Are you like me?
Do you ever finish reading about the Proverbs 31 woman and feel completely inadequate? Have you ever read about her wisdom, dignity, kindness and strength and immediately think, “Sooooooo not going to happen. I just can’t be that perfect!”
How can we be like these women in Scripture who seem so perfect, so courageous, so…godly? Whether you are single in your twenties, a mom in your 30’s, or a working woman in your 40’s, is there a way to live up to these examples?
I have wondered this for a while and God finally provided an answer. Bam! In the middle of a Church History class no less – so not what I was expecting! But in studying the women who’ve played a role in the development of the Christian Church, the Lord showed me the secret to their strength and godliness.
Let me introduce you to a few of my historical discoveries, so you, too, can learn the secret to female perfection.
A woman who lived in the fourth century, just three hundred years after the disciples established the first church. In 1 Timothy 5:1-16, Paul gives instructions on how to deal biblically with widows within the church. Although encouraged to remarry if they so wish, it was also suggested that they were to pour the remainder of their lives out in service to the Lord, discipling and “mothering” other women in the faith. This is exactly what Marcella did. She had been married for only a few months when her husband died. And even though she was beautiful and the opportunity to remarry presented itself, Marcella, taking her cue from the widow Anna in Scripture, chose to spend the rest of her life pouring into the women God placed in her path. She had a tremendous ministry to younger women by leading Bible studies in her home. It was during these Bible studies when Marcella really became a scholar of the Word. When she came upon a certain doctrine that she didn’t get or a passage of Scripture that confused her, she wrote long lists of deep theological questions to Jerome who was a well-known theologian in her time. It was through this correspondence that Marcella was discipled. When Jerome answered each question-filled letter, she turned around and taught the truths to the women in her Bible study. Through one of these studies, she became instrumental in the conversion and discipleship of Paula – a woman who was later well known for her charitable life, as well, from Jerome’s work, To Eustochium, Memorials of Her Mother, Paula.
Meet Elizabeth of Hungary.
Elizabeth was a royal princess who lived in the 13th century. Her Christian testimony is very similar to the story of Tabitha in Acts 9:36. Tabitha was a woman noted for her good works and charity (love). Elizabeth overcame great personal difficulty and devoted her life to the cause of the poor and needy. At just seven-years-old, her mother, Queen Gertrude of Hungary, was murdered in a political scheme. Even at such a young age Elizabeth’s faith was quite strong – even to the point of praying for her mother’s murderers. When famine swept across her nation, she opened her own storehouses of food and supplies to the people so they could survive. Queen Elizabeth even went so far as to sell her own personal jewelry and valuables to give the money to those in need.
Meet Catherine Parr.
Famous in history for being the sixth and last wife of the infamous Henry VIII, Catherine Parr was known as a woman of great character in the English court. She clung to her faith in spite of her husband’s sinful lifestyle. Catherine lived out Titus 2 model, holding Bible studies in the palace – in a time when the Bible was strictly forbidden. She loved learning and loved the Word of God, even appointing a Bible translator, Miles Coverdale, as her palace chaplain. She was a powerful godly influence on the future great Queen Elizabeth, as well as bolstered the courage of brave martyr of the faith, Anne Askew.
Meet Madame Jeanne Guyon.
Madame Guyon lived in France during the 17th century. In Acts 17:4, and 12, there are brief descriptions of several prominent Greek women devout in their faith who followed Paul and Silas in their ministry. Madame Jeanne Guyon similarly influenced those in the highest of aristocratic circles, but it wasn’t her first desire. As a young girl, she was educated in a convent, a practice common for the wealthy families of her time. While at the convent, she discovered the Bible. As she read Scripture, God gave her a passion for the less fortunate. Her heart’s desire was to be a nun and dedicate her life in service to God. But her father had different plans for Jeanne’s life and arranged for her to marry the wealthy M. Jacques Guyon. Honoring her parents, Jeanne married, but continued to share the truth of God’s word with those around her. She saw the aristocrats around her as a mission field brimming with people who needed to hear the Gospel message. However wealthy they were, they were poor in spirit. She wrote 40 books to guide others in developing their life with Christ.
Meet Ann Judson.
As the wife of missionary Adoniram Judson, Ann Judson did something quite scandalous for the Christian circles of her time – she became a missionary! In the early 1800’s, women stayed in their home countries to raise the children in safety, while their husband’s went off to do mission work for years at a time. She personified Galatians 3:28 – the champion verse for equality (biblically speaking, it addresses the equality women and men share in relating to God no longer through subjective laws, but through grace). Mrs. Judson joined her husband on the mission field of Burma and labored along side of him in his work, ministering to him, their children and the Burmese people.
These women are inspiring, are they not? Courage. Complete devotion to the Lord. Deep love for God’s Word. A perspective to look beyond themselves and see the needs of those around them. Obedience, no matter what conveniences it cost them. Real, living (at one time) examples of the Proverbs 31 woman. To me, they are examples of the perfect Christian woman.
And it is easy to feel inadequate in comparison.
But the thing that struck me so profoundly in my history class was the fact that it wasn’t what they did, or who their family was, or who they married that made them examples of godliness. It was who they knew – Jesus – and how they knew Him – passionately.
This same Jesus who sanctified these women in history is available for you and me. The same Jesus who led Marcella to surrender her life to ministry, who strengthened Catherine to continually seek after godliness while living with a tyrant husband like Henry, who gave Elizabeth the compassion to reach out to the poor after living through the horrific murder of her mother, who called Ann to the mission field, who prompted Jeanne to writing 40 books about Christian growth.
The same Jesus is our Jesus.
These women didn’t set out to be great – they just got up every moment and sought Jesus. They were in the Word and allowed it to transform them into living pictures of the Proverbs 31 Woman!
They make the Proverbs 31 woman and other examples in Scripture more attainable because they attained it themselves. Through love and obedience to God they accomplished much for His kingdom and His glory.
So can we.
The secret to female perfection isn’t a secret at all…it’s a Savior.