When I was a child, my parents used to take me to Grandma and Grandpa’s house for long afternoon visits. My Mennonite grandma would usually be sitting in her chair by the window, a small stack of brightly colored fabric circles on the table beside her. She would sew the edges of each small circle and gather it into a purse, called a “yo-yo,” and my aunt would stitch the yo-yos together into beautiful quilts and sell them at local craft fairs.
My grandma had a job to do: she worked with beautiful material; but she could not piece together the whole quilt. Even though we can’t see how the yo-yo’s of our life fit together into a beautiful quilt, we too have a job to do. What are we to “do in time with God”?We are to fear him (v. 14). But there is more. The Preacher tells us in Ecclesiastes 3:12-13:
“I perceived that there is nothing better for them than to be joyful and to do good as long as they live; also that everyone should eat and drink and take pleasure in all his toil—this is God’s gift to man.”
We are tobe joyful and do good. What simple, delightful tasks!
“One good way to understand and apply this verse is to put it in the first person and use it as a job description,” suggests Phil Ryken: “There is nothing better than to be joyful and to do good as long as I live, and to eat and drink and take pleasure in all my work—this is God’s gift to me.”
We’ll take the second part of this job description up next week, but first, how do we “be joyful” in this disillusioning, difficult life? We look for beauty. No matter what time we find ourselves in, there is beauty to be found. That beauty is God—his presence, his purpose, and his presents. “[God] has made everything beautiful in its time” (Ecc. 3:11).
The Beauty of His Presence
First, we can “be joyful” when we find the beauty of God’s presence in every nook and cranny of our lives. “God intends to be found amid our toast and coffee, while we swing a hammer or change a diaper,” writes Zach Eswine. “This is why he is called ‘Immanuel.’ It means ‘God is with us.’”
The truth we celebrate at Christmastime is truth to celebrate at every time: God is with us. Our Savior is present in every moment of every day. And he wants us to find him there.
“What you need” Elisabeth Elliot tells mothers (and all of us) “is a habitual sense of the presence of God. Think that Almighty God, who created the stars and keeps the seasons revolving in perfect rhythm, is there in your kitchen, in your bathroom, in the laundry room, in the grocery store.”
Think, and find the beauty of God’s presence. Think until it fills your heart with wonder and joy. God is with you. Right now. Every carpool driving, expense report checking, diaper wiping, bed making, bite chewing, sunrise watching minute, the Almighty God is with you. Ponder the beauty of his presence, and you’ll find that there is joy to be squeezed out of every moment of every day.
He is still with us in the awful, stomach-churning moments of our lives. “God has not left the mess,” insists Eswine, “but remains here in it and with us. In that light, we start with what we have and we do this little bit each day with God.”
This is how we travel through unbearable times. By doing a little bit each day with God. Even when we don’t feel his presence, we know that he is with us. “[W]here shall I flee from your presence? asks the Psalmist, ready with the answer: If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there…” (Ps. 139:7-8).
“Wherever Jesus may lead us, He goes before us. If we know not where we go, we know with whom we go. With such a companion, who will dread the perils of the road? The journey may be long, but His everlasting arms will carry us to the end. The presence of Jesus is the assurance of eternal salvation, because He lives, we shall live also.” ~Charles Spurgeon
When we find the beauty of his presence—in the ordinary and the painful moments of our lives—every moment will be infused with joy.
The Beauty of His Purpose
God may not have shown us the whole quilt, we may only see “the outskirts of his ways” (Job 26:14), but we know he has a purpose for our yo-yo making, and this should fill us with joy.
Life doesn’t always feel purposeful. You spend the morning at the DMV only to discover you left your birth certificate at home. You get in a fender bender and miss an appointment. You burn dinner. Or maybe you work hard on a paper and get a “D.” You devote your life to your children and they still rebel.
What’s the point? Or, as the Preacher in Ecclesiastes puts it: “What gain has the worker from his toil?” (3:9).
His answer, in one sense, is nothing. “Vanity,” is the end of all the efforts of men (1:2). But not so the purposes of God: “I perceived that whatever God does endures forever; nothing can be added to it, nor anything taken from it. God has done it” (3:14).
“The Lord will fulfill his purpose for me” David chimes in, as does Job, “No purpose of [his] can be thwarted” (Ps. 138:8, Job 42:2).
