Last week, Paula wrote two great posts on 1 Peter 3:3–4 which urges women to cultivate a “gentle and quiet sprit.” The comments you left on those posts made me think that you might be wondering something I’ve been asking myself for years—Do I have a gentle and quiet spirit?
Paula helped us understand that possessing the kind of beauty described in this passage doesn’t mean we have to be shy and timid. Even loud girls (like myself) can exude the lasting beauty God desires. But broadening the definition of the kind of girl God wants us to be can lead to confusion. So I wanted to revisit this topic with help from Lies Young Women Believe co-author Nancy Leigh DeMoss.
Nancy talks often about who God calls us to be on her radio program Revive Our Hearts. Here’s her take on what it means to possess a “gentle and quiet spirit.”
Erin: Practically speaking, how can we apply the description of a beautiful woman found in 1 Peter 3:3–4 to the way that we live?
Nancy: Peter says to women in 1 Peter 3, “Your beauty should not come from outward adornment.” Now he’s not saying we shouldn’t be beautiful, but he’s saying we need to redefine our idea of what is beautiful. “Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as braided hair and the wearing of gold jewelry and fine clothes. Instead, your beauty should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great worth. For this is the way the holy women of the past who put their hope in God used to make themselves beautiful” (vv. 3–5).
How did these holy women make themselves beautiful? They trusted in God; and, as a result, they developed an inner beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit. We’re not saying, and the Scripture is not saying, that external beauty—physical beauty—is inherently sinful, or that it’s wrong to pay any attention to our external appearance. We as women, I believe, should reflect even outwardly the beauty, the order, the excellence and the grace of God.
We do that not only through our inner person, but through outer clothing and beauty as well. But we need to keep things in perspective, to remember that which is seen. Paul says in 2 Corinthians 4:18 that that which is visible is temporal. It does not last. “So,” Paul says, “put your focus on the things that cannot be seen, that are internal, and that are eternal.” Those are the things that last forever.
Erin: What is the difference between the kind of woman the world tells us to be and the kind of women highly esteemed in Scripture?
Nancy: Meekness is especially, in the Scripture, commended to women. Again, as we’re thinking of why pursue meekness, as women it’s natural for us, and our culture really promotes this, to focus on physical beauty—on external adorning, on our hairstyles, on our clothing styles, our jewelry, our makeup. These are the things, if you look at advertisements for women, that are being promoted and advertised as being really important.
But God’s Word has some right counsel for us as women. It helps us to see beauty from God’s perspective. In 1 Peter chapter 3, verse 4, where the apostle says, “Let your adorning [let the thing that you consider attractive and beautiful] be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty [I love that phrase] of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious.”
A gentle spirit. That word in the original language is meek. A meek spirit, a gentle spirit, a quiet spirit. Scripture says for a woman to have that internal heart attitude of meekness or gentleness and a quiet spirit gives her a beauty that is imperishable. It’s a beauty that cannot fade away. It’s a beauty that you don’t have to go through all kinds of cosmetic surgery or makeup routines to preserve. It’s something that gets sweeter and richer and more beautiful as you age.
Erin: I’ve never been gentle or quiet. Other girls seem to fit this description more naturally. Is it something that you either have or you don’t?
Nancy: Well, God wants to produce in us the fruit of righteousness, of holy living. God wants to produce in us the fruit of His Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, gentleness.
I’ve been focusing on that fruit over the last several days. The Lord has had me focused in on this matter of what it means to have a gentle and a quiet spirit.
Whatever it is, it’s the opposite of what I was born with. I have been just praying through that quality because I know that fruit of a gentle and a quiet spirit in a woman is of great beauty in God’s eyes.
I’ve been saying, “Lord, I want to have that kind of beauty. Where do I get that gentle and quiet spirit?”
It comes from God who is the giver of fruitfulness. I don’t have that in me.
Left to myself, I will never have the fruit of gentleness. That’s why I need to draw upon His sufficiency. He’s the giver of fruitfulness. He’s the one who produces the fruit of the Spirit in our lives.
The fruit He wants to produce in us is the fruit of Christ living in us and being expressed through us, the fruit of the character of Christ being formed in us, the fruit of our being a blessing to others because of the life of Christ in us, the fruit of children, natural children.
Erin: What can we do today to become more like the women God wants us to be?
Nancy: If you want to become this woman of virtue, develop a sense of the fear of the Lord. Now you can’t develop that apart from spending time with God in His Word. His Word will help you to develop that reverence for Him, that awe for Him, that trust in Him and that hatred of evil. And then everything about your life will be ordered around that consciousness of God’s presence.
Physical charm, physical beauty—those things are an illusion. They’re fleeting. They’re momentary. They can lure, but they can’t last. The thing that lasts is a relationship with God. That’s got to be the number one focus and priority of your life and mine if we’re going to be the women that God made us to be.