Category Archives: Work

It’s Yours. Go and Take It! How to Let Struggle Work in Your Favor.

Finding joy. Finding strength.

It’s not easy. Not for any of us.

And so often, those who do this hard work of fighting for life and fighting for power are given what is possibly the most condescending response ever. “It’s easy for you. It’s harder for me than it is for you. You have something I don’t have. You have the gift of joy.”

But.

Here’s the thing.

Joy is not a gift.

Galatians 5.

Joy is a fruit.

That means it is something that must be cultivated.

Fruit comes after ownership–owning our territory, and owning our part in the growing. It comes after plotting, tilling, planting, and much care.

Joy is not a gift of the Spirit, nor is it a gift of circumstance. Some of the most emotionally challenged people that I know have had it the “easiest” in terms of visible circumstances.

Joy is not a gift.

 

Those who have not known ease can assume that if they only had a different circumstance, they would also have a different level of joy.

But happiness studies from around the world show that this simply is not true.

Joy and circumstance are not related to the degree that people assume that they are.

Joy is not a gift, but sometimes struggle is.

Struggle works in our favor when we realize that it leads us in to our identity. Struggle and work make us feel our own power when we engage wholeheartedly and watch the fruit come.

Good parents see struggle as part of health.

 

Infants struggle to be born, and then they wriggle and struggle to hold up their own heads.

Babies struggle to crawl. Toddlers struggle to walk, falling down a million times and never giving up.

Good parents see this struggle as part of health. Like weight-lifting or training for a marathon, it’s hard in the moment, but no one gets stronger being carried everywhere.

In fact, I recently heard of a mother who was so protective of her child, never wanting to see him struggle, that she did carry him everywhere for almost two years. The child could not walk. He never had a chance to struggle and learn. There was no normal, healthy development in his legs. Child services came in to insist that the child be allowed to struggle to gain strength.

Very often, the thing that looks like struggle is the thing that builds your strength.

And even in Eden, there was work to be done.

There is a consciousness to joy. A conscious choice for cultivation. This consciousness exists with all the fruits of the spirit.

Even in Eden, there was work to be done.

 

There is nothing easier than criticizing a joyful, loving person. Nothing easier than tearing down a soft target. And there is something about a joyful person that can make an angry person angrier and meaner, especially if he is determined to stay in his state of mind.

It is not only that the joyful are a soft target.

A joyful person is a challenge.

The mere presence of a well-adjusted person is an inherent challenge to those who don’t have it figured out yet. And when that same well-adjusted person is also flourishing and strong, the challenge is even louder. And those who have not fought in the same way can sometimes assume the way was easy for those who have already won their battles.

A joyful person is a challenge.

 

I have fought this temptation too. The temptation to see someone who is living well and bearing good fruit as someone who just had it easy and has no real clue about life.

But then, after years of struggle, I started to wonder if, maybe, those people knew something I didn’t.

It can feel good in a twisted way to fall into self pity, to sit and tell myself how hard my life is. To vindicate the waves of emotion that, at forty-two years old, I still have not learned to entirely control.

“I deserve it! I want chocolate! I want to complain! I want to watch myself cry in the mirror! I want to quit!”

Self-pity gives us all the excuses we need to not try harder, to not go out and do the hard work of pursuing our destiny. It makes us feel exempt from the struggle for excellence in our own minds, where the battle is the thickest. We can redefine “excellence” in our pain, saying, “Well, at least I’m still here, well at least I’m this, at least I’m not that.”

At least.

But I don’t want “at least.” I want “at most.”

I want the best there is.

And I know you do too.

And God wants the best for us. He already has it planned out.

Very often, the thing that looks like struggle is the thing that builds your strength.

 

When the Israelites were “given” their inheritance from God, He also told them to GO AND TAKE IT.

When Ruth went to Boaz for charity, it was there, but she still had to work for it. She still had to GO AND TAKE IT.

When Jesus healed the man at the Pool of Bethesda, He told the man, “Get up. Take up your mat, and walk.” The man had to take responsibility for himself and TAKE his healing. He had a choice.

