TGC’s “Thorns & Thistles” column seeks to apply wisdom with practical advice about faith, work, and economics. If you have a question on how to think about and practice your work in a way that honors God, let us know at [email protected].
How are single women with teaching gifts supposed to work full-time and study, serve, fellowship, and rest?
I love this question. I was single through my 20s. Along with working full-time, completing grad school, and investing in relationships, I was given regular opportunities to teach in the church, whether at women’s retreats on weekends or theology courses on weeknights. I wouldn’t take those back.
But I also know the tension of these competing demands. While there’s not one absolute answer for how each of us should manage them all, I’d love to share six things I’ve learned along the way.
1. Consider all God has called you to do and be.
The calling to teach is rewarding and high (James 3:1), but we need to weigh this call to teach alongside everything else God has called us to do and be. I pray through a handwritten list of these roles—even (or especially) roles like daughter, sister, neighbor, student, and friend. These relationships and obligations sometimes feel like they’re competing for my time and attention, and I remind myself that my ultimate aim is to please God and not man (Gal. 1:10).
My ultimate aim is to please God and not man.
2. Prioritize what you can most uniquely do.
When I’m not actively allocating my energy and focus, they quickly become subject to whatever clamors loudest for my attention that day—any knock, text, or calendar invite as it comes. I want to intentionally set boundary lines by asking how my specific gifts, opportunities, and relationships have most uniquely equipped me to serve. For example, if many people in our church could and want to be greeters, but few are equipped or willing to lead a Bible study, maybe I should prioritize the latter when it’s too much to do both.
3. Acknowledge that every yes is a no.
A framework of prioritization doesn’t have to (and likely shouldn’t) be a rigid parameter for exactly what we do or don’t commit to. But we’d also be fooling ourselves not to acknowledge that every time we say yes to one thing, we say no to something else.
Certainly, this can be good. Saying yes to Tuesday night small group might mean saying no to another Netflix show we should probably abandon anyway. But if saying yes to other commitments means saying no to sleep or time with family or undistracted workdays for our employer, we should be sure we’ve counted the cost and still feel confident in our commitment.
4. Seek balance over the long arc.
Every day doesn’t need to appear perfectly balanced according to your priorities. Some days may be heavy with work due to travel, while others give margin for social plans at night. Some weekends may skew heavily toward restful family time, while others allow us to serve with and for our church family more than usual.
In the small arcs of hours and days, certain roles may receive a greater (or lesser) proportion of attention than we intended, and trying to balance each day can feel impossible. But if over the longer arc of weeks or even months our time seems to be allotted according to priorities in their right order, we’re probably striking the balance we intended.
5. Welcome wise counsel.
Sometimes we have such a close view of the trees (each individual responsibility) that we can’t see the forest (our balance of priorities as a whole). Maybe we are tunnel-visioned on one task that has gradually dominated our time. Maybe we can’t narrow down involvements because each seems critical in its own way. Maybe we are overwhelmed because we have taken on more responsibility in a role than is rightly ours.
Often, friends and family—who know us best, who have witnessed our tendencies to these before, and who want to see God’s peace and purposes fulfilled in our lives—are able to counsel us with wisdom. Let’s humbly invite their counsel and heed it. Whether it’s a family member talking us through important considerations before making another commitment, a friend dedicated to holding us accountable on established priorities, or an older woman in our church demonstrating an example of one who seems to do this well, we may hear discernment most clearly through the godly voice of another.
6. Don’t labor as though it’s all up to you.
When the callings are noble, the tasks are worthy, and the potential effects are eternal, we can gradually find our yoke feeling hard and our burden heavy. But of course, that’s never what Jesus is asking us to carry (Matt. 11:28–30).
Even in the urgency of our kingdom-building commission, we need rest to work, other members to labor alongside, and God himself giving growth to our planting and watering as only he can (1 Cor. 3:6–7). Taking our tasks one day (or even one hour) at a time, we’ll find new mercies and daily bread to sustain us (Matt. 6:11; Lam. 3:23). For everything else we can’t (and shouldn’t try to) control, we can trust it to his hands.
Taking our tasks one day (or even one hour) at a time, we’ll find new mercies and daily bread to sustain us.
In 2 Corinthians 9, Paul encourages us to decide in our hearts what we’ll give and to do so cheerfully—not reluctantly or under compulsion. Our Enemy would love to compromise our ministry and steal our joy with stress over responsibilities, anxiety over outcomes, and even resentment over the very opportunities we may have once prayed for.
Instead, my prayer (for you and for myself) is that we cling to the promise that he who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will also supply (and even multiply) our time, strength, vision, and love.
All sufficiency in all things at all times for all good work to which he has called us—this is his grace as we teach, serve, study, fellowship, and rest. And this is our hope.