Eating the bread of anxious toil…

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Psalm 127:1 Unless the LORD builds the house, those who build it labor in vain. Unless the LORD guards the city, the guard keeps watch in vain. 2 It is in vain that you rise up early and go late to rest, eating the bread of anxious toil; for he gives sleep to his beloved.

This passage always hits me when I read it. The message is simple. Either God is leading the way in our endeavors or he isn’t. If God is leading the way, then God takes care of the outcomes. The burden is not on us to “make it happen”. When God is not leading the way, then the burden becomes ours. We stress out about things. We get anxious, worrying that we’ve made a mistake, fearful that our shortcomings will tank the whole thing. The psalmist puts it this way:

“It is in vain that you rise up early and go to late to rest, eating the bread of anxious toil”

Isn’t that an incredible image? Bon appetit. I imagine a person slaving away, working ridiculous hours to meet the goal. Refusing to take days off or vacation days because they’re thinking, “It’s up to me.” If this sounds like you (it sounds like me) that makes you… normal.

We have a number of changes and transitions we’re navigating at the church I lead in suburban Dallas. It’s not easy. On the one hand the changes we’ve made are starting to produce the very results we were hoping for, which is great. On the other hand… change is hard. While some people are thrilled with how things are going, others are anxious and upset. There is a heavy dose of grief and loss, which is to be expected. But it’s still really hard.

So when I read this passage today I’m reminded who is building this house called Rejoice. It’s definitely not me, or my staff, or other key leaders. If it is, then we’re done for. Our efforts are in vain. But if God is building the house, and I believe he is, then there is hope. The outcome doesn’t depend on me or staff or other leaders. That burden belongs to the Lord.

So let me ask. Where in your life might you be “eating the bread of anxious toil”? Where are you taking responsibility for things that belong to God? What would it look like for you to give the burden back to the Lord… and rest? Dear God, show us the way. Teach us to cast our cares upon you, for your shoulders are broad and strong. Ours… are not. We pray this in Jesus’ name. Amen.

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