“No matter what time it is, we learn to adjust to it on the basis of the hope and purpose that God is in it, that everything has a beauty to it by which the Preacher declares that every disquieting and delightful moment under the sun has been fitted by God for his purposes. With God, everything fits, nothing is wasted or lost. God does not abandon one second of a life under the sun. No disquiet is God forsaken. No true delight is God neglected. Joseph pointed us to this beauty, these purpose-drenched seconds, when he looked at all the pain, the reoccurring tears and the long years of wreckage that his brothers had perpetrated, and he interpreted it all by saying, “You meant evil against me, but God meant it for good” (Gen. 50:20).” ~Zach Eswine
The beauty of God’s purposes gives us joy. Everything fits. He does not lose or drop a single minute of our lives. None of our happy moments, none of our painful moments, and none of our waiting moments, are wasted by God. Every second of our lives is purpose-drenched.
But this we know: everything has a good purpose, and one of God’s main purposes is to teach us to be content with his purpose.
What is God doing here?!Why did I lose my job? Why am I not getting married? Why did I get cancer? Why is there conflict in my family? We don’t know everything he is doing in these difficult situations, but we do know something: he is teaching us to be content. He is showing us how to “be joyful.”
“Remember this, had any other condition been better for you than the one in which you are, divine love would have put you there. You are placed by God in the most suitable circumstances, and if you had the choosing of your lot, you would soon cry, Lord, choose my inheritance for me, for by my self-will I am pierced through with many sorrows’. Be content with such things as you have, since the Lord has ordered all things for your good. Take up your own daily cross; it is the burden best suited for your shoulder, and will prove most effective to make you perfect in every good word and work to the glory of God. Down busy self, and proud impatience, it is not for you to choose, but for the Lord of Love! Trials must and will befall-but with humble faith to see-Love inscribed upon them all-this is happiness to me.” ~Charles Spurgeon
So often we chafe against the purposes of God; or as Rick Holland puts it, we “spend a lot of time trying to get out of what God has put us into.” But if any situation would have been better for us, God would have put us there. God wants us to see that his purpose for these unwanted circumstances is the joy in Christ he purposes for us to have. The very thing we want to get out of is the way to get to joy.
Find the beauty of God’s purpose—our contentment—in every moment of every day, and you can be joyful.
The Beauty of His Presents
“Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above,” James tells us, “coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change” (1:17 ).
No matter how diminished our circumstances or how difficult our road, God has given us gifts to enjoy in this season. Sometimes finding these gifts feels like doing a child’s “hidden pictures” page. But God’s gifts are always there to be found for our joy.
“At some point, we all have to come to terms with the spiritual truth that true joy is found in God and God is found right where His gifts are. God’s gifts are our lot. This means that right here where we are is where God will be found…” writes Zach Eswine.
These gifts are the very ones we often overlook as we long after other gifts. We often pine for gifts we used to have or pant after gifts we never had, and we pass over the gifts we have right now. This is how not to be joyful.
But look around you. Has God given you a “place to inhabit”? Has he blessed you with a roof over your head, a place where you belong? Your home, and the small expressions of beauty there hold a myriad of gifts.
Do you have some people to share your life with—a family, a church community? They may be a quirky, raggedy bunch, but each one is a gift from God. And so is your work, whatever “the next thing” is that God has given you to do. It may be a small work, a praying work, a difficult work, but it is a gifted work, designed to give you joy.
“The Preacher reorients us. To taste the sweetness of ordinary joys, we learn to enter each day with a conviction about the givenness of all things…. Pay attention to what God is giving and what he is not, receive with humility what he gives as enough, thankfully pursue this enjoy this”. ~Zach Eswine
Joy is right under our noses in the form of God’s gifts to us today. We only need to find them out.
I’m reminded of the hymn we used to sing in church as a child:
When upon life’s billows you are tempest tossed,
When you are discouraged, thinking all is lost,
Count your many blessings, name them one by one,
And it will surprise you what the Lord hath done.
Count your blessings, name them one by one;
Count your blessings, see what God hath done;
Count your blessings, name them one by one;
Count your many blessings, see what God hath done.
Count your blessings. Once you start finding the beauty of God’s gifts in every day, you will be, as CS Lewis put it, surprised by joy. “Find him, not in what you do not have, but amid the smallest things that remain, he will find you!” (Eswine).