GO AND TAKE IT

 

It’s time for us to GO AND TAKE the inheritance, the blessings, the joy, the healing that God wants to pour out in our lives. God does many, many things by grace, just giving us blessings because He loves us. But even with a gift, we have to stretch out our own hands to receive.

But other times, like a good father who wants to see his child grow healthy, He stands out a little way from us, holding out His arms and saying, “Come on! Come on! Come on! I know you can do it!”

The way to let struggle work in our favor, and incidentally, one way to cultivate joy, is to count the struggle as joy. 

Don’t know how to do that? Me either, sometimes. Ask God to help you reframe it. And you will see Him standing before you with arms outstretched, cheering you on.

***

Reckon it nothing but joy, my brethren, whenever you find yourselves hedged in by various trials. Be assured that the testing of your faith leads to power of endurance. Jas 1:2-3

Jesus said to him, “Rise, take up your bed and walk.” John 5:8

So Ruth worked alongside the women in Boaz’s fields and gathered grain with them until the end of the barley harvest. Then she continued working with them through the wheat harvest in early summer. Ruth 2:23ab

See, I have given you this land. Go in and take possession of the land. Deut 1:8a

What have you been putting off because of self-pity or fear? What do you need to GO AND TAKE today? What is one thing you can do to move forward in claiming your inheritance?

Father, thank You that You allow us the good kind of struggle that brings strength in us! Thank You that You stand before us with Your arms out, saying, “Come on! Come on! Come on! You can do it! Come to me! I’ve got you!” Thank You that You know how much we can be, and You believe in us! Thank You that You never leave us or forsake us, and You are our greatest Helper, our greatest cheering section, our greatest encourager!

I pray for anyone reading this to hear Your voice in greater measure today and every day, cheering them on to claim their inheritance! To hear You say in their hearts–there it is! That thing I have for you! I’m shining a light on it, I’m cheering you on! Now! GO AND TAKE IT!

Thank You for helping us and planning out our best lives and making a way for us to find what You have! In Jesus’ name, we GO! Amen!

Four Energy Seasons: Which One Are YOU In?

We all know that the earth has seasons of weather and growth.

But have you ever noticed that your life has seasons too? Not just in the way that time passes, but in the way your energy comes and goes.

Spring, summer, fall, winter. Energy ups and downs.

I read something from Kris Vallotton recently that alludes to this idea, and it got me thinking about my own season, and how hard it can be to give myself permission to be truly present in each one, especially when it requires rest.

In our culture, Westerners, particularly Americans, seem almost addicted to the creativity and busyness of springtime.

Something new! Something fresh! Something different!

Taglines for ads are always “the latest new thing!” Fast food and processed food companies seem to be in a weekly race to the “best” new eating concept. “Best” being a relative term…

Root beer breakfast tarts. Unicorn rainbow coffee. Cheese puffs stuffed with macaroni.

It is possible to innovate too far.

With the exception of unicorn anything, maybe they should just stick to the original flavors. Plain old mac and cheese is a classic. Biscuits and gravy are fine just the way they are. Don’t need root beer on my biscuits.

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Springtime is lovely. Innovation is fun. New things are exciting. Plowing  stale earth and dropping in fresh seeds is good. It’s a beautiful time of year. But it doesn’t make sense to have springtime all the time.

To Everything There is a Season

Plowing through.

How many times have I heard myself say those words? “Got to plow through today! So much to do, so little time! Working hard, keeping busy, plowing through!”

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Sometimes that attitude is condemned by people who interpret “plowing through” as striving. In springtime, however, plowing is right on schedule.

But you can’t plow all the time.

If you plow and plant, and then keep plowing and planting over the same field in summer, the seed won’t  have time to grow, and you will ruin what you planted earlier. If you plow a harvest too soon in the fall, you may get some of the crop, but not nearly the abundance you could have had if you waited for the season to come to its fullness. If you try to plow in winter when the ground is hard and ready for rest, you could break your plow and wear yourself out as you fight the elements. Frozen ground won’t welcome a seed.

Knowing your season is key.

