Proverbs 31: the Portrait of a Lifetime

Do you ever turn to Proverbs and get completely overwhelmed by the Proverbs 31 woman?

The Proverbs 31 woman wisely manages the household, raises godly children, is a blessing and crown to her husband AND manages real estate, runs a home business, actively cares for the poor. I’m left wondering what she doesn’t do.

If you've ever felt hopelessly overwhelmed reading Proverbs 31, take courage. It wasn't the portrait of just one day, it was a portrait of a life of service.

Overwhelmed by the Proverbs 31 woman

This virtuous woman takes “a mother’s job is never done” to a whole new level. “She rises while it is yet night” to prepare food for her household and “her lamp doesn’t go out at night” while she works on her home business.

I think she’d be lucky to be getting four hours of sleep a night at that rate.

And what does the virtuous woman do when she has a baby? Does she rise early, stay up late and spend the rest of the night nurturing a baby?

Her profile used to leave me discourage and overwhelmed. It was clear I could never hope to measure up. Some days I can’t even find time to make my bed.

Then a passing comment put the passage in a new light.

Proverbs 31 is not a snapshot of one day in the life of a virtuous woman. Proverbs 31 is a portrait of a lifetime. 

Proverbs 31: portrait of a lifetime

The virtuous woman lived a life of loving service to God, her family, and her community, but that doesn’t mean she “did it all” every single day.

Life is made up of seasons. Some are seasons of survival. Some are seasons of abundance.

Just because you or I didn’t get up at 4:00 this morning, purchase investment property today, run a mercy ministry this afternoon, or stay up till midnight tonight working on crafts to sell, doesn’t mean we can’t aspire to be virtuous women.

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  1. says

    Thank you for this post. As of late I have been feeling very overwhelmed and depressed. This was a good reminder of why we chose our lifestyle.
    I am an at home mom of 2 daughters(4.5 & 10), I homeschool, care for 48 chickens and 2 roosters, a llama, 2 alpacas, 2 cats, a dog and a hubby(who works 2hrs away). I am trying to find something I can do to make $ and grow our food.
    We live completely off-grid, no indoor running water or plumbing. I cook on a woodstove and use keresone lamps. I do laundry by hand(finally found washbasins!) The whole shmeer!
    Somedays I wish I had the luxuries that my “civilized” friends have…hot running water,electricity for a washine machine….but then I remember why we are living this way.
    Our daughters!!!!

    • anna says

      Wow! I’m tired just reading all you do. 🙂 Praying God encourages you as you persevere in the calling He’s given you.

      Thanks so much for stopping by!

  2. says

    I like the vision of being a Proverbs 31 woman over a lifetime, not overnight. In Carolyn Mahaney’s “Feminine Appeal,” she shares a story of Margaret in the last chapter. What’s inspiring is the impact that this woman’s LIFE had on others. We all have moments of failure or feeling inadequate, but our amazing God takes even those moments for His glory and uses them for our good (Rom 8.28).

    • anna says

      Amen! Such an encouraging thought. (I’ve heard several women recommend “Feminine Appeal”. It sounds really good!)

  3. K says

    I don’t believe the Proverbs 31 wife is doing those things over a lifetime. Based on my understanding of the scripture these are things she does everyday – running a business, taking care of children and husband, sewing clothes and so on. I too have wondered how she managed to do it all – and then after careful study of that passage I realized she had something most women do not have – household help. Verse 15 says she has female servants – plural. If I had a housekeeper, nanny, and personal assistant I probably could live like the Proverbs 31 woman – but these are different times and most mommies do not have that kind of help.

    • anna says

      Thanks so much for your insightful comment! You’re right, this woman did have servants (I assume she was probably a queen!)

      I might be wrong, but I still think that it’s not a “life in the day.” Even if she was a queen, I doubt she bought land daily or even got up early and stayed up to the wee hours of the morning at the same seasons of life. It seems odd to me that Solomon would talk about the sweetness of sleep for the laborer in Ecclesiastes 5:12 (and many other authors in other places of Scriptures… “Lo, He gives His beloved sleep” comes to mind) but that Proverbs would end with a portrait of a woman who seemingly never slept.

      Either way, whether servants helped her keep up this pace or it’s talking about a lifetime, it’s so encouraging to know that we don’t have to “do it all” in order to be women of God!

  4. says

    That was an encouragement, Anna, thanks. I’ve read and memorized Prov. 31, but it always seemed like too much. I knew I could never do all those things at once. I don’t have to! If I do what I’m called to do each day, then I don’t have to worry about my life. 🙂

  5. says

    This is beautiful! I also used to get discouraged by Proverbs 31 and would cringe at the thought of studying the verses. I’ve also learned that it’s a work in progress and as you pointed out, she didn’t do all of those things in one day. 🙂

    It’s a joy to love our husbands and children. 🙂

  6. Megan L. says

    I read recently that Proverbs 31 was meant for an audience of men, as an ode to womanhood — NOT a to-do list for women to try to copy. More like “Wow! Look at all these amazing things the virtuous women in your life accomplish! Praise her!”, rather than “Hey! If you want to be a godly woman, you better cancel that pedicure — you only have 24 hours to get from verse 1 to verse 31!!”

  7. says

    Stumbled upon your blog today, and love your gracious take on homemaking. It really is a breath of fresh air.

    My understanding–Proverbs 31, when read with the whole of the book of Proverbs, is actually a conclusion of the illustration of the feminine character Wisdom, woven throughout the book beginning in Proverbs 1:20. It makes a great deal more literary sense to understand this chapter as summarizing of the character of wisdom. While it IS a good structure for a housewife to model, it’s also an illustration of character applicable to men. Inspires confidence, contentment, selflessness, work ethic… and on and on.

    As a literary character, she is beautifully caricatured. What real woman could stay up through the night, THEN get up before everyone else? None. But I absolutely love the Proverbs 31 woman. She is such a beacon toward grace, toward our need for the Lord. We are constantly looking for lists, ways to please God, and the presently popular idea that she’s the perfect housewife we ought to emulate, but what He desires from us is a soft heart, bent toward His voice, pursuing wisdom through His gentle, gracious, unchanging, guiding hand.

    To the commenter who still believes this is a daily to-do list but does not apply because we lack servants, I’d point out that while she had servants, we have dishwashers, clothes washers and dryers, kitchen appliances, a stove and oven that regulate their own temperatures, vacuum cleaners, convenience foods, etc. Like the Law, she’s supposed to highlight our inability and need for Christ. God calls us to a greater and deeper faith through her.

    It is a beautiful structure for my homemaking (and I love that it could be spread over the course of a lifetime), it’s actually not about me. It’s about wisdom and its pursuit–this is the focus of the entire book!

    • anna says

      Oh my Megan! What a beautiful commentary on this chapter… one that I will be mulling over for the weeks to come during this highly busy time for me.

      Thanks so much for stopping by and sharing your insightful wisdom!


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