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Guess Who's Behind Families that Thrive, Part 1

From the series How to Raise a Healthy Family in a Modern World

Chip opens this program with Proverbs 31, looking at a godly woman’s character, as it’s expressed in her home, her work, her marriage, her ministry, and in planning and priorities.

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Message Transcript

I believe there has never been a more difficult time to be a woman than in the world right now and especially in America. Roles change, values change, a bombardment at a level of how you have or ought to look to be acceptable, what you need to accomplish – the messages that a woman hears day after day and the demands as things keep changing so rapidly, I think even as a man and even as a husband, I don’t think most of us get it, but we are going to get it today, okay?

Proverbs chapter 31, if you have your Bible, go ahead and open to that. It’s an acrostic Hebrew poem by the wisest man in the world, according to the Creator of the world. And there’s a couple extremes you’ve got to avoid with Proverbs 31.

One is: this is not her daily schedule, okay? If you are familiar with this, it starts out, she’s up before dawn, she buys a field. This, like, she takes off her robe and she has got Supergirl inside. This is not a woman’s daily schedule.

And the other extreme, this is not like, Oh! Those three verses I really like. I think that’s what I think a woman ought to do. I don’t like those other verses. No, here’s what it is. Instead of a snapshot, it’s a movie. It’s the collage of a woman’s life in the various seasons of her life and it takes – an acrostic is each letter of the Hebrew alphabet and these are the things that, from God’s perspective, He most admires in a woman. And it will talk about her marriage, her work, her home, her ministry, her personal life.

So, are you ready? Let’s dig in together. What is it that God most admires? And what He most admires is godly character. And that might sound theological or just biblical. No, no, no. Here’s what it means: what God most admires, ladies and us gentlemen, is who you are. Not how you look and not what you have accomplished or have to accomplish. There is this drive inside in our culture: I’m not acceptable as a woman unless I look like the front of that magazine or the people portrayed on TV or in that movie. Or, I have to accomplish all these things to be a someone.

God says, No, no, no, no. “Man sees on the outside; I look at the heart.” And who you really are is what matters most. And so, there are four or five ways that your character, who you are shows up. And the first is He admires godly character in a woman’s marriage.

It says, “A wife of noble,” or, “excellent character,” that’s who you are, “who can find?” Well, what is her value? “Her worth is far more than rubies.” What is the impact? “Her husband has full confidence in her and lacks nothing of value.”

What does she do? “She brings him good, not harm, all the days of her life.” Guys, I want to tell you, more than your job, more than any amount of money, more than golf, more than a hobby, the most precious possession, if you’re married, is your wife. And then God would say, Let’s treat her like she is that precious.

Second is this particular wife, her character is such, her husband has confidence. In other words, she is trustworthy. He is not worried about her stepping out. He is not worried about doing things they haven’t agreed on. There is this confidence in this woman. And her first priority, she does him good, not just on the front end, but all the days of her life. She is faithful to him even when some of us are acting like jerks.

And here’s the application: Don’t take her for granted. And we all do. You find a great home, you find a home that is thriving, you find a marriage that is thriving, you find kids that are doing well, guess who is always behind – men, we have a great role, but, boy, the glue of families – it’s the mom, it’s the wife.

And so, guys, what I want to say is treat her like your most precious possession. And, ladies, here’s one for you. The temptation in different seasons is to make work or your children a higher priority than your husband.

Moms, if you want to have great kids, the greatest thing you can do is make your husband your number one priority, because there is this thing that happens in the heart of a child when mom and dad are in love and connected and that’s what really matters. First, there is a security that bubbles over into their life. Unexplainable, but absolutely true.

The second way that God sees godly character is in a woman in her home. “She selects wool and flax and works with eager hands.” You might underline eager hands. “She is like the merchant ships that bring food from,” and you might underline, “from afar. She gets up while it’s still dark,” underline still dark, “and she provides food for her family and portions for her servants.”

It’s a picture of a woman in her home. And, again, this is the general characteristic. This is not necessarily she is up at dawn every, single day. But notice, she does it with eager hands. There are some women, they say, “I love being a mom in this home.” She has got this positive attitude. It’s not, “Poor me,” or, “Why doesn’t anybody care more about me and I’ve got all these demands.” She does it with eager hands and she is like, she is someone who really plans ahead. She is industrious.

