The Good Work of Women, Part 4

“We can only work with willing hands when we have a deep trust in His sovereign hands.”    

I have been so blessed to read the first three posts in this series. Meredith has presented a thorough look at what Scripture has to say about women and work and given a birdseye view of how to handle the many choices we might encounter at various stages of matrimony and motherhood. Just as she wrote with practical advice for women working in any capacity, today I hope to encourage and exhort you, no matter the stage, to remain steadfast in your work for the Lord.

Since getting married and having kids, I’ve tried out nearly every combination of working and mothering. I’ve even been a “momtrepreneur” (my autocorrect is not fixing that it must be a thing.) Each change has come with its own steep learning curve, unique challenges, and special blessings.

Though I am still young, and my “stay at home mom” (SAHM) season has lasted the longest, I’ve learned that all the acronyms are hard. Women don’t need to try each of them to know this, but it’s helpful to be reminded. Some of us are trying to keep work and family life separate, with an office right next to the playroom, or a company laptop that beckons in the night...or trying to transport and feed the family, with a car that doubles as an office, and a desk that’s a dining room table...or spending the day at the mercy of conflicting baby and toddler naps, just barely holding on for that magical grocery trip sans kids.

Whether employed, unemployed, or self-employed — we are often burning the candle at both ends.

Few experiences will teach us more about reliance on God than this type of work. And we can only work with willing hands when we have a deep trust in His sovereign hands. The Bible says, “Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, whose trust is the Lord.” (Jeremiah 17:7)

Trust His Plan

I have wrestled for years with how to engage the concept of “career.” There are times when I am at peace with the huge gap in my resume, and other times when I am embarrassed and confused by the LinkedIn requests that still trickle in. Being called to postpone or forsake a career for the sake of child-rearing is a daily lesson in humility and submission for some women.

There are dozens of verses in Scripture that mention waiting, and of course none of them mention waiting for a change in our employment status. We are to wait for Him: his mercy, his salvation, his redemption, his return. I love Psalm 130:5-6 here:

I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in his word I hope; my soul waits for the Lord more than watchmen for the morning, more than watchmen for the morning.

Just like watchmen, mothers keep an eye on our people — not to mention work some pretty late nights! But we should be desiring the Lord more than we desire a break or a change in our surroundings. We should be placing our hope in Him, not in an idol like a career or a particular way of life.

I know how easy it is to become consumed, numbed, or annoyed by the routine of working in the home (or out of it!) We must regularly give these feelings over to Him, or we will be constantly lured by the promise of greener grass. Gloria Furman touches on this preoccupation among women in her book Missional Motherhood:

“You...obsessively compare your circumstances to others, and covet a season that God has not given to you...and self-medicate with things such as coffee, complaining, and daydreaming. When this is over, or this begins, or this changes, or we fix this - or whatever - then, I’ll be content. Last day of school. Never mind, first day of school! Does that sound familiar?”

She adds, “I need my shortsighted vision corrected...Otherwise I will not keep my gaze fixed on the horizon of eternity...I will not hold out the gospel of Jesus Christ to myself or anyone else. I’ll stare at my navel and wait for the next ‘season,’ neglecting the fact that right now and forever I am in a season of life [in Christ]…” (pages 129-130)

We need to keep our eyes on Jesus, who never lost sight of the goal before Him. Because of His work on the cross, we can trust that God is using our work, in each season, for His purposes. With faith, we can “lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, with endurance the race that is set before us.” (Hebrews 12:1-2)

Trust His Provision

Another challenge mothers often face is the desire for visibility and recognition. We want someone to notice the good job we’re doing, either in the home or out of it, and thank us for it. But this kind of self-focus only distracts us from eagerly doing our work for the Lord. It can quickly lead to discontentment and ingratitude for the roles He has given us.

Instead of waiting for others to sing our praises, Psalm 92 says:

It is good to give thanks to the Lord, to sing praises to your name, O Most High; to declare your steadfast love in the morning, and your faithfulness by night...For you, O Lord, have made me glad by your work; at the works of your hands I sing for joy. (v. 1-2 and 4)

God has provided us with our jobs and our homes, maybe husbands and children. Thank Him. He has also given us His Spirit (John 14:16-17) and His Word in order to equip us “for every good work.” (2 Timothy 3:17) Praise Him. He places us in community with other believers (whether or not we depend on them as we should.) Thank Him! We are certainly not invisible or unimportant to Him.

I am also grateful for how the ESV Study Bible describes trust in God as “a deep reliance on Him,” or “a settled confidence in His care.” These words sound like peace to me, like a license to calm. When I feel ill-equipped or overwhelmed by perceived deficiencies— not enough time, not enough patience, not enough energy, not enough hands — He will supply not just enough of these things, but more. His care covers our every need. (Philippians 4:19)

Gloria Furman says, “We will suffer no lack when we trust [God.] Our children will suffer no lack when they trust him. Let’s trust him to be our daily bread. When we trust the Bread of Life in this way, we can be prepared for him to take us out into the world so we can start passing out loaves to others.” (Missional Motherhood, page 116)

Our Trust is the Lord

We Christian women are at risk of an identity crisis. Social media has elevated this picture of a supposedly more “authentic” motherhood that looks anxious, busy, and dissatisfied. We make t-shirts that say “stressed, blessed, coffee-obsessed.” There’s even a popular (admittedly, secular) website devoted to our unity as mothers, because “we are scary, and we are proud.”

But let’s be unified in Jesus. Let’s identify and present ourselves, no matter what we’re doing, as simply His — His servants, His soldiers, His disciples. Let’s drop the angst! Let's be content, joyful and humble, and let’s worry a whole lot less.

Because our willing work matters — our mothering, our wife-ing, our friend-ing, our child-of-God-ing. It matters to Him, it matters to our families, and it matters to a watching world.

Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord, your labor is not in vain. (1 Cor 15:58)

Part 5: Work When There is No Choice