Behind every successful man, the saying goes, there's a good woman. And that's often the case. But have you ever considered that behind almost every successful woman, there's a good man?

That is the message of Proverbs 31. Only the Lord Himself knows how many articles and sermons, books and seminars have extolled the virtues of the Wonder Woman described in this poetic passage. The only problem is that they have usually forgotten to mention the other main character-the Good Husband!

Was Proverbs 31 ever intended to be an idealistic standard for women to attain by themselves? Not at all. Instead, this passage of Scripture, like the rest of Proverbs, was written originally as a challenge to men.

It's all too easy for guys to read Proverbs 31:10-31 rather flippantly-"Wow, if only I had a wife like this!"-- without stopping to notice what these verses say about this woman's rather remarkable husband.

Cherishing

First, the Good Husband recognizes the true value of his wife as a person (31:10). He sees her as God's priceless, one of a kind masterpiece. He knows she's "worth far more than rubies."

The world says you are worth something only if you're beautiful, intelligent, or athletic. But that isn't God's measure of true value. Self worth isn't based on what I do, but who I am-a person created in the image of God.

Richard Strauss reminds us that when a woman is loved for who she is, she "will blossom into the most beautiful creature under God's heaven."

A man beautifies his wife by cherishing her for what she is. He doesn't let his wife lose her sense of specialness once the honeymoon is over. He continues to court her. With his words, touches, and actions a husband lets his wife know she is the most important person in his life.

Supporting

The Good Husband believes in the potential of his wife (31:11). He doesn't put her in a box called "home" only to let her lie there dormant. Instead, he allows her to be productive and fulfilled both in and out of the home.

Frankly, the Good Husband of Proverbs 31 amazes me. How many husbands are willing to let their wives make real estate investments and start business ventures on their own (31:16)? How many husbands are willing to let their wives make contributions to charitable organizations as they see fit (31:20)?

Traditionally, the husband has been viewed in our society as solely responsible for the family income and budget. The wife has been left out of these matters. But the Good Husband challenges these cultural myths.

The biblical concept of submission has in it the idea of assuming a supportive role. Both men and women are called to "Submit to one another" (Ephesians 5:21). The Good Husband actively supports his wife as she seeks to reach her full potential as a person.

Anne Morrow once wrote: "Ideally, both members of a couple in love free each other to new and different worlds. I was no exception.... The man I was to marry believed in me and what I could do, and consequently I found I could do more than I ever realized." With her husband's encouragement, she became one of America's most popular authors.

One of the greatest forces for growth and change in our lives is someone who believes in us. The mark of marital maturity is the ability to help your spouse achieve and succeed. The Good Husband is mature enough to encourage and support his wife to reach her full potential.

He believes in her and provides an atmosphere in which she is free to succeed. He doesn't let his ego get in her way.

Listening

The Good Husband realizes the importance of listening to (and learning from) the wisdom of his wife (31:26). He is spared from many rash and foolish actions by respecting the

"faithful instruction...on her tongue."

Pilate was warned by his wife not to harm the Lord Jesus Christ (Matthew 27:19). Yet he chose to ignore her wise counsel and had the Son of God crucified instead. The Good Husband is careful not to repeat Pilate's folly.

I enjoy actively listening to my wife. She has taught me much about God and about life. No, I haven't relinquished my responsibility as the spiritual leader in our home. But we enjoy mutually stimulating one another spiritually and intellectually. No day is complete unless we have an opportunity to share new insights with each other. I'm never the loser when I give Renée my undivided attention as she shares with me.

Hudson Taylor is credited with starting the China Inland Mission, one of the most successful groups to penetrate China with the Gospel before World War II. But the secret of Taylor's success was a wife who poured every fiber of her being into him and their work. Taylor leaned heavily on his wife Maria for wisdom and strength in those early pioneering days. Biographers say he never took a step without consulting her.

Why are so many couples failing in their marriages? Howard Hendricks suggests this answer: "They have taken no time to cultivate their own relationship, listen to each other, and develop common interests." The Good Husband strengthens his marriage by taking the time to listen to his wife. He respects her opinions and heeds her advice.

Praising

Finally, the Good Husband praises the virtues and accomplishments of his wife (31:29). He doesn't flatter her, but praises his wife for her fear of God (31:30) and her successful endeavors (31:31). He lets others know that his wife is extra special. It means much to a woman to know her husband speaks highly of her to others.

A man can never encourage, compliment, praise, or build up his wife too much. The Good Husband is lavish in his praise. Everyone craves appreciation and a compliment, and wives perhaps need (and deserve!) it the most. A husband can make a tremendous impact on his wife by consciously and consistently looking for opportunities to praise her. There are few transforming forces more powerful than loving praise.

The Good Husband doesn't expect his wife to automatically duplicate the virtues of the Wonder Woman described so poetically in Proverbs 31. Instead, he encourages his wife in her process of personal growth and maturity. And she does the same for him. Imagine what God could do through a couple committed to doing just that!


David Sanford is president of Sanford Communications, Inc. David is co-author (with his wife, Renée) of the 400 pages of devotional application notes for the Living Faith Bible (Tyndale House). The Sanfords live in Portland, Oregon, and have five children.