3 Lessons We Can Learn from the Woman in Proverbs 31

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As a starry-eyed bride 18 years ago, I vowed I would never turn into some of the old boring married women I had seen growing up in the church. I would never snap at my husband, let the fire in our sex life die, or allow a divide in communication to grow.

But then I got married and realized that marriage is not that easy. Like many women, I have often surveyed the list of attributes describing the woman in Proverbs 31 and felt that I don’t measure up. It’s impossible to be like her, so why try? But I think what Proverbs is really saying isn’t just that we should abide by a list, but that we should continually look for ways to bring good to our family and community.

Proverbs 31:10-31 models for us three ways we can be wise and do just that.

3 simple principles we can implement as wives from Proverbs 31:

1. Keep faithful instruction on our tongues.

We as women have the unique opportunity of speaking into the lives of our children or those in our immediate realm that we can mentor. Often, our children are around us the most. They will come to us with all sorts of questions and concerns — at times that are extremely inconvenient or unexpected, and we have a choice to engage or stay silent.

Some time ago, while driving with my kids to a friend’s house for a playdate, my then kindergarten-age daughter launched a question from the backseat that I wasn’t expecting: “Mom, why doesn’t Jessica like me? She likes Haley better. Haley is prettier.” (*Names of friends have been changed.)

Whoa! I wasn’t expecting my daughter to drop this morsel of information in my lap at this juncture. We had made it through the school year without her ever mentioning this specific concern. Sure, this particular girl’s name had come up, but not in this way. I realized underneath my daughter’s question was fear: A fear that she didn’t measure up to this “prettier girl” in her class. So I asked her a question of my own from the front seat, “Elsbeth, who made you?”

“Jesus,” she responded.

“Did Jesus make Haley look exactly the way He wanted her to look?”

“Yes,” she replied.

“Jesus made Elsbeth pretty and special in her own way. You don’t have to look like Haley to be pretty,” I explained.

I then told a story about how I had latched onto some girls I wanted to be friends with as a middle-school student that weren’t good friends for me. Because of my desire to earn the attention of these girls, I hadn’t noticed the friends that I already had in my path. I told her that I had learned a secret: Jesus would provide friends if you asked Him, but they wouldn’t always be the friends you necessarily thought you wanted or needed.

This conversation we had was a chance for me to help her root her identity not in what others thought of her or her appearance, but what God said about her and what the truth of Scripture said about identity. Rather than ignore those concerns or questions when they come or brush them off because we’re busy, we can see them as golden moments of opportunity to speak God’s truth into the lives of our children or the young people we serve as an example/mentor to.

“She speaks with wisdom, and faithful instruction is on her tongue” (v. 26).

2. Provide for the members of our household.

I remember once in a preschool orientation for my daughter how the director shared that all she ever did was go to the store. When teachers needed supplies, she went to the store and bought what was needed. And because she ran a daycare with many teachers and students, she was always at the store. I can relate.

Though I am not a preschool teacher, I am a mom of three and I spend a whole lot of time at the store buying groceries, household supplies, essentials for my children’s school projects, deodorant for my husband, clothes for my growing kids. Someone always needs something. And, oftentimes, the someone that picks it up is me.

While I spent a whole lot of time shopping for myself as a single girl and young married wife, now our limited money is usually divided each month to meet my children’s needs: Who is in need of shoes? Who has no shorts for summer? Who has outgrown their underwear? Off I go to fill the ever-evolving list. Clearly, this can be exhausting, but the passage tells us that women have a unique role of providing for their families’ needs. I can tell you that my husband has no idea what size shoes my kids wear or who is running low on underwear.

The roles don’t necessarily have to be defined the same in every relationship, but women have been gifted to both assess and take care of the needs of the people in their households.

“She is like the merchant ships, bringing her food from afar. She gets up while it is still night; she provides food for her family and portions for her female servants” (vv. 14, 15)

“When it snows, she has no fear for her household; for all of them are clothed in scarlet” (v. 21)

“She watches over the affairs of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness” (v. 27).

3. Bring honor to our husband.

The fiction novel The Help, by Kathryn Stockett, focuses on a small Southern town in the 60s where the white women of the town have racist attitudes and often mistreat their African-American maids. Encouraged by an up-and-coming journalist, the African-American women get the courage to tell their stories of mistreatment, and a fallout ensues after the book is published and their white employees learn of their truth-telling. Granted, although I like the idea of marginalized women getting a voice and speaking out against injustice, I don’t agree with the way some of the women go about doing it, as their methods are about retaliation.

