The following article was written by Bryan Stoudt.
Part One, Part Three, Conclusion
In the first post, we began with how to find a godly wife who will help you fulfill your calling as a pastor, planter or ministry leader. We focused upon four traps that men can fall into.
Ultimately, though, we’re not just trying to avoid losing the game, as if we were a backup quarterback. No, we’re trying to win the game by finding a godly, Proverbs 31 woman who will make a maximum impact for Christ and his kingdom. Even more importantly, we must focus upon becoming the kind of man who can love and lead such a woman.
Here are four qualities to look for as you search for a godly wife. We’ll continue by focusing (mainly) on Proverbs 31.
Four Qualities To Pursue In A Godly Wife
All in for Christ
In contrast to the traps of beauty and charm, ‘a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised’(31:30). The prototypical godly wife has God at the center of her life. Not that she’s perfect, but she loves the Lord her God with all her heart, soul and mind. Jesus says this is what matters most (Matt 22:37-38).
A woman centered on God looks very different than a woman who lists God as one of many priorities. Both will have devotions and go to church, but a woman who truly fears the Lord will acknowledge God in all her ways, not just where it’s convenient (Proverbs 3:6). In her speech, entertainment selections, vocational priorities, and where she invests her time.
When she makes decisions, she frames them biblically. Even when she doesn’t get what she wants. During our college years, I can remember my (then future) wife passing up the chance to study abroad in France so that she could continue to serve our Christian fellowship. Since she is a serious francophile, I was really impressed that she willingly gave them up in an intentional effort to serve.
Oriented Toward Others
When a woman loves God deeply, it spills over into how she treats others. It sounds so simple, but we often forget what Jesus said when thinking about the real, potential spouse in front of us. ‘Just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another (John 13:34).’
Because God is at the center of her life, the Proverbs 31 woman is brimming with real, practical love for the people around her. She gets up late at night to make sure her family and servants have enough food (31:15), and carefully keeps an eye on her family (31:27). She proactively cares for the poor and needy (31:20). And she’s kind when she instructs others (31:26). Each of these qualities are beautiful in and of itself, but our point here is that they stem from a heart that loves God and, therefore, others. A woman who is tepid toward others is a woman who is tepid toward God.
Of course, love will look differently for each woman depending on her circumstances, strengths and other factors. But her heart and love for others should be unmistakeable. This love, more than anything else, will make a massive impact in the people you serve. As an added bonus, her love will cover over a multitude of sins and mistakes YOU make, especially early on in your ministry. When your people feel loved, they won’t expect you to be perfect.
If ‘all’ your wife did was love God and others like she loves herself, you’d be set, right? After all, Jesus says these are the things that matter most in life.
Let me mention just two more qualities that are easy to miss. Or, maybe just difficult to face before tying the knot.
Embraces Hard, Unpredictable Work
I’m preaching to the preacher, but ministry is hard work. Like the Proverbs 31 wife, you’re looking for a woman who is willing to roll up her sleeves and give her best with you (see 15, 17, 19, and 27). Ministry will push you both waaay beyond your physical and emotional limits. Practically-speaking, since much of ministry takes place at night, this also involves a willingness to serve then. And to be okay with you being out some nights, too. You don’t want to marry someone looking for a stable, predictable 9-5 weekday routine.
Pursues Balance Between Work & Home
This brings up another important, thorny issue. Should you marry someone who will serve alongside you ‘full-time’? What about someone deeply invested in her own career? The bible doesn’t give us easy, pat answers, so we need to be careful here. And families go through seasons as children are added, grow older and eventually leave the home.
While Proverbs 31 isn’t prescriptive, it provides some interesting clues about how women might manage the tensions between work they love and their families. It’s interesting how much of the Proverbs 31 woman’s life is devoted to work both in, and out of, the home. For example, she both ‘provides food for her household’ (31:15) yet ‘considers a field and buys it’ (31:16). She provides high-end clothing for her family (31:21), but also turns a nice profit (31:18). Most impressively, her hard work doesn’t pull her away from her family, causing resentment. In fact, they’re her biggest fans (31:28-29). Her life appears to be a balanced, seamless whole that honors God and blesses others.
So, it’s not really about whether your wife will work outside the home or not. If God is at the center of her life, and she’s committed to you and your (future) family, the details can be worked out as a team as you move through life’s seasons together.
In the real world, of course, this is easier said than done. Some churches have unwritten qualifications for ministry wives, such as making your home available for hospitality on a frequent basis. Since Scripture knows no such office as ‘the pastor’s wife’, it’s important for husbands to relieve them from this (imaginary) burden.
That said, since a husband and wife are deeply intertwined, even ‘one flesh’ (Genesis 2:24), I can’t imagine a wife being indifferent to your calling to ministry. She may not be ‘on staff’. She may work in- or outside the home. But she should take a keen interest in your work and want to partner with you in it, according to her gifting and season of life. You want someone who will be excited about your calling and join you in it, not someone who will merely tolerate it while she does her own thing.
There are, of course, other important qualities you might look for in a wife, such as wisdom ( 31:26), kindness (also v. 26), and concern for the poor (v. 20). But love for God and others are absolutely essential foundations for those, and everything else. And making sure that she’s ready to embrace the difficult, often unpredictable rhythm of ministry, and share your passion for the work are other important qualities to seek.
As we come in for a landing, let’s open the window shade and see where we are. So far, in our journey, we’ve talked about common obstacles to avoid and qualities to pursue. But in many ways, all that’s just theory. If we don’t know how to apply it in real life, we might make a big mistake. In our final article, we’ll shift our focus to how we actually go about finding the ministry partner God has prepared for us.
For further reflection: Which of the qualities most challenge the way you’re thinking about a future spouse? Why?