In every season, no matter how reduced or unpleasant, we can find the beauty of God’s gifts. Corrie and Betsie ten Boom found beauty even in the horrors of the Ravensbruck concentration camp. In her book, The Hiding Place, Corrie recounts how her sister Betsie resolved to “give thanks in all circumstances,” including the fleas which infested their barracks. “Fleas are part of this place where God has put us,” Betsie told her sister.
Some time later, the ten Boom sisters discovered that the guards would not step foot in their barracks, thus leaving them free to share the Scriptures with the other women, all because of the fleas. Corrie remembered her sister’s “thanks to God for creatures I could see no use for.”
If Betsie ten Boom can find the beauty of God’s gifts in a flea-infested concentration camp, how much more can we find beauty in God’s gifts to us today? No matter what time we find ourselves in, there is beauty to be found.
Even in our lowest state, we have The Gift of Gifts in the person of Jesus Christ. “The free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom. 6:23). As we ponder his sacrifice for us this Easter week, may we be full of sorrow for our ingratitude and filled with joy for his gift of salvation.
Find beauty in God’s seasonal gifts, and God will find you and give you joy.
Here is part one of our job description, our quilt circles: find beauty. Find beauty in God’s presence, in God’s purpose and in God’s presents and you will “be joyful.”
We know that girltalk is not your usual go-to source for the latest in Christian Hip-Hop (although we are big fans!), so today we feel super blessed to welcome Jasmine Le’Shea to our blog. Jasmine has recently released her debut single, “True Beauty” and we were so blessed by her message, and by this young woman’s sweet and joyful trust in God, that we wanted you to meet her and enjoy her song.
Welcome to girltalk, Jasmine! Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and your relationship with Christ?
I am a bundle of so many things lol, but I will try to narrow a summary of who I am into a few brief sentences. I am a young woman with a heart for the Lord Jesus, I am also an African-American southern belle who loves the city, loves singing and writing, enjoys Christian art of varying styles, I am a lover of learning, and a lover of fellowship with believers.
By God’s sovereign design, although there is much to write about myself that is full of joy, I also have sin struggles. Among the most notable are my longings pertaining to beauty, desirability, and marriage. They are, as I have noted, struggles; I have not and will not throw in the towel. God is with me. As horrible a sinner as I am, Romans tells me that nothing can separate me from the love of God. I am in total awe of this, and gratitude floods my soul at the thought of being loved this much.
You are a two-time heart transplant recipient. How has suffering at such a young age taught you more about the character of God?
Our God is in the heavens, He does whatever He pleases, and what He pleases is always good. Does it always feel good? Absolutely not. Sickness hurts. Interestingly enough, there are times when I reflect on my illness at age 15 and think how much stronger I felt emotionally then. I had just come into relationship with the Lord and there was nothing anyone could say and no pain that was bad enough to take away the excitement I had in my new found hope. I knew that whether I lived or died, Christ loved me and would take better care of me than anyone else could. As I am nearing the end of my 20’s, though the hope remains, my experience with illness has been a bit different. When I was 15 I hadn’t really known the financial difficulties, I hadn’t experienced the loneliness, and I hadn’t encountered significant disappointment. Since then, however, I have. What I have come to realize, however, is not that I was stronger when I was 15 but that I have grown more dependent on God as I draw near to age 30. Mom and Dad can’t be with me every moment now, they cannot afford to handle my medical experiences anymore, and as I grow older the comfort that they and others provide does not give what I would like to experience from a mate. This leaves me with complete dependence on the Lord. I have found, as did Paul and many other Christ followers, that God’s grace is indeed sufficient. This does not always equate to comfort, but it does always mean that the needs of those who trust in Him will be met and God will be glorified.
You recently released your debut single True Beauty. Can you tell us how you came to write this song and why you are passionate about this biblical message?
I wrote and titled the song “True Beauty” years ago, somewhere between 2006 & 2007 I believe. I remember just crying out to God to make me different, to make me a woman who was pleasing in His sight. The chorus of the song is pretty mellow and it’s followed by a first verse that is significantly more aggressive, representing my soft and sincere desire for True Beauty along with my aggressiveness in fighting for it. It has been approximately 8 years since I wrote the song, and I have not ‘arrived’. I am not immune to longing for physical beauty, to making comparisons and the like, but God has been and still is graciously growing me. I hurt still, but I depend on Him more. I long still, but push my longings into greater pursuits of Christ, of Christian fellowship, and of sharing the beauty of Christ with others. I am so passionate about the message of pursuing True Beauty because it has been a bit of a thorn for me, an area of weakness in which the Lord my God uses to remind me that His grace is sufficient and His strength is made perfect in weakness. He is using this ‘thorn’ to push me to pursue and love on other sisters in ways that I may have never done had I not known the struggle, which includes my writing, singing, and speaking on topics like True Beauty.
