faith, illness, testimony

The Condition of My Home ≠ the Condition of My Heart

 


God doesn’t care about the condition of your house. He cares about the condition of your heart.


The lack of a clean house isn’t evidence that you lack God in your life. It is in fact often evidence that God is doing something in your life!

What could He possibly be doing that would take you away from cleaning your house?

Maybe you have cancer. Maybe your husband is chronically ill, and you’re caring for him. Maybe you’re chronically ill. Maybe you have a special needs child. Maybe a house full of young kids. Maybe you’re struggling with mental health issues.

All these things –and more!– are God working in your life developing character, faith, dependence on Him.

Every weakness, every trial, every struggle, every difficult situation you encounter is an opportunity for God to show His strength in your life.

Remember, His power is made perfect in weakness. That means you’ll find yourself weak. Too weak to do everything you think you need to. That’s exactly where God wants you. That’s where He can use you.


Some of us live in this reality every single day of our lives. If you haven’t found yourself there –in the weak place, crying out to God for your next step, your next breath– be assured you will… eventually.

This is the way that God refines and grows His people.

He does it through suffering and trials.

If you’re His child, you’ll eventually find yourself struggling and suffering. If you never find yourself there, you might need to reevaluate if you’re even saved, because God leads those who are His through trials like a father training his children.

We are called to suffer like Christ.

If not today, then someday, you’ll find yourself incapable of doing all the things you think you “should” do. All those “shoulds” that are pushed on us by our culture and other Christians, all the stuff the “good” people do, like keep a house clean.

When the rubber hits the road –in screeching tires and burning, stinking rubber– and everything you think you have figured out gets removed, when all you have left is a tiny bit of energy and a prayer that it will, somehow, be enough –when you get there, to that desperate place that I know all too well– what will you choose?

Will you choose to focus on stuff that will burn when this earth is destroyed? This earthly coil of rotting treasures that we can’t take with us? Or will you choose to focus on souls, eternal stuff, the things that will outlast this temporary earth?

The old song says:

“Only one life,’twill soon be past,
Only what’s done for Christ will last.”


Where do you put the priority? When you find yourself in that position –and I believe that, eventually, everyone will even if it’s for a short period of time– what do you decide to do?

I know what I did when I first started getting sick. I yelled. In my mind –because that’s what I’d been taught at church– a woman’s godliness was directly linked to the condition of her house. So I yelled at my husband and kids every time they left something down, because it made me look bad (ie: ungodly). I angrily barked orders at small children giving them tasks they weren’t mature enough to do, getting angry when they inevitably failed to do it to my standard.

I prayed and I cried that God would somehow give me the strength to “do the godly stuff” for Him not understanding that He was working deeply and swiftly in my life at that moment and in ways I couldn’t understand.

He was making me more godly, and it had nothing to do with the condition of my house.

My godliness is a result of my faith and trust in Him, not in the condition of my house.

Do you know how much faith it takes to keep trusting and praising Him when all your dignity is stripped away? When those who say they’re your friend and say they love you attack your character because you can’t keep a clean house even though you can barely walk?

I’ve seen the same attitude in other families as I had when I was a young mom, the willingness to do anything to appear good and godly.  I’ve seen moms mistreating their children trying to keep the house clean, because they were taught that a clean house equals evidence of a godly woman.

There’s a huge irony in behaving badly in an effort to appear good and godly.

What we have done is in effect made a clean house into a idol. A woman’s status revolves around the condition of the house. In some groups, it is even the evidence of your salvation.

I am saying that the exact opposite may be true. A messy house likely is evidence that God is busy working in your life.

There is no shame in that.

Eventually, I decided that if any task made me behave badly, if it made me yell or be unkind, I wasn’t doing it. I decided that my character displayed before my children (eternal things) was more important than any single task around the house today (temporal things).

My house is evidence of what God is doing in my life –but not in the way most people think it is.

My messy house isn’t the evidence of laziness and lack of godliness. It is evidence of God refining me through pain and illness (which prevents me from cleaning on my bad days) and it is evidence of me choosing heavenly things (my character) over temporary things (like my house being clean which is VERY temporary) on my good-ish days.

Am I saying never clean your house? No, do what you can. If you’re in a position where you can physically clean it without ruining relationships and tainting your testimony before your children without communicating to them that things –the house and your possessions– are more important than they –eternal souls– are, then do it.

But, the very moment that your house begins to cause you to ruin your testimony before your children, you need to step back and evaluate your heart and motives. (This a mild approach compared to some of Jesus’ teachings.)

