The Proverbs 31 Woman: How Not to Do It All

I am loving and serving an audience of One

Key Scripture: Proverbs 31:10-31

Meeting the Proverbs 31 Woman

This woman is unreal! Literally. All of the other women you will meet in this twelve-session study are captured in a real place and time. Each of their stories comes from a particular context and setting in biblical history.

But not the woman portrayed in Proverbs 31. While she may be based on an actual person, the collection of her qualities and attributes are gathered from a lifetime of experiences and lessons learned. is chapter in Proverbs is not grounded on one moment in time. The portrait painted is a highlight reel, a “best of” collection, a top ten list.

The Proverbs 31 Woman is an ideal meant to inspire you to noble living, passionate leadership, humble service, compassionate care, and authentic faith. She is not meant to discourage you by setting the bar too high.

Instead, she is a picture of beauty, grace, kindness, industry, and passion for life, meant to give you hope and inspiration. As you read about this woman of noble character, listen for the whisper of the Holy Spirit. God inspired these words to give you something to strive toward—a vision of who you can be. God loves you as you are, but he also calls you to keep growing into the woman you long to be. Let the Proverbs 31 Woman be your example.

Introduction

Picture perfect! It is an old saying that continues to cut at our heart and soul. When we view another person and see a snapshot frozen in time, we actually believe the image in front of us tells the whole story. It might be a Christmas picture of a family where everyone is smiling, well dressed, and apparently quite in love with each other. Everyone is delighted to be there, and peace is etched on every face. at is what the picture seems to convey.

Snap! There it is… a perfect family, couple, or life.

In recent years, this picture-perfect life has been expanded from one yearly snapshot to weekly or daily posts on social media. These images become a highlight reel of only the best experiences, the most exciting adventures, the most precious moments, and the happiest happenings. When we see these images, we might forget that any life can look glorious if we push the button at exactly the right moment, delete the pictures that did not turn out well, post only the highlights, and bury the mess and pain that surround these digital moments frozen in time.

At first glance, a couple named Carlos and Maria appeared to have such a picture-perfect life. They had a nice home, new cars, and smiles from ear to ear. A couple of times a year, they would host a party at their home and invite friends, neighbors, and church leaders over. It was a guaranteed afternoon of food, games, and laughter. No one knew that when the party was over, the house grew very silent. Maria and Carlos would both retreat to neutral ground and do their best to get along.

Suzette also seemed to have a picture-perfect existence. She loved life, people, and Jesus most of all. She had lots of friends and possessed a heart to serve those in need. Her voice was beautiful, and everyone at church felt drawn into the presence of Jesus when they heard her sing on the worship team. Her joy was real and deep, but so was her loneliness and depression. She let the joy shine for others to see, but she kept the dark days to herself.

Picture-perfect lives, marriages, and families exist only in fantasy.

Real lives are a ruggedly beautiful mosaic made of laughter and tears, victory and defeat, confidence and worry, songs and laments, and a host of other highs and lows. This is true in our lives today and equally true of the people who lived in the days the Bible was inspired by the Holy Spirit of God.

Talk About It

Briefly respond as a group to one of the following questions.

• Tell a fun story about a picture time with your family that was particularly challenging. How did the picture finally turn out (or not turn out)?

• Tell about a character in the Bible you really appreciate. How is his or her story a combination of both wonderful strengths and honest human struggle?

All of us could have a unique poem written about us. —Karen Ehman

As you watch the teaching segment for session one, use the following outline to record anything that stands out to you.

 

 

1. Social media and the challenge of presenting a life in picture-perfect moments

2. Is the woman described in Proverbs 31 meant to be envied, emulated… or something else?

3. Our reactions to this woman: usually one of two things

4. Who is this woman… she is more than meets the eye

5. What can we learn from this woman?

6. It’s about what you do and how you do it

7. Identify what is unique

8. Don’t let comparison boss you around

9. Know your true audience

10. Have healthy fear

11. Remember the ruby

It is always best to be an original version of yourself than a cheap, knockoff imitation of somebody else. — Karen Ehman

Small Group Study and Video Discussion

Take a few minutes with your group members to discuss what you just watched and explore these concepts in Scripture.

1. What are some of the dangers of fixating on social media (or similar picture-perfect depictions) and believing these are real and honest presentations of other people’s lives? Have you ever found yourself envious of such seemingly problem-free individuals?

