By Karen O’Connor
“An excellent wife . . . is far more precious than jewels. The heart of her husband trusts in her, and he will have no lack of gain. She does him good, and not harm, all the days of her life” (Proverbs 31:10-12, English Standard Version).
“Jim,” I asked my friend and writing colleague, “in your mind what does it mean for a woman to be a godly wife?” I was particularly interested in a man’s point of view, especially a Christian man who lives and breathes Scripture. I figured he might come up with a list of virtues that would help me frame the body of this article, and he’d have the Bible verses to go with each one.
His answer surprised me. It was simple and focused and took him only a split second to come up with: ”A godly wife is totally, 100 percent sold out to Jesus,” he said. “As a man, that is the single most important characteristic I’d look for in a potential wife. If she’s all about Jesus, everything else—as far as I can see––would fall into place.”
The Bible on Godliness
Jim’s response prompted me to turn to Scripture to see what the word godly means. In 1 Timothy 2:2, Paul uses the words peaceful, quiet, and dignified to illustrate this trait. A godly person also embraces the Holy Spirit and his gifts of “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control” (Galatians 5:22, 23).
A woman who strives to be godly focuses on Jesus first—and then her husband and family. Her primary goal is to imitate Christ, to be like him in thought and action, as Paul wrote about in his first letter to the Corinthians (11:1).
However, it’s one thing to talk about godliness. It’s another to live out the traits of a godly wife. Jim gave me some examples from his mother’s life as the wife of his dad.
Jim recalls his mother being a partner to his father. She didn’t allow the children to talk back to their dad. Jesus came first in her life and then her husband—and there was no negotiating. “She was Swedish by heritage, so she could be stubborn at times. When she got something in her mind, that was that. It wasn’t up for discussion—unless Dad held a different point of view. Then she sided with him—and that too was never a point of discussion. She was his wife, and we knew it.”
Jim’s mother also expressed her godly viewpoint in quiet, subtle ways that everyone in the family benefitted from. “She always had fragrant bread, apple bars, or chocolate chip cookies baking. She also had a way of consoling anyone who was down or not feeling well. She and Dad were a team that way. Everyone was welcome in our home. It was because of my mom that I am a Christian. She led us kids to the Lord, and she inspired my dad to take that step too. I remember being in church the day he went forward to make his commitment to Christ. What a thrill that was for me. As I think of this godly woman today, 10 years since she died, I say she’s the lucky one—she’s with Jesus her Lord, the first love of her life.
Partners to the End
My friend Margaret remembers her mother as a godly wife too. Her parents were partners in every way. “What a wonderful heritage I’ve had. Mom and Dad fed the tramps and hobos during the war years in the ’30s and ’40s when people were desperate. Our home was always open to visitors for a meal, an overnight, or just a visit.”
Margaret recalls that the moment her dad had a need, her mom teamed up with him without complaining. “She supported her husband in all areas of his work too.”
It seems Margaret’s mother also put Jesus first in her life, and out of that relationship she inspired her daughter to do the same.
“Is there a chance for a relationship between us down the road?” The tall, handsome widower placed a hand on Carol’s shoulder. She admits that his beautiful blue eyes and soft-spoken manner momentarily took her back.
She had lost her first husband when he died at an early age. “Delighted as I was to have shared Jerry’s life,” said Carol, “my inner drive often found me focused on work more than on quality time with him.”
After Jerry was diagnosed with a terminal illness, Carol made some changes. She traded professional concerns for time sitting beside Jerry on the sofa, holding hands and talking with one another. “I wanted Jerry to know how much I respected and loved him.
“After Jerry passed away in my arms,” said Carol, “God spoke to me through Jeremiah 29:11: ‘For I know the plans I have for you . . . plans for good and not for evil, to give you a future and hope’ (Living Bible). As I struggled to redefine myself as a newly single woman, I mentally kept that promise before me.”
Two years later, Carol met Don, the man who asked her that important question. That relationship became reality. Four years after Jerry’s passing, they were married. “God was giving me a second chance,” Carol said with a smile. “Would I live out the lessons I learned through Jerry’s illness and death or wait for another loss to reset my priorities?” Carol took the question seriously.
In this new marriage, my friend Carol is what I consider a truly godly woman. She might not say that about herself, since she strives to live up to her relationship with Jesus, but from what I know and see, she really is a model of a loving wife who puts the Lord first in her life.
“Each morning is a new opportunity to choose to love,” she said. Knowing how hard her husband works, she sometimes gets out of the warm bed early in the morning to take the dogs out so Don can sleep a little longer.
And in the evening instead of playing on the computer or checking Facebook, she often puts aside her laptop and cuddles with her hubby while they watch television together or just talk.
“Will I take a moment to relax into the goose bumps I feel when Don sneaks up behind me and plants sweet kisses on my neck, letting him know his touch is welcome? Or will I pull away from my man’s caress to finish whatever important chore I’m in the midst of doing?”
Carol is committed to finding ways to affirm her husband, letting him know how much she loves and appreciates him. And she also finds the courage to “speak the truth in love” when she has a new idea to share or wants to make a change. “God has gifted us with this precious time together. I want to live in such a way that, as much as possible, I will have no regrets.”
When I think of another godly wife, my own mother comes to mind. She had a sharp tongue sometimes but always tempered it with a sense of humor. The twinkle in her eye or the fierce look she threw my dad from across the room always prompted him to sit up straight, ready to interpret “the look.”
She stood by him in sickness and in health, in poverty and wealth—and even when she continued to bump into his pile of old magazines and newspapers that he often told her he would take another look at someday—a day that never came! But Mom loved Dad fiercely, and when he lost his job in his 60s and they still had two children to finish raising, Mom enrolled in secretarial school so she could help Dad open an office in the den where they started a business and made quite a success of it.
Mom loved Jesus most of all, prayed daily, and prepared wonderful meals—except for chop suey, which none of us liked. On St. Patrick’s Day we celebrated our Irish heritage with corned beef and cabbage and mashed potatoes. I can still see my Dad smiling as he lifted his fork and told her thanks.
Being a godly wife starts with the virtues and gifts of the Spirit mentioned in this article, but it also includes being human, not superhuman. Laughter, love, listening, pressing for something you believe in with all your heart, stepping back when you feel overwhelmed, and stepping up to the task when called for are also part of being a godly wife. Perfection is not the goal—progress is. Going forward in life committed to Jesus first and then to your husband, leaning on the Lord to guide and bless and fill you with his Spirit every moment of every day, regardless of the circumstances—that’s what it means to be a godly wife.
Karen O’Connor is a freelance author from Watsonville, California. www.karenoconnor.com
My Spouse Is . . .
Make a list of five traits you love and respect in your spouse.
Avoid comparative items (“You’re so much better than me at meeting new people”) and backhanded complements (“You’re so much better at cooking than you used to be”). If you’re highlighting a change, focus on how you’ve seen your spouse grow—not how bad he or she was before or how relieved you are that there’s been a change.
Dig deep for good, wholehearted encouragement that shows your spouse what you love most.