A Wife Worthy of the Challange

One can only imagine the challenges of being married to someone with such a gift and call as John Calvin. On top of the enormous burden he carried for Geneva, the church, the reformation, and the Gospel, he was often ill from the labors he put himself through. Amidst it all, his loving wife was by his side.

Idelette de Bure devoted herself particularly to the care of her husband. Exhausted by his constant labours, Calvin was frequently ill; and treating his body roughly, after the example of Paul, he persisted amidst bodily sufferings to perform the multiplied duties of his office. Then his wife would come and tenderly recommend him to take a little repose, and watch at his pillow when his illness had assumed an alarming character. Besides, (and this will surprise the reader,) Calvin had at times, like ordinary men, desponding feelings; he was inclined to low spirits. “Sometimes,” he himself says, “although I am well in body, I am depressed with grief, which prevents me from doing anything, and I am ashamed to live so uselessly.” In these moments of dejection, when the heroic Reformer seemed, in spite of his energy and incomparable activity, to sink under the weight of our common infirmities, Idelette de Bure was at hand, with tender and encouraging words, which the heart of woman can alone find; and her hand, so feeble, yet so welcome and so affectionate, restored the giant of the Reformation, who made the Pope and kings tremble on their thrones! Oh, the precious support and the magic power of a religious, attentive and loving wife!

Thomas Smyth, Calvin and His Enemies: A Memoir of the Life, Character, and Principles of Calvin. (Bellingham, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 2009), 174-75.

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