Have you ever wondered, “Why can’t I be more like my next door neighbor? She’s always dressed so nicely, and her home runs so smoothly. I feel like a dump whenever I’m with her!”? Or perhaps you’ve thought, “I wish I were as spiritual as my pastor’s wife. She’s so devoted to the Lord, always does so much for the church, and her kids are so well-behaved. My family is a mess compared to hers!”
Statements like these reflect the discontent we sometimes feel with ourselves. We search for someone we can imitate, someone who will show us what it means to be a godly Christian woman. We are looking for a model.
Who Are Our Models?
A model is “a pattern of something to be made, an example for imitation” (Webster’s Dictionary). It is the sum of our expectations of how we should act, think and feel. Unfortunately, our internal model is often an unrealistic picture.
Although we wouldn’t think of buying a sewing pattern that is two sizes too small, we frequently try to conform to expectations or roles that aren’t tailor-made for us. Lacking a biblical model of Christian womanhood, we burden ourselves with unrealistic expectations.
How many of us think to ourselves, “I should be the most conscientious, dutiful, loving, well-dressed, polite Christian woman”? When we set such standards and don’t measure up, we feel like we’ve failed.
We falsely conclude that if we’re not the best, we’re nothing at all. Feelings of frustration, depression, shame and guilt soon follow. Then, beating ourselves with a yardstick of disapproval, we are unable to accomplish the work that God has equipped us to do.
To end this self-defeating behavior, we need to replace our unrealistic models with God’s model.
Who Is God’s Model?
The woman in Proverbs 31 personifies five different characteristics that reflect godliness: spiritual strength, resourcefulness, social grace, vocational achievement and inner beauty.
As we seek to understand the Proverbs 31 woman, we must keep in mind that she should be an inspiration, not an infliction. Although we want to pattern ourselves after her, the parts of the model will fit each of us differently. God has called some of us to be homemakers and others to work in the business world. We must also remember that God’s work in us is an on-going process.
A Woman of Spiritual Strength
The first characteristic that we observe in studying the Proverbs 31 woman is her faith in God. She is a “virtuous woman” (Prov. 31:10, KJV) who is clothed in strength, dignity and the fear of the Lord (Prov. 31:25, 30).
Her actions and lifestyle reflect her faith. Her words of wisdom are rooted in her relationship to God (Prov. 31:26). Her works demonstrate her love for Him shown by the way she extends herself to the needy (Prov. 31:20).
A Woman of Resources
Second, the Proverbs 31 woman is able to adapt to various situations that arise. When winter comes, she is prepared (Prov. 31:21). And far from being apprehensive about the future, she smiles, trusting the One who intimately cares and provides for her (Prov. 31:25). Her faith in God stabilizes her.
A Woman of Social Grace
Third, the Proverbs 31 woman is a model of one who knows how to relate well with others. Her marital relationship is marked by her husband’s trust in her; he values her more than precious jewels. He has confidence that whatever she does is for the good of himself and their family (Prov. 31:11).
Her children also notice her acts of service. By caring for her family’s needs, she exemplifies a love that gives of her time and energy (Prov. 31:27).
She is also gracious to those outside of her own family. She gives charitably to the poor (Prov. 31:20). With a spirit of welcoming hospitality, she extends the borders of her home by sharing her material blessings with others.
A Woman of Vocational Achievement
This woman is a busy lady! We see her gathering materials for clothing and preparing food for her family (Prov. 31:13-15). She gardens and sews (Prov. 31:16, 19).
She is also a professional woman, engaging in investments and trade (Prov. 31:16-24). She is a model of a woman who is enterprising, resourceful and creative.
Her achievements spring from a heart attitude of joyful service. Her dedicated faith and obedient work are woven together into the fabric of her life. As a result she receives her just reward – her works testify to the fact that she is a godly woman (Prov. 31:31).
