The following article series was written by Bryan Stoudt.
In describing the ideal, godly woman, a wise king once asked, ‘An excellent wife who can find?’ (Proverbs 31:10)
The question has enormous relevance for a man called to plant or pastor. Maybe you are that guy. Or maybe you are counseling or friends with that guy. You know – in theory – that God can bring you a godly wife, but from where you sit it’s hard to see. How should we begin to answer the question?
During my seminary days, I remember sitting alone in a parking garage, surrounded by concrete and silence in my job as a security guard. I had plenty of time to study, but what I really wanted was a wife. Someone to share my passion for God, ministry and life with. But after two years of praying, I was still coming up empty. If an excellent wife was available, I was certainly not finding her!
Remembering The Finder
Whether you’re feeling hopeful or doubtful, the truth is that ‘a prudent wife is from the Lord.’ (Proverbs 19:14) The God who won us at the cross can easily lead us to a godly woman. To the question of ‘who finds an excellent wife?’, our starting point is “The Lord’!
But God calls us to be active in this noble pursuit.
He who finds a wife finds a good thing and obtains favor from the Lord. (Proverbs 18:22)
So although we rest in God, he calls us to play our part. And for those called to lead in the local church, the question becomes utterly essential. That’s what this article and mini-series are all about. How should a guy faithfully pursue a woman of God who will join him in a calling to shepherd the flock of God among us? And how can we, as friends and counselors to men in ministry, come alongside them in their pursuit?
Re-framing Our Quest
This adventure is not without its serious pitfalls, though.
Frankly, our pursuit of a godly woman can become subtly self-focused. About being served rather than serving. About having my physical and emotional needs met.
God’s vision for our union is much more grand, difficult, and satisfying. He calls men to ‘love [our] wives as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her… that he might present the church to himself in splendor… that she might be holy and without blemish.’ (Ephesians 5:25-27) God’s ultimate aim for our marriage is that it would be a living, breathing picture of his relationship with his people through Christ.
Men, if we are going to represent Christ and his sacrificial, sanctifying love to a godly woman, our greatest priority isn’t finding one. It’s becoming a godly man who can love and serve her like Christ does.
The good news, though, is that pursuing Christ with abandon will also position us well to find a godly wife. Gospel-loving men who love Christ’s church attract women who share their passions.
Godliness attracts godliness.
The Power Of Godliness: An Ancient Example
Boaz and Ruth showcase the powerful, magnetic quality of lives pointed toward the Lord. For example, Ruth is humbled by Boaz’s unexpected kindness toward her again and again (2:10, 13, 21; 3:15). Boaz is struck by the way Ruth sacrificially left everything to help Naomi. And, how she came to lean on God’s mercy and protection despite growing up in a foreign land. (2:11-12)
Boaz’s life boldly displayed his love for God, and he attracted a ‘worthy woman’ (3:11) to be his wife.
The Other Side Of The Coin
So, godly men attract women who love the Lord. But they also repel women who don’t.
On one occasion, David was dancing ‘before the Lord with all his might’ as he led the ark into Jerusalem. (2 Samuel 2:12-15) The man ‘after God’s own heart’ (1 Samuel 13:14) was worshiping his God with abandon, and his younger, female servants took notice and approved (2:22).
But his wife Michal, watching him from her window, ‘despised him in her heart’ (2:16) and gave him a tongue-lashing when he got home (2:20). Instead of being drawn by his heart for God, all she could think about was the way his simple attire didn’t seem to befit his status as king.
So, simply pursuing Christ as our first love has a divisive effect, attracting godly women and keeping ungodly ones far away.
How To Become A Godly Man
To this point, we’ve seen that the best way to attract a godly wife is to become a godly man. The next, perhaps overly-obvious question, is, ‘Well, how do I become a godly man, then?’
It may seem like a strange question for pastors and planters. After all, people probably come to you for insight on the same question. For that same reason, it can feel really awkward for friends, peers or counselors to ask, too. But sometimes we’re so close to our lives, and just plain busy, that it’s hard to follow our own advice about seeking God first.
So, here are three short reminders that will help you keep your love for Christ strong. And, by God’s grace, attract a woman who shares your passion for him.
As ministry leaders we teach others that God will satisfy us like nothing else. ‘There is none like you, O LORD; you are great, and your name is great in might.’ (Jeremiah 10:8) Yet how easy it is for our own communion with God to become stale and flat.
We need to commit, and recommit, to giving Christ our very best time. He is life itself (John 14:6), so we desperately need to hear from him through his word, and talk to him in prayer…before we answer emails, check social media, or jump online.
Although we may not see it day by day, as we meet with God we ‘are being transformed into [his] image from one degree of glory to another.’ (2 Corinthians 3:18) This will satisfy us, and guard our hearts from the desperation that could lead to choosing an ungodly spouse.
When we’re dazzled by Christ, we are much more ready for rich, biblical community. When God is our fear (Proverbs 9:10), we will not fear others. And when we’re not consumed by what others think, we can get close to them where real transparency and growth will occur.
But while we ‘know’ we need each other, it’s so easy for us to become isolated. Surrounded by people who don’t truly know us. Many of us work alone as solo pastors or planters. It’s hard to be completely honest with people who look up to us, and could, if they wanted to, dismiss us from our role. And sometimes it simply feels like, after work and family, there’s no time left for community.
Several years into ministry and family life, that was definitely how I felt. After work, connecting with family, and trying to maintain our home, the idea of real community seemed overwhelming and unnecessary. Besides, I spent my day surrounded by people and ‘friends’ on Facebook. My wife kept gently reminding me, though, that I needed to truly know – and be known by – others. She was right.
While life certainly gets busy, and we need to practice discernment before sharing with others, most of us are in much greater danger from not truly sharing at all. The warning of Proverbs 18:1 serves as a strong, helpful reminder: ‘Whoever isolates himself seeks his own desire; he breaks out against all sound judgment.’
Much could be said here, but taking initiative, and being vulnerable with (Click for article) just one other guy on a regular basis is a great place to start.
As planters and pastors, we share a passion for God’s calling to make disciples until Christ returns, when ‘the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the LORD as the waters cover the sea.’ (Habakkuk 2:14) But if we’re honest, we sometimes struggle with real passion for the particular mission God has placed before us. And even if we’re simply walking alongside someone on the front lines of ministry, we know what it’s like to feel a bit apathetic toward our calling at times, too.
In an online survey I conducted about why women might not date a particular godly guy, nearly 80% mentioned a lack of ambition as a deal-breaker. Like Eve joined Adam in Eden to fill and subdue the earth (Genesis 2:15-18), godly women are looking for a man who is excited about something God has called him to. Keep asking God for a white-hot passion for your work, and, a woman who will share that desire with you.
You Can Find A Godly Wife
In conclusion, your desire to find a godly wife is a good one. The key to this quest is making God your chief pursuit by worshiping him, being part of biblical community, and carrying out his mission for your life. As you become a godly man, with God’s blessing you are much more likely to find a godly wife who is ‘far more precious than jewels.’ (Proverbs 31:10)
For further reflection: To what extent do you need to refocus your search for a godly wife on your own growth in Christ? Next time: we’ll look at four common traps to avoid in your search.