In this post, I want to look simply at verses 11-12. Apart from the gospel and an understanding of the difference in wisdom and law, these verses have the potential to set up a lot of women for condemnation and shame. If you're tempted to go there, let Jesus meet you in it and give you hope. As Peter exhorts in I Peter 1, “set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ."
PROVERBS 31 11The heart of her husband trusts in her, and he will have no lack of gain. 12She does him good, and not harm, all the days of her life.
Wow. This is a beautiful vision of what marriage looks like between those who are in Christ and imitators of God. But I wonder about the mutuality of their virtue. Is her husband as virtuous as she was? He's respected in the gates, we find out later. But overall, this is wisdom, not law. It gives us ideals, not a specific story. We don't really know that much about him, but that doesn't seem to affect the wisdom of her.
When I read these verses, the Biblical concept of stumblingblocks comes to mind—not setting our husbands up for failure. Stumblingblocks are interesting to think about in the reformed faith. One of the tenets of Calvinism is irresistible grace. We hold to the sovereignty of God to woo our own hearts. I trust it to woo my children. I trust it to draw my husband to Himself. Woe to me if the heart of my children or my husband depends on me. Their heart is God's territory and His responsibility. Yet, God calls me to join with Him as a STEWARD. I can hurt my children and husband. And I can help them. I must hold to the two--stewarding responsibility in my home without living in condemnation for my failures. Our God, who is sovereign over their hearts, calls us to positive, active participation in this venture. He calls us to be ministers of His grace. Yet, He takes the ultimate responsibility on Himself, and He loses none of His own.
The virtuous wife can be trusted with her husband's heart, the place that holds his innermost fears and desires. She is a safe place for her husband to let down his defenses and be honest about his concerns. Of all the wisdom in Scripture, this is probably the thing that came least easily in marriage personally yet also the thing to have made the greatest difference ever once I started to understand and believe. I'm convinced this represents the very best parts of being a strong helper after God's example (Gen. 2:18).
For a long time, I couldn't handle my husband's burdens because of my own fears. Manipulation and control, instead of trust and faith, were the ways my fears played out in my marriage. In my experience, manipulation and control tactics are completely ineffective methods for dealing with my fears. They can't begin to touch the root of my fears. Instead of being a safe place for him to share his burdens, I became threatened by his burdens/concerns/cares. It goes back to Genesis 3:16 —I wanted him to provide a security for me he was never intended to provide. I had to reevaluate my faith and trust in God.
Meditating on God's sovereignty has been key to bringing me back to faith and trust in God so I can be a safe place for my husband to voice his burdens.
Isaiah 46 9 Remember the former things, those of long ago; I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me. 10 I make known the end from the beginning, from ancient times, what is still to come. I say: My purpose will stand, and I will do all that I please. 11 From the east I summon a bird of prey; from a far-off land, a man to fulfill my purpose. What I have said, that will I bring about; what I have planned, that will I do. Colossians 1 17He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.In a very practical sense, my spoken and written words have been a place God has prompted me to apply this wisdom.
Ephesians 4 29Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear.This verse never loses its impact when I read it. To think that our words can minister God's grace to someone! They certainly can suck grace right out the room, and I've experienced that many times. But they can also be a conduit of God's grace--grace to our husbands and grace to our children.
When I think about safe words to my husband and children, I need go no further than Christ's example in the gospels. He models the essence of gospel-safe community. In fact, when we read Proverbs 31 in context of Ephesians 5 (and Luke 24, and Genesis 2), we see that our calling simply is to be like Christ in our particular context of marriage. Christ is both our model and our source of strength to obey on this matter. He is the wisdom of God for us. And we are IN HIM.
If any of this resonates with you but you feel at a loss for where to begin, please start with this discussion of how the gospel equips you to face these things head on.