The Proverbs 31 woman—is it even possible for someone like her to exist?
Women have been taught since Sunday school to admire and emulate her. She's industrious, wise, kindhearted, generous, confident, and trustworthy. Her husband and children adore her, and she surpasses all other women in her accomplishments. How can we ascend to her lofty heights? Where does she get all of her energy from?
In our day-to-day juggling act, whether that includes a career, a spouse, or children, we might be struggling just to get through the day, to check off all the boxes on our to-do lists before collapsing into our beds, totally spent. But despite all of our tasks and responsibilities, there is a question that still haunts many of us, echoing in the back of our minds: Am I doing enough?
What has brought us here? Why is the feeling of inadequacy so prevalent among women? Along life's path, we tend to pick up harmful habits and paralyzing fears. We begin to believe the lies the enemy whispers to us, and we forget our identity as God's daughters. Here are a few of the most prominent mentalities that we fall prey to—and how to overcome them.
Comparing ourselves to others is an addiction.
To quote Theodore Roosevelt, "Comparison is the thief of joy." We encounter people every day who seem more put together, more knowledgeable, more eloquent, or more successful. Our achievements and character seem lackluster next to theirs. Our sinful nature compels us to forget about all of our gifts, and to instead covet what has been given to others. This envy festers away in our spirit, breeding discontent, anger, and disappointment.
Unfortunately, this attitude causes us to discount all of our blessings, and it distorts our view of God's love for us. Comparison halts our progress and bears no good fruit. In our distracted bitterness, we lose sight of the one we should be glorifying. God created us for a unique and special purpose, and we can be faithful by making the most out of what we've been given with a joyful, eager spirit.
We regret the past and fear the future.
Many of us find ourselves caught in a debilitating tug-of-war between shame from the past and anxiety about the future. Burdened with things that are out of our control, this crippling mentality destroys our peace and robs us of the joy of experiencing the present to the fullest. For some of us, living with suffocating fear and guilt becomes the unquestioned norm, and our spirits are never able to rest. Life becomes merely a thing to be endured instead of enjoyed.
The only way to freedom is to let it go and give it to God. We can only be of use to him in the present, unencumbered by anxiety and regret. Like the Proverbs 31 woman, we can laugh at the time to come, confident in our Father's grace and provision.
We try to balance on the precarious tightrope of perfection.
Maintaining the appearance of perfection is as difficult and daunting as walking an endless, thin-as-a-thread tightrope. Despite all of our multi-tasking skills, intelligence, and determination, toppling over is inevitable.
Attempting to achieve perfection is an unfulfilling task because it's an undefined, phantom dream that is always beyond our grasp. There's always more we could be doing to improve our home, marriage, job performance, and personal life. No matter how much we progress, perfection flits ahead of us, as tantalizing as a shimmering mirage. We put off joy, waiting until we've finally reached this illusive ideal, not realizing that it's unattainable. As a result, we never experience the kind of peace, joy, or freedom that we are made for.
And most importantly, in our relationship with God, there is opportunity for infinite growth and endless possibilities for furthering his Kingdom. Where do we even begin? Are we doing all that we can to glorify him? Have we adequately used all the gifts, opportunities, and time that God has blessed us with? Generally, we emerge from this gauntlet of questions feeling discouraged and inadequate.
So instead of feeling empowered and encouraged by being one of God's own daughters, we dwell on wasted time and spoiled potential, those countless moments when we place our needs before the needs of others. We rely on our own power in our attempts to love the unlovable, and then wonder why we come up short. We grade our efforts on an impossible, self-constructed scale, an endless measuring tape that will never determine our work to be enough.
Thankfully, God's love for us isn't based on how well we can imitate the Proverbs 31 woman. Through Jesus' sacrifice, the yawning abyss between our lost, hopeless state and God's holy perfection has been bridged. Instead of struggling with our own inadequacy and imperfection, let us seize and experience God's magnificence and power. We can receive boundless hope and strength from our merciful Creator. His love defines our worth, and he is more than adequate for us.
We can only come close to becoming the Proverbs 31 woman when we relinquish our grip on past sins and fears of the future, allowing God to work through us in the present, when we are grateful for all he has given us instead of envying others. We will attain perfection when we embrace his perfection instead of trying to manufacture our own.
Hillary McMullen currently lives in Houston, Texas, with her husband. She is passionate about writing, music, and youth ministry, and recently co-authored a devotional book that will be released later this year. Follow Hillary on Twitter @HillaryMcMullen.