In this powerful and practical episode, Leslie shares five qualities that are a must in the makeup of a set apart woman. When incorporated into the fabric of your soul, they will enable you to flourish in whatever season of life you’re experiencing, whether single or married.
Leslie Ludy: Hey everyone! It’s Leslie Ludy, host of the Set Apart Girl Podcast: Biblical Encouragement for Women of All Ages. Today I’m really excited to talk to you about five key qualities in a set apart woman. Since this is part of our relationship series these are some of the most important qualities to cultivate in your life before you’re married, and even after marriage as well. And for men they’re also the most important qualities to look for in a godly wife. So these are things that I feel are absolutely crucial to a woman living a set apart life and being marriage ready.
You may not be the finished product of all these qualities this side of heaven. In reality none of us will be, but if you aim your life in this direction, and by God’s grace let Him build these things within the fabric of your character, then you will have an amazing foundation for a strong marriage and for godly character.
Quality #1. Finding Fulfillment in Christ Alone
Leslie Ludy: The first quality to cultivate, or to ask God to cultivate in your life, is to become completely fulfilled in Christ. I know I’ve touched on this in other episodes as well, but it is absolutely the foundation of set apart womanhood — finding your fulfillment in Christ. I’ve shared the story before about a group of young people who came to Eric and I. They were all singles, but they were in a marriage and family training program, and they were being told not to raise their expectations too high for marriage, that marriage will be a disappointment, and that they shouldn’t expect a fairy tale. And they came to us to ask us our opinion because they said, “We’ve been waiting and saving ourselves our whole lives so that we could have a stronger and more beautiful marriage, and now these Christian leaders are telling us that marriage really isn’t that great.”
Eric and I looked at our marriage (and at that time we had been married for about ten years, and at the time of this recording we’ve been married over 20 years), and we realized that our marriage has grown stronger and more beautiful with every passing year. That is not because we are incredible at romance, and we are amazingly sensitive to each other. It’s not because we read all of these marriage books, and go to all these marriage retreats. It’s because we’ve learned how to make Jesus Christ our First Love individually.
So instead of coming to our spouse and saying, “Unless this person meets all of my needs perfectly, I cannot possibly be fulfilled and happy in my marriage.” We’re able to say, “My deepest needs are met in Jesus Christ, and that gives me the freedom to go to my spouse and say, not, ‘How can I be served?’ but, ‘How can I serve?’”
A set apart woman must find her strength first and foremost in Jesus Christ. Marriage can be truly amazing and truly beautiful, and it can grow more beautiful and more romantic with every passing year — but only when Christ is kept in His rightful place at the center. A woman who is fulfilled in Christ is not going to be constantly nagging her husband, and complaining about all of the ways that he’s falling short. She’ll be asking a new question. Not, “How can my husband become the Prince Charming I’ve always dreamed of?” But, “How can I serve and love my husband?”
That doesn’t mean you don’t communicate your needs or your desires to your husband, or that he doesn’t fulfill you at any level, but instead of looking to him to meet all your needs, your deepest needs are first and foremost met in Jesus Christ. A woman who is not desperately seeking a relationship or throwing herself at guys in desperation, but is content and secure in her relationship with Christ is a happy, contented, fulfilled single woman as well.
A lot of books are coming out saying that a woman can’t really be content in her singleness because she’s meant to be married. But truly if you’re fulfilled in your relationship with Christ, you’re not going to be desperately seeking a relationship. You won’t be thinking that is the only thing that is going to bring you happiness because your happiness is centered in Jesus Christ, and that can save you from so much heartache. It can save you from trying to manipulate a relationship from coming together, throwing yourself at guys, doing things that are very undignified, and throwing your feminine mystery to the wind because you’re so convinced that having a guy is the only thing that can make you happy. When you find your fulfillment in Christ not only are your single years stronger, but your marriage is stronger as well.
How do you know if you’re fulfilled in Christ? Well, some of the ways that you can tell: where do your thoughts stray to when you wake up in the morning? What are you thinking about as you’re falling asleep at night? What consumes the majority of your time, your energy, and your thoughts during the day? If you’re thinking about what you need, what you want, what you want to get out of life, how you can become more happy, wondering what this person thinks of you, wondering if that guy is interested in you … then very likely you’re not looking to Christ to fulfill you at the deepest level. If your thoughts are on Him, and on His Word, and on His truth, and you’re waking up with a prayer on your lips, you’re going to bed with a prayer or worship in your heart — that’s how you know that you’re truly building your life around Jesus Christ.
