From Futile to Fertile… Two Things to Remember for a Meaningful Life
I have been engaged in a silent war this summer. A bi-weekly standoff between me and a grove of dying trees. You see, I have to mow the grass that resides under these trees every other week. But before I can mow, I need to pick up sticks. May I say, it isn’t anything like the game of Pick-Up Sticks some of us played as kids!
This has more of a tortuous theme because of its seeming futility. I can pick up two loads of dead branches and think…hope… that the next time it will be better.
Not so. If the wind so much as sneezes, my exercise in futility starts all over again.
Consequently, the Lord and I have been having serious conversations about what constitutes futility and what to do about my bad attitude.
Futile is described as anything that is incapable of producing a useful result, or in other words, something that is pointless.
This is exactly how I felt about my “sticky” situation. My ongoing game of pick-up sticks was beginning to feel pointless.
Has that ever happened to you? Maybe you’re in a situation right now that seems unproductive or meaningless.
Futility can rear its ugly head in about any situation. But like roping a steer, I think we can lasso its head and feet with two essential truths from God’s Word.
The first throw of the rope around futility’s head is with this verse:
“Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.” 1 Cor 15:58 ESV
When our tasks are carried out with the thought that we are doing the work more for God than for ourselves, our efforts will not be pointless.
Likewise, if we see our life situations through the lens that God is the One in charge, we can be at peace with future outcomes and past mistakes.
If we want to take down the runaway thoughts that futility can foster we also need to lasso its heels.
It was 1998, and our three littles were within 3 years of age. On this occasion, one was constipated. One had diarrhea from RSV, and the other little angel was battling blowouts from an intestinal bug. I lost track of diaper changes.
One day my hubs came home after work, and I asked him if we could have a moment alone. (Code for “I’m falling apart.”) He empathetically listened as I shared what a hard day it had been. I felt terrible for the kids, but quite frankly, I was also experiencing a measure of self-pity. It felt like the only thing I had accomplished that day was to change diapers. He offered me encouragement by remarking on how wonderful it was that I was able to make his favorite soup.
I gave him a half-smile, but in a beat, I realized something. The one productive thing I had accomplished was also going to turn to poop. My entire life was now about poop! I melted into a mess of tears.
Talk about a loss of perspective! Isn’t it crazy how we can go through bad days, weeks, or seasons and before we know it, futility has stuck its big, fat toe in the door?
That is why we read Scripture. Life, light, and truth replace the death, dark, and lies that the enemy wants us to believe.
During this season of being home with our young children, God gave me this gift from Psalm 90:17…
“May the favor of the Lord our God rest upon us; establish the work of our hands for us…”
The footnote in my bible on the verse from Psalms says this: He [God] makes our labor effective and enduring even though we are so transient.
The older I get, the more punch to the gut that word transient is. It’s defined as something that only lasts a short time… impermanent work.
Mercy. Not only do we have to contend with sixteen-hour days that make us question the futility of our efforts. We must come to terms with the fact that this life is so stinkin’ short!
What I love about life as a believer is that every negative has a positive. On our own, our efforts may seem futile. But God can change all that.
“…yes, establish the work of our hands for us.”
Did you catch that tiny, but powerful, three-letter word “for?” Somehow, the Lord takes the work from our transient lives and makes it last. He turns it from impermanent to permanent.
The children in my home have progressed from diapers to diplomas. I see God at work in their lives continuously. I don’t believe that the work my faltering, sometimes complaining hands started is done. Not because of me. But because I believe in the Word God gave me that He would make permanent the work I started many years ago.
What a gift He has given us!
God created us to live meaningful lives.
Lives full to the brim of victory, accomplishment, and relevance. This kind of life can be ours when we remember the One we are working for and His power to make our work last.
God’s grace and mercy turns that which feels futile and turns it into something fertile.
Would you pray with me?