2007-09-06 - Painful Labors
Originally Published 2002-04-11
Ps 127:2 It is vain for you to rise up early, To retire late, To eat the bread of painful labors; For He gives to His beloved even in his sleep. (NAS)
Another translation renders painful labors as sorrows. Barnes notes explains this bread of sorrows as anxiety. Now, first of all, there is nothing wrong with hard work. We are encouraged to work as though whatever we complete will be presented to God (Col 2:23,24). Solomon calls hard work a virtue in another Psalm. When someone praises you for extra effort, remember that God gives us everything we have including our health, ability to work, all the way down to our mental and physical capacities. It is not hard in that moment to be gracious and still mention that the talents you have are God-given.
However, to work hard and still worry over finances is a problem. If you honor the Lord with hard work as one of His children, He will reward and protect you. There may be times, not unlike Job's troubles, where things seem to be completely out of control. This is when events have to be taken in faith that these are the things that God has ordered to either move us to a different job or location for His purposes.
I have come home with no job. It was a very uncomfortable feeling to realize that the company that I had worked very hard to support for 14 years was in such serious trouble that they were laying off people in droves and that I was one of them. In hindsight, I can see the blessing of having a few months head start on job hunting over the people that were left at my old office. I was able to be an encouragement and reference for them when the office finally closed. The Lord moved me to where I am for a reason. This is not to say He might not move me again tomorrow. Nor is it to say that was happy about being laid off. In fact I was very sad to leave that job and the people I worked with. God's hand was in the move. It is obviously much clearer now than at the time.
Work hard, honor God and trust Him when things go seemingly askew. The previous verse echoes here. Unless God blesses what you are doing, it will be a labor of exhausting futility. Pray for that blessing and for wisdom to see the right path in those labors. This applies to home, work and school. It is an easy trap to fall into, to simply continue to try to push through in our own strength. Like a man in the dark presses against a wall trying to move it out of the way when an open door is a few feet away, the answer is often closer and simpler than we may believe.
A closing note is to try to find a balance where work is completed and done well, but not to the neglect of those people in our lives who are important to us - family and friends. Times of rest, simple games or simply spending time can be a healing balm to a tired heart and mind. And the lack of worry and the peace of mind that God can give to those who trust Him makes restful sleep possible. It is difficult to wake up rested when something has you tossing and turning half the night. Doctors tells us today that enough rest is more important than previously believed. In that sleep, God is pouring health and healing into our bodies and minds.
Lord Jesus - thank You for the time we have to work, to earn our bread and honor You in the process. Keep us mindful of the need to refresh our mind with friends, family and sleep - and time in fellowship with You. Keep us mindful that You are in control so that we can see You hand as it moves in our lives and in the lives of those around is. Amen.
Grace & Peace,