2. Read Proverbs 31:10-31. What are some of the positive and praiseworthy characteristics you see in the woman portrayed in this passage? Why is it valuable and helpful to think about these traits and even aspire to grow them in our lives?

3. The list of qualities and characteristics of this woman is most likely a composite of a lifetime of good moments and not the whole story of her experiences. (The times of struggle, sin, and hardship are not featured in this short list.) When we realize this is more of a highlight reel rather than an inclusive feature length film, we can open our hearts to learn from this woman’s accomplishments. Imagine that someone wrote a list of your best moments and character traits that come from your faith in Jesus and love for God. What are at least three positive and God-pleasing things they would write about you?

Share one of these statements with your group members and humbly celebrate this good and beautiful work of God in your life. Be sure to share how this trait or characteristic has grown and developed over the years as you have walked with Jesus.

4. If the woman in Proverbs 31 is actually a picture of Bathsheba, the wife of David and mother of Solomon, how would this reality round out the fact that she was a real person with beautiful strengths and painful flaws? How does seeing the whole person — and not just the picture-perfect image — actually help us learn from a person’s life?

5. Take time as a group to “translate” some of this woman’s activities and traits. What might this look like in our world today?

She selects wool and flax and works with eager hands.

She considers a field and buys it; out of her earnings she plants a vineyard.

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 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.

What is one of these traits you long to develop and deepen in your life? How can your group members pray for you and encourage you as you seek to grow this characteristic?

Do what you can; don’t do what you can’t. — Karen Ehman

6. This list of characteristics in Proverbs 31 is not a “to do” list of stuff we must accomplish immediately but a “ta da!” list of things God wants to grow in us over time for His glory. What is one “ta da!” moment you have seen in your own life in the past month? How did your awareness of spiritual growth bring joy and delight when you saw how God was working in and through your life?

7. God cares not just about what we do in life but also about how we do it. What do you notice in this regard about the attitude and disposition of the woman in Proverbs 31? What can we learn from her example?

8. Why is playing the comparison game dangerous and deadly when it comes to our health and joy? What are ways we can focus more on who God is making us and our family? How can we fight against the temptation to compare ourselves to other women and our family to other families?

Stop comparing. Throw confetti instead, commending each woman and her uniqueness. 
—Karen Ehman

9. Read Colossians 3:23-24. What are some possible consequences and problems we might face if we expect our family members to praise us and vocally appreciate all we do? How can living with God as our primary and only true audience bring greater joy and confidence as we love and serve others?

10. How can a deep reverence and awe of God inspire us to live fully for Jesus?

11. Each one of us is God’s ruby… unique, rare, and beautiful. What is one thing you can share about each person in your group that you see as rare, striking, and honoring to God?

I need to remember I am loving and serving for an audience of One. — Karen Ehman

Closing Prayer

Spend time in your group praying in any of the following directions:

Thank God that you do not need to live a picture-perfect life because Jesus gave himself as the perfect Savior and lover of your soul.

Thank God that the Bible is filled with portrayals of people with powerful strengths and honest brokenness.

Pray for freedom from playing the comparison game. Ask God to help you focus on becoming the woman He wants you to be and not a replica of some other woman.

Invite the Holy Spirit to shape your attitudes and motivations so that you will learn to do the right things in the right ways for God’s glory.

Ask God to grow in you a holy and powerful awe and reverence for His glory, power, and love.

No one can do it all, all at once. — Karen Ehman

* * *

Your Turn

Come share your thoughts on our blog. We want to hear from you!

Karen Ehman

Karen Ehman is a New York Times bestselling author, a Proverbs 31 Ministries speaker, and a writer for Encouragement for Today, an online devotional that reaches over four million women daily. She has written eleven books including KEEP IT SHUT: What to Say, How to Say It; When to Say Nothing at All, and Listen, Love, Repeat: Other-Centered Living in a Self-Centered World. Karen has been featured on numerous media outlets including FoxNews.com, Focus on the Family, Redbook.com, Crosswalk.com, and Home Life Magazine. Married to her college sweetheart, Todd, and the mother of three, she enjoys herb gardening, collecting vintage kitchenware, cheering for the Detroit Tigers, and feeding the many teens and young adults who gather around her kitchen island for a taste of Mama Karen's cooking.

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