Have you ever wondered what it means to be a godly woman? Or wanted to be known as a “woman of God” but realized you’re not sure what exactly that refers to? You’re not alone!
In the broadest terms, being a “woman of God” describes a woman who maintains a consistent relationship with God by reading his Word, communing with him in prayer, being in fellowship with other believers, and serving others. She belongs to him, follows him, and obeys him. She orients her life to the compass of his Word.
Wait a minute, though—any follower of Christ, man or woman, should live like that, right? So, what distinguishes a woman of God from a man of God? Although not everyone in our society would agree, men and women are different. God specifically differentiates the two on the first page of Scripture, “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them” (Gen. 1:27). God deemed it appropriate for two genders to bear his image, and the differences between the two paint a fuller image of the Creator’s complexity.
Science bears these differences out. For instance, did you know that women have more taste buds and olfactory cells contributing to a better sense of taste and smell than men? Men are more likely to be colorblind, while women better distinguish small differences in color.1 Men’s brains typically use objects and things to orient their brains, while women navigate better with faces.2 These are just a few of the ways that God creatively distinguishes men and women.
So, is there a feminine aspect to how a woman is to live out her devotion to the Lord? If men and women are different, what does the Bible say about how a woman is to bear out the image God? Though a woman’s standing and value in Christ are no different than a man’s (Gal. 3:28), there are unique ways God has designed women to bear his image.
Here are five passages in Scripture that speak of the qualities that characterize a woman of God. Each deserves a deeper, more thorough dive, so my purpose here is only to point you to passages you can explore more deeply on your own. Here’s just a taste of what the Word says!
Then the LORD God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him” (Gen. 2:18).
Genesis 2 is a retelling of the creation story found in chapter 1. In this play-by-play narration of creation’s sixth day, we see God’s purpose in the creation of woman. Man was incomplete on his own, and God’s solution was a helper.
At first, the word “helper” (ezer in Hebrew) may strike you wrong or feel “less than.” Kind of like being relegated to a classroom aide rather than a fully qualified teacher. What if I told you that God uses this same word to describe himself? In fact, ezer is used to describe the actions or character of God more than thirty times in Scripture. Kathleen Neilson writes,
“The word helper is a word denoting strength—often the kind of strength that wins battles. In fact, throughout the Old Testament the word is often used to describe God, as he helps his people—‘The LORD is with me; He is my helper.’ (Psalm 118:7). The helper given to Adam is an extension of God’s own help to him. The helper is God’s means of turning ‘not good’ into ‘very good.’ The helper is the high point, the climactic completion of God’s creation story. The helper role of woman is a high calling: one through which she reflects the image of God her Creator – and through which she serves God as she walks according to His word.”3
Being a helper doesn’t negate the ability of a woman of God to lead (think of the Old Testament judge Deborah). Rather, whether she leads or follows, she does it in a way that she enables others to also have success.
The man called his wife’s name Eve, because she was the mother of all living (Gen. 3:20).
You likely know the story well: the glorious days of creation are soon followed by calamity. Sin enters the world through the temptation of the woman and the choice of the man. Adam and his wife deserve a death sentence, but instead, they receive news of the gospel when a Redeemer is promised through the offspring of the woman (Gen. 3:15). Susan Hunt writes,
“Adam’s response to this good news was to name his wife. . .He named her Eve ‘because she was the mother of all living’ (Genesis 3:20). Eve means life-giver. The life-taker was restored to her pre-fall ability to be a life-giving helper because of the gospel. Woman’s redemptive calling to be a life-giver is not just biological. The redeemed woman is called to be a life-giver in every season, relationship, and situation. And get this—only redeemed women have the ability to display God’s creation design and redemptive calling.”4
What does it mean to be a life-giver? To nurture relationships rather than tear them down, to build others up rather than dish out critical condemnation, to bring joy and life to conversations rather than the latest gossip or divisions, to live in such a way that you point others to Christ who is your strength rather than focusing on your own discontentment and disappointments. Every woman of God can be transformed from a life-taker to a life-giver through Jesus Christ.
God-Fearer & People-Server
Strength and dignity are her clothing, and she laughs at the time to come. She opens her mouth with wisdom, and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue. She looks well to the ways of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness. . .Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised (Prov. 31:25-27, 30).
