and her determination serves and influences others. She exerts an amazing influence on the world around her (vs. 28-29). She influences and teaches others with her words – her life gives her a platform to teach others – “She opens her mouth with wisdom, and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue” (vs. 26). Such women are desperately needed to teach and disciple those who are coming up behind them in the church (Titus 2).

I think that my favorite parts of this passage are found in vs. 10-12:

The heart of her husband trusts in her, and he will have no lack of gain (vs. 11)

She does him good and not harm, all the days of her life (vs. 12)

vs. 10-12: These verses make a statement about the rarity of this kind of woman. This woman possesses “competent strength.” “There’s nothing wilting in this description. This is a strong woman. Womanhood, according to God’s Word, can and should be strong, even valiant. The word ‘valiant,’ means ‘strong and determined.'”

Based upon this understanding, the Proverbs 31 woman is a woman that I want to strive to be just like. It’s not about doing what she did. It’s about learning to fear the Lord the way she did… pursuing a heart like she had. This passage isn’t about DOING. It’s about BEING.

In addition, this understanding of her makes it okay for me to be me. It makes it okay for me to be passionate, determined, strong, and intelligent. And I can’t really explain the kind of relief that this understanding brings, but suffice it to say that the understanding that God created me this way with purpose brings great joy. Each believer should desire and pursue to fear the Lord, to be others-centered, to be capable, and to be influential. It should be part of our DNA as Christ-followers.

And now, the question is how. How do we attain this sort of spiritual strength? The Gospel. It’s because of Christ and His grace that we, as women, can be like this woman that we see in Proverbs 31. It’s in committing our life to Christ and in striving to live for His glory that our hearts are transformed to the point that we can live this passage out well.

Love songs, Dave Barnes, and Christianity

okay, I’ll just go ahead and admit it – I’m a hopeless romantic. so there’s your disclaimer for this post – it’s gonna be a little sappy.

The problem with being both a Christian and a hopeless romantic is that so many love songs (and love stories, for that matter) mischaracterize the role of love, romance, and relationships/marriage in our lives… they focus on sensuality or place far too much value on the feelings that accompany relationships instead of what commitment really means. Maybe I’m thinking about this because I’ve got six or seven wedding invitations sitting on my desk. Or maybe I’m thinking about it because one of the invites is to my little sister’s wedding.

Regardless, I have discovered an artist whose songs I like A LOT. I recently went to a Dave Barnes concert and loved the lyrics in his songs… they seem to convey love and adoration without giving the focus of his affection a position that doesn’t belong to her.  His songs keep playing on repeat in my head (thanks to Karen) and I think they’re beautiful. The third one below, I Have and Always Will, is the perfect wedding song and it’s definitely my favorite. I’ll have to play it for Courtney once I get to Texas!

God Gave Me You – Dave Barnes
I’ve been a walking heartache
I’ve made a mess of me
The person that I’ve been lately
Ain’t who I wanna be

But you stay here right beside me
Watch as the storm goes through
And I need you

God gave me you for the ups and downs
God gave me you for the days of doubt
For when I think I’ve lost my way
There are no words here left to say, it’s true
God gave me you

There’s more here than what were seeing
A divine conspiracy
That you, an angel lovely
Could somehow fall for me
You’ll always be love’s great martyr
Ill be the flattered fool
and I need you

God gave me you for the ups and downs
God gave me you for the days of doubt
For when I think I’ve lost my way
There are no words here left to say, it’s true
God gave me you

On my own I’m only
Half of what I could be
I can’t do without you
We are stitched together
And what love has tethered
I pray we never undo

God gave me you for the ups and downs
God gave me you for the days of doubt
God gave me you for the ups and downs
God gave me you for the days of doubt
For when I think I’ve lost my way
There are no words here left to say, it’s true
God gave me you, gave me you.
Gave me you.

Crazyboutya – Dave Barnes

You don’t have to tell me, girl, I know it
And hallelujah is coming out my mouth
Cause you’re my girl and girl I don’t deserve you
But deserving love is not what you’re about
Im gonna tell the whole wide world about you
Tell them what you mean to me
Ooh, Im crazy bout ya, baby, and I just can’t help it
Some might call it selfish
I need you by my side
I’m crazy bout ya baby
And there’s no denying
No use even trying
I need you by my side
All the girls in the papers and the movies
And the covers of the dirty magazines
They got nothing on your beauty, pretty baby
Cause you’re everything that they wish they could be
Im gonna tell the whole wide world about you
And tell them what you mean to me
Ooh, Im crazy bout ya, baby, and I just can’t help it
Some might call it selfish
But I need you to myself
Ooh, I’m crazy bout ya baby
And there’s no denying
No use even trying
I need you by my side

