As part of our premarital counseling, we each wrote a brief essay describing the “ideal husband” and “ideal wife,” seeking to be as biblical, specific, practical, and thorough as possible. We’ve edited our articles together (two are better than one!), and we hope this will be an encouragement to those who are married or seeking to get married. After six months of marriage, reviewing what we wrote has been convicting and motivational. We are both sinners, and far from being a perfect husband or wife. But in Christ, through whom we have forgiveness of our sins, we are able to extend grace to one another and strive to live out a joyful, God-honoring marriage.
An ideal wife is first a Christian. Her highest priority and aim in life is living for Christ, which shapes how she thinks and conducts herself in every arena of life: work, relationships, church, and free time. She is walking by the Spirit (Gal 5:16), and that means she is living life with faith in and dependence on God. She is growing in sanctification, and that is a blessing to those in her sphere of influence, especially her husband and family.
An ideal wife has a gentle spirit, and she cares more about internal beauty and adornment than external. The apostle Peter says:
“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 Peter 3:3-4
Her standards and priority for beauty are based in God’s Word, not in the secular culture. A gentle and quiet spirit is not synonymous with a particular personality, but a trait that any Christian woman can cultivate, whether she is naturally quiet or outgoing. Just as it takes effort to adorn oneself with attractive clothes, jewelry and makeup, it also takes time and effort to cultivate a gentle spirit. Such a woman actively pursues contentment in Christ, and is not easily shaken by her circumstances. She is marked by a heavenly peace, which can comfort and encourage her husband in uncertain or trying times. A godly wife understands that even if the husband does not take notice or appreciate her effort, ultimately, God does. True biblical femininity honors and pleases God. In the context of 1 Peter 3, Peter notes that an attitude of submission and pure conduct can even win over a disobedient husband to the faith. Such is the power of a gentle, godly wife, which sets itself in stark contrast with our culture’s view of what a “powerful woman” looks like.
In marriage, the wife should submit to her husband, knowing the Lord designed her to be his helper. She is not to usurp the position of her husband or to undermine his headship (Eph 5:22-33). Just as the husband is to love his wife as his own flesh and to his own good, the wife submits to her husband for her own benefit. If a wife undermines her husband, she is undermining his ability to fulfill his calling of sacrificially loving her. At the same time, Scripture is clear that a Christian woman ultimately submits to Christ above all. This requires her to exercise discernment, so that she does not blindly follow her husband if he veers into sin.
Living out her role as a helper includes supporting his leadership and encouraging him to grow as a man of God. She might point out opportunities at church where he could be effective, or encourage him to build deeper relationships with other men. A good helper is a thoughtful student of her husband, and learns where she can be most effective: it could be where he has limited time, where she is particularly gifted, or where he has areas of weakness. Instead of nagging him about how she is dissatisfied with him in those areas, she can instead help him so he can be even more effective in his life. This might play out in organizing their schedule and family plans, meal planning for the week, or even managing finances—there is no prescribed list of chores in the Bible, so a wife has the freedom and stewardship to evaluate what is most helpful to her own husband. In this way, she has helped him fulfill his role and calling in life better than he could alone.
Submission to her husband is not passivity, which would run contrary to the example of Proverbs 31. A Christian wife can partake in nearly all aspects of life that a husband does without undermining his leadership. The Proverbs 31 wife is a capable woman who cares well for her family, plans for the future, is creative, entrepreneurial, and generous to meet the needs of others. She is engaging regularly in the public sphere in trade, service, and sharing her wisdom. The fruit of her labor is evident.
An excellent wife who can find?Proverbs 31:10-12
She is far more precious than jewels.
The heart of her husband trusts in her,
and he will have no lack of gain.
She does him good, and not harm,
all the days of her life.
While the Proverbs 31 woman is intelligent and strong, she is notably distinct from the “independent woman” our culture praises. She is not striving for personal gain or recognition in the world. Scripture describes her as one who is regularly doing good to others, and in particular, to her family. She brings honor to her husband and does him good all the days of her life. Above all, she is a woman who fears the Lord (Prov 31:30). Charm and beauty are naturally appealing qualities in a potential wife, but Scripture teaches that a God-fearing woman is truly praiseworthy. Her life and work will bear fruit that proves that.
And of course, an ideal wife loves her husband and children. This seems obvious, not only in Christian circles, but in our secular culture, too. However, love does not always come as naturally as it does on the wedding day or during the honeymoon period. In Titus 2, the apostle Paul instructs older women “to teach what is good, and so train the young women to love their husbands and children.” The idea of “training” to love a man might feel unromantic to us if we take in a steady diet of Hallmark movies. But Paul is not opposing romance—rather, his instruction indicates that love must often be learned and practiced. A wife who listens to good teaching and wise counsel will be better equipped to love her husband in various seasons: in times of triumph and tragedy, when he is easy to love and when he is difficult, before and after having children, and more. She will be a blessing to her husband and a powerful testimony for Christ.