A little while back I signed up for the Desiring God emails so I could have more variety in my options for Bible studies and devotions when a theme or title caught my eye. I really like how when a verse is quoted or referenced, you can click on it to see the text without it taking you to a new page; only a small box pops up next to the hyperlinked scripture. Just a helpful tidbit there.
One from this week was about hard work. Obviously that is something relevant to me. I have changed so much, but I can still tend to work too hard, too often. I like to be busy, feeling like I am being productive with my time, but I know there comes a point where being busy is counterproductive. You can only do so much, and when you do too much, you're not doing much of anything well. Then it becomes not doing the work well, but doing it to do it and for the wrong reasons, like just getting through it, making someone happy, impressing people, making yourself look good, etc.
We live in a world full demands. There is always something to be done. Someone (or many someones) is always asking more of you. It's a love-hate relationship. I can attest. We love the work and to feel accomplished, to do our jobs, but we hate that it takes time away from anything else we could be doing and that it wears us down and stresses us out. Sometimes we reach the point of dreading the day and want to stop, but we can't. Even when we have the opportunity to take a break, we don't. (How many of you bring work home with you and/or worry about it all day and night? You could sleep in but still get up early? etc) Can't live with it but can't live without it. That's part of being a sinful human, and it goes all the way back to Adam and Eve. They sinned, and it made work hard.
Work is often synonymous with labor (Labor Day, labor costs), but it is also the word for childbirth. That's another one of those love-hate things. Pregnancy is a long, stressful, painful process, but it has a wonderful goal. Sometimes I'm sure it seems like the end will ever come, and the moment is miserable, but one day that season will end, and there will be new life! It is probably the hardest work any human can do, and it is all within her body, but it also brings one of the greatest rewards.
From the beginning, we were created to do work. God put people on earth to work the land and take care of the animals (Genesis 1:26-30). He created us to do good works (Ephesians 2:10). We often think of work like our jobs, the work we do for pay, to make a name for ourselves, get a paycheck, put food on the table, buy things, but it isn't all about us, and it isn't all about our job. We can do this work, these good deeds in any and every situation. Even better, when we take the burden off of ourselves so much and look outward with our works, it gives us greater purpose and motivation. For example, at work, we can be a positive light to our coworkers and/or customers. In the classroom, we can work to learn more so that we can be resourceful and give back to society. On the practice field and weight room we can get stronger so we can have opportunities to go places and encourage people, be stronger so we can be prepared to do our daily tasks better, be confident in the challenges we approach each day. Nurses are an example of people with exhausting jobs and hours, but in that time, they can find motivation outside of doing their tasks and in making a difference in people's lives. I myself have found encouragement in the hardest times of my life by a doctor or nurse who made efforts to be kind to my family and me. I've had my day brightened by a cashier who gave me a compliment. I've found strength from teammates who push through workouts alongside me. I've found encouragement from conversations from teachers that show they care about more than my grades. I find it much easier to workout and race when I am doing it not only for my own pride (yikes, I have to watch that) but for my coaches who have done so much for me, my teammates who find inspiration in my perseverance and hard work, my parents who love me and have supported me through everything, the world out there that needs to see a fighter against odds, and most importantly God who has given me grace, mercy, and new strength to share with the world.
While work is good and created by God to be used for God, it will not make us right with Him. We are sinners and fall short, and we can't fix it. That sounds depressing, but it is actually freeing! How great is it to know that even though we will fail many times, we are still loved and still saved. Our eternity does not depend on how fast we run, how many friends we have, what job position we get promoted to, how much money we make, where we live, etc., but it depends on the fact that we are already saved by God's grace (Ephesians 2:8). When I push myself to work so hard and sometimes feel like I haven't worked hard enough or performed well enough, I have learned to give myself that grace that God gives. Sometimes I am not going to be able to do as much as I did another time or as much as I would like to or plan to, but that is okay. All God wants is my best. I am not here to please other people, only Him. He knows our intentions and our hearts, but He also holds the plan for the future, and that is what will happen.
God has given us His Spirit to help us both rest and work (Philippians 2:13, Colossians 1:29, 2 Timothy 2:21, Titus 3:8, 14). When we have this spirit, we have a new work ethic, new desire, new motivation.
Not only is work work considered work that can be tough at times, but specifically Christian ministry work is work that is tough at times. The New Testament has several parables and sayings from Jesus that refer to ministry like working in fields (Matthew 9:37-38/Luke 10:2) and bearing fruit (John 15:8, Romans 7:4).
In our daily lives when we feel overwhelmed by work of any and every kind, find rest. Rest in the fact knowing that your best is enough for God who gives you the work. Find courage knowing that there is purpose and a plan behind what you come to along your daily walk. Find freedom knowing that you are not bound to others' standards or opinions. Work for more than yourself, more than to get it done. Work with purpose.