I Have and Always Will – Dave Barnes

Darling, we’re both scared
But where love is, fear won’t tread
All of these friends here agree
We’re right where we should be
Underneath all your white
My Lady, My Love, My Bride
In your darkest hours
Will I love you still
I have and I always will
I guess it’s because I just do
Following heaven’s clues
This is a big mystery
How I found, you found me
Underneath all your white
My Lady, My Love, My Bride
In your darkest hours
Will I love you still
I have and I always will
And you are changing now
Your part of me somehow
And I will never be alone
In your darkest hours
Well I love you still
I have and I always will
I have and I always will

But seriously. Read the lyrics. And also, always remember this:

“Most foundationally, marriage is the doing of God. And ultimately, marriage is the display of God. It displays the covenant-keeping love between Christ and his people to the world in a way that no other event or institution does. Marriage, therefore, is not mainly about being in love. It’s mainly about telling the truth with our lives. And staying married is not about staying in love. It is about keeping covenant and putting the glory of Christ’s covenant-keeping love on display. If you are married, this is why. If you hope to be, this should be your dream.” (John Piper, This Momentary Marriage)

And…… done! Normal posts shall resume shortly.

“Life is hard and life is good.”

“Life is hard and life is good. ‘That he might humble you and test you, to do you good in the end’ (Deuteronomy 8:16).” John Piper

I love how God is constantly walking me through situations in life that redirect my focus from my circumstances to the Gospel and to Christ. Especially recently.

The season of life that I’m walking through currently leaves me feeling anxious, excited, and simultaneously both nervous and confident. Sometimes seasons feel drawn out and slow and other seasons feel like time merely flies past and there’s nothing you can do to slow it down. Last night I realized that somehow our hearts understand these different seasons, even when we can’t analytically understand them. At this point, this season feels like even time is as divided as my heart. It’s like I can feel time rushing forward in slow motion and I’m held in between the extremes. Crazy, I know. The only thing I can liken it to is watching an egg timer. The sand seems to rush as it drains from one end to another, but that three minutes always feels like an hour.

I have learned over the course of the last several years to never waste a season. I always want to look for the lesson, learn from any mistakes I have made, and enter the new season looking more like Christ. I’ve personally experienced what Deuteronomy 8:16 says – that we are humbled and tested by God for our own good. It’s remarkable, really. It’s hard and it’s good. It’s beautiful and painful. It brings both joy and tears.

Truthfully, seasons are never about circumstances. Seasons are always about the heart. Life is all about the Gospel. Circumstances are a tool God uses to redirect our hearts back to the Gospel.

This season has been about illuminating and breaking my pride, developing humility, submission, waiting, trusting, and learning to simply be still and let God be God. More than anything, it’s been about faith in God’s promises and confidence in His Word. I’ve continually looked to Habakkuk 2:3 for assurance:

“But these things I plan won’t happen right away. Slowly, steadily, surely, the time approaches when the vision will be fulfilled. If it seems slow, wait patiently, for it will surely take place. It will not be delayed.”

Recently I’ve blogged a lot about Romans and Abraham. I’ve been totally overwhelmed by Abraham’s response to God and by his faith:

“No distrust made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised. That is why his faith was “counted to him as righteousness” (Romans 4:20-22).

I want faith like that. So today my prayer is this: “Show me your ways, O Lord, teach me your paths; Guide me in your truth and teach me, For you are God my Savior and my hope is in you all day long” (Psalm 24:4-5).

A heart fully submitted and devoted comes from a heart that has endured seasons, it would seem. Seasons are always about the heart. “To do you good in the end.”

Relationships, Marriage, and Christ

I’m currently developing several weeks worth of discussion points and questions for my small group. We’re in the middle of a series this semester called “Tough Topics” and the goal is to really tackle the topics that hold us back from being the women that God created us to be.

Our culture is a tough one to grow up in. The media has done much to confuse us about our proper roles and has clouded and distorted God’s idea of relationships and marriage.

I love this quote by John Piper from This Momentary Marriage:

“I mention this cultural distortion of marriage in the hopes that it might wake you up to consider a vision of marriage higher and deeper and stronger and more glorious than anything this culture—or perhaps you yourself—ever imagined. The greatness and glory of marriage is beyond our ability to think or feel without divine revelation and without the illumining and awakening work of the Holy Spirit. The world cannot know what marriage is without learning it from God. The natural man does not have the capacities to see or receive or feel the wonder of what God has designed for marriage to be. I pray that this book might be used by God to help set you free from small, worldly, culturally contaminated, self-centered, Christ-ignoring, God-neglecting, romance-intoxicated, unbiblical views of marriage.The most foundational thing to see from the Bible about marriage is that it is God’s doing. And the ultimate thing to see from the Bible about marriage is that it is for God’s glory. Those are the two points I have to make. Most foundationally, marriage is the doing of God. And ultimately, marriage is the display of God.”

Just wanted to share these online resources (both books are available in their entirety by clicking the links below) in case you’re interested in tackling this and aligning your perspective of relationships and marriage with Scripture, as well as getting some practical advice in relationships:

This Momentary Marriage by John Piper

A Girl’s Guide to Marrying Well by Boundless (multiple authors)