However, there are so many insights that one can learn from the characters, even beyond racial ones — even if it’s what not to do in a situation. In particular, one character that stood out to me is a woman shunned by the other women in her community. She is a white woman that is not liked by the other white women in town because of her lack of family connections, which makes her undesirable for the other status-obsessed women. But she doesn’t help matters any. She wears tight, revealing clothing and acts in ways that don’t stack up women in the friend department. At a social gathering, she gets drunk and makes a scene in front of the whole town.

Clearly, though she isn’t intentionally trying to disgrace her husband, her actions are those that don’t exactly make people think highly of him. Elsewhere in Proverbs it tells us that a wise woman builds her house while a foolish woman tears hers down (Proverbs 14:1). A wise woman acts in ways that will help people think highly of her husband and family. While we shouldn’t pander to the opinions of others, we can show self-control by the way we dress and present ourselves at work and church functions; we can keep our words in check by not rebuking or speaking ill of our husband in public; we can build him up on social media; we can make ourselves available to him when he comes home from work.

“Her husband has full confidence in her and lacks nothing of value” (v. 11).

“Her husband is respected at the city gate, where he takes his seat among the elders of the land” (v. 23).

“Her children arise and call her blessed, her husband also, and he praises her” (v. 28)

Conclusion:

The points I mentioned don’t encompass all of what we can learn from the woman in Proverbs 31, but these are a few practical things we can do to begin to emulate the example of a godly woman given to us in this passage. The book of Proverbs is bent on helping us to live wise lives — and as it shares with us at the end of Proverbs 31, such living is not without reward. Orienting our actions and lives in such a way that brings good to the members of our household and others around us is ultimately going to bring good our way as well.

“Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised. Honor her for all that her hands have done, and let her works bring her praise at the city gate” (vv. 30,31).

*Updated March 10, 2018.

Carol Whitaker

Carol Whitaker is a coach's wife, mom, writer, and singer. She left a career in teaching in 2011 to pursue a different path at God's prompting. While she thought that the path would lead straight to music ministry, God had different plans -- and Carol found herself in a crisis of spirituality and identity. Out of that place, Carol began writing about the lessons God was teaching her in her desert place and how God was teaching her what it meant to be healed from a painful past and find her identity in Him rather than a title, a relationship, a career, or a ministry. These days, Carol spends her time shuttling her little ones back and forth from school, supporting her coach-husband on the sidelines, and writing posts. Carol also continues to love music and hopes to pick up piano playing again. Carol is a self-proclaimed blog junkie and iced-coffee lover. She resides in Georgia with her husband and three children.

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3 Scriptural Truths That Reveal God’s Plan for Sex

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As I look around in culture today, the thought so often enters my mind, “Lord, where are you? How did we get here?” It seems that so much of our media is sex-crazed, almost to a point of worshiping it. Sex has become confused with the notion of love and intimacy. While it can certainly be an act that represents and expresses precisely those things, the way it is often portrayed in movies or shows is quite the opposite. It tends to be self-centered, greedy, and far more depictive of lust than love in the world. What are God’s thoughts on sex? What does His Word provide as our guidance on how we can align our thoughts, actions, and speech with His?

Coming into college, I had no idea what path I was going to choose for my life. On one hand, I had been introduced to Jesus and had been invited to a student ministry that I knew had been a large part of changing my sister’s life. On the other hand, I still struggled with a lot of insecurity, and my primary way of finding security in the past had been by seeking romantic relationships or friendships to give me a sense of value, so the partying side appealed to me greatly too. Through a series of events, I wound up attending a prayer and worship service with my sister, and God’s love touched me in a way that I had never experienced. I felt His conviction heavy upon my heart. As I repented of my sin, I felt His freedom and nearness like never before. I was sold and fell in love with Jesus and His people.

Shortly afterward, the student ministry advertised a new small group being offered that semester on God’s heart for sex. I was very intrigued because all I had ever been taught regarding what the Bible had to say about sex was that Christians were supposed to wait until marriage. Most Christians I knew would never dare talk to me about sex, so the idea that someone was inviting me to a group where we would openly talk about what the Bible had to say about sex was fascinating to me.

As I joined this group, God began to fill me with His passion for His creation of sex. I saw how He created boundaries around sex to protect us, not to deprive us. It was His perfect love for His children that created these laws, not His desire to test our obedience to Him. He knew what would be best for our hearts and spirits because He is the One who made us precisely as we are in the first place.

That being said, I would like to share with you a few of the Scriptures and truths that God revealed to me through this group. I pray that as you read His Word, God would ignite a fire in you to seek after and pray for His righteous sexuality to grow in us and in our nation.

