A Scripture Reflection from Elizabeth Scribner
“Women at Work” – Fall 2023 Bible Study Recap and Lessons Learned
When Leslie Housman, our Director of Women’s Ministries, first sent out the invite for the Women at Work Bible study, I thought to myself, “Finally! A Bible study that will help me better balance the impossible demands of modern parenting and a career—all while improving my spiritual life.” Now, eight weeks later, you can scratch the first part of that sentence. My life is as chaotic as it has ever been. We still eat fast food more than we should, suffer emotional breakdowns (children and parents alike!), spend WAY too much time glued to screens, and to say my career is thriving would be a proclamation of fiction.
The difference is that I don’t care about these things as much anymore, which is not what I expected to gain from the study of the Proverbs 31 “Woman of Valor.” Instead, I learned to love myself as God loves me—warts and all! Knowing that I will always fall short of whatever ideal of perfection I set for myself (or others), I try not to let these inevitable failures derail my walk with God.
For me, the biggest takeaway from the Women at Work Bible study is not balance but the way I view myself and the boldness to ask God for good things. In Matthew 21:22 Jesus tells us, “And whatever you ask in prayer, you will receive, if you have faith.” Likewise, he instructs us in John 15:7, “If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you.”
And I put the emphasis on good things because sometimes I think we ask for things based on what society tells us we should have: it could be big things, like a job title or a weight-loss goal or the perfectly renovated kitchen; or smaller things, like getting to church on time with all of our children wearing dress shoes (instead of Crocs) and sitting through church without fighting in the pew (never happens in my family, but it doesn’t mean I don’t still beat myself up over it). James 4:3 warns us, “You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions.”
Studying the “Woman of Valor” in Proverbs 31 has put on my heart the good things I should be asking for as well as the confidence in knowing that because I am loved, God will give me these things if I only ask. And what are these things? Several key verses have come to mind that I am putting to prayer:
- Regarding my marriage and my relationship with my children, this is what I want to boldly pray for: Her children rise up and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her. v28 (Here, blessed means “fortunate” or “happy”—a deep and joy-filled contentment that cannot be shaken by the death of loved ones, broken bones, financial troubles, five-o-clock traffic, head lice, sleep deprivation, or any other trial we may face as wives or mothers.)
- Regarding my health and body image: She sets about her work vigorously; her arms are strong for her tasks. v17 (Imagine idealizing physical attributes that are actually useful—a strong body for carrying toddlers, hauling groceries, or packing moving boxes.)
- Specific prayers for my husband: Her husband is known in the gates
when he sits among the elders of the land. v23
- Prayers for how I raise my children: She opens her mouth with wisdom, and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue. v26
- Prayers for how I feel about my work, both in and out of my home: She perceives that her merchandise is profitable. Her lamp does not go out at night. v18 (Substitute “merchandise” for whatever is the fruit of your labors—folded laundry, a healthy dinner, a polished report, a restful hour with the Lord.)
- Prayers for how I can give back to my community and be of service to the Lord: She opens her arms to the poor and extends her hands to the needy. v20
- Prayers for when I am feeling anxious about the future: She is not afraid of snow for her household, for all her household are clothed in scarlet. v21 (Substitute “snow” for whatever you are anxious about, followed by examples of how God has prepared you or provisioned you to address that fear.)
- And finally, when I fall into the trap of comparing myself to others who appear more successful, whether it is someone at work or in the community or even a celebrity whose life seems so successful (ahem Taylor Swift, Princess Kate), this is a prayer that we can boldly pray to the Lord: Many women have done excellently, but you surpass them all. v29
Proverbs 31 is not about the woman we should strive to be. It is about the woman that God has already made us to be. Pray that your inheritance as daughters of the King will be revealed to you. Put on your new self in Christ Jesus, for these good things belong to you now. Abide in him and see what wonderful fruit will come to bear!
Women at Work is an evening Bible study for all women because all women work. We will resume in the spring examining Jesus’ ministry through the theme, “Busy vs. Hurry.” Look for more details soon!