When I’ve thought about the result or fruit of my labor, it’s been in terms of my effect on a situation or cause (external realities). But lately, I’ve realized that there is another sphere that experiences the effect of my labor – my heart, my internal life (internal realities).
Work, labor, toil, effort is not an option in this life. There are problems to solve, relationships to cultivate, responsibilities to fulfill, feats to accomplish, difficulties to overcome, art to create, and love to offer and receive – none of which are easy.
In the Old Testament, Saul was told, “The Spirit of the Lord will come powerfully upon you…and you will be changed into a different person…do whatever your hand finds to do, for God is with you.” (I Sam. 10:6, 7)
In the New Testament, we are told, “If anyone…knows the good they ought to do and doesn’t do it, it is sin for them” and “whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters”. (James 4:17 and Col. 3:23)
We’ve all observed someone who worked hard doing “whatever their hand finds to do” and “the good they ought to do”, but while the fruit of their labor my have seemed sweet, the fruit of their presence was sour.
I know one person I’ve seen do this – me. There have been may times when I worked so hard on something so good and it produced something so bad in me: agitation, edginess, anger, disregard, impatience, anxiety, unpleasantness.
As I’ve given this much thought lately and conversation with a few friends, I’ve realized that in those moments I was operating with a sense of panic, desperation, franticness and aloneness. It felt like what I was doing was a high-stakes, life-or-death undertaking, when in reality it was not. I’ve wondered why.
Much of what we suffer with is more an issue of what we are doing with our heart than what we are doing with our faculties. “The heart of every problem is the problem in the heart.” Warren Wiersbe
A friend reminded me of a several lines in the movie, Chariots of Fire. Harold Abrahams, a Jewish Englishman, said as he was about to step onto the track, “I will raise my eyes and look down that corridor; 4 feet wide, with only 10 seconds to justify my whole existence.” Eric Liddell, Scottish Christian missionary, said, “I believe God made me for a purpose, but he also made me fast..when I run I feel His pleasure.”
There it is! We are either working, toiling, expending our time and energy to prove our existence or co-laboring with God in the pleasure of His presence and purpose.
Dr. Larry Crab wrote, “The Bible teaches that people are unique. We bear the image of God. Whatever else that image may encompass, it certainly includes the fact that people are capable of (1) entering into relationships of love and (2) engaging in activities with meaning. We are designed for relationship and meaningful activity.”
In those moments where I work with some degree of franticness and desperation, there is something operating in me where I feel like I have to prove my whole existence. It has everything to do with my desire to be loved and to live a life of meaning. It has everything to do with my relationship with God – my trust in His love for me and His purposefulness for my life.
“Where I trust Him I get to live free in His care”, Wayne Jacobsen wrote. “Where I don’t, I end up focused on myself with the attendant anxiety, stress, and insecurity that it provokes. I don’t try to make myself trust Him more. I realized a long time ago that trust is not a choice, it is the by product of love. When I know someone loves me enough to lay down their life for me, I trust them.”
So, in those moments when we becoming agitated, edgy, impatience or stressed, instead of inspecting our work, we should inspect our heart by asking:
- Why am I doing this?
- What do I think I will gain if I succeed?
- What do I think I will loose or suffer if I fail in some way?
- “What is it about God I don’t know, and that if I knew, I would trust Him here?” Wayne Jacobsen
BTW, one of my friends that I referred to, Sam Williamson, wrote a blog about his own wrestling with this issue titled The Stench of Human Sweat. It’s a good read.
BTW 2, you can hear more from Wayne Jacobsen in Reorienting Your Heart: Wisdom, Ideas, Insight from Campfire Conversations, Part