What Scripture Teaches Us About Sexuality According to God’s Design:

1. Sex is innately pure.

The first commandment God gives to Adam and Eve as a couple is, “Be fruitful and multiply” (Genesis 1:28). The Lord saw that it was “not good for man that the man should be alone” and gave him a helper in Eve; similarly, he made it so a man and woman would leave their mother and father and become “one flesh” (Genesis 2:18, 24). God created sex and He made us to be incredibly relational beings. He is the one who formed our anatomy and chose for this to be the path through which He creates new human life.

How sweet that He chose to bring children from an act of love. Our sexuality was present before the Fall, so we can know that it was His intention from the beginning and was originally marked by complete purity. Now that we are living in the world after the Fall, however, this purity must be sought after with vigilance. In 2 Corinthians 6:18-20, Paul exhorts the Corinthians to “flee from sexual immorality” because it is a sin again one’s own body, which is a “temple of the Holy Spirit.”

2. Sex is powerful.

In Ephesians 5:31, 32 (ESV), the apostle Paul begins by citing Genesis 2:24 regarding marriage and explains he believes marriage is a metaphor of Jesus’ union with His Bride, the Church: “ ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.’ This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church.” No wonder it has such power! The act of sex not only has the potential to create life, but also the potential for the most intimate act of unity a couple can partake in, as it is an opportunity to connect physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually. Although we rarely do engage in this potential because of our own wounds and baggage, the potential remains there.

Just as in all things that God creates for good, the enemy will try to use them for destruction, so sex also holds the power for great harm as well. It is often used to abuse, shame, control, or exploit others. This is a heartbreaking reality that must be addressed as it is often the source of many women’s pain and skepticism in approaching sexuality — and rightfully so! But we know that God is a miracle-worker and whatever the enemy intends for evil, He will use for our good. He offers healing in His Presence and the presence of His people. He is faithful to make any experience a testimony to His goodness and power.

3. Sex offers potential for intimate oneness.

The Hebrew word often used to describe sex in the Bible is “yada” which means “to know.” Any sexual act requires incredible vulnerability and openness. Our physical nakedness represents a full bearing and surrender of ourselves. And this is the first thing that Satan attacked. In Genesis 2:25 (ESV), prior to the Fall, Scripture tells us, “And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed.” However, after Adam and Eve took of the fruit and ate, both of their eyes were opened. Therefore, they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths in an attempt to hide their nakedness (Genesis 3:6, 7). Shame covered them and kept them from engaging in intimate relationship with the Lord and others.

It is so common for us to hide our sins, especially sexual sins, allowing them to grow in the darkness. Instead, we are urged to “cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light” (Romans 13:12, ESV) and to “walk in the light . . . [to] have fellowship with one another” (1 John 1:7). We are promised that, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9, ESV).

In other words, shame holds us back from true healing and reconciliation with God and others! Our Lover urges us to come out of hiding. In Song of Solomon 2:14 (ESV) He cries, “Let Me see your face. Let Me hear your voice, for your voice is sweet, and your face is lovely.” This vulnerability takes a great deal of confidence and trust, which is why I believe God has gone to such great lengths to warn us of its potential for harm if used outside of His good purposes.

Conclusion:

This is just a beginning into what God’s Word has to say about His divine plan for sex and includes some of the highlights that I have learned on my own journey of studying this topic. As our nation continues to indulge in the world’s way of viewing sexuality, I believe God is calling us to be lights in the darkness to offer hope and healing to those who have been hurt, disappointed, or disillusioned by what the world teaches. In the words of Chris and Rachel McCluskey in their book When Two Become One: Enhancing Sexual Intimacy in Marriage, “The church must take back sex and claim the truth that it belongs to God and it is good — but only when practiced within His guidelines . . . Our union as husband and wife bears testimony in the heavenlies to the promised consummation of Jesus Christ and his bride, the church.”

Related Resources:

Like this article and want to read more from Amy? This article is the first in a 3-part series on love and sex. Check out Amy’s article next week about the deceptiveness of our heart and the following week for her tips on enhancing sex in the marriage relationship.

Don’t have time to read a post or prefer to listen to the points in podcast form? Check out the podcast episode above this article where Amy explains the major ideas and concepts discussed in her writing.

