My son’s friends are all starting to sport mullet haircuts, and my daughter thinks low-rise jeans are the coolest things. Are you cringing along with me? What is happening with fashion lately, and why does it feel like we’re entering the twilight zone?
We are told these fashion styles are new and exciting, but those of us who have been around for more than 30 years know these trends have been around before.
Ecclesiastes 1:9–10 says it best: “Nothing is new under the sun! Even the thing of which we say, ‘See, this is new!’ has already existed in the ages that preceded us.”
The wisdom of Ecclesiastes goes deeper than passing fads. It speaks to the meaning of life, spoken from the perspective of one who has seen the effects of a life seeking all different kinds of things. The author of Ecclesiastes highlights where people tend to spend their time and energy—primarily pursuing money, pleasure, and wisdom—and the bottom line? “Vanity of vanities…all things are vanity!” (Ecclesiastes 12:8)
The Hebrew word for vanity, hevel, means futility, a chasing after wind, a grasping after shadows.
For centuries people have sought money, pleasure, and wisdom. In many ways, we are not unlike the generations that have come before us—even if the way we experience these things looks different. In essence, they are not new. Generations pass and the lessons learned by our ancestors are often forgotten by future generations. Whatever we have accumulated during our time on this earth will eventually fade away. Yes, even the low-rise jeans will leave one day (praise the Lord).
However, if there’s more to this life than what we see (2 Corinthians 4:18), and our lives matter to God (Isaiah 44:2), then everything we do matters to Him (Colossians 3:17).
And the difference between a life that is meaningless and a life that is meaningful?
Surprise, it’s you! More specifically, it’s what you choose to do with the one life you’ve been given.
You are a new creation in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17).
You are able to do all things for the glory of God (1 Corinthians 10:31).
You are able to offer encouragement to those who are afflicted, because you have received encouragement from God (2 Corinthians 1:4).
We have been given this time on earth to glorify God and bring others to Him. Everything else is vanity.
Sisters, we are uniquely equipped to tell the coming generations about the goodness, truth, and beauty of God. It’s our privilege to be His witnesses and ambassadors. We can share how God has worked in our own lives and in the life of our universal Catholic Church, with 2000 years of tradition and a history that extends even beyond that. Using the fleeting things of this world (money, pleasure, and wisdom) for His glory and to bring others to Him is precisely how we flip the switch from meaningless lives to lives rich in meaning.
Let us not be women who chase after the wind or grasp for shadows. Let us be women who stand firm and hold out our hands to offer the good news to a generation that desperately needs it (much more than low-rise jeans).
Everything else is vanity.
When I was 22 years old, my 23-year-old friend invited me to attend a women’s small group Bible study. Walking into the room that first night, I quickly realized that my friend and I were the youngest—by well over twenty years. Every other woman sitting at that table landed somewhere between the ages of 45 and 75.
My hesitation played out in my head. I don’t know these women. I wasn’t expecting them to be so much older than me. Will they think I’m stupid? What if we have nothing to talk about?
As we met week after week, my initial hesitation transformed into delight. These women, having so many more years under their belts than I had, were a gift.
Sitting at their feet, I got to hear about the struggles and joys of their marriages and process the choices of their adult children. I listened to the stories of their joys and their tragedies, their good choices and the ones they wished they could change. I saw how Scripture hit their hearts differently at different stages of life. And they did not think that I was stupid. I was also a gift to them, offering them the fresh perspective and energy that accompanied me in my youth.The experience was incredible―nothing less than transformative.
It is natural to stick with women our own age. Why? Because we are going through the same things. When we sit with women who are in our current state of life, we can process our day to day struggles with women going through it too. When we sit in a group of women from our generation, we laugh at the same jokes, reminisce about the same cultural references, and make connections over similar joys and struggles. This is a very good thing, and we should lean on women who resemble us in age and state of life. However, if we only invest in relationships with women who are in our same generation, we are greatly missing out.
