DG posted an article on women and work that I’d been working on (get that, working on?) for a while. It’s a tricky topic to talk about because of the pet ponies so many keep in the stall on this one. But how many of us are willing to really work the way God requires? Having totally crucified our selfish ambitions and laid down our lives? How many of us are hoping to be a living sacrifice? I think lots of us are hoping for something a little more affirming, a little easier, a little less exhausting, and a lot more, well, fun.
But there’s a paradox that IS the Christian life: death to life. A million deaths each day doesn’t end in the grave. It ends in JOY. So here’s my attempt at understanding our call to work as women.
The pertinent question for women entering the workforce or motherhood or setting up their home or any sphere of work is this: Am I faithfully obeying God as his child by meeting the genuine needs of others, or am I pursuing self-actualization, self-fulfillment, or selfish ambition apart from him?
Our faithfulness first requires a kind of death — death to self and selfish ambition. Yet death leads to life — life in Christ, through him, and for him. What exactly that death looks like will vary from person to person, but in every case, it will be a gospel act, a spectacle of crucifixion with Christ.
For a single mom who must earn an income, prioritizing Christ and the home may mean doing what it takes to provide for her kids’ needs and spending herself at work, then at home, at great cost to herself — to the glory of God and for the good of her children.
For a single woman without kids, it may mean considering cross-cultural missions or walking fearlessly into her job, while saving some reserves for the life of the church or investing in her neighborhood or opening her home — whether it’s an apartment or a house or a room — so she can share what she has, especially Christ in her.
For a married, stay-at-home mom of littles, it may mean seemingly endless physical tasks and training, laying down the pre-motherhood feelings of proficiency as she can no longer earn an “A” for her hard work or receive a promotion.
For the mom with a part-time job that helps financially but isn’t essential, it may mean laying that job down and the extra financial cushion so that she can intentionally sow seeds of the gospel in her children. Or it might mean keeping that job and using her gifts to serve others.
For the woman whose husband is facing long-term unemployment or disability, it may mean becoming the breadwinner or caretaker, shouldering a larger portion of responsibility than she had perhaps desired.
For a mom whose children are older and gaining independence, it may mean a shift in the type of work she does, bravely considering the options and doing things she hasn’t done in a long time, or trying something brand new.
Sometimes our circumstances aren’t ideal. Often they are not ideal. This isn’t heaven. And the call to lay down our lives will take different forms. But this is our calling, with its countless manifestations. Not because we’re the one who finally will save our kids or our family or our neighbors or ourselves. We’re not Christ. But we are Christians. We gladly follow the God-man who laid down his own life to meet our truest needs. We gladly echo his great sacrifice in our little deaths-to-self.
We seek to faithfully live the actual life God has given us, not the one we hoped for or wish we had. We take the principles God himself has given us — for work and dominion, the priority of the home, generosity and hospitality, caring for the children (and adults) God has given us (their bodies and souls) — and we apply them to the real life in front of us. Not the ideal. Not the fantasy. But the actual life God has given us.
Our work is not about us. It’s not about making a name for ourselves with a fabulous career or being superior because things went well for us and we’re doing it all “right” or trying to “have it all.” If we ache to make a name for ourselves — in self-glorification — we should remember that we serve the one whose name is above all names. He will not suffer us as competitors. And far better than making a name for ourselves, he’s written our names in his book, not because we have a great job, but because we’re his children.
So work really hard. Do amazingly good work. Excel in every single way that you can, in every single area that you can, with the self-forgetful happiness that can be found only when you’ve laid yourself down and are trusting in the name of a tireless, serving Savior. Trust the author of the Lamb’s book of life to guide you in every circumstance to every good work that he’s prepared for you.
Great article about our work as women. I’ve been a lot of those women: the single woman with a promising career, a married working mom of young ones with a strong desire to be home, a home-school mom for 10 years, and one having to go back to work due to my husband’s layoff and still working after 5 years. In all of them I fought and am still fighting not to find my identity in the work, but to work as unto the Lord. I am His child. He is my All in All. He is the Source. He is the One who makes the work count.
Have never heard it put better! Great article. It answers questions women ask at different stages I life pointing to the glory of the Lord. More of my sisters here in Zambia need to hear this.
Just wondering. In this article, there were several descriptions of various ways a woman could work. Good. But left out is the woman who works FULL time even though she has kids. She talked about the mom who worked PART time to help support, and the mom who is forced into full time work as the breadwinner because the husband is laid off. But what about the mom who works full time not because she has to but because she enjoys her career and is a witness for Christ in the workplace? And the home is not neglected. Why did that example get left out the illustration?
The article also left out the married woman who can’t have children but I don’t think it’s a slur. Abigail gives a few examples. She can’t possibly run through all the options. There is no condemnation there.
In other words, the mom I’m referring to works full time because she WANTS to; there aren’t financial obligations that force her to. And she enjoys it. And has small kids. Why was that woman left out of the examples?
Thanks for your question. I didn’t address every possible scenario, because I didn’t feel I was equipped to, but rather I wanted to point women back to their Bibles, God’s Spirit and their local church community to receive counsel and wisdom for parsing out what is best in each setting. I gave some examples of what it looks like to lay down what we had hoped for in solidarity with Christ, who laid down his very life, in service to others. That’s really the point of the article: to make our lives a living sacrifice rather than doing “what feels good” or what the culture tells us we deserve. And I fully believe that when we do that, the great Gospel paradox comes true–which is that in all the tiny deaths to self, we don’t end up stuck in the grave, but we get the greatest joy. Hope this helps.
Nice work, my friend! I’ve hardly been able to skim through many of the last articles you’ve sent, but grateful you are writing and sending, none-the-less!
Hope you are well… t
Abigail, I have strongly believed all that you say for some time now, but have never seen anyone else express the same opinions. I especially like your statement “the call to lay down our lives will take different forms. But this is our calling, with its countless manifestations.” Many things are permissible and still within the law of God but not everything is right for everyone. God leads us in different paths and gives us different trials and blessings. We harm our sisters in Christ when we impose our ways on them.
I would also like to add that this can also be applied to other areas of life for Christians, and have seen brethren struggle needlessly because they are pushing, squeezing and contorting themselves into a way of life they think is the biblical ideal simply because many of their peers have chosen it.
Thank you very much for your post! 😆
I was so encouraged by your article on Desiring God. I am a new wife and was really needing some biblical advice in this new season, and happened upon your site! Thank you for speaking the Truth!
Thank you so much for the encouraging and beautifully written article!
@Abagail: Okay, just reading the reply. Thanks. I only asked because that woman I mentioned (the one who works outside the home because she wants to; no financial pressure) is kind of underrepresented despite there being various narratives and experiences Christian women journey through as they live out their faith. But I understood your overall point. Thank you.
Joycelyn Witcher is the “anonymous” above.