Like a ship that is going to take whatever extreme to go from afar, this is someone who is thinking, You know something? I want the very best for my family. And, boy, I have watched how you women do this. She gets up while it’s still dark. I have watched my wife, wow, especially when you have little ones, years and years and years the little lamp would come on while it was still dark and she would be sitting in a corner with her Bible realizing, Man, there is no way, married to this guy, which is a challenge, and then with these children and then all the demands and then my own personal life, that…

She was disciplined to make sure she got her soul fed first. And then the lunches get packed. Who keeps the schedule in most homes? The whole family schedule? It’s not you, guys, most of the time.

“She provides food for her family and portions,” she manages the family, she is disciplined, she is industrious, and most days, has this great attitude. Here’s the application: be sensitive to the demands on her life. And, by the way, can I just go on record? Men, we don’t get this. We really don’t. And, kids, you don’t get it either.

Peter Drucker is the father of modern management, one of my favorite authors. And he said, “The four hardest jobs in the world, number one, president of the United States; number two, the administrator of a hospital; number three, the pastor of a church; and number four, a mom at home with more than a couple kids.”

Why? You have to multi-task, you have different constituents that all want different things with competing values. So, if you’re this hospital administrator, the patients really matter but the nurses really matter but the doctors really matter. But guess what – the board wants the return on the money. In other words, how do I, how in the world, with all these demands, can I deliver what I am supposed to deliver? That’s what all those jobs have in common. And, women, I think women have a voice that is almost, it’s so engrained with they feel their kids, they feel the world, they feel the husband. I need you, I need you, I need you, I need you. And I don’t think their brain ever turns off.

So, guys, what do we do? Be sensitive to the demands in her life. And here are some practical ways: one, think through her schedule. It’s never-ending. And we grow accustomed to lots of things getting done. Let her get sick for two days or go out of town and you’ll go, Oh my gosh. How does she do this?

Second, help out, especially if she is working outside the home. Some of the most romantic things you’ll ever do, take out the trash, run the vacuum, get involved, listen, empathize, encourage her without ESPN or the Wall Street Journal or your phone out buzzing.

Set it all aside, have eye contact, lean in – are you ready? Listen! One of the most powerful ways we ever love anybody, but especially women and especially our wives is listening. And then listen empathetically. And then just, in your mind, believe that you have duct tape over your mouth. Because the moment you start fixing something, you just messed up. She needs to know that you understand, that you get it, that everything in her life is saying, “I need you, I need you, I need you.”

And then help her. Help her – I remember the day my wife was getting ready for supper or something like this and two kids were doing this and one was doing that and I remember just walking in and going – and they want this and they want that and I said, “What is wrong with this picture?”

And then she goes, “Well, I’ve got to do this and then I’ve got to pack lunches and then I’ve got to do laundry.” And I said, “Well, wait, hey, hey, hey, hey, hey.” Help your wife delegate some jobs that not only you take, but the kids do. I said, “Honey, man, he is eight years old. He can figure out how to make a lunch. So, let’s get that plan in.” They turn twelve, they can all learn how to do their laundry. Guess what, we are trying to teach them responsibility. “Oh, no, I’m the mother.” “We’ve got four now!”

So, what you need to – you need to lift some of the demands. And women often feel guilty if they don’t do everything for everyone. And, see, your plan is to say, “I want to help you be a godly woman in our home and I am going to step in.”

The third area is godly character expressed in her work. Again, this is a collage. There are different seasons where women can work some, work a little. There are some seasons they may choose, the wisest thing is not to work at all when the kids are very small. But here's a snapshot. “She considers a field and buys it and out of her earnings, she plants a vineyard.”

So, this lady is obviously an entrepreneur. “She sets about her work vigorously. Her arms are strong for her task.” Underline that, because Hebrew rendering I think is far better to say. She actually strengthens herself for her task.

In other words, what she does, she understands that, Okay, whether it’s kids, whether it’s work, whether it’s a season with some of both, I need to strengthen myself. I need to take care of me. I need to be emotionally and spiritually and physically whole so I have something to give.

“She sees that her trading is profitable, her lamp does not go out at night,” that doesn’t mean that she is a workaholic and is up until three in the morning and up at dawn. Remember the little parable of Jesus about the ten virgins and some ran out of oil? This is someone who plans. This is someone, her lamp doesn’t go out because she is thinking and planning ahead and knowing, You know what? Like some of us, she has already ordered from Costco. All those Amazon boxes showing up because she is thinking ahead, unlike a lot of us men.