If Christ is not the center of your life right now, if you’re not fulfilled fully in Him, then take some time to realign your life with His priorities. This is something that God had to walk me through earlier in my life because even though I said Jesus Christ was my focus, my life was built around myself and my own pursuit, my own agenda. So I had to start saying no to the things that pulled me away from Christ — friendships that were unhealthy, activities and pastimes that were not building me up spiritually — and start saying yes to spending time in the presence of God.
It was A.W. Tozer who said, “The man who would know God, must spend time with Him.” And it is the same with a woman too, “The woman who would know God must spend time with Him.” We can’t expect to make Christ the center of our life if we’re not taking time to worship Him, to read His Word, to pray, to pour out our heart before Him, and to walk with Him every single day.
I honestly think that that season of learning how to become fulfilled in Christ and to make Him my First Love was the foundation of my relationship with Eric. I wouldn’t have truly been ready for a God-written love story unless God had first walked me through that all-important season. So whether you’re married or single, take time to center your life around Jesus Christ, and be sure that He truly is the first love and the first priority of your heart.
Quality #2: Becoming Outward Focused
Leslie Ludy: The second quality for a set apart woman is to become others-focused. Are you looking to be served, or are you looking to serve? I believe that the women who most reflect Christ’s nature and heart are those who are constantly turning outward and joyfully pouring out their lives for others. This is very counter-culture because the modern idea goes something like this, “Don’t just meet everyone else’s needs, take care of yourself.”
Now of course it’s important to tend to your own needs, but we’ve often taken this idea to an unhealthy level in our culture as modern women, and we think that protecting “me time” above everything else is what matters. Even viewing marriage and children as a way to make us happy is a pitfall of this mindset instead of looking to love and serve those that God has placed in our lives.
1 Timothy 5:10, is talking about the qualities of a godly woman, and it says that she’s, “well reported for good works…she’s brought up children, she’s lodged strangers, she’s washed the saints’ feet, she’s relieved the afflicted, and she’s diligently followed every good work.” This is not an optional part of godly womanhood, this is the outflow of a woman who’s focused on Jesus Christ. She is busy about the Father’s business. So if this is a lack in your life, if you feel that you’ve succumbed to the culture’s mentality of protect yourself, and take care of yourself and everything you do (including marriage, family, and children) is all about how to make you happy, then ask God to realign your perspective, turn you outward, and help you understand the joy of giving, loving, and living a poured out life.
Quality #3: Choosing Truth-Based Decisions Over Emotion-Led Feelings
Leslie Ludy: The third quality for a set apart woman is to be truth-led versus emotion-led. I love this quote by Elisabeth Elliot. She said, “Obedience to God is always possible. It is a deadly error to fall into the notion that when feelings are extremely strong we can do nothing but act on them.” Wow! What a convicting statement! We as women are so prone to that. If we have strong feelings about something, we just feel that we have no choice but to act on those feelings, what those feelings are telling us to do. Our culture encourages us to follow our heart, and yet this is a completely non-biblical concept! Proverbs tells us in two different places, “He who trusts in his own heart is a fool…” (Prov. 28:26a). And again, “A fool has no delight in understanding, but in expressing his own heart” (Prov. 18:2). So the idea of following your heart, though it may sound good in a Disney song, is actually going to lead to disaster in your own life.
It’s what leads women to throw their feminine mystery to the wind and become desperate and throw themselves at guys. It’s what leads married women to become discontent in their marriages. It’s what leads us to become nagging and manipulative towards men. It’s what leads women to scream at their children, storm out of the room when their husband frustrates them, and vent all their frustrations to their girlfriends. It’s even what leads married women to be unfaithful to their husbands because they believe that their feelings toward another man are so strong that they have no choice but to act upon those feelings.