A Woman of Inner Beauty
The Proverbs 31 woman dresses herself modestly and discreetly, choosing fine garments for her wardrobe (Prov. 31:22). But her outward appearance is not her top priority as is evident in her endeavors. Her beauty comes from within.
What a contrast to the woman pictured in the preceding chapters of Proverbs who is described as deceptive, unstable, loud, rebellious and undisciplined! (See Proverbs 5:3-6; 7:11; 9:13)
As a woman at peace with God and with herself, she reflects an inner contentment and beauty that radiate outward. The Proverbs 31 woman wisely knows that as she seeks to please God, she will be beautiful in His eyes forever.
When We Fall Short
As we compare ourselves to God’s model, we will probably find areas in our own lives with which we are dissatisfied. Let me suggest two possible reasons for our discontentment. First, we will experience guilt if we discover sin in our lives while examining the Scripture. For example, we may resist God’s instruction on how to love our husbands.
If we are convicted of sin, we must confess it and ask God to help us turn away from it. Remember that Jesus died on the cross to obtain forgiveness for our sin (Romans 5:8; 1 John 1:9).
As we see the ways in which we fall short, we must remember that God embraces each of us as we are. He graciously accepts even the most unacceptable parts of us – His love for us extends even beyond forgiveness.
(Consider the parable of the prodigal son in Luke 15:11-32 for further study.)
The second cause of our discontentment is when we fall short of who we think we should be. We may feel badly simply because we had to cut short a conversation with a good friend. Or perhaps we’re embarrassed to have people over for dinner because our furniture is old and worn out. These feelings of guilt come not because of sin, but rather because we have set unrealistic standards for ourselves.
God – Our Master Tailor
As we consider God’s model, we must ask Him how His plan is tailor-made for each of us. We are unique individuals, each at different points in our lives. God has given each one of us different gifts and abilities.
The mother of four has different responsibilities before God than the single woman who represents Christ to her fellow office workers or classmates. Our common task is to prayerfully consider the gifts God has given us and to determine if we are using them for His glory.
Ultimately we need to see ourselves as God sees us. As part of His church, we are His beloved and are recipients of great blessing. Having lovingly clothed us with robes of righteousness, He also clothes us with a pattern and purpose that is tailor-made for each one of us.
Carol Lesser, Virtue, May, 1986, pp. 46-47
Let’s Look in the Mirror
Listed below are five categories that form our internal model of who we think we should be as women. Read each statement and decide if it describes you or not.
Give yourself a “S” for Satisfactory or “U” for Unsatisfactory next to the number. Write “NA” if the statement does not apply to you.
After the number, decide what yardstick you’re measuring yourself by. Are you evaluating yourself according to God’s Word, write “G” or according to an internal model formed from the world’s standards, write “W”? Prayerfully consider which characteristic God is calling you to change and which He is encouraging you to accept as part of the person He created you to be.
Finally, consider what particular gifts and abilities God has given to you.
- I am in consistent fellowship with God through Jesus Christ, my Savior and Lord.
- I desire to obey God’s will in my life.
- I study the Bible regularly.
- I pray regularly.
- I share my faith with non-Christians as a way of life.
- I show God’s love by sharing the material goods and talents that He has given me.
- I am content with my life.
- I can control my temper.
- I am not generally a fearful person.
- I relate well to my family.
- I relate well to friends.
- I relate well to strangers.
- I encourage and support my spiritual family.
- I open my home (am hospitable) to others.
- I support and encourage my husband.
- I perform my various jobs or tasks well.
- I am pleased with myself as a mother/mother-in-law.
- I am satisfied with my work as a homemaker.
- I feel fulfilled with my service at church.
- I encourage and support my spiritual leaders.
- I am satisfied with my weight.
- I exercise adequately.
- I eat a balanced diet.
- I like how I dress.
- Inner beauty is important to me.
What Are My Gifts?
- What do I excel in?
- What work do I enjoy?
- Do others turn to me for advice, and, if so, what type of advice?