How has your physical suffering influenced your perspective on beauty?
My physical suffering brings me face to face with the beast of vanity and asks, “What will you believe?” If I’m honest the answer to this question does not always come as instantly as it should. During these face offs there are times when I do not believe the truths of Scripture which tell me that it is a woman who fears the Lord who is to be praised and that beauty does not come from external adorning. My eyes see women without the scars, without the additional weight, and without serious illnesses being praised by men. Fortunately, the Lord loves me too much to let what my eyes see rule my heart entirely. Rather He graces me with the presence of the Holy Spirit who lovingly points me to the cross and the immeasurable sacrifice that Jesus made to shower me with True Beauty. The Spirit always reminds me how precious I am to Christ and that His thoughts of me should matter above all, and they do. God is most beautiful, He created beauty, and He sees me as such. Physical suffering pushes me to fight harder to remember and cling to these truths.
How can mothers and mentors help young women to pursue true beauty?
Older women teaching younger women are essential, as Titus 2 points out. This may not be a quick fix and it therefore may not bring instant comfort, but I truly believe that teaching young women to gaze upon the Lord and allowing them to witness their moms and mentors do it (through discipleship) is the most valuable way to teach them to pursue True Beauty.
It is great to encourage young women with words of affirmation, but it is most beneficial to couple that with an emphasis on the beauty of God. This leads the believer to fight to take her eyes off of herself, to recall what the Lord deems as beautiful, to pray to see beauty as He sees it, and to ultimately pursue True Beauty.
As established in your book True Beauty, this certainly does not mean that a woman should disregard her external appearance, but it does mean that her inner beauty should be more highly regarded. Doing this will help sisters to put our considerations of makeup, hair, fitness, clothing, et. into proper perspective, to reduce comparisons, and to “follow Jesus”, as relayed in “The Snare of Compare” teaching by Carolyn Mahaney.
You mentioned that you are currently in the hospital related to your heart. How can we pray for you?
This is such a sweet question! I am so grateful that you and other sisters in Christ who do not know me personally are willing to go to the Lord on my behalf, thank you!
Please pray that if the Lord be pleased He would grant me good health and that I will steward my health well, in whatever state I am in. Please also pray that as my body expands and my appearance changes due to changes in my energy levels and new medications that I not be consumed with these external changes. Pray that I focus on further developing an inner beauty and that I be strengthened and enlightened to continue to encourage others in the body of Christ to focus on the same. Last, God has graced me with an abundance of love from the body of Christ and though I am never alone going through my physical trials, I still long for a beautiful, God-glorifying marriage. Please pray for my comfort and for the Lord’s provision as He wills in this regard. Thank you again.
We will be praying for you, Jasmine! Thank you so much for sharing your life and your music with us.
“Also, he has put eternity into man’s heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from beginning to the end.” ~Ecc. 3:12
On my eighth birthday, my parents spread a trail of all-purpose flour from our front porch, down the sidewalk, and around Aquarius Avenue. I didn’t know where the white, powdery, mounds were leading me; but my parents loved surprises, so I knew this trail must be going somewhere good and birthdayish.
I followed the flour mounds, a whole pack of neighborhood kids giggling behind me, and sure enough, I ended back in front of our house where sat a brand-new Schwinn bike, tricked out with hand breaks and a pink and purple daisy-adorned banana seat.
As Christians, our times are a little like my birthday trail.
Because we have eternity in our hearts, we want to understand how it all fits together. What’s the purpose of this season? How is God using this experience for my good? What’s the meaning and significance of my life?
“Man has an inborn inquisitiveness and capacity to learn how everything in his experience can be integrated to make a whole. He wants to know how the mundane ‘down-stairs’ realm of ordinary, day-to-day living fits with the ‘up-stairs’ realm of the hereafter; how the business of living, eating, working, and enjoying can be made to fit with the call to worship, serve, and love the living God.” ~Walter C. Kaiser, Jr.