Amy Owen

Amy Owen

Amy Owen is a Jesus-follower, wife, doggy-mom, and counselor. She studied Child and Family Development at University of Georgia (Go Dawgs!) for her undergraduate and obtained a Master’s in Marriage and Family Therapy at Richmont Graduate University. While at Richmont, Amy had the privilege to study Christian Sex Therapy, which is one of her passions. Currently, Amy lives in South Georgia and works with youth and their families. Her previous counseling work includes private practice with teens and adults, as well as inpatient and residential settings with adults struggling with acute mental illness and addiction. In her free time, Amy is an avid fiction-reader and walker; in addition, she loves to make new friends.

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Letter to a Newlywed: 4 Things a New Bride Needs to Know About Marriage

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I barely weighed 115 pounds when I got married.

I know some of you reading this may have decided you don’t like me now, but I honestly tried to gain weight and couldn’t. (I assure you this is not a problem for me any longer.)

When I went shopping for wedding dresses, most of the dresses were in large stock sizes, so the sales clerk had to clip back the dresses with massive clips just to give me an idea of what each dress would look like. And then, in a stroke of genius, the sales lady offered to show me some dresses on the clearance rack — in smaller sizes. Back then, even a size 6 was a bit roomy for me, and I finally slid into a size 4 dress that actually fit me. No alterations needed.

I am convinced I bought that particular gown more because it actually fit than because it was my dream dress. I had envisioned myself in a mermaid style number and instead walked away with a sequined tulle ballet-skirted gown. However, it was still beautiful, and we bought it on the spot. I didn’t get to try it on again until right before I was to fly down for our destination wedding.

And then I noticed that my dress no longer fit like a glove. Either I had lost a few pounds sometime between when I had tried on the dress in the store or the underskirts they had given me with the dress did not fill it out as much as the sample slip I had used. Thus, I had a little extra room under the fabric in the back where the dress met my tailbone.

The sales clerk assured me that that the space was so slight, it could be remedied with a fuller petticoat. The wedding was looming up in just a few days, so I took the dress as-is with the different petticoat.

But, if the truth be told — even with the recommended skirts underneath, I still had too much room in the waist of the dress. There wasn’t anything I could do with the wedding upon me. I simply wore the dress, and probably no one other than me even noticed that it did not contour to every curve as it was designed to. But it still bothered me a little at the time.

In looking back at my wedding dress dilemma, I have found that marriage is kind of like that wedding dress I wore all those years ago. Some days it fits better than others. It has taken some adjusting, some altering to fit into a life with someone who lived independently of me for the majority of his life.

Now, 15 years later, here’s what I would say to any starry-eyed bride walking down the aisle:

1. Educate yourself on gender differences.

You may be reading this thinking, huh? What is there to know? I got this! Let me assure you, from one woman to another, men have very different needs, communication modes and behaviors. Period. Even knowing this going into marriage, I still didn’t really get how these differences would crop up immediately. Some of our earliest fights occurred because I had no idea how to handle this man, this utter alien from outer space.

I had grown up with three sisters and a fairly distant father. I had no reference point for how to interpret my husband’s actions. I found it helpful to read several books in my early marriage. A few that I really enjoyed were Staying Close: Stopping the Natural Drift Toward Isolation in Marriage, by Dennis and Barbara Rainey; Men Are from Mars, Women Are From Venus, by John Gray; and The Five Love Languages: The Secret to Love that Lasts, by Gary Smalley. We also benefited from joining a life group at church focused on couples and attending several couples’ events at church.

I am still learning what makes my husband tick, but understanding that males generally have different things that motivate them and make them operate (including entirely different wiring in their brains) has helped me to understand Keith better and not expect him to have the same reactions to life events and conversations as me.

2. Get involved in a church community.

As tempting as it is to run off together and never leave each other’s sight, you will have to come up for air eventually, and you need Christian community to support your marriage and help bring accountability and community into your life.

I can think of several turning points in my early marriage — and two important ones I can think of are when we went to church for the first time together when we were first married, and when we found a home church once we got established in my husband’s home state. A Washington-born girl, I was extremely homesick when my then military husband was honorably discharged, and we made the decision to move permanently to Georgia. That homesickness began to fade once we got plugged into a good church.

We both benefited from being part of a faith community where we could learn more about God and connect with other individuals in similar life stages (and in even more advanced life stages). We could know that we weren’t alone in some of the struggles we were having, and we could get advice and knowledge from couples further along in their life journey.

3. Adjust unrealistic expectations.

Not only is it necessary to learn about gender-related relational differences, it is necessary to make sure your overall expectations are not creating an unrealistic standard for your spouse. The day before my wedding, my then future father-in-law gave me some sage advice regarding expectations: he told me to lower them! I thought at the time that the advice sounded a little odd. Why would I do that? And now that I have been married for some time, I have a better sense of what he meant.

