"A wife of noble character who can find?
She is worth far m ore than rubies.
Her husband has full confidence in her
and lacks nothing of value.
She brings him good, not harm,
all the days of her life.
She selects wood and flax
and works with eager hands.
She is like the merchant ships,
bringing her food from afar.
She gets up while it is still dark;
she provides food for her family
and portions for her servant girls.
She considers a field and buys it;
out of her earnings she plants a vineyard.
She sets about her work vigorously;
her arms are strong for her tasks.
She sees that her trading is profitable,
and her lamp does not go out at night.
In her hand she holds the distaff
and grasps the spindle with her fingers.
She opens her arms to the poor
and extends her hands to the needy.
when it snows, she has no fear for her household;
for all of them are clothed in scarlet.
She makes coverings for her bed;
she is clothed in fine linen and purple.
Her husband is respected at the city gate,
where he takes his seat among the elders of the land.
She makes linen garments and sells them,
and supplies the merchants with sashes.
She is clothed with strength and dignity;
she can laugh at days to come.
She speaks with wisdom,
and faithful instruction is on her tongue.
She watches over the affairs of her household
and does not eat the bread of idleness.
Her children arise and call her blessed;
her husband also, and he praises her:
Many women do noble things,
but you surpass them all.
Charm is deceptive, and beauty id fleeting;
but a women who fears the Lord is to be praises.
Give her the reward she has earned,
and let her works bring her praise at the city gate."
One thing that I repeatedly notice is how I am tempted to feel frantic. As my life gets busier and I find myself pulled in many different directions I think it's so easy to allow feelings of anxiety and being frantic into my heart. My question is this, how did the ever diligent, perfect model of womanhood deal with all of the pressures on her? How would the Proverbs 31 women cope with the stress of all that needed to be done?
The first thing that I notice when I read through the values this lady possessed is her diligence, discipline, orderliness and foresight. In the course of running a household we see first hand what a little planning and hard work can do to make our lives run smoothly. This seems to have been a way of life for Proverbs 31 women. She had the discipline to be up early and planned well enough to be able to provide nourishment not just for her family but her servants as well. The fruits of her planning and hard work are evident later in the passage as we see that she is able to "laugh at the days to come." So here I gather that the hard work she put in on the front end brought joy vs. anxiety later. So my first lesson from this lady is that I must work hard in order to prevent anxiety later. Unfortunately I did not grow up working hard, nor do I live in a situation where I must physically work hard to survive. If I am a little bit lazy and choose not to be disciplined and work hard the consequences are not immediate and really not all that painful. However, I can see that a little "a little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding off the hands to rest-and poverty will come on you like a bandit and scarcity like an armed man." My laziness now will result in anxiety and trial later. I sense that the Proverbs 31 women did not fold her hands to rest often. Neither should I.
The next lesson I see from this passage has to do with attitude. In verse 13 the word select is used, in verse 16 considers is used and in 18 sees is used. All of these words lead us to know that this lady was one who thoughtfully conducted her life. She did not follow her emotions, she used her mind. This is quiet revealing of how she dealt with her day. She did not let her heart conduct her, rather she chose purposefully how to move from one task and thought to another. Again we see discipline, this time not of physical time and work but of mind and attitude. Lesson #2 flee anxious thoughts by being purposeful and not allowing idle time in mind. If we have enough time to fret perhaps we should be applying our thoughts to something more productive. This is a lesson I must really work on!
The next thing that I am struck by is where and how she spends her time. Surprisingly to me it is not all at home! She is industrious and shops and sells. This is so relieving because I must go to market, I simply cannot survive without shopping. We can see in verses 13, 14, 16, 18 & 24 she is industriously and proactively contributing to the household. Her time is described as being spent providing food, clothing, and supplies for her home. It is also spent reaching out to the needy. The one thing we do not know of is how much of her industry is done in the home and out. I appreciate the freedom here, since each women is going to have different requirements of in home and out time. What I do take away from this is that she had enough time after her industry that she was able to reach out to others. Lesson #3 after I have met the needs of my family am I able to reach out to others? If not I need to evaluate where my time is mis-spent. One extra note here, there is no mention of tea with the girls or me time for Proverbs 31 women. I wonder if her refreshment came not from filling self with refreshment but from filling others? This is just a thought I would like to keep in my mind next time I'm having a poor me moment and desire to be served.
The last lesson I have learned in how this wonderful woman kept from anxiety is how she feared the Lord, and spoke in wisdom and faithful instruction. If my words are idle, the opportunity for sin to enter in is pretty strong. If I am speaking wisely and faithfully according to God's word, I can't help but think that my anxiety and fretfulness will be impacted. Our hearts often follow our words. In my day it is so easy to fear and grow anxious with what is in the world. But, God calls me to fear him alone. Lesson #4 am I fearing God alone? If I am, the anxiety and fret level of my life will reflect my heart's condition.
I have struggled with this women for a long time. She points out so many things in me that I don't care to look at. She sets the standard at a level I can NEVER achieve alone. But today I am encouraged by her example of not running the rat race, but running the purposeful, diligent, hard-working, God-fearing race. There is hope in the work I do now if it will be blessed later. I can persevere on with this example out in front of me. Not perfectly, but honestly. It's striking to me that this women had so many areas to tend to in her life and she did them so well. I do not have nearly the responsibility she did (no vineyard here!), yet I find myself trying to come up with excuses to be less than diligent and give myself an out. This passage points out to me just how blessed I am and how I need to be faithful with those blessings.