Not the Answers We Were Hoping For
Here’s the rub: God doesn’t always answer these questions. He doesn’t show us the big picture or give us the bird’s eye view. He doesn’t invite us into his satellite room: “Do you see, when those flour mounds veer off here or dead end there, or go for a long time in the same direction? Here’s what I’m doing. Let me explain how my eternal purposes are being worked out in all of the exciting, ordinary, and difficult times.”
God doesn’t show us how the beads of the days of our lives string together. In the preacher’s words: “We cannot find out what God has done from beginning to end” (v. 12).
Sure, we see bits here and there:
“We catch these brilliant moments, but even apart from the darkness interspersed with them they leave us unsatisfied for lack of any total meaning that we can grasp. We see enough to recognize something of its quality, but the grand design escapes us, for we can never stand back far enough to view it as its Creator does, whole and entire, from the beginning to the end.” ~Derek Kidner
There you have it. According to the preacher of Ecclesiastes, God has done both of these things. He has given us the understanding that there is a beginning and end, but then he won’t let us see our beginning from our end. We see the beauty in between and we know there is beauty to come, but we can’t see how our time all fits together.
“Just because God has placed eternity in our hearts—‘an etching of the eternal on our soul’—does not mean that we understand how God’s ordering of everything works. We are like Augustine, who said that he understood the concept of time up to the point when someone asked him to explain it. God has made us inquisitive about eternity. But just because he has given us a key to open some lock does not mean that he has shown us where on earth the door is. We are completely known by God, but we cannot completely know the plans or purposes of God because we are not God. The mirror before our faces is murky (1 Cor. 13:12), and our window into heaven narrow.” ~Douglas Sean O’Donnell
The Frustration of Our Times
Because of this seeing-but-not-totally-seeing thing that God has done with our time, there’s an unease and disquiet that often underlies our day-to-day efforts to keep going. Are all these carpools and bag lunches worth it? Does it even matter if I keep hanging in there with this difficult person? What’s the point of serving in my church when no one notices? Why did God put me in this family with all of their problems?
When life heats up, these “what’s the point?” questions get even more urgent:
My husband and I were supposed to have a strong marriage and help others. Why are we in marriage counseling instead? What is God doing here?
All I ever wanted to be was a wife and a mother but it isn’t happening. I don’t understand.
Why doesn’t our financial situation change? No matter how hard we work, we can’t seem to get above water.
I never thought this terrible thing would happen to me.
As Christians we often expect—for ourselves and for others—that God will give us all the answers eventually. Sure, we might have to wait patiently, but if we just hang in there, God will show us how it all fits together. We throw around “God works all things together for good” (Rom. 8:28), all the while implying that the fulfillment of this verse includes an explanation. But that is not the wisdom of God.
“Now, the mistake that is commonly made is to suppose…that the gift of wisdom consists in a deepened insight into the providential meaning and purpose of events going on around us, an ability to see why God has done what he has done in a particular case, and what he is going to do next. People feel that if they were really walking close to God, so that he could impart wisdom to them freely…they would discern the real purpose of everything that happened to them, and it would be clear to them every moment how God was making all things work together for good. What the preacher wants to show him is the real basis of wisdom is a frank acknowledgment that this world’s course is enigmatic, that much of what happens is quite inexplicable to us, and that most occurrences ‘under the sun’ bear no outward sign of a rational, moral God ordering them at all…God’s ordering of events is inscrutable.” ~J.I. Packer
What a welcome relief to our tortured souls. Things often don’t make sense to us because God has made them enigmatic and inscrutable.
These verses provide peace in day-to-day perplexities and deep comfort in confounding situations. God hasn’t abandoned us or failed to fulfill all of his promises. This is how God works in our time. He makes things beautiful and inscrutable.
What To Do In Time With God
Why does God do it this way? Why does he tell us there is a purpose but often hide his purposes?
“God has done it, so that people fear before him.” ~Ecc. 3:14
“Ignorance forces us to humbly submit, to believe, and to trust God for the outcome” writes Sam Storms, and follows up with this quote from David Hubbard: “God has fixed our courses and veiled them in mystery so that we may not take him for granted.”
God set eternity in our hearts and he also does not allow us to see the end from the beginning for a gracious reason—to lead us to himself, to cause us to fear him.
