There is No Testimony Without a Test

And they had conquered him [the enemy] by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony… ~Revelation 12:11

When I first got married I remember thinking to myself I wanted to be a Proverbs 31 wife. But for someone who has been a life-long perfectionist and over-achiever, who has found my value, self-worth, self-esteem and identity in the opinions and praises of others, I quickly found myself feeling overwhelmed and defeated by this list of qualities that seemed unattainable no matter how hard I tried.

My whole life had been built around striving to achieve, exceeding expectations, and being praised for it. What I didn’t realize as a new wife, is that the woman described is the verses of Proverbs 31 is the ideal…for all intents and purposes she’s perfect. But perfection is not achievable in this life. The only human who has walked the earth and lived a perfect life is Jesus. After years of striving for the Proverbs 31 standard of perfection and missing the mark repeatedly, I felt like a failure. I wasn’t happy in my marriage because not only had I placed unrealistic and unachievable expectations on myself, but I had placed unrealistic and unachievable expectations on my husband. We were both miserable.

In a season when I felt I would never be enough, an old acquaintance from high school reached out to me on Facebook. According to him I was amazing and he showered me with compliments. He told me how beautiful I was, and how I was a great mom, and how lucky my husband was to have me. His words filled a void that had grown in my heart for 4 years, because I had been chasing this ideal image of a wife instead of chasing Jesus and finding my identity in Him.

In the weeks that followed, I found myself in an intense and destructive emotional affair that came to a head when I traveled 3 hours to meet up with this person. Although we didn’t have sex, our interaction was not PG and it unraveled me. I couldn’t believe I had let this go so far. I couldn’t believe I had betrayed my husband. I couldn’t believe I had turned my back on Jesus. I didn’t recognize the woman I had become.

I confessed to my husband what I had done, and it broke his heart. I had destroyed our relationship because of my selfishness and misplaced need for other people’s approval and praise. We decided to stay together, but at one point things had become so toxic between us that I was deeply depressed and suicidal. The pain he was experiencing was excruciating and his heart had been hardened. Life together had become pretty unbearable and I had hit a wall and was in real danger of taking my life. Then one evening out of the blue, my husband came to me and apologized for how he had treated me and the hurt he had caused fueled by his own hurt. We forgave each other and started on a path of rebuilding our marriage. It took us 4 years to get to this point, and those years were the hardest and darkest valley I have ever walked through. But by God’s grace he brought us back from this devastation.

The passage I think of when I reflect on all we walked through is 2 Cor. 1:8-9, For we do not want you to be ignorant, brothers, of the affliction we experienced in Asia. For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead.

Our marriage was dead, but God raised it from the dead. That’s the only reason I’m still here to tell this story. God worked a miracle to save my marriage and my life. Now I know beyond any doubt no situation is so bad that God can’t turn it around. He is the God who raises the dead.

As I look at the verses in Proverbs 31 again years later, I realize the entire point of this passage lies in verse 30, Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised.” Being a Proverbs 31 wife isn’t about checking things off this long list of qualities and being perfect. It’s about fearing God. The Proverbs 31 wife is who she is, does the things she does, and has the things she has, because she fears God.

In Matthew 6:31-33 Jesus says, But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.

In all things, we must seek Christ first. It is only through the power of the Holy Spirit that we can be who God created us to be. We must seek him and find our identity in Him. The Proverbs 31 woman is not great because of all the things she does or qualities she possesses. She is who she is because he fears the Lord. That is where we must start…God will do the rest. Stay encouraged friends.

The LORD bless you and keep you; the LORD make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; the LORD lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace. Numbers 6:24-26

~Mary

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