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I married in my early 20s and had our first baby within a year and a half. My career ambitions, which previously had been grand, changed completely. I was content with this new life plan…until my university’s alumni magazine arrived in my mailbox. Each new issue boasted of my classmates’ accomplishments: booming business start-ups, world travel, job promotions. And each new issue triggered in me a spiral of doubt and depression. I was not a “success.” I was wasting my potential. Surely, God had greater purposes for me. I struggled with this wrong thinking for at least 10 years into my marriage. 

In themselves, there is nothing wrong with starting a profitable business, traveling or enjoying job promotions. These can be blessings from the hand of God. But in my case, I was using those things as a barometer of “success” and was discontent with the Lord’s plan for me.

As we wrap up this year’s Feminology series by considering what it means to be industrious, let’s consider how our thinking should differ from the world’s. How do we let the world’s views of success color and warp our own beliefs? How can we guard against this?

A recent study of 2000 people sought to define what “making it” means in American culture. The respondents pointed to high income, house values and vacation time and low number of work hours as the epitome of “success”. Being industrious has the goal of financial freedom and recreation time.  “Making it” means relaxing at a beach resort with an umbrella drink in hand and a hefty 401K in the bank.

As Christian women, we should take our cues from the Bible, not our culture. While we certainly  can earn money and enjoy a vacation, we must not be driven by these things. We should not strive to be the object of envy, be self indulgent, or to fill our “barns” with abundance so that we can rely on our bank accounts rather than on the Lord. Focusing on these things puts our eyes on what is temporary and ignores what is eternal. 

Instead, our work must focus on godly success. Biblical success comes from obeying what God calls us to do. He measures our success with the yardsticks of obedience, righteousness and love towards His Son. When we are industrious in the home, workplace, and church we must labor for the treasures described in Matthew 16:19: ”Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal.” 

I finally was able to relax, even rejoice, in God’s role for me when I began gauging my success by biblical standards, rather than the world’s. These are the questions that we, as Christ followers, must ask ourselves:

—Am I working hard to obey the commands God gives me in scripture?
—Am I working to be excellent in the day-to-day tasks He places before me?
—Am I striving for God’s approval or admiration from others?
—Are my efforts focused on self fulfillment or on serving God, my family, and those around me?
—Am I exhausting myself working for things that will decay? Or on things that have value eternally? 

Godly success may not bring wealth, honor or accolades. But it brings contentment. Let’s be industrious in the tasks He gives us–even if those tasks seem mundane or not very exciting on the surface. Let’s serve Him by giving Him our very best. Working faithfully to be obedient to our Savior will result in true joy and our eternal reward!