I’ve often ignored Proverbs 31 because it made me uncomfortable. As a single woman, it talked of roles I was not familiar with. There were so many things I couldn’t relate to and didn’t know if I ever would. After I married, I still didn’t like it because I saw it as a list of impossible tasks to accomplish. I could never be that woman, I thought. In fact, other than my favorite color being purple, we didn’t really have anything else in common! And it just doesn’t seem right to expect every woman to become a wife and mother and to stay at home all the time performing her domestic duties. But wait, isn’t becoming a Proverbs 31 woman supposed to be the goal of every good Christian girl?
I decided to study the passage again with fresh eyes. What I found is that there is far more to this woman than becoming an early bird and enjoying sewing. Proverbs 31 was actually written as a poem praising the woman of wisdom, one who fears the Lord. Since the writer of Proverbs frequently personifies wisdom as a woman, it makes sense to me that this woman at the end of the book is yet another personification of wisdom. And all of her accomplishments? They are highlighting character traits that flow from a Christ centered life, not domestic duties to be performed. In other words, it’s not what we do, it’s how we do them that really matters. If we allow ourselves to be defined by our roles, we will become them. In fact, no where in the passage are we told to copy this woman’s actions in order to be wise. In the end, we are told that, “a woman who reverently and worshipfully fears the Lord, she shall be praised!”
Well, if you fear the Lord you will put him first. I think that means we should act like he is more important than anything or anyone else, yes even our schedules, our Ipad minis, our chocolate, and our coffee. But on a more serious note, the Lord tells us that we cannot even put him in the same category as our family! (see Matt. 10:37) Our fears, our hopes, our dreams, our everything, must be fully set apart from the love and life we have in Christ. One question I find myself asking continually is, if everything were taken away, could I still be content in Christ? Would I be more than okay if my family, my house, and my possessions were all gone? What if I was sitting in a prison cell with nothing? I heard recently of a fellow believer who lost her husband to cancer, after suffering a couple of miscarriages, having a couple of children with special needs, AND their house burning down. Yet, amazingly, she spoke of how she knew the Lord was taking care of her. Her “everything” was gone, but praise was still on her lips because she had learned to put God first in her life. Could I be like that?
The truth is, people like that woman exhibit a strength that I don’t have. Most days, I stumble and fall. I repeatedly make the same mistakes, as I take my eyes off my Savior and gaze at the world around me instead. I struggle not to worry about the very things that many other Christians around the world are dealing with right now. And yes, I know – I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength. Right? Scripture is full of examples of God using those who are weak for his glory. In this world we will have trouble, but Jesus has already overcome the world. Over and over again we are told not to be afraid.
But here’s what I’m getting at: If we fear anything, if we are afraid of something other than Jesus Christ, than we cannot fear him. In other words,
Now, does this mean I won’t ever be afraid as long as I serve God? I don’t think so. I’ve listened to the testimony of several Christians who have suffered for their faith, and I don’t know of any who did not admit to being afraid as they faced difficult circumstances. That’s very much a human response, and a human emotion, but it’s what we do with it that matters – do we confess it to God and ask him to fill us with his supernatural strength? Or do we succomb to it, live in it, wallow in it? Until we are no longer living our lives for Jesus Christ, but rather in bondage to fear?
You know what’s sad? I do not even have to be facing real threat of something dangerous to live my everyday life in fear. My mind easily conjures up endless scenarios of “what ifs” on its own. But I have learned, just like any other sin, that if I entertain those fears, they will take root and grow until they possess me. Maybe that’s what Peter means when he says that we are to follow Sarah’s example by “not giving way to hysterical fears or letting anxieties unnerve” us (I Peter 3:6).
You may say, wait a minute, to fear God may mean that he comes first in our lives. And of course we should revere and worship him only. . . . but I don’t think he wants me to be afraid of him! Consider this: Have you ever stopped and imagined what it would be like to meet the King of Kings? Would you fall on your face in worship? Like Isaiah, would you say, “Woe is me, for I am a man of unclean lips?” As you remember that any of your righteous acts are like filthy menstrual cloths in comparison to the holiness of God Almighty? I know the thought has made me tremble!
It is this reverential awe of God that causes us to obey his commands. I mean, yes, he loves us, yes he died for us so we could have a relationship with him, but I have to think that if I had a real encounter with the Creator, I could do nothing less than respond in obedience. . . . How about you?
In order to have a healthy fear of the Lord, we must first believe he is who he says he is.
This is something I often question myself: If I truly believe in him, shouldn’t my life look and feel incredibly different?
Too often I feel like I’m living my own life with Jesus as an afterthought, instead of the other way around. But when I think about truly building my life around Christ, I wonder if . . . Maybe this sort of life is comprised of the smallest decisions - those seemingly inconsequential acts of daily surrender, that moment-by-moment choice to do what you know is right, regardless of what others may think or how hard it is for you to carry through.
Maybe it’s in practicing an awareness of the presence of God, and meditating constantly on his word to remind me of who he is. Or in the praising of him for the beauty I see everywhere instead of taking little miracles for granted.
These days, instead of being annoyed with Proverbs 31, I find myself refreshed and encouraged – because the woman of wisdom reminds me that I don’t have to work or complete any specific tasks in order to reflect the beauty of my Lord. Like Mary, I need only sit at his feet in reverence and awe, and soak in his glory.
References & Suggested Reading:
I Peter 3:6
Definition of Fear
3 Things You Might Not Know About Proverbs 31
The Fear of the Lord (Set Apart Girl Devotional)
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