Learning to Embrace the Counsel of Godly Older Women

A number of years ago, I experienced a difficult relational issue that took a good deal of time (and lots of tears and tissues) to navigate. I worked through this mostly with the Lord and my husband, but I also sought out a couple of godly older women for advice. One of these women was my mother-in-law. 

There are countless things I love about her, but one quality is that in her kind and wise counsel she also gives the truth in plain language. I don’t remember everything she said that evening on our phone call, but I remember this: she exhorted me on some things my flesh didn’t want to hear, but I knew I needed to hear. 

She was compassionate toward my hurt but didn’t mince words about my need to guard against bitterness and to ask forgiveness for any ways I’d contributed to the problem. She didn’t coddle my feelings, but gave life-giving counsel that made a lasting impact. 

In the years since then, I’ve realized just how much my heart craves this kind of input—input that is quite priceless and rare today. From my study of Scripture, I’ve gained a deep conviction that I long for it because we’re supposedto have teaching from godly older women. Their counsel increases our wisdom and discernment—when we’re willing to heed it.

Sure, in the moment we might rather just be affirmed or encouraged, especially when we feel hurt or discouraged. (Don’t get me wrong; Scripture says encouragement is important too.) But maturity won’t come unless we humble ourselves to receive counsel, exhortation, and even correction when necessary, from faithful women who are a bit farther down the road.

Perhaps the clearest example of this command in relation to older and younger women is found in Titus 2:3–5.

In the same way, older women are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers, not slaves to excessive drinking. They are to teach what is good, so that they may encourage the young women to love their husbands and to love their children, to be self-controlled, pure, workers at home, kind, and in submission to their husbands, so that God’s word will not be slandered.

This is God’s pattern: older women are to teach, and younger women are to learn. Sometimes we fit the older woman role and sometimes the younger, but right now I speak as a younger woman to other younger women. Having a teachable disposition toward “mothers of the faith” matures us in our love, our character, and our daily obedience starting within the walls of our home (where our love and faithfulness are tested the most).

In our culture that emphasizes independence and protecting our feelings, it can be difficult to open ourselves to this kind of input. We intrinsically know that older women who fear the Lord will likely say things that sting at times. But just like ointment in a cut, this is the right kind of sting—pain that will brings healing and help to an area of weakness and vulnerability. It reminds us that we don’t always know best, as our flesh likes to trick us into believing. We can either reject the “truth ointment” from these godly women, exchanging long-term health for momentary relief, or we can accept it and allow it to do its good work in us. 

Proverbs 19:20 says,

Listen to counsel and receive instruction
so that you may be wise later in life.

But how do we know whose advice is truly advice to be received? Whose stings are life-giving and whose are life-taking? Here are a few things we can consider.

Godly Older Women Bear the Marks of Godly Wisdom 

The book of Proverbs is full of practical wisdom that helps us discern a fool from a wise person. Even though all of us sometimes act in foolish ways on this side of heaven, the more we grow in Christ, the more our lives will carry the evidence of God’s wisdom. If we are diligent to study Scripture, we’ll be able to discern wise counsel from foolish counsel with the help of the Holy Spirit. 

Along with Proverbs, the book of James also has some helpful insight for us on the difference between worldly and godly wisdom. James 3:14–18 says,

But if you have bitter envy and selfish ambition in your heart, don’t boast and deny the truth. Such wisdom does not come down from above but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. For where there is envy and selfish ambition, there is disorder and every evil practice.

But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peace-loving, gentle, compliant, full of mercy and good fruits, unwavering, without pretense.

Does the woman offering advice have evidence of bitterness and unforgiveness in her words? Do they carry the bite of pride or envy? Does it seem like she cares more about herself than others? 

Or, does her demeanor reveal mercy and kindness? Is she seeking to help bring peace rather than to help aggravate an offense? Is her advice filled with the purity of God’s Word? Does her life bear evidence of righteous fruit?

These are good questions to ask as we’re considering whose input to welcome. 

Godly Older Women Are Faithful in the First Things

In 1 Timothy we see the character qualities required for a widow to receive support from the church. It says, among other things, if she “is well known for good works—that is, if she has brought up children, shown hospitality, washed the saints’ feet, helped the afflicted, and devoted herself to every good work” (1 Tim. 5:10). 

These things truly matter to the Lord and therefore should be our priorities as Christian women. When we’re considering which women to receive counsel from, we can ask: has she made loving her family and those around her a priority? Is she filling her time with good things? Is she self-sacrificial? If she’s single, is she investing in kingdom work and showing love for others and their children? If her life demonstrates these things, she is the kind of woman we should be ready and willing to learn from. 

Godly Older Women Know the Word

Have you met women who seem to overflow with Scripture whenever they talk? It intermingles with their thoughts in a way that’s hard to separate because they’re so filled with the truths of God’s Word. Because God’s Word is transformative—living and effective (Heb. 4:12)—we can be sure that those who are living in godly wisdom and demonstrate godly character have been faithfully seeking the Lord through His Word. When they counsel us, they will do so with a heart that is being informed by and conformed to truth. 

For these women, prayer is often the first response to the problems and heartaches that are brought to them. Because they love Christ, they want to hear from Him through His Word and then respond to Him through prayer. They know they cannot give us everything we need but they know that God can.

No one on this side of heaven will give perfect advice. We’re all still in the process of being sanctified, so it’s important that we extend grace to our older spiritual sisters as they seek to offer life-giving counsel. As we learn and grow together, walking in humility and love, God will be honored, and we’ll be spurred on toward greater and greater obedience to Him. 

If this blog post by Heather has been helpful to you, would you consider partnering with us to provide more resources like this to women desperately in need of finding freedom, fullness, and fruitfulness in Christ? Revive Partners are part of a team of faithful monthly contributors whose gifts make it possible for Revive Our Hearts to produce biblically rich content to help women be fruitful in every season of life. Learn more by visiting ReviveOurHearts.com/partner

About the Author

Heather Cofer

Heather Cofer

Heather Cofer is a wife and mother of six living in northern Colorado with a passion for encouraging women to love Jesus. She is the author of Expectant: Cultivating a Vision for Christ-Centered Pregnancy, and has also written for Set … read more …

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