According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, the word Vain in the bible has four categoric meanings. In particular, it means to no end: without success or result. It also defines it as being marked by futility or ineffectualness and having no real value.
What does it mean to eat the bread of sorrows?
The phrase “eat the bread of sorrows” in the title above is taken from a verse that the Lord gave me that teaches something really important about our God-given assignment. Psalm 127:2 says “It is vain for you to rise up early, to sit up late, to eat the bread of sorrows: for so he giveth his beloved sleep.“
I asked myself what the eat the bread of sorrows verse really means because God seldom says what we think He is saying until we dig up the truth of what He is really saying to us. So whilst in my prayer time one evening, I got it! “Eat the bread of sorrows”, means working at something or doing that which God never assigned for you to do in life.
One might do it because it pays the bills, it gets us by, and it’s meant for survival because that’s where we get our salary at the end of the month. Yet it causes us so much grief and pain, that we end up living an unhappy life, a life full of sorrows.
God does not want us to live in sorrow but actually enjoy life fulfilling our calling and purpose in Christ. And as we do this we in turn enjoy His blessings of joy and happiness, and even more, while we sleep. “Another version says, It is vain for you to rise up early, to take rest late, to eat the bread of [anxious] toil—for He gives [blessings] to His beloved in sleep.” Psalm 127:2 AMPC
No wonder King Solomon wrote to us: “The blessing of the LORD makes one rich, And He adds no sorrow with it.” Proverbs 10:22 ESV. God adds no sorrow with His blessing upon us. However, if we avoid doing that which He has convicted us to do, we are fully satisfied and happy when we do it. Then Sorrows are going to be inevitable.
How to avoid the “eat the bread of sorrows” lifestyle
There are many reasons why God’s beloved can have a difficult life and eat the bread of sorrows. Some do it to take care of their families, for others do it because they are still on a journey of self-discovery, whilst for the most part, money is the driving force behind many major life decisions made by people. But the word of God cautions us about living life this way.
Paul admonished Timothy his protege’ regarding the trap of doing things for material or financial benefit over doing them for purposeful gain in God-given work. In 1 Timothy 6:10 NLT, he wrote to Timothy, “For the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil. And some people, craving money, have wandered from the true faith and pierced themselves with many sorrows.”
We find the word sorrows showing up again. Yet the main reason sorrows are there is because one has wandered from the true faith. There may still be a Christian, born again and filled with the holy spirit. Yet, because of the pursuit of money, people can veer from God’s rightful path in their life.
The “true faith“ is actually your calling and purpose in Christ. A God-given, God-ordained path on which you should be carrying out your divine assignment each and every day. Do not do it because you want money or material gain, but because it fulfills you, blesses you, and does not cause you pain or much sorrow.
Like Timothy was, we are admonished to love God above all and make sure we fulfill His purpose for our lives, above all else, including the pursuit of money or material success. No matter how much of it we get, our primary life goal should be fulfilling our calling and purpose in Christ.
This is made more clear by what Apostle Paul further said to Timothy. “But you be watchful in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.” 2 Timothy 4:5 ESV
In 2 Peter 1:10, we see this exhortation for purposeful living come up again. “Therefore, brothers, be all the more diligent to confirm your calling and election, for if you practice these qualities you will never fall.“
This is why Psalm 127:1 begins by showing us how vain it is to do things outside of God’s ordained path for our lives. “Unless the LORD builds the house, those who build it labor in vain. Unless the LORD watches over the city, the watchman stays awake in vain.” We need to live with God at the epicenter of our day-to-day lives. In our plans, purposes, and life pursuits.
When we build on our God-given work, He builds with us and makes sure we do not labor in vain. When we pray according to God’s will for a city, family, or nation, God protects them for us, and our prayers will not be in vain. This means that it is possible to avoid eating the bread of sorrows by a conscious decision to fulfill our purpose in Christ, work for a good cause, produce results, and be effective and not futile in our efforts.
The Lord Jesus also shared a lesson for us about building the right way. If we build according to what God has prescribed for us to do and how to live life. We are like the one who Jesus said built a house on good ground.
As Jesus said, “Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand.” Matthew 7:24-26 NIV
Further study: What does it mean that “unless the Lord builds the house” the builders labor in vain (Psalm 127:1)?
Book to read: Knowing your inner man: How to know your purpose and live a fulfilling life