We are often taught that our heart is good and the culture has conditioned us to place a high value on our own desires and emotions, but God has a completely different direction for us when it comes to our own heart and emotions. It must become subservient and yielded to the Spirit of God. We need to ask God to shape our emotions, and our feelings, and our desires to align with His and to say, “Lord, even if my feelings about something are extremely strong, if they do not align with your truth, then I’m going to choose truth over emotion.”
As women we must surrender our feelings and emotions to Jesus Christ. We must let Him work His godly self-control within us. Our actions and our decisions must be based on His truth, not on our feelings, whims, or desires. And here’s another quote from Elisabeth Elliot, she says we must, “keep a tight reign on our emotions. They may remain, but it is not they who are to rule the action.They have no authority. A life lived in God is not lived on the plane of the feelings, but of the will.”
Quality #4: Adorning Yourself With Virtuous Behavior
Leslie Ludy: The fourth quality of a set apart woman is to become discreet and reverent in our behavior. Titus 2:4-5, is describing this, and it says, “…admonish the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, to be discreet…” The word discreet there means to be self-controlled, sober, and temperate. It’s really the opposite of the silly, shallow, frivolous, careless behavior that we see in femininity all around us today.
How do we know if we are truly discreet and reverent? Well, let’s look at our speech, our conduct, our body language, what we post on social media, how we act around our friends. Are we being shallow, frivolous, silly, or immodest? Are we sharing sacred things carelessly? Do our words and actions reflect the crudeness of this world or the dignity of heaven? Is our focus, our words, what we post, and how we act — is our focus on the eternal things or on the temporary, passing things of this world?
Amy Carmichael, who is one of my heroes in Christian history, had a turning point in her life when she was about 17 years old where she realized that nothing would ever matter to her again except the things that were eternal. So one of the best ways that you can build discreet and reverent behavior in your life is to start centering your conversations, attitudes, and actions around things that are eternally based rather than shallow, fleeting things of this world.
Quality #5: Willing to Suffer for His Sake
Leslie Ludy: And the fifth quality for a set apart woman is to become willing to suffer for Christ. Now this may seem like a strange one to include in preparation for marriage – but marriage, as I’ve said in previous episodes, is difficult. If we’re not willing to suffer for Christ, or allow our husbands to suffer for Christ, then we’ll miss out on living an amazing life that can be poured out for the Gospel and build the Kingdom of God.
The women that I admire most in Christian history not only suffered willingly for Christ, but counted it a privilege to do so. Women who understand the narrow path of the Cross, and that the Christian life is not meant to be easy, they will be good soldiers of the Cross no matter what life brings — no matter if they lose their husband, no matter if they go through very, very difficult circumstances. Maybe God is calling you as a couple to go to the mission field. You need to be ready for the battle, and one of the ways to be ready is to be willing to suffer for Jesus Christ and to count it a privilege to do so. All throughout the New Testament we are reminded that suffering for Christ is an honor, and a joy, and a blessing.
Study the lives of women like Esther Ahn Kim, Darlene Deibler, Sabina Wurmbrand, Elisabeth Elliot — these women are incredible examples of accepting this cup of suffering that God gave them and becoming a good soldier for Jesus Christ. The lives that were impacted as a result of their obedience were truly in the hundreds of thousands! So don’t discount what God can do through your life and through your marriage if you’re willing to suffer for Christ.
Leslie Ludy: In summary I would like to share with you one of my very favorite quotes from a woman named Christina Rossetti from 1880. She wrote, “How beautiful are the arms which have embraced Christ, the eyes which have gazed upon Christ, the lips which have spoken with Christ, the feet which have followed Christ. How beautiful are the hands which have worked the works of Christ, the feet which are treading in His footsteps and have gone about doing good, the lips which have spread abroad His name, the lives which have been counted for Him.”
If you build your life and your character around those qualities, not only will you be marriage material, but even your single years will be an incredible picture of a woman who can be poured out for the Kingdom of God. So whether you’re called to a lifetime of singleness, or you’re called to be married. Whether you’re called to have a season of singleness and then a season of marriage — if you can cultivate these character qualities in your life, you’ll be strong for the Gospel in every season of your life.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this episode. For more on this topic, please visit the new Secrets to an Amazing Love Story online course. I pray you have a blessed and Christ-centered week!