“Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.” – Proverbs 31:30
The Proverbs 31 woman.
The model of character and the prototype that Christian women should aspire to be. The woman whose worth is more than rubies, who works vigorously, while being clothed in strength and dignity. On good days we think warm thoughts of this description of a godly woman, when we believe we might be closing in on becoming her.
However, let’s be real. That’s the good days…
You know, the days that would exist if we pieced together our best hours in a month. The hours that we pop out of bed early to soak oats and soak in God’s word. The hours that our hands eagerly serve our enemies grace and our children home-cooked meals, the times when we extend our arms out to the needy and up in praise to our God.
But, most days the woman described at the end of Proverbs kinda rubs me the wrong way. She’s a machine of a woman—never sleeping in, never binge watching Netflix while eating chips in bed, never snapping at her children or serving her husband a big dose of attitude.
Who wants to hang out with her, anyway?
If you would be honest with me, would you agree that she sounds a bit intense, and a bit intimidating? She sounds like a full-time-Joanna Gaines-working entrepreneur and stay at home-crafting-blogging-cloth-diapering-hybrid. That’s a mouthful, huh? I can only imagine the look she would give me if she caught me scrolling mindlessly through Instagram or pushing snooze for the fourth time.
But maybe I am alone in this. Because this woman seems to be quite popular in today’s church-going people. There are books, radio shows, podcasts and blogs named after her. Maybe everyone else sees her as simply inspiring and life-giving, and I am the only one with an “attitude problem.”
Well, just in case there are a few of you out there who can agree that this woman makes you feel insecure or lonely on tough days, I’m going to process what grace has taught me about Proverbs 31, and what I am learning about becoming a woman of noble character.
How do we reconcile this inner struggle? Why does our inner crazy rear it’s ugly head when we are told to be the Proverbs 31 woman? If the proverbial woman is given more than half of a chapter in God’s word, then it is in our best interest to not despise her, so let’s look at this.
There are the two pits I fall into when I study this description, maybe you can relate with me:
The Superwoman Complex
On some days, I read this chapter and take it upon myself to emulate this woman exactly. As I read each description, I will myself to awaken early each day while it is still dark, ready to bring good to my husband, and joyfully work vigorously every hour. I flex my muscle and stretch thin my capacity to watch over the affairs of my household, to prepare them for days of trouble. And then maybe I go to bed in my sheets (freshly cleaned) , review my day, and exhale a sigh of accomplishment as I note that I might just be a sister of the Proverbs 31 lady.
That is when I am in an incredibly precarious position.
Because pride is ever lurking at the door of my heart, watching for a way to sneak in and make a home in my soul. When I subtly believe that I am superwoman, my need for God is silenced. My eyes drift from pleasing God and move toward making sure everyone knows how much I can get done, and how much I give to the needs of others. I pray less and begin to do more, working and performing to ensure that I am meeting my goals of productivity and impressiveness.
At this moment I am building a mere castle of cards, with a character unable to withstand any waves or rains. My character only goes skin-deep, as my days may be maxed out and full of good, but my heart is far from my God. If I am working with eager hands, but haven’t raised them trembling in a needy prayer, then my eager hands have missed with point. If my arms are strong for the task, but are not first strong in the Lord’s power, then it will not last. My supposed character is not coming from the inside-out.
Yet, in other seasons, this chapter leaves me face down in this pit:
The Guilt-Buried Complex
There are other times that these verses are just a list of things I am NOT doing.
I leave my husband, Matt, lacking in many areas, because of my weak character and selfish decisions. I bring him plenty of harm as my words cut and I feed only my comfort-loving soul. Lots of days my hands are not eager to work, they are lazy and slow to serve. And that verse about “she has no fear for her household?” Sometimes my faith is so small that all I have is fear for my household.
And so then I fall into my unmade bed, (with dirty sheets of course), and think of this woman that I’m supposed to resemble, I am crushed with guilt and a sense of failure. I am left feeling alone, ten feet under with guilt and shame. And left there, I’m in a precarious position. Here I am tempted to despise any woman who is doing all of this better than me, and lacking any hope of honoring my God with this kind of character.
Would I ever find you in these two potholes? Do you pull yourself through each day, with an exhausting performance-mindset to earn God’s favor or an improved reputation? Or do you avoid church the week they teach on the end of Proverbs because you believe your inadequacies disqualify you for such a depiction?
This has been my cycle, and I think its the same for many of my friends. We read this chapter, or we see it referenced all over the cyber world, and we oscillate between superwoman pride or Eyore-style defeat.
What are we missing, friends?
Where is our freedom in Proverbs 31?
The bookend of this description of a noble wife is in verse 30, “the woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.”
I would add that it is not just a bookend, but it is the Gospel truth, and it makes the previous 30 verses possible.
“A woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.”
Could there be more than just praise coming our way when we fear the Lord? Could it be that within this awe-filled posture before God, we actually find the way to accept the instruction of the 31st chapter of Proverbs? Could it be that fearing the Lord is the way to avoid both the prideful superwoman mindset and the defeated isolated women?
My understanding of “fear of the Lord” comes from Exodus 19 and 20 when God visited his people at Mount Sinaii. When God came to meet his people and give them his standards, the entire mountain shook from his presence. As the mountain smoked, the thunder quaked and lightening flashed, God’s people stood at the ready and trembled. Moses explains to God’s people, that this fear of the Lord would keep them from sin.
I have experienced that when I fear God– when I glimpse how powerful and big he is, I fear nothing else.
I don’t fear being a failure. I don’t fear what happens when nobody is impressed with me. When my eyes are on the glorious weight of God’s perfection, I don’t fear what people will think of me, when they see my bad habit or the terror that is my boys’ bathroom (Guys, it’s pure terror.). When my eyes are on God and each day grasping how mighty and perfect he is, I also see how meek and gracious he is to come to his beloved people on a mountain, in the form of a baby, or through his Word.
When my only fear is the Lord, then I find all other fears fall away. Then I have no need to be an independent superwoman, trying to build my image by all that I do well.
When I am in awe of my God, I am protected from the weight of guilt and the trap of insecurities.
The godly woman, while some days she may be impressive and her house may be immaculate, each day, she is fearing the Lord, and him only. She is beginning to understand how loved she is by the Lord, and therefore doesn’t need the description of Proverbs 31 to pad her identity in Christ.
Because thousands of years ago, God came to his people at the foot of a mountain, revealing his holiness.
And at the other end of the Bible, we find that same God sitting on a mountain, inviting His people to sit at His feet and hear how He would make a way for us.
And that same God comes to us today, giving us promises of freedom and redemption and all sorts of oceans of grace.
Grace for the days where we have lied to ourselves, convincing ourselves that we can try hard enough to earn our way near to his love.
Grace for the days when our mess deceives us, convincing us that we will never be able to experience his unconditional love.
Grace invites us to fix our eyes on God, in the type of fear that translates into respect and an awe that draws us near.
The wife (and woman) of noble character is so closely bound to her God, that her need for God surprises her as it gives her the power to more often live out a life of godly character.
This woman is free from both pride-bearing independence or guilt-ridden defeat. She is free from the fear of the future, fear of failure, and fear of man. She fears the Lord only, and in this moment, all other fears are silenced.
She is the Proverbs 31 woman, freed by the Gospel.