Laboring in Vain

On Mondays, we pray and fast during lunch, asking God to raise up men as leaders in the church and in marriage, to change our hearts and make us more like Christ, and to bring marriage to those that desire it.

One thing I appreciate about my pastor is that he tries to touch base with every member of our church and offers to meet with us to talk and pray through any situations we may be experiencing. We’re a small church, but still, that’s a big time commitment.

Usually, my conversations with him revolve around singleness. Once, when I was complaining about how busy I was going out with friends, putting myself in situations where I might meet someone, and even contemplating changing churches to find a church with more single guys, he challenged me with this thought:

“Emily, your actions suggest that you feel that finding a husband is dependent upon the things you do, and this is going to carry over into your marriage someday. You are going to feel that keeping your marriage together and happy is dependent solely on you, not God, not your husband. Do you want that full responsibility, or are you going to trust God to work?”

Ouch.

My pastor wasn’t telling me to stay at home, sitting around twiddling my thumbs, realistically expecting God to drop a husband in my lap, but he did challenge me to re-evaluate my faith in God’s plan and provision for my life. I realized that the pressure I was putting on myself to do and be everything in order to attract someone wasn’t sustainable as a single, let alone in a marriage. Relying on my own strength and savvy was setting me up for disappointment and burn out and growing bad habits that would hurt my future marriage.

When I think about the three themes around which we fast and pray, these are areas where we have to let God lead. I have no power to save and work in the hearts of men and prompt them to lead in marriage. Left under my control, my heart would continue in its deceitful and selfish ways. And, unless God builds my house, I’m laboring in vain.

It’s both freeing and frustrating for a Type A like me to realize the truth of fact that no “wisdom, no insight, no plan” of mine (including finding a husband) can succeed if it’s not of the Lord (Proverbs 21:30).

The past couple of weeks, Amy and Anna have challenged us to trust God with our life stories and to view our lives as testimonies of God’s grace and goodness. This week as we fast and pray, let’s praise God that He’s the Author of our stories. That He’s sovereign over all areas of life (whether we are single or married) and sovereign in working in the lives of others. Let’s pray that we allow Him to work, protecting our hearts from destructive habits and thoughts, as we seek to walk each day in obedience by faith.

Journeying with you,

Emily

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4 Responses to Laboring in Vain

  1. David says:

    Emily,
    Thank you for that openness which you showed in the piece above.
    However, with all due respect to your pastor, I must somehow disagree with him. I think he needs to reread the book of Ruth. It showed the story of a beautiful, godly woman who was proactive in seeking and finding a husband. She allowed herself to be coached by an older woman, and she had her priorities right. She knew that age differences was not a big issue, provided the man God brought into her life was godly and loving.
    She presented herself well, put herself where the man would notice her, and in the end, she got a really good man. Both of them gave us Obed, who gave us Jesse, who was the father of king David, the sweet psalmist of Israel. Even as man looking for a wife, I recently realized that I was not putting myself “out there” enough. Between work and other commitments, I hardly have the time to meet people. I had to make a conscious decision to “get out” more. This, to me, does not negate my faith, but enhances it.
    The only labor that is in vain is the labor that is not done in faith. Many times, the fulfillment of God’s promises to us may be delayed. Provided we are faithful, even the mistakes that we honestly make during the waiting period cannot negate God’s promises. Abraham waited 25 years to have Isaac. Although he made the “Ishmael mistake” in the interim, that did not stop him from having Isaac.

    For the vision is yet for an appointed time, but at the end it shall speak, and not lie: though it tarry, wait for it; because it will surely come, it will not tarry. Hab 2:3

    • Emily says:

      David, Thanks so much for your comment and the reminder of the great story of Ruth and God’s provision for her. I agree – we do have to be proactive and living out our faith, which does involve “getting out there” and taking risks in seeking out relationships.

      To clarify, where my pastor was challenging me was that I was giving my singleness a bigger role in my life than I should have allowed. What I was calling “stepping out on faith” was me trying to manipulate my situation and believing the lie that I only get one chance at this marriage thing and thinking things like, “If I don’t go to that party, I won’t meet that guy, and I’ll never get married.” I was very much living in the “you only get one shot” mentality.

      There is a balance between living a life that evidences an active living out on faith and a life that trusts God to work against the odds. It’s a realization that not everything depends on what I do (although I am certainly responsible for my actions and showing my faith that God can provide a spouse by making myself available)- it’s a trust in God’s timing and a trust that He’s working in the life of the person who will be my spouse.

  2. katchimney says:

    Emily, what an amazing revelation. So often we labor in the flesh to make things happen. It is hard to distinguish when to operate in works as you believe by faith. For instance you can believe God for a job but sitting on the couch watching TV is not backing up your belief with proper works. Unfortunately, from my experience this scripture doesn’t seem to require the same application when it comes to finding a mate. I have found myself spinning on the wheels of frustration when as I go out and about trying to find someone. What are the works required for the single person in desire of a mate? Is it enough to look pretty, smell nice and smile? Again based on my experience I’d had to side with your pastor. I don’t want to start a bad habit that I’d have to carry throughout my marriage.

    • Emily says:

      I love the analogy you gave about believing God for a job but sitting on the couch watching TV instead of being actively searching, and I do think that it does apply to somewhat to finding a spouse. Yes, we do trust God to supernaturally provide, but we do have to make an effort which is a living out of that faith. I’m not 100% sure what that effort is supposed to look like (obviously, as you said, trying to look/smell nice and being a friendly person and I would add being a women who lives out her love for the Lord in a demonstrated care for others – something we are called to do regardless of our status), but our singleness should not dictate every decision we make in life as I so often have let it.

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