“In her hands she holds the distaff and grasps the spindle with her fingers.” This is a season where a woman is an amazing worker. Here is the application: provide her with some windows of relief.

And then let me just address something that women are being bombarded in our culture. My background in undergraduate and graduate school was psychology, so I’ve done a lot of research on the home and family and educational psychology and all that stuff. So, the research is in. This is not the pastor talking, although it’s absolutely true, because of what Scripture teaches.

Your children, the first six to eight years, somewhere between seventy-five to eighty-five percent, their personality, their moral values, their sexual identity, and their self-concept will be formed. You have been bombarded to believe that if you stay home when they are small, that you are wasting your education. You have been bombarded to believe that two incomes and a little bit nicer house and maybe a couple cars and later model things or being able to buy a house is more important than a mother’s time in the first six to eight years.

Here’s all I can tell you, the research is absolutely overwhelming. The bonding that occurs and the value of a child’s actual mother in his or her life will have exponential impact. And that has gone from the majority of women to less women to less women to less women.

And with it, we have seen more and more degeneration in the family and more and more kids with more and more struggles. All I can tell you is you can choose what to do, but there’s a pretty small window – six to eight years – that the wisest thing you can do, according to the best research and the wisest thing you can do according to God is all those things that are non-verbal, all that cuddling, all that eye contact.

You know we’ve got a problem when the government – are you ready for this? The government is now giving us commercials, “Sing to your child. Hold your child. Read to your child.” Duh! Isn’t that what mothers have done forever? But that’s not what someone does that has five or six or seven kids.

Now, there are some single moms, you have no choice. There are some of you are in some very unique situation. Am I saying it’s wrong to work? No. I’m just saying you have some priority choices to make and biting the bullet on the front end will produce amazing, exponential, positive, encouraging results.

So, what do we do, men? What is our role? We need to provide windows of relief. For some women, work is a pressure – husbands have pressured them. “I want more income, because we want to do this and we want to do, we want to do that.” You know what? I had one car without air conditioning for five years and rented a government subsidized apartment.

It was five years, it was very hot, so my wife could stay home with our kids while I went to work full-time, went to school full-time. When I look at what has happened to my kids – ups, downs, struggles – I will just tell you, small sacrifice, great reward.

For those that are working or not working, guys, let me give you a few tips and children. In the dark hour, the dark hour in my mind is if you come home from work and if your wife is cooking dinner if that’s the way it works. Hopefully some of you guys are – all my sons know how to cook. I don’t know how that happened. It wasn’t genetic and they didn’t learn it from me.

But when you come home and there’s this window between five and six or five thirty to six thirty, the woman’s energy, especially if she is working outside the home, there is that, there is the pressure, there is the dinner, and to go over and sit down and read the paper or turn on the TV and put up the La-Z-Boy while she is doing all that is, can I say this in church? Stupid.

She needs you. Especially if the kids are small. That’s when you take them outside, you get engaged, you play with them.

Second is: help with the housework. This whole world was we are going to divide the responsibilities. Here’s – I can tell you the reality. Everyone says that and then help a little bit more. The average woman working outside the home, she works full-time at home and full-time at work. And we feel good about ourselves as men when we help out a little. “I vacuumed once two weeks ago.” No, no, no.

You’ve got to engage at a completely different level. You help with small kids. “I’ll do the baths tonight.” Older kids, “I’ll own homework. I’ll do that.” Or, in my case, “I’ll do math and science. You do English.” But you divide and conquer. And what your wife feels like is, You understand my demands. You are giving me relief, you are for me, and we are in this together. And it has never been harder than it is right now for a woman.

The fourth area of her godly character is expressed in her ministry. “She opens her arms to the poor and extends her hands to the needy.” It’s so easy to let your whole life get consumed with you, your marriage, your kids, your world. But God says, When I look at the heart of a godly woman, she doesn’t live in a little family cocoon. It’s not just about running from work to here or there or carting kids around to ballet, violin, and sports. It’s she has this heart of compassion, she cares so deeply for marginalized people.

And so, here’s the application: affirm her spiritual gifts and her impact. Look her in the eye and say, “You have value. You have gifts. You’re a somebody. You have something to offer.” And as we do that, you just might be surprised that God has some things inside your wife that is beyond maybe what you had ever, ever dreamed. Let me encourage you to affirm her spiritual gifts and her impact.