The Good Work of Women, Part 5

“When your vocational choices are limited by finances, it can feel like you are trapped, hopeless, enslaved. But God promises you a secure future with him that even the deepest pangs of this world cannot touch.”

When we began our discussion (Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3), we considered perspectives on vocation in the context of a family that has some amount of choice about one parent staying at home to pursue full time childcare. But the reality for many families is that they aren’t asking if mom should go back to work because circumstances make it inevitable. This conversation also leaves out many women who would love to be at home with children but are currently not married or are for other reasons unable to have them. On the flip side, I have known some women who wanted to continue working, but found that their childcare options weren’t financially feasible considering their current income. Last week (Part 4), Amy beautifully articulated what it looks like to be steadfast in any season of vocation. She encouraged us to trust in God’s sovereign hands and turn to him in our day-to-day struggles. As we wrap up our series today, I want to look specifically at this question of choice in vocation and how God works to grow contentment and joy in our image-bearing hearts, even when our hands feel not-so-willing.

This is a tender conversation. It deals with the real pain of so many real women, so I don’t approach it lightly. This sensitivity is precisely why we must take care not to impose a particular cultural ideal—whether it is America in the 1950’s or anything else—when we talk about Biblical womanhood. I am fiercely committed to scripture, and inasmuch as God’s word honors motherhood, we, as the church, should too. Yet, sometimes in our articulation and defense of the goodness of motherhood, we lean into arguing the essential rightness of motherhood in a particularly defined family structure.

Writer Sarah Bessey explains, “I believe [full time mothering] is a worthy pursuit, good work, holy work (I hope so—it’s my own daily work!), but it’s not the same thing as biblical womanhood, is it? If the title can’t be enjoyed by a woman in Haiti, or even by the women hailed in scripture, the same way it can by a middle class woman in Canada, then biblical womanhood must be more than this” (Jesus Feminist, 100).

Biblical women are diverse. They come from every tribe and tongue and people and nation. Many of them are mothers. Like Eve, they are fruitful and multiply, and God calls that good. Some, like Esther and Deborah, may not have children at all. In each of their unique ways, they bear just one sliver of God’s robust, profound, amazing image.

But doing so involves work, and everyone since the Fall has experienced toil in working. Sometimes there is beautiful fruit, and “we taste and see that the Lord is good.” But even when our striving seems dry and empty, we are blessed when we take refuge in Him—“those who seek the Lord lack no good thing” (Psalm 34:8-10).

The Bible has much to say about contentment and enduring trials*, but rather than laundry list verses here (you have enough laundry in your life already), I want to sit together in one particular passage, fellow image-bearer, and soak in God’s encouraging word together:

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you rejoice, though, now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.”  —1 Peter 1:3-9

Five points strike me in Peter’s message here, that I hope will offer rich and lasting encouragement in your daily work:                                                                                                                          
  1. Remember the gospel. Peter describes it as a “living hope.” This “great mercy” acts as a safety net when you fall off the wire, or a warm meal after a day of laboring. It is the prize to motivate your running toward the goal and the wind at your back when you are not sure if you can go on.                                                                                                                                                    
    1. Remember your inheritance. It is not of this world, but “imperishable, undefiled, and unfading.” When your vocational choices are limited by finances, it can feel like you are trapped, hopeless, enslaved. But God promises you a secure future with him that even the deepest pangs of this world cannot touch.                                                                                                        
    2. You are “guarded through faith.” When the pangs of guilt attack or you are tempted to indulge in self-pity, your Father stands ready to protect you. He is both rich in goodness and mighty in power.                                                                                                                                              
    3. These momentary afflictions grow your faith. Peter calls the results “more precious than gold,” which I know is so hard to remember in the midst of heartache, but friend, it is true!        
    4. God is able to grow in you a “joy that is inexpressible.” The Bible often connects trials and joy, which makes no sense to a watching world, but I have personally seen it time and time again. As you bear His image and work faithfully in His service, may this ring true in your life as well.

A Final Personal Note

If you have been following along with our Good Work of Women series, I hope you have heard whispers of your own experience in our anecdotes and examples, but the reality is that no blog series can quite capture the beautiful and diverse stories of women in our church, our city, and our world.

My own narrative has taken turns that were wildly unexpected by this small-town Texan—I had always imagined myself fitting neatly into a SAHM stereotype, complete with a pristine, magazine-cover home and tidy children in hand-made clothing. When finances (not to mention wild assumptions about mom-life) took our family down a different road, I was amazed at the new work God began to weave in me. It has been a hard journey in its own way, but I am unbelievably thankful to traverse it with Him.

And the more women I speak with, the more I am convinced that we were not intended to be cookie-cutter. Each new story, in its ups and downs and shattered assumptions, reveals more to me about the good work our God completes in us. So ask your friends about their own vocational journey and celebrate together what God is doing in the lives of your image-bearing, hands-willing sisters.
* A few other passages where I find great comfort in this area are Romans 5:1-11, James 1:2-5, Philippians 4:4-9. When I need a good rebuke, I turn to 1 Timothy 6:6-10 and Ecclesiastes 6:9-10.