Prov. 31 (NAS) 10An excellent wife, who can find? For her worth is far above jewels. 11The heart of her husband trusts in her, and he will have no lack of gain. 12She does him good and not evil all the days of her life.
The virtuous wife. She is the seemingly impossible standard that for generations has hung over the heads of Christian women who care. First, let me say boldly that I think the NAS is correct when it translates this as the excellent WIFE as opposed to translations that call it the excellent or virtuous WOMAN. The word can mean either wife or woman, but the subsequent descriptions all center around wifely duties. Many godly Christian women never marry despite their desire to do so, and they do not lose their hope of being an excellent, virtuous Christian woman because of this state. Proverbs 31 is a particular description of a particular role—what does it look like to reflect the image of Christ as a wife in the home?
The very first descriptive trait of the virtuous wife deals with the heart of her husband. She is a SAFE PLACE for his heart.
Amplified Bible 11The heart of her husband trusts in her confidently and relies on and believes in her securely, so that he has no lack of [honest] gain or need of [dishonest] spoil.
The Hebrew word for heart is leb, meaning inner man, heart, understanding, mind, will, and so forth. This is our husband’s inner place where he holds his hopes and fears, dreams and worries, desires and burdens. The Hebrew word for trust is batach, meaning to trust in, have confidence in, be secure with, to feel safe with, to be careless with. When you put them together, the excellent wife is a safe place for her husband to let down his guard and be honest about his inner burdens and struggles. He can be careless in what he reveals of himself because he has confidence in his security with his wife.
This is convicting to me every time I read it, because instead of being the safe place that my husband can let down his guard, I usually feel threatened. Like Jack Nicholson says in A Few Good Men, I “can’t handle the truth.” If he lets down his guard about insecurities at work, my fears bubble up over job security and paying our bills. If he lets his guard down about problems in the church, I feel threatened over my future ministry. If he lets his guard down about issues in our home, I worry that our marriage is going to fall apart. If he shares concerns about his health, I’m afraid of what I’m going to do if he dies. When my response to his heart is fear, worry, self-condemnation, and worst case scenarios, you know what his response will be every time? He’ll shut up!
The end of Proverbs 31:11 gives an interesting consequence. A husband who can trust his heart with his wife has no need for dishonest spoil. Now, you can apply that in a myriad of practical ways. I think the big idea is that more than keeping an attractive figure, a clean house, good sex, or whatever, a wife can protect her marriage best by being a safe, secure place for her husband to let down his guard.
As someone who has a quiet husband and who has often squandered the opportunities I’ve been given to be a safe place for his heart, here are some practical tips for being an excellent wife.
1) Be secure in Christ. You MUST have confidence in the sovereign hand of your wise, compassionate Heavenly Father. There is no other way you can handle your husband’s concerns and insecurities. Traditionally, our husbands are the place women find (or at least try to find) their security. That will NEVER work, and I submit it was never God’s intention that women find their security in their husbands. Instead, we find our security in our Father, and only then can we become a safe place for our husband’s insecurities.
2) When that rare moment opens that your husband offers a tiny glimpse into his inner man, stop what you are doing and pay attention. Shut your mouth. Listen. Ask a moderate follow up question. Don’t give advice. Let him safely, securely, CARELESSLY share with you his inner concerns, fears, successes, and dreams.
I have been thankful for this first instruction in Proverbs 31 concerning the excellent wife. It has brought much clarity to my relationship with my husband. I hope meditating on it will be helpful to you today as well.