Our frustration with our “inability to make sense of things on [our] own” is “the result of a God-given burden” writes Sinclair Ferguson. When we don’t understand what is happening, when the world seems perplexing and life takes inexplicable twists and turns, we must look to God in reverence, and humbly trust him who makes all things beautiful and inscrutable in his time.
God frustrates our time so we may fear him. When we can’t figure out where the flour mounds of our lives are headed, God wants us to look to him. “I’m not going to tell you where they are going yet. I want you to trust me that they are going somewhere good.I want you to keep looking to me. I want you to trust me and to fear me.”
This is why the Proverbs 31 woman “laughs at the time to come”: because she is a woman who fears the Lord (v. 25, 30). Her laughter is not trite or ignorant of the harsh realities of life, but it flows from a freeing confidence in God and knowledge of his ways. She doesn’t know the full meaning of all her industrious labors, or what the future time holds, but she knows her times are in God’s hands, and that he makes everything beautiful in its time.
In sum, death has pointed its headlights at us and started its engine. Therefore, we must learn from God how to enjoy what he has given to us, knowing that none of it can save or satisfy us. Trying to turn a grapefruit into a baseball doesn’t dismiss the value of the grapefruit, but it makes for a disappointing baseball game. If we want to enjoy the fruit’s value, we have to treat it according to the use God gave it and resist tying to use it for things it was not made for. A grapefruit cannot give us the thrill of a home run, but it can make a breakfast pleasant.
So it is with our spouses, our food, our work, and our place in the world. Neither of these can satisfy our souls or provide the gain that only God can give. Trying to use them as such will only disappoint us. Yet, these creations are God-given and possess divine purpose. A joy resides within them for our notice and this by his design. We are meant to taste these joys for which God’s gifts were made. ~Zach Eswine
2015 at 5:28 am | by Carolyn Mahaney
Recently I was watching a cooking show where the celebrity chef and her husband were celebrating a milestone anniversary. The cook shared her “recipe” (ha!) for a long-lasting, happy marriage: “I try to make him happy and he tries to make me happy and it works!”
As far as I know, this woman is not a Christian, but her advice reflects a biblical principle for marriage: husbands and wives are to love one another. They are to put each other’s interests above their own (Phil. 2:4). A husband is to love his wife as Christ loves the church (Eph. 5:25). A wife is to love her husband with a tender, affectionate love (Titus 2:4). In the chef’s words, I am to try to make him happy.
So often, in marriage, we get it the wrong way around, don’t we? We think more about all the ways our husbands can make us happy, or we dwell on how unhappy we are with our husbands.
“If only he would be more like ______________ I would be happy.”
“If only he would stop doing ______________I would be happy”
“If only he would notice ______________I would be happy”
“If only he would ask ______________ I would be happy”
“If only he would do ______________ I would be happy”
Our egalitarian culture gives us a sympathetic pat on the back. After all, the modern recipe for a happy marriage calls for self-interest as a main ingredient. But this is not the biblical way. Nor does it turn out very well. The more we try to put our own happiness first in our marriages, the more unhappy we become.
Or, to put it another way: If we really want our own happiness, and if we really want a happy marriage, we will put our husband’s happiness first. John Piper:
“Husbands and wives, recognize that in marriage you have become one flesh. If you live for your private pleasure at the expense of your spouse, you are living against yourself and destroying your joy. But if you devote yourself with all your heart to the holy joy of your spouse, you will also be living for your joy and making a marriage after the image of Christ and His church.”
My husband is a wonderful example of putting my happiness first. He calls it “studying his wife” and he has spent our entire marriage seeking to discover what makes me happy. He often encourages husbands not to assume that their wives will like what every other wife likes, but to study their own wives and learn what makes them happy.
I don’t have to think back far for an example of my husband trying to make me happy. While we were on a getaway two weekends ago, my husband noticed a sign for an afternoon tea. Now, I’m not even sure CJ has ever had a cup of tea in his life, much less attended an afternoon tea. But he knows afternoon tea is a favorite of mine, a long-standing tradition with my daughters, and now my granddaughters.
And so, because he wants to make me happy, he made a reservation. I wish you could have seen my husband, in a room of mostly women, trying to make a tea selection and handle a teacup. We ended up laughing our way through the afternoon. But he was happy because I was happy.