Lowering expectations doesn’t mean that you don’t make your needs known. It also doesn’t mean you pretend like you don’t have any needs or wants or allow someone to de-value or disrespect you. However, what it does mean is that you don’t put the unrealistic expectation on the other person to know what to always do and say in the exact way you think they should — to make you happy.

Beulah Girl Feb 2016 (3)

I have long since discovered that my husband is good at a lot of things. We have many meaningful talks, and I tell him just about everything. But he often doesn’t have the reactions I think he should or always meet every emotional need I have. And I can’t expect him to.

I remember after having my first baby, I was overwhelmed with the recovery, hormones, decisions, fear. I was having a hard time learning how to breast-feed, and I felt like a total failure. Everyone in my family breast-fed — my mom, my sister, but I absolutely hated it. I thought it was awful. I liked feeding my baby from a bottle better, but I was afraid to stop breast-feeding because I feared I wouldn’t be a good mom if I didn’t adhere to more natural practices.

Enter in unrealistic expectations: I wanted my husband to understand my emotions, what I was going through. When I shared with him how I felt, he just shrugged and said, “Just use formula if you want.” End of discussion.

I wanted him to understand what a big deal this decision was for me. In retrospect, I realize my husband was just reacting out of his reference point. I really needed the soothing experience of talking with other women who had gone through similar experiences. I get it. If my husband were unloading on me about a problem unique to men, I might have a hard time relating to it.

The bottom line: Husbands can’t meet all our needs. We have a God for that. We can also benefit from other friendships that can help us in whatever life stage we are in.

 4. Apply Christian principles in the home.

In my first few years of marriage, I was in a bit of a backslidden state as a Christian. I was distrustful of certain Christian principles I had seen abused or misused in my own family or other families I observed. Although I knew about the biblical verses that instructed wives to submit to their husbands, I really didn’t feel that those passages applied to me.

Wounded in two dating relationships prior to meeting my husband, I had concluded that I needed to stop being so needy and clingy. In an effort to protect my heart, I became very independent. I would make what decisions I wanted to, come and go as I pleased, and not act like I needed anything from him. As you can imagine, there was some friction caused by this self-sufficient attitude of mine.

One Sunday, I went to church mad. I don’t remember if I had had an argument with Keith or what the problem was, but I had a list in my head of things Keith needed to do differently in our relationship. While I expected God to side with me — God ended up doing a work in me rather than my husband! During the course of the service, the Holy Spirit strongly convicted me and showed me a clear picture of what I was like to live with. And the picture wasn’t pretty. I felt I was to apologize to Keith for not letting him lead. It was difficult for me to humble myself and go to him and tell him that I had been wrong, but I felt a sense of peace and relief after that conversation.

I came to the revelation during that incident that God designed marriage with specific roles in mind, and for my marriage to work the best way possible, I needed to obey biblical mandates. When I allowed my husband to take the role of leadership, I honored not only him but I honored God. I had more tranquility in my home and more in my soul when I obeyed what Scripture said about my role as a wife.

Does submission mean I am a meek doormat who never gives an opinion or speaks up? No. I tell him what I think. I give him advice. I would never participate in a wrong action out of a false belief that that constitutes as submission, but from that moment I had in church where God made it clear that my attitude needed to change, I have made the effort to support him as the head of the family and let him determine what direction we will go in terms of our major decisions.

While there can be days where marriage feels just as ill-fitting as the waistline of the dress from my wedding day, the good thing about a marriage relationship is that it is flexible — it can grow as you grow.

There have been moments where I have been so angry at Keith only to have other moments where I am so happy with where we are in our relationship. God cares about your relationship and knows the things you need to help make you thrive in it.

Above all — seek Him, and you will find that the more you grow in your relationship with Him, the more you will know what things you can do to make your marriage “fit” better than it does now.

Carol Whitaker

Carol Whitaker is a coach's wife, mom, writer, and singer. She left a career in teaching in 2011 to pursue a different path at God's prompting. While she thought that the path would lead straight to music ministry, God had different plans -- and Carol found herself in a crisis of spirituality and identity. Out of that place, Carol began writing about the lessons God was teaching her in her desert place and how God was teaching her what it meant to be healed from a painful past and find her identity in Him rather than a title, a relationship, a career, or a ministry. These days, Carol spends her time shuttling her little ones back and forth from school, supporting her coach-husband on the sidelines, and writing posts. Carol also continues to love music and hopes to pick up piano playing again. Carol is a self-proclaimed blog junkie and iced-coffee lover. She resides in Georgia with her husband and three children.

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