In 1977, a popular singer-songwriter crooned a top-20 tune with his definition of womanhood. According to this artist, the woman on his pedestal was amazing. Her smile could kill, and her gaze could slice. She was quick with a lie, focused on her own agenda, and could cast shadows with the best of them. Kind? Maybe. Cruel? Absolutely. This lady was a force and if you didn’t appreciate her attributes, well, get out of the way. To this woman of questionable accomplishments, the words, “she is clothed with strength and dignity,” would have sounded like a garbled, unknown language. After all, she was clothed by Madison Avenue and the latest designers!
As a young teen, I found myself singing along with the song’s catchy rhythm, slightly ill-at-ease with the disturbing message. But what used to be an unsettling undercurrent in our world, is now shouted from every media platform and accepted as the standard for womanhood.
Hollywood and pop culture continue the mantra: Beauty is in the eye of the latest trend, designer, or cover girl. Women are smart, sassy, and can do anything a man can do, only much better. To succeed, we must dominate every area of our lives, and sweep aside anything that might come between us and our ambitions.
But what about the one who longs for a life of depth beyond the shallows? Who longs for days filled with righteousness and a pursuit of godliness?
For the woman who longs to live for Christ, the voices of our culture can be a cacophony of confusion. But if we take the time to still and quiet our souls (Psalm 46:10), God’s words will wash over us and light our way in the chaos. Proverbs 31:25 whispers a message of strength to the deepest places of our hearts: She is clothed with strength and dignity; she can laugh at the days to come.
Are these quiet words relevant for today’s woman? On closer inspection, do they entail an anemic, colorless existence, or do they explode with a Spirit-filled life of vision and purpose?
What Does 'She Is Clothed in Strength and Dignity' Mean?
I enjoy wearing and reading t-shirts with uplifting messages. But I have a confession. I’ve been guilty of venting an impatient sigh with others, all while sporting a shirt reading something like, the joy of the Lord is my strength (Nehemiah 8:10).
I may have been wearing a t-shirt with a great message, but I was clothed in an attitude of selfishness and impatience. The contradiction had to be confusing to the targets of my mood.
Each day, we are clothed in something—in spite of what we’re wearing. We put on well-fitting apparel of peace, joy, and compassion, or we don smelly, tattered garments of apathy, bitterness, and a sense of superiority.
The wardrobe we choose depends on where we shop. Do we browse the latest behaviors and define our womanhood by mimicking the culture’s ever-changing ideals? Or do we seek to be adorned in holiness and to become women after God’s heart?
1 Peter 3:3-4 is a lovely description of godly womanhood. Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes. Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight.
This doesn’t prohibit us from wearing nice clothes and jewelry, or from styling our hair in the most flattering trends. We honor God with the way we care for our bodies and in the way we present ourselves to others. But our beauty, our ultimate loveliness, is to come from deep within, “the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit.” This, according to the Apostle Peter, is of great worth is God’s sight.
Peter also calls this beauty, “unfading.” Oh, what Hollywood wouldn’t give for beauty so exquisite it never fades!
A woman after God’s heart seeks to please her Lord—by her words, actions, and attitudes. To do this, she clothes or dresses in godly strength and dignity.
What Is the Context of Proverbs 31?
To avoid feeling overwhelmed with what seems an unreachable standard of womanhood, we need to remember the context of Proverbs 31. These verses weren’t written as a checklist to women, but from a mother to a son (King Lemuel), encouraging him to live well. This concerned mom begins by exhorting her son-king to refrain from promiscuity and strong wine, to reach out to the poor, and to judge with wisdom (Proverbs 31:1-9). She follows with what the king should look for in a godly wife.
Also, in Jewish culture, men would sing portions of this Scripture over their wives as a way to show honor and respect. The phrase, “a virtuous woman who can find?” from Proverbs 31:10 is from the Hebrew “eshet chayil,” which means “woman of valor.”
Oh, how beautiful! I would much rather be serenaded as a “woman of valor” than as a female determined to get her own way or who was untruthful and cruel.
What Does it Look like to Put on Strength and Dignity?
Society attempts to portray the Proverbs 31 woman as a weak, lifeless doormat, but as Scripture shows, this couldn’t be further from the truth.
A woman who serves the Lord is strong. She sets about her work vigorously; her arms are strong for her tasks (Proverbs 31:17). This biblical woman works with wool and flax, plants a vineyard, conducts profitable trading, feeds her household, and reaches out to the poor. This girl is living. She is wise, creative, and accomplished, and she honors God with her strength, time, and talents.
In the 21st century, we can honor the Lord in the same ways—with our time, and with our unique strengths and abilities. God has called and gifted us to serve Him (Romans 11:29). Enduring joy and a sense of anticipation come as we use our uniqueness to bring Him honor.
A woman who serves the Lord lives a life of dignity. Her husband has full confidence in her
and lacks nothing of value. She brings him good, not harm, all the days of her life. Her husband is respected at the city gate, where he takes his seat among the elders of the land (Proverbs 31: 11-12, 23). Her godly dignity overflows to her family and she sets a standard of Christ-centered honor and respect in her community. She is trustworthy, and this is evident to those around her.
Single women are also called to a life of adventure and service, using their individual gifts and talents to honor God in their circles of influence. Garments of strength and dignity are for all women who long to glorify the Lord with their lives.
Because of these life-changing garments of strength and dignity, the Christ-centered woman can laugh at the days to come. She doesn’t fear the unknown (Psalm 112:7) because she knows the Anchor of her soul (Hebrews 6:19). Her hope doesn’t come from power, the intimidation of others, or wealth. This woman of godly character places her trust in the Living God and lives to touch others in His Name.
Why Is the World so Against These Two Attributes?
Our society is all about claiming rights—about living in the moment, with little thought for the future. Our world considers biblical attributes of strength and dignity as an infringement on the freedom to live as they choose. Adopting the traits of strength and dignity brings accountability to the God who calls us to live in holiness. This responsibility to our Creator God is in direct opposition to the world’s assertion of personal rights at all costs.
Now, more than ever before, our world needs women of God who find strength and true freedom in taking up their cross and daily dying to self (Matthew 16:24). Wearing the full armor of God (Ephesians 6:10-18), women are needed who live and breathe the fruits of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23) and are sold out to their Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ (Matthew 22:37).
This world needs women of strength and dignity who keep a vision in their hearts and minds of living for eternity—of a purposeful life of loving God by loving and serving others.
Women who listen for the glory of their Lord’s voice as He sings over them in delight. The LORD your God is with you, the Mighty Warrior who saves. He will take great delight in you; in his love he will no longer rebuke you, but will rejoice over you with singing (Zephaniah 3:17).
Photo credit: ©GettyImages/kieferpix
Leigh Ann Thomas is passionate about encouraging others to seek God’s best. She has penned four books, including Smack-Dab in the Midlife Zone—Inspiration for Women in the Middle, and Ribbons, Lace, and Moments of Grace—Inspiration for the Mother of the Bride.
You’ll find Leigh Ann on an adventure with her sweetheart of 37 years, getting silly with her grands, or daydreaming story plots on the front porch.
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