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One evening, I was speaking with a friend from church. She said something that stuck with me. She said that the fear of the Lord played an important role in the health of a marriage.

The following morning during my devotions my reading plan had me read Proverbs 31. I have read this chapter many times in the past, but what stuck out to me the most this time was verse 30 “charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.” Above all the virtues listed in Proverbs 31 (and there are a lot!) the most valuable thing was “the fear of the Lord.”

What is Fear of the Lord?

Before I write anything more, I want to preface what I mean when I write “fear of the Lord.” I am not talking about a fear that pushes us away from God, terrifies us, destroys us, or brings us to a wrong understanding of God’s character. I am talking about a healthy fear that cultivates reverence, majesty, awe, submission, trembling and humility in us towards a Holy God.

When I read Proverbs, I immediately think about the theme “the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.” Fear of the Lord is mentioned over twelve times in Proverbs. Why is this so important?  Why does it matter for my marriage?

Fear of the Lord ultimately leads to godliness. That’s why it matters.

Fear of the Lord ultimately leads to godliness. That’s why it matters.

Everything that is wrong with our marriages today can be traced back to a form of ungodliness. Our pet sins. Our apathy towards God. Our arrogance and pride. Our self-sufficiency. Our hard hearts.

As a wife, I often read Proverbs 31 as a checklist. Where do I stand in comparison to these virtuous characteristics of the excellent wife? But I have never stopped to think that all of them are connected in one way or another to verse 30. I can do none of those other virtuous things without a fear of the Lord, and a longing for godliness. I didn’t even notice, until today, that the heading for verses 10-31 is “The Woman Who Fears the Lord.”

I cannot be a ‘good wife’ unless I am a godly wife.

Why do I need to take hold of this healthy Fear?

  • My husband cannot trust me if I am quick to speak (James 1:9).
  • I cannot provide for my family if I am lazy (Proverbs 18:9).
  • I cannot serve the poor if I am tight fisted (Deuteronomy 15:7-8).
  • I cannot fight against the lust of the flesh if I am not in the Word (Romans 8:5-9).
  • I cannot respond with grace or speak with wisdom if I am never listening (Colossians 4:6).
  • I cannot forgive unless I can see how Christ has forgiven me (Colossians 3:13).
  • I cannot serve selflessly if I am self-centered (Philippians 2:3-4).
  • I cannot be patient and long-suffering if I am anxious all the time (Philippians 4:6).
  • I cannot disciple children or give sound advice to friends if I am not growing in holiness (Leviticus 11:44-45).
  • I cannot be content in all circumstances if I am ever grumbling (Philippians 2:14-18).
  • I cannot take my thoughts captive if I am setting my mind on the things of the flesh (2 Corinthians 10:3-6).

All of these scriptures reflect our great need for godliness in our marriage and our unending pursuit of sanctification in our spiritual walk.

Have you ever heard the saying “I took my spouse to therapy to get fixed, but it turns out I was the one that needed the fixing?” This is not a new concept. In Matthew 7:3-5 it says:

Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? you hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.

Most of the time, our marriage is suffering because our personal relationship with God is suffering. Instead of running from the relationship, we need to run to the cross again (and again!).

Fear of the Lord leads to a right understanding of the Gospel

Which leads me to the last point. John Piper wrote, “fearsomeness of God is solved with the gospel.” In the same article, he points out that sometimes we are too quick to run to the cross. We need to see our sin for what it is. We need to have a right view of God. We need to pursue godliness. But we can’t do anything good without God, including being a ‘good wife.’

Philippians 2:13 says, “for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.” When we are feeling like we are utterly failing, when we have no strength left, when our marriage is hanging on by a thread, when our thoughts are spiralling out of control, when we cannot lift our heads, we need to remind ourselves that God is our “ever present help in time of need” (Psalm 46:1). His Son saved us and His Spirit keeps us. He will hold us fast, and hold us up. But thankfully, we play a part. Sanctification is a two-handed work. Our marriages will suffer greatly if only one hand is doing their part.

Now, that is not to say that marriages will never fail if we have a healthy fear of the Lord and grow in godliness. Every marriage is unique and will require different solutions. However, I think that we can all agree that when we are “walking in a manner that is worthy of the gospel of Christ” (Philippians 1:27), God is pleased with us, and we can look forward to blessing (either here on earth or in heaven). No one will ever regret the pursuit of holiness.

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