I believe that if God wants me to do a task, He will give me the ability to do it in a way that honors Him. If I can’t honor Him then by golly I oughtn’t be doing it!

Ask yourself if this task is actually more important than your testimony.

Be aware that, more than likely, eventually, if only for a short time, you’ll find yourself in this Refiner’s Fire where God tests your faith and strips away the idol that we have made our homes into.

Our culture may believe that tidiness is next to godliness, but you’ll not find that anywhere in scripture. In fact, there’s not a single passage of scripture that address the condition of a woman’s home.

Not one.

It is especially important to know that scripture never equates the condition of a woman’s home to godliness.

That is a false gospel, and I’m not afraid to call it what it is: a lie.

You may not live in chronic pain or with ongoing illness like I do, but you might eventually.  Here are some things you can do about this issue now.

Stop perpetuating the lie that godly women have clean homes. A godly woman might have a clean home or she might have a very untidy home.

The condition of her home is a reflection of her physical and mental health and the health of those around her –not a reflection of the condition of her heart and her soul.


I was in leadership with my husband at a church and overheard a conversation. I was nursing a baby, and they didn’t notice I was sitting around the corner.

The conversation went something like this:

Leader #1: “Did you notice so-and-so visitor’s house when we stopped by yesterday?”


Leader #2: “It was all I could do not to say anything. I don’t even think they’re saved. If they were saved, their house wouldn’t look like that.”

Leader #1: “I agree. A godly woman would never let her house get like that.”

A few months later I found out that visitor had been diagnosed with cancer while she was pregnant with their first child. They hadn’t told anyone until after the baby was born. A new baby alone would be reason for an untidy house –let alone cancer. But, without even knowing her beyond some basic interaction she was already labeled ungodly.

The truth was she was very brave, throwing herself on God’s grace and mercy. She waited months for her cancer treatment, trusting that God would care for both her and her baby. The messy house wasn’t because she was ungodly. It was evidence that God was doing something wonderfully faith-building in her life.

She and the baby both lived, but they didn’t visit the church again. I didn’t have to wonder why.

At the time when I overheard the church leaders’ conversation, I was a young mom with a 2-and-a-half year old and a newborn. I found myself in the position of having no energy and no reason why.

One older woman at the church chided me for not ironing my husband’s underclothes. I was struggling to even lean over to put a load in the washer without feeling like I was going to pass out, and she thought I needed to iron underwear?

Over 20 diagnoses and over a decade later, I better understand what was going on with my health and why, but these conversations stuck with me.


And, unfortunately, they were not isolated opinions. I recently lost another friendship over this issue. My friend refused to believe that any truly godly woman wouldn’t have an immaculately clean house. She unfriended me on Facebook and now refuses to speak to me. 

When you walk into someone’s house do you automatically assume they’re ungodly or lazy if their house doesn’t look like the cover of Better Homes and Gardens?


Look beyond that.

Assume that God is doing something in their lives that you can’t see.

Don’t convict them in the court of religious opinion. Let them be innocent until proven guilty.

I do believe we Christians should correct other Christians when we know they’re in sin (even though this teaching is unpopular in today’s church), but you’d actually have to get to know someone before you could correct them.

You’d have to be willing to invest in them and see their heart. In the end, they answer to God for their actions. In matters not clearly stated as sin in scripture (and a dirty house is not stated as a sin, let’s be honest), we are not to correct each other.


Is it possible that someone could have a messy house, because they’re choosing to be lazy?

Yes.

It is possible.


But, most of the women I know who struggle with their house do not fall into that category. I’ve yet to find a Christian woman who isn’t trying to do her best.

Our best is all that God asks of us.

My best might look different than your best. Some days just getting out of bed and sitting on the couch is my best. That’s all I can do that day. If you were to look at me not knowing me or my health problems, I would look lazy to you like the visitor looked to the leaders of my old church.

This is why it’s so important that we understand that other people ultimately answer to God and that we get to know people before we correct or rebuke (another biblical, yet unpopular, concept).


So, next time you walk into someone’s house and it’s a complete mess, say “It looks like God’s doing wonderful things in your life.” You might lift the burden off someone who’s suffering greatly, you might make a friend for life, and you might have a front row seat to the awesome, faith-building work that God is doing in the lives around you.

Just wait, because your time is coming. You’ll be glad that you have friends who get this concept when you wake up one day and find that you can barely walk –or whatever trial God decides to use to strengthen your faith and walk with Him.

Blessings,
Sarah 

But He knows the way that I take;

when He has tried me,

I shall come out as gold.

Job 23:10

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