That you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, holding fast to the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I may be proud that I did not run in vain or labor in vain. Philippians 2:15-16
To run in vain is to experience futility; chasing after something that simply won’t be found outside of Christ. I can pine after the love of certain people who are incapable of giving it. I can work toward a goal that I believe will bring me security and satisfaction but end up with nothing. All the wasted time and effort are certain to yield a sense of hollowness.
What does futility have to do with with the heart of an orphan? If I live with childish expectations ~ it’s futile. If I live in an attempt to prove that I’m good enough to someone ~ it is futile. If I shape my behavior in hopes of gaining love and attention ~ it is futile. Orphan ways are sure to bring me to the end of myself. I will sit and look at my empty hands. This outcome is not cruelty on God’s part; it’s kindness. Only a loving Father would lead His child to the truth of an impending dead end. And only a loving Father will then woo His child to springs of living water.
I have often felt that God withheld answers to good prayers. I asked Him to change people, and circumstances, that would make me happier, feel more loved, and experience more success. Why wouldn’t He do that? Why wouldn’t He want me to be happy? Because my requests were for Him to bless the very things that were replacing Him in my life. The love and approval of people was more important to me than seeking His love and approval. Futility was the catalyst for sanctification. While I ended up questioning the effectiveness of prayer for a short time, I eventually realized that God was answering me in a more loving way. He wasn’t going to fill my heart with the water of broken cisterns. He had saved me for Himself and once I got on that trail, I got everything for which my heart had been searching.
If you find yourself today in a place where you have given up on someone, or something, consider that this might actually be good. God’s arms have been waiting for you. This message was so important that Paul wrote about it from prison. In a dark underground cell, beaten and bleeding, he was intent to remind us that we can be blameless and innocent daughters by not looking outside of Him for love and meaning. At some point, even the best of people in our lives are crooked and twisted, unable to give us what God gives. When we hold fast to God’s heart, directing our needs and expectations His way, we will not run in vain. Our hands will hold the very things we treasure ~ Jesus and the kingdom.
You know what I need and You have it all. Amen