Proverbs 31 presents a daunting example of a woman of character. Her life reflects the fruit and gifts of God's Spirit, which is to say she is praised not just for her doing and producing, but also for her being. This woman's life is not driven by success or the need to please, but by virtue. She is trustworthy, generous, caring, prepared, and remarkably industrious.
It's easy to read this woman's accomplishments and feel intimidated, perhaps even disheartened. But before getting discouraged about how unlike the Proverbs 31 woman you are, remember that this woman lived millennia ago when the world ran by a natural daily rhythm. Seasons determined what food was available. Market days coincided with harvests, caravans, and ships that were in port. People traveled by foot, and Sunday was a rest day. This woman didn't own a watch or live by a 24/7 pace. When it was dark, everyone went to bed. Though 31:15 describes her as an early riser, we can assume she still got plenty of rest. After all, oil lamps hardly supplied the kind of light that allowed for working all night long. We misunderstand the passage if we think she's trying to "do it all." Busyness was not the Proverbs 31 woman's badge of honor. For all her doing, she lived a life within healthy rhythms and limits.
Our over-optioned world hoodwinks us into thinking we can go everywhere, do everything, know everyone, and have it all. But every life has limits. Saying yes to one thing inevitably means we're saying no to something else—to family time, space for quietness with God, and rest.1