Are you unhappy in your marriage? Are you dissatisfied or disappointed with your husband? Instead of focusing on your unhappiness, or trying to make yourself happy first, try to make your husband happy. A happy husband makes for a happy wife, and a happy marriage brings glory to God. The chef, and more importantly, God’s Word is right: this recipe for a happy marriage works.
“Time is like the sky. Wherever we look, there it is.” ~Zach Eswine
When asked: “What superpower would you most like to have?” more than a quarter of Americans said they would choose the ability to travel through time. They want to travel through time more than they want the ability to fly or become invisible.
Time unsettles us. It is always there, and yet it’s a commodity we never seem to have enough of. Maybe this is why we want to travel through time. We feel restricted by it and we worry about how to spend it. If “now is the time” what should I be doing now?
It’s a question women are asking a lot these days, so in between other topics here at girltalk, we want to look at the issue of a woman’s time.
The preacher of Ecclesiastes meets us in our frustration and fretfulness about time with a poem:
“For everything there is a season and a time for every matter under heaven:”
a time to be born, and a time to die;
a time to plant and a time to pluck up what is planted;
a time to kill, and a time to heal;
a time to break down, and a time to build up;
a time to weep, and a time to laugh;
a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together;
a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
a time to seek, and a time to lose;
a time to keep, and a time to cast away;
a time to tear and a time to sew;
a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
a time to love, and a time to hate;
a time for war, and a time for peace.”
This poem, and the verses that follow tell us “what God does with time and, in light of that, what we should do in time with God” (D.S. O’Donnell).
God Sets Our Times
What does God do with time? For one, he controls it: “There is a time for every season under heaven” (v. 1).
In case we didn’t catch his drift, the preacher spells it out a few verses later, sans poetry: “God has done it,” he says, bluntly, and “whatever God does endures forever; nothing can be added to it, nor taken away from it (v. 14-15).”
God orders time. Whatever is done, God has done it. Time is in his hands.
And God has stitched down our time in seasons: To everything there is a season, in other words, “a fixed time, a predetermined purpose” (C. Bridges). So there is a fixed time to laugh and also to cry, to embrace and to hold back, to be born and to die.
This pretty poem has fangs. For as much as we enjoy the times of laughter and embracing, we cannot escape the times of loneliness, pain, and tears. Harsh times will come as surely as the kind. There goes our time traveling fantasy.
“This chapter has disturbing implications,” writes Derek Kidner. “One of them is that we dance to a tune, or many tunes, not of our own making; a second is that nothing we pursue has any permanence”:
We throw ourselves into some absorbing activity which offers us fulfillment, but how freely did we choose it? How soon shall we be doing the exact opposite? Perhaps our choices are no freer than our responses to winter and summer, childhood and old age, dictated by the march of time and of unbidden change.
Looked at in this way, the repetition of a ‘time . . ., and a time . . .,’ begins to be oppressive. Whatever may be our skill and initiative, our real masters seem to be these inexorable seasons: not only those of the calendar, but that tide of events which moves us now to one kind of action, which seems fitting, now to another which puts it all into reverse. Obviously we have little to say in the situations.”
Our poem concludes with this almost bitter, rhetorical question: “What gain has the worker from his toil?” (v. 9). The answer seems lost in the wind.
The teacher brings us face to face with our life in this sin-stained world. Time is subject to sin and we are subject to time. There will be weeping and war. There will be silence, loss, and loneliness. And as we toil underneath these times, no absorbing or fulfilling activity we pursue has any permanence.
So what’s the point of this life lived under the thumb of time?
God Makes Our Times Beautiful
“I’ve got bad news and I’ve got good news,” says the preacher. “And I’ve just given you the bad news: You are subject to time, and all your efforts within that time are futile.”
Now for the good news: “God has made everything beautiful in his time” (v. 12).
“[The preacher] enables us to see perpetual change not as something unsettling but as an unfolding pattern, scintillating and God-given. The trouble for us is not that life refuses to keep still, but that we see only a fraction of its movement and of its subtle, intricate design. Instead of changelessness, there is something better: a dynamic, divine purpose, with its beginning and end. Instead of frozen perfection there is the kaleidoscopic movement of innumerable processes, each with its own character and its period of blossoming and ripening, beautiful in its time and contributing to the over-all masterpiece which is the work of one Creator.