To say that Proverbs 31 is a daunting passage is an understatement! Go ahead, read verses 10-31 and tell me if it doesn’t sound like an impossible standard for any woman. I was overwhelmed by this passage until a wise pastor’s wife told me that I was reading it wrong. This striking passage is not to be read as a “day in the life of a godly woman” account, but rather as a collage of the many seasons of a woman’s life—her entire life. That advice helped me to begin engaging with the text instead of guiltily trying to avoid it.
Now when I read it, I am encouraged by the variety in this woman’s life, the many different people she serves, and the element of independence that allows her to be so very productive. She models a servant leadership style that results in being trusted and valued by those around her. Because she fears (rightly respects) the Lord, she lives with confidence. Barbara Hughes writes,
“We women are God’s image-bearers; that’s where our dignity comes from. First God made us in His image; then He bought us. Christ’s purchase made us children of God, joint-heirs with Him—a position of highest rank. The woman clothed with ‘strength and dignity’ will behave in a manner worthy of her honored position. She knows who she is, and she carries herself with that assurance—not to impress or intimidate anyone but to honor her Creator and Redeemer.”5
When you get right down to it, the Proverbs 31 woman is a woman who loves God first and loves others well.
Do not let your adorning be external—the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewelry, or the clothing you wear—but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious (1 Pet. 3:3-4).
Frankly, I was glad when I read this passage in the New American Standard translation because it inserts the word “merely” before the word “external.” “Do not let your adorning be merely external.” I don’t want to have to get rid of my jewelry or wear only conforming, drab clothes. Nevertheless, Peter is placing a strong emphasis on the adorning of the inner person, rather than being overly concerned with our outer shell.
As a young woman, I clearly remember the first time I understood the power of inner beauty. I was in a series of training seminars led by women seasoned by decades in Bible study and ministry. As I looked around the room, I remember being struck by the beauty of these women. I looked closer and realized that, feature by feature, they really weren’t all that different than other women their age. The difference was something that shone through in the way they talked and the light in their eyes. It wasn’t outward; it was something far more compelling.
The gentleness of spirit addressed in this passage is the same idea as meekness, not to be confused with timidity. It is strength under control because of a reliance on God rather than the force of one’s own will.
In the same way, the word “quiet” does not mean silent. Instead, it radiates a sense of tranquility born from a heart that is at peace because she is trusting in God. This passage is not meant to squelch a bubbly or lively personality. Rather, it addresses the heart behind the outward personality, a supernatural steadfastness of spirit. Kathleen Neilson writes:
“Have you known women who have a quiet spirit? This doesn’t mean weak women; it means the strongest ones, who exercise restraint over themselves as by the Spirit they submit themselves to God and to His Word. . .It shines a unique witness in a world that has thrown off restraints. A quiet spirit is worth our prayerful consideration, as one of the starting points for godly womanhood.”6
In this unrestrained world, a quiet spirit is unique in its ability to point others towards its Source, and it is indeed precious in his sight.
Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine. They are to teach what is good and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the world of God may not be reviled (Titus 2:3-5).
Finally, Godly women care about other women. If you want to learn what a woman of God is like, look to the women around you. Look to the women seasoned by life’s experiences and time spent with God in his Word. It is these women who are the best ones to teach and train you in the ways of godly women.
If you are a woman who has walked well with the Lord, you have a mission to care for the younger women around you. Susan Hunt writes,
“It is interesting that of all the ways Paul could have told the women to combat the decadence of their culture, he told them to invest their energies in training the younger women to live Christianly in their society. The reputation of the Word of God was at stake.”7
This type of mentoring relationship can begin through a program like College Park’s Titus 2 Women or more organically through everyday friendships. They can cover everything from sound doctrine to the basics of kindness or the fundamentals of time-management (being keepers of the home). It’s in these relationships that the knowledge of how to be a woman of God is passed from one generation to the next.
Becoming a Woman of God
As women, we should want to succeed in a way that enables each other’s success; live in a way that holds Christ high in word and deed pointing others to him; invest in a way where the next generation can answer the question, “What is a woman of God?”; and love in a way that honors both Christ and his image-bearers. My prayer is that these five passages are just the beginning of your own study and that you’ll continue to seek the beauty of God’s design for women and allow him to shape you into a woman of God!
3 Nielson, Kathleen. Women and God: Hard Questions. Beautiful Truths, p. 38
5 Hughes, Barbara. Disciplines of a Godly Woman, p. 93
6 Nielson, Kathleen. Women and God: Hard Questions. Beautiful Truths, p. 184-185
7 Hunt, Susan. Spiritual Mothering: The Titus 2 Model for Women Mentoring Women, p. 68