The familiar coffee shop didn’t ease my discomfort as I sat in their large leather chairs by a roaring fire. I continued to wrestle internally with the disdain and shame of who I was as a woman, wife, mother, and friend. My life was not Pinterest worthy. I did not feel like the modern Martha Stewart or the classy, courageous DC Comics image of Wonder Woman. Like many women, I had the image of a virtuous woman in my head, but I did not fit the bill. Nonetheless, I sought scripture and found 5 ways to become a virtuous woman; 5 ways that ultimately put my soul at ease.
What Is a Virtuous Woman?
The ‘eshet-chayil’ is the Hebrew term for virtuous woman or woman of valor. Eshet is the word for woman, and Chayil is defined as valiant, strong or virtuous. In Proverbs 31:10 (AMP) eshet-chayil is translated as “An excellent woman [one who is spiritual, capable, intelligent, and virtuous]…” This term eshet-chayil or, the virtuous woman, is only found in the Bible three times. We see her referenced once in the book of Ruth and twice in the book of Proverbs.
First, in the book of Ruth we see a brave widow sacrifice her own well being and prosperity to take care of her mother-in-law. As she goes out on a limb to provide for her family, her kindness, generosity, and faith in the face of adversity are valued and earn her the title ‘woman of excellence’ (Ruth 3:11).
Later, in the book of Proverbs, we find two more accounts of this Hebrew word. It’s referenced once in Proverbs 12:4, and then the virtuous woman is described in full in Proverbs 31:10-31. Proverbs 31 tributes 21 verses to describing this sought after virtuous woman. She’s trustworthy (v 11), encouraging (v 12), works diligently (v 13), strong (v 17), well prepared (v 18), generous (v 20), brave (v 21), resourceful (v 14-16 and 24), wise (v 26), and well thought of (v 28). But most importantly, she fears the Lord (v 30).
How Do We Become Virtuous Women?
Simply put, we become these marvelous women of valor by fearing the Lord. Proverbs 31:30 says: “Charm is deceptive and beauty is fleeting, but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.” We can become these wise, generous, and beautifully brave women through a deep devotion to the God of the Bible. The study note for Proverbs 31:29 in the Amplified Bible says it this way:
“The source of this remarkable woman’s success and competence is revealed in v 30, and it is a source available to everyone. She is wise because she understands and puts into practice the message contained in 9:10”
If we flip back a few pages in our Bible to Proverbs 9:10 we see that the “fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding”. This virtuous woman became the amazing woman she was because she knew and feared God.
How Does the Virtuous Woman Fear the Lord?
The Virtuous woman has reverent and awe-struck fear of the Lord. She has such a trust in His sovereignty and power that she can “laugh at the days to come” (Proverbs 31:25). John Piper, in his sermon A Woman Who Fears the Lord is to be Praised describes a mighty fear of the Lord like this:
“The fear of the Lord is fear of fleeing out of his fellowship into the way of sin. Therefore, the fear of the Lord is full of peace and security and hope. It keeps us near to the merciful heart of God, our fortress, our refuge, our sanctuary, our shield, our sun. Isaiah 8:13 says, “The Lord of Hosts . . . let him be your fear, and let him be your dread, and he will become a sanctuary.” A proper fear of the Lord keeps us under the shadow of his wings where we need not be afraid.”
Both Ruth and Proverbs 31 depict this virtuous woman of faith who feared the Lord. In order to become this eshet-chayil that the Bible speaks of, there are five core beliefs or practices we must consider:
1. A Virtuous Woman Obeys God’s Word
God’s word must be at the center as we seek to become virtuous women. It is only in our understanding of God’s word that we will come to know and develop a reverent fear of the Lord. In Matthew 4:4 we read that “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.” A virtuous woman views time in God’s word as if it is the very food that nourishes her body. She thinks of it as something she cannot live a day without.
She sees that God’s word is “profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.” (2 Timothy 3:16-17). The virtuous woman knows that “the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12).
But the virtuous woman also knows that knowing the word and not heeding it’s instruction is worthless. James 1:22-25 says:
“Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it—not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it—they will be blessed in what they do.”
She knows that her obedience to the Lord is vital to her understanding of the Word. As Jesus states in John 14:15: “If you love me, you will keep my commandments”.
2. A Virtuous Woman Prays
The virtuous woman “prays without ceasing” (1 Thes. 5:17). She follows Jesus’ lead and retreats to a “desolate place…to pray” (Mark 1:35). The virtuous woman handles her anxiety and stress “by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving” (Phil 4:6).
When suffering and the burdens of this world become too much to bear, the virtuous woman knows that “the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words” (Romans 8:26). The virtuous woman acknowledges, as Mary did, that time spent with Jesus is precious, and not to be taken for granted (Luke 10:38-42).
3. A Virtuous Woman Lives in Community
The virtuous woman enjoys being an integral part of the church (Romans 12:4, 1 Cor. 12:12-27). She understands that we are to be devoted to the fellowship of the body (Acts 2:42). The virtuous woman is willing to live out the command to “bear one another burdens” in Galatians 6:2. And she looks to James 5:16, Titus 2, and 1 Thessalonians 5:14 as she seeks to live authentically and graciously among other believers.
"Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective." (James 5:16)
"Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ." (Gal. 6:2)
4. A Virtuous Woman Serves
The virtuous woman believes service follows the fear of the Lord (1 Samuel 12:24). She is a woman who seeks to serves the least of these (Matt. 25:34-39). She gazes at Jesus’ words to “love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.”… “and love your neighbor as yourself” and desires to live them out (Matt. 22:37-39).
"But be sure to fear the LORD and serve him faithfully with all your heart; consider what great things he has done for you." (1 Sam. 12:24)
5. A Virtuous Woman Clings to the Gospel
At the end of the day, when we look at the virtuous woman depicted in scripture, we should not seek to become more like her, but rather look to, and become more like Jesus.
The virtuous woman clings to the gospel. She is a sinner, simply saved by the grace of Jesus Christ. There is no magic formula, only faith. Faith in Christ creates the virtuous woman (2 Cor. 5:17). She knows that Jesus’ life, death, burial, and resurrection not only saves her from eternity in hell, but it is the sustaining grace that furthers her sanctification (Romans 10:9-13, 1 Cor. 15:1-4, 1 John 4:9-10).
Because of this, the virtuous woman regularly repents of sin, and turns to the gospel and the promises of God to fight temptation and heartache (1 John 1:9, Romans 12:2). She believes that God’s grace is transformative (Titus 3:5, Ephesians 2:8-9, Galatians 2:20), and as she clings to the power of Jesus’ blood, she becomes “clothed with strength and dignity; she laughs at the days to come. She speaks with wisdom, and faithful instruction is on her tongue” (Proverbs 31:25-26).
As this virtuous woman clings to the gospel, she fears the Lord. She sees the depth of her sin, and how it is covered in an ocean of unmerited grace. And that, leads her to joyful praise.
Stephanie Englehart is a Seattle native, church planter’s wife, mama, and lover of all things coffee, the great outdoors, and fine (easy to make) food. Stephanie is passionate about allowing God to use her honest thoughts and confessions to bring gospel application to life. You can read more of what she writes on the Ever Sing blog at stephaniemenglehart.com or follow her on Instagram: @stephaniemenglehart.
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