This is what God does with time: He makes it beautiful. Time is God’s masterpiece. He orders our sorrow and joys, our casting away and our gathering. He orders all of our seasons as part of his beautiful plan. Most magnificently of all, “when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son” (Gal. 4:4).
So what should we do with God in time? We must as one commentator puts it, “embrace the beauty of God’s sovereignty.” Instead of wishing we could travel through time, we must travel with God through time.
2015 at 7:18 am | by Nicole Whitacre
~from the archives, August 2007: the truth of these words from John Piper encourage me as much today as they did eight years ago
These days you’ll find me at home changing diapers, picking up toys, helping Jack make pb&j’s (I do the peanut butter and he does the jelly), wiping spit-up off my clothes, and—here’s where it really gets exciting—going to Wal Mart to purchase more diapers.
My home is a long way from the community college campus where I used to serve as a ministry intern on behalf of my church, sharing the gospel and discipling girls every day. It’s a long way from the church office where I organized women’s meetings and retreats for hundreds. It’s a very long way from Hungary and India where I traveled on short-term mission trips.
I love my life now, even if it doesn’t always seem as “exciting” or “significant” as what I used to do. Maybe that’s why this thought from John Piper’s book The Roots of Endurance resonated with me:
“I have just preached to my people several messages in which I pleaded with them to be ‘coronary Christians,’ not ‘adrenal Christians.’ Not that adrenaline is bad, I said; it gets me through lots of Sundays. But it lets you down on Mondays.
The heart is another kind of friend. It just keeps on serving—very quietly, through good days and bad days, happy and sad, high and low, appreciated and unappreciated. It never says, ‘I don’t like your attitude, Piper, I’m taking a day off.’ It just keeps humbly lub-dubbing along. It endures the way adrenaline doesn’t.
Coronary Christians are like the heart in the causes they serve. Adrenal Christians are like adrenaline—a spurt of energy and then fatigue.
What we need in the cause of… [motherhood] is not spurts of energy, but people who endure for the long haul. Marathoners, not sprinters.”
Being a wife and mother—or doing any other long-term kingdom work—requires us to be “coronary Christians.” It requires faithfulness even when we don’t see fruit. It requires joy in the mundane, unglamorous tasks. It calls for confidence that God will bless our gospel-motivated labors.
So if you are weary, discouraged, or even bored with the work God is calling you to today, join me in asking for God’s grace to be a “coronary Christian.”
“And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do notgive up.” ~Galatians 6:9
Recently, at the end of a conference session where CJ and I fielded questions, a woman approached me with a query of her own: “So what do you do on the side?” she inquired.
“On the side?” I echoed, not fully comprehending her question.
“What do you do for personal fulfillment?” she sought to clarify. “You see I’m happy my husband has his ministry because that provides him with personal fulfillment. But I pursue my own hobbies because they provide personal fulfillment for me. So,” she repeated again, “What do you do?”
I was unprepared for her question. And I’m sure my answer was insufficient. (How often I have an eloquent answer after the conversation is over!) If I had it to do over again, I’d tell her about Dorothy.
Dorothy was a woman who knew the secret of true “personal fulfillment.” A single mom whose husband left her with a son to raise, Dorothy didn’t spend time worrying about herself. Instead, she was always serving and caring for others. I knew her because she was my Sunday School teacher. And Dorothy was one of the most joyful women I knew.
At my bridal shower everyone wrote down a piece of advice on a slip of paper. I only remember one, and it was Dorothy’s. Her secret to a fulfilled life? “Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it” (Matthew 10:39). Our culture is constantly telling us to find our life; that we’re the center of our world, and as such, we need to take care of “me” first.
But when I’m the center of my world, my world becomes very small—because I’m the only person in it. When I try to find fulfillment in anything besides loving Christ and serving Him, I will only end up more frustrated and completely unfulfilled.
Now, don’t misunderstand. I think we as women should express our creativity, and even more importantly get sufficient rest. But the purpose of creativity should be to glorify God with our gifts, not to find “personal fulfillment,” and the goal of rest should be to strengthen us for service.
If we want “personal fulfillment” as women, we must not follow our culture’s prescription. Rather, we must lose our life for Christ’s sake. Then, amazingly, we’ll find that our world expands. We’ll know the thrill of seeing the fruit of our sacrificial service in the lives of those around us. So for true “personal fulfillment,” let’s follow Dorothy’s example as she followed Christ.