In the book of Judges, Joshua, a great Israelite, dies. Because Joshua was faithful to God, he was chosen to be the successor to Moses and lead the Israelites into the promised land. Over the course of his life, he honored God, leading the Israelites with courage and virtue. Judges 2:7–8 says, “And the people served the Lord all the days of Joshua, and all the days of the elders who outlived Joshua, who had seen all the great work which the Lord had done for Israel. And Joshua the son of Nun, the servant of the Lord, died at the age of one hundred and ten years.”
So what happened in the wake of Joshua’s death?
Judges 2:10 reveals that “there arose another generation after them, who did not know the Lord or the work which he had done for Israel.”
This is why fellowship across generations is so important. Joshua was part of an incredible generation. His generation was alive during the Israelites’ wanderings in the desert. They witnessed the incredible, unspeakable miracles of God. They had experienced the benefits of obeying God and the dysfunction that followed their disobedience. They were also the generation that took hold of the promised land. Each of them had an incredible story to tell of God’s goodness. Yet, for some reason, there was a disconnect. Those stories did not get passed down. The young and the old did not sit together. As a result, an entire generation of people rose up not knowing God or how He works.
As I survey our current cultural climate, I submit to you that we are in a similar situation. We no longer spend significant time with each other across generations, and we are suffering because of it. And so while I encourage you to enjoy relating to women your own age, I challenge you to form relationships with women who are from a different generation than you, older or younger.
You may be reading this knowing that there is more life behind you than there is ahead of you. I have spoken to women like you who look at the young women at their parish and express how they feel like they have nothing to offer. This could not be further from the truth. Friend, your story is important and needs to be told. You have a wisdom that only comes with age. Young women need to know that their state of life will not last forever, and may not be the hardest. They need to hear about your sufferings and regrets, as well as your joys and your hopes for the future. Please do not discount yourself. Your story may be the light that guides a younger woman into peace and telling it to a younger ear may bring a new kind of healing to you as well.
You may be reading this knowing that there is more life ahead of you than behind you. Sit and listen to older women. Become their friend and hear their story but recognize that you have something invaluable to offer to them. You have a fresh spirit to offer. If you are willing to sit with someone who is older and share your life with them, you may very well soften a heart that has been hardened by unkind years. In you, older women see hope. They see that life might not be as bad as it looks on the news. Your energy is contagious, and your stories may bring up fond memories for them. When you reach out to a woman who is older, you may be the one who brings her out of loneliness and into communion. Do not discount what you can offer to someone who is ahead of you in life. Step out and be the one who reminds her that her story still matters.
Scripture repeatedly speaks to both young and old. Psalm 71:18 says, “So even to old age and gray hairs, O God, do not forsake me, until I proclaim your might to all the generations to come.” 1 Timothy 4:12 tells us, “Let no one despise your youth, but set the believers an example in speech and conduct, in love, in faith, in purity.” Each of us has something to offer another generation. Let us not keep it to ourselves. Rather, let us step out across generations, so we may be encouraged into our old age and each generation rises up knowing the glory of God.
I just walked from my bedroom, down the stairs, and into my living room to begin writing this blog post, and do you know what I did the entire time? I scrolled through Instagram while walking. Have you ever done that? Or have you ever started scrolling on your phone only to realize that forty-five minutes have passed, your eyes are dry, and your heart is empty? There is no question that the opportunity to scroll over the world through our phones invites addiction and that addiction has real-world effects.
Don’t worry. This blog post isn't about the dangers of social media. Instead, I want to explore a phrase that enters my mind almost every time I finish scrolling through Instagram or Facebook. It’s a phrase that I think reveals where we have landed in our society, and it comes from the book of Job.
If you are not familiar with the book of Job, it is a sad story with a critical lesson. Job is a man who is faithful to God and to whom God is faithful. God blesses Job with a fruitful family (ten children), immense prosperity (thousands of livestock), and status (greater than anyone in the east). At the beginning of the book, Satan approaches God and claims that Job is only righteous and blameless because God has blessed him, but he wouldn't be if God removed those blessings. God gives Satan permission to run roughshod over Job’s life. Job loses everything: his family dies, his livestock dies, and he is struck with severe boils all over his body.
