by Dr. Hannah Stolze
Strength and dignity are her clothing, and she laughs at the time to come.
Proverbs 31:25 (ESV)
I turned about and gave my heart up to despair over all the toil of my labors under the sun, because sometimes a person who has toiled with wisdom and knowledge and skills must leave everything to be enjoyed by someone who did not toil for it.
Ecclesiastes 2:20 (ESV)
What do you do when it is easier to relate to Ecclesiastes 2:20 than Proverbs 31:25? Lady Wisdom provides an elusive picture of wisdom personified perfectly throughout the book of Proverbs. When the greatest wisdom book ever written closes in Proverbs 31:10-31, she appears again in multiple roles (in this order) as wife, entrepreneur, boss, real estate investor, business buyer, manufacturer, salesperson, philanthropist, and mother. Somehow, she manages to laugh at the future as she maneuvers industry and balances employees and family.
I have spent the last decade studying the elusive Lady Wisdom. Wisdom shows up as a woman throughout Proverbs, making her final appearance in Proverbs 31. She walks the public square calling out to fools, directs employees, feeds the masses, and even runs a global business. Proverbs 31:10-31 highlights her accomplishments, her profitability, and the success of her work. Fortunately, wisdom literature doesn’t start and stop with Proverbs. Job, Psalms, and Ecclesiastes round out the picture of wisdom and our expectations for a life lived wisely.
Throughout Proverbs, Job, Psalms, and Ecclesiastes there are depths of despair and great joy, but Wisdom’s ways are pleasant, and her paths are peace (Proverbs 3:17). In 2 Corinthians, Paul writes that Jesus became Wisdom for you. He completed Wisdom in perfection and righteousness. Your hope is not in your own ability to persevere – your hope and life can be placed in Jesus.
I encourage you, whether you are laughing at the future or bemoaning your current situation, the promise of God remains the same! So, persevere. BUT, don’t persevere in your own strength. Paul encourages the church in Rome to persevere in faith, peace, and grace through Jesus Christ who gives you access to the hope of the glory of God:
Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God.
Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.
And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.
In Proverbs 31:25, the word dignity also means glory. The passage could say “Strength and Glory are her clothing.” Not only did Jesus become wisdom for you, but he also made a way for you to boast in the hope of the glory of God!
This changes everything. Now personal achievements and success are not the goals. They are not the path to glory. In all your work, whether you succeed or fail, whether in suffering or praise, God works all things for the good of those who love him (Romans 8:28).
• Recognize you have been justified through faith.
• Be at peace because Jesus has gone before you!
• Know that you have access to this peace because of faith and grace, not because of your own work or striving.
• Boast in the hope of the glory of God or as Proverbs would say, cloth yourself in strength and the hope of His glory (not your own, thank goodness!)
• Persevere – now, clothed in strength and glory, persevere in the strength of Jesus Christ through whom we find love, life, and hope.
This strategy for perseverance positions your hope to be in Jesus and not in the work of your own hands. I love that Lady Wisdom laughed at the future! BUT I love it even more that she clothed herself in strength and glory.
In this way, Paul’s prayer in 2 Thessalonians 1: 11-12 is answered, “To this end, we always pray for you, that our God may make you worthy of his calling and may fulfill every resolve for good and every work of faith by his power so that the name of the Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.”
Hannah J. Stolze (PhD in Business Administration; MA in Biblical Studies, Wheaton College) is the Executive Director of the Wheaton Center for Faith & Innovation and Associate Professor of SCM & Director of the Center for Transformative Sales & Supply Chain Leadership at Lipscomb University. A former member of the U.S. Army, Stolze worked in international affairs and was a 2020 Fulbright Scholar in Indonesia. Stolze has conducted research with 40+ companies in the areas of global supply chain management and social and environmental sustainability. Dr. Stolze is the author of the book, Wisdom Based Business: Applying Biblical Principles and Evidence-Based Research for a Purposeful and Profitable Business which has been endorsed by several industry leaders including Kristin Colber-Baker, Head of Global Talent, Mars, Inc. Learn more: www.hannahstolze.com and follow her on LinkedIn.