In springtime, we plow, and plant, and plan for what is coming after all this sowing.

But it’s a temporary time, until next year at least.

After spring comes summer, a time of tending diligently to what has been planted. Time to weed, and water, and fertilize, and watch over the hard work of the planting. Summer is hard work in the heat, and it is less about dreaming and startups, and more about maintaining and guarding the hard work of spring.

Summer is about follow-through.

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And fall is the harvest! Everyone wants to hear the words, “Your harvest is coming!” But your harvest comes after seasons of spring and summer.  Harvest-time still takes work, but it’s the work of celebrating dreams manifesting from the spring.

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And then comes winter.

Winter is about rest. After the hard year of plowing, planting, tending, and harvesting, the rhythm of the year makes room for rest. There is still work that has to be done in winter, and seeds still doing mysterious things under ground, but it is more about keeping the home fires burning and enjoying the nourishment that came from your garden. Eating well, resting, and getting things ready for the next planting season.

And as my friend Alice Briggs says, “In winter is when the roots grow deep, wide, and strong to support all that new growth come spring!”

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As often as I hear myself say, “I’m plowing through!” I also hear myself say, “I’m hiding. I’m hibernating.”

Understand Your Season

In the Kris Vallotton blog post I mentioned above, he says, “It’s so important that we understand what season we’re in, or we will judge ourselves against the work that others are producing in very different seasons than ourselves.”

You can’t compare your winter to someone else’s spring. Their resting time will come, and so will your harvest and your new thing. If you get out of order because of someone else’s season, you could miss the benefit of God’s timing for your life.

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I have a tendency to think my personal seasons should match the natural ones. Sometimes they do, but that is not always the case.

I also put pressure on myself to be in perfect balance all the time, plow in the morning, tend in the afternoon, hibernate at night.

But no other natural system works like that. I want to stay in balance and guard my Sabbath days during the week as much as possible. But there is a rhythm to life, to our years as well as our weeks. I’m learning to accept that, and to pay attention to my words as my spirit tells  me what I need.

I have to listen to myself, my body, the words coming out of my mouth, feelings of fullness or depletion, to help me recognize my personal energy season.

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Honoring our seasons with career, dreams, family, health, and all aspects of life can be make the difference in how successful we are over time.

Spring is glorious, beautiful fun. Winter sometimes can feel like a drag, especially if you are addicted to productivity.  But even the best marathon runners and athletes schedule recovery months after big events. They know that scheduling recovery cycles will allow their bodies to achieve peak performance.

Rest makes room for a different kind of productivity. Most growth in children occurs while they sleep, and nearly all centenarians will credit sleep as at least part of their secret to a long life. The most healing in our bodies occurs while we sleep, and pregnant women need more sleep than others overall.

Miracles may begin in energy, but to grow, they also require peace and quiet and rest.

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Part of being in any season is enjoying it while it lasts and fitting your activity to the season, while also planning for the next one. A favorite winter pastime of gardeners is browsing through seed catalogs, thinking about how they’ll use their energy when the spring season comes back around again.

And knowing that all the seasons will come back around, that each one is temporary, can help us enjoy and make the best use of every one as they pass.

Spring is about plowing, preparing the ground, and planting. Summer is about follow-through, even on the scorching hot days. Fall is about harvest. And winter is about rest.

No season will last forever. Learning to appreciate each one will help us maximize the time we’ve been given.

***

What season are you in right now? How can you honor your season and prepare for the next one? Knowing that this time is temporary, whether of working hard or of resting well, how can you make the most of the time God is giving you right now?

Father, we thank You for seasons. Thank You that You are the God of the Seed. And the Tending. And of the Harvest. And the God of Rest.

Give us discernment to see the season we are in and to walk in its rhythm.

I pray no condemnation for the time spent in plowing or in rest as we fit our plans to the time. I pray for the best possible use of time in our current season. Our culture is good at working hard. I pray we learn how to work smart. And I pray we learn how to truly rest, both in weekly Sabbaths and in our winter seasons.

Resting in You, Father. Trusting all things to come together in Your perfect time.

In Jesus.

Amen