We’re doing something a bit unique for CFYC this month. Normally we’re all about women encouraging women, but this month, we decided to shake things up a little. We’ve invited some godly brothers in the faith to give us their two cents. What would these men say to a captive audience of their sisters in Christ if they had the opportunity? What do they think we need to know? Join us this month as we bring you lessons from men of God just for women.
Today in America, women have more rights than ever before. Social changes have supposedly made life better for women providing greater access to higher education and high paid jobs. In addition, technology and appliances have supposedly made life easier. Yet, despite these factors, studies are showing that women are more unhappy today than they were 40 years ago (click here for one source). There is much debate as to the cause of this decline in happiness, but many chalk it up to increasing pressures and stress. I don’t think the problem is so much the women’s rights movement as it is that women have abandoned some of their God-given rights. Consider a few of these God-given rights from the Book of Ecclesiastes that will improve happiness in your life and your family’s life.
First, consider the right to enjoy what you do. It is God’s intention for us to be happy in life and in our work, but the key to this happiness is following God’s guidelines. This is one of the great messages in the Book of Ecclesiastes. Solomon describes the benefits of labor as the gift of God (Ecclesiastes 3:12-13). Knowing the brevity and uncertainty of life, he notes: “I have seen that nothing is better than that man should be happy in his activities, for that is his lot” (Ecclesiastes 3:22). Whether you are working outside the home or inside the home, you should enjoy what you are doing. Often, this is not so much about the job itself as it is about your attitude. There are people who are happy working at McDonald’s while others are miserable. There are women happy to be at home while some are miserable. What makes the difference? It’s the attitude towards the job. The ones who are happy look at the blessings of their role in life, while the ones who are miserable are always looking down on what they do and longing for something else. You can be happy in whatever you choose to do.
Second, consider the right to enjoy the fruits of your labor. In Ecclesiastes 2:10 Solomon tells us there is a reward to labor. It’s easy to see how this works in a paid position. You put in your hours, you do your job, and you are rewarded with a paycheck. The reward for a homemaker is less obvious, but no less substantial. When you are cleaning, the satisfaction of turning chaos into order and enjoying a clean domain is your reward. When you are baking cookies, eating a little cookie dough or enjoying some fresh baked cookies is your reward. When you are raising a child, the moments you spend holding them and playing with them are part of your reward. Too many are constantly laboring and never enjoying the reward. You may think that by toiling away in misery, you are sacrificing for your family, but you are actually sacrificing their well-being. If you do not enjoy life, they will probably not enjoy it either. If they see being a mother is miserable, that’s how they will view parenthood. The solution isn’t a change of role or job; a miserable person will stay miserable wherever they are. The solution is to change your attitude. Do everyone a favor and take the time to enjoy the rewards of your labor.
Third, consider the right to slow down. Many women are going in a bazillion directions trying to please everyone and get everything done. They are tired, weary, and stressed. They need to follow the advice of Ecclesiastes 4:6 and have one hand full of rest rather than two fists full of labor. This means finding a balance in life between too much work (cf. Ecclesiastes 4:4) and laziness (cf. Ecclesiastes 4:5). It involves contentment with what one has and where one is at so they are not frantically striving after something more (cf. 1 Timothy 6:6). Don’t be so consumed by the “to-do’s” of life that you never spend time with your family. Don’t be so stressed and preoccupied you are never truly present even when you are around your family. Remember, it is more important to take care of the household (i.e., the people in your house) than it is to take care of the house. A well taken care of house with a poorly taken care of household is just a whitewashed tomb. The laundry pile will still be there tomorrow (trust me, it never goes away), but your children may not be. They are growing and changing every moment and soon they will be gone and all you will have is regrets for not spending time with them when you had the chance.
Fourth, consider the right to enjoy your marriage. Ecclesiastes 9:7-9 is once again encouraging us to enjoy hard work but also to enjoy marriage as well. Marriage is a reward from God that helps us to deal with the stress and difficulties of our fleeting life on earth (cf. Ecclesiastes 4:12). Notice in Ecclesiastes 9:9 is a command to enjoy life with your spouse. This is something that must be pursued and sought after. It may not happen without some effort and it certainly won’t happen without a strong commitment to the relationship and affection for your spouse. Marriage offers one of greatest potentials for happiness in this life, but if you don’t take the time to work at your relationship and enjoy your marriage, it may turn out to be the most miserable thing in your life. You have a right to spend time with your husband (and only your husband) even if there is work around the house to be done.
Fifth, consider the right to forgive yourself. Constantly dwelling on past mistakes and your imperfections is one of the greatest causes of unhappiness in life. Although this point doesn’t come from Ecclesiastes, it comes from another great book of the Bible for shaping our thinking and our look on life– the Letter to the Philippians. Talking of the goal of perfection in Christ, Paul says: “Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:13-14). If we are constantly looking at our past and the mistakes we made, we will never reach forward to what lies ahead. In the Bible, to forget means to no longer act on that information. We cannot change the past; we can only resolve to do better in the future. Instead of continually dwelling on your errors, try the following steps. First, admit your sin to yourself. Second, analyze why you sinned. Third, repent of the sin. This involves: making amends for the sin (if possible), confessing your sins, and developing a plan to avoid that sin in the future. Fourth, trust in the forgiveness of God and go on to live your life. Acknowledge that you make mistakes, but it will be okay.
True happiness is not found where the world tells us it is, but where God says. The Bible has the keys to finding happiness and contentment by shaping our minds and attitudes. It gives us a new perspective on life and shows us what is really important. When you follow its advice, you will have a happier life.
By Jeremy Sprouse
Jeremy Sprouse serves as the preacher for the Patrick Street church of Christ in Dublin, TX and writes the blog “A Preacher’s Study” as well as “A Proverb for the Day” on Facebook. He and Erynn have been married for 13 years and have five boys ages eight to five months.