In chapter 38, Job gets the opportunity to approach God with his grievances. His whole life was ruined without any wrongdoing on his part. He has legitimate questions for God about all that had happened to him, and so one would expect God to be compassionate toward Job. Instead, the first words out of God’s mouth are, “Who is this that darkens counsel with words without knowledge?” (Job 38:2). God questions Job for the next four chapters, asking questions like:
Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Tell me, if you have understanding. Who determined its measurements—surely you know! Or who stretched the line upon it? On what were its bases sunk, or who laid its cornerstone when the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy? (Job 38:4-7)
Throughout all the intense questioning, God reveals His unfathomable glory, and Job realizes that his perspective is wrong. Job spends time with God, and in doing so, gains God’s wisdom. Job responds by saying,
I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted. “Who is this that hides counsel without knowledge?” Therefore I have uttered what I did not understand, things too wonderful for me, which I did not know. “Hear, and I will speak; I will question you, and you declare to me.” I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees you; therefore I despise myself, and repent in dust and ashes. (Job 42:2-6)
Every single time I close my social media accounts, I think of God’s words to Job: who darkens my counsel with words without knowledge? We have become men and women who are full of words with minimal knowledge—myself included. These words indict our society as we busy ourselves with silly things that have no eternal value. They also indict us personally as we no longer take the time to seek God’s unchanging truth or view our present circumstances from His perspective.
In my own life, I tend to look at my circumstances, someone else’s sufferings, or the news and find endless, seemingly legitimate grievances against God. How can there be so much dysfunction, tragedy, and heartache in the world? How does God not show up when a friend or I so desperately need Him? How does He not simply fix families, or grant fertility, or bless financially, or comfort aching hearts, or stop the evil of oppressive governments around the world? From my view, it seems pretty easy, and yet most of the time, my opinion lacks His wisdom. I forget what 1 Corinthians tells me, “The foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength.” If I fail to seek God’s wisdom, I’m more likely to misunderstand my circumstances and make bigger messes in my life.
So what exactly is wisdom? It goes deeper than knowing information or having brilliant intellect. Wisdom is seeing the world from God’s perspective and then applying that perspective to our lives. Proverbs 3:19 says, “The Lord by wisdom founded the earth, established the heavens by understanding.” When we seek wisdom, we seek to know God’s mind and act according to His unchanging truth. We then respond to situations from an eternal perspective. We begin to look at our hopes, dreams, and sufferings from God’s point of view instead of our own.
The result? We live with less anxiety because we no longer see each success or failure in life as a make-or-break scenario but rather as one more step toward eternity. We live with more hope and less fear, because we know that God is not surprised by tragedy and turmoil. We are nicer to ourselves, because we know that the Lord sees our imperfections and still walks with us to make us holy. We are kinder to others, because we recognize that God loves them more than we ever will and works in their hearts just as He is working in ours. We are also not swayed by popular fads or ideologies, because we know that the spirit of the age is passing but God stays the same.
And so I ask you, where do you land? Are you a woman who is genuinely seeking God’s wisdom, or do you consume information without thought and allow that information to form your understanding of the world? Ladies, in a world that buzzes along a technological surface and exalts human wisdom through popular ideas and one-sentence conclusions, we are called to go deeper. We must seek God’s wisdom, or we will crumble at the first sign of trouble in our lives or unpopularity in our communities. This is hard because the invitation to turn off our brains and consume is only one click away at all times.
Don’t give in. Bring your questions to the Lord; spend time with Him searching out His ways, and He will give you His wisdom. Don’t know where to start? Pick any one of our Bible studies, dive in, and listen. He will speak.
Proverbs 8:10–11 says of wisdom, “Take my instruction instead of silver, and knowledge rather than choice gold; for wisdom is better than jewels, and all that you may desire cannot compare with her.”
Wisdom is God’s treasure, and He offers it to you. Seek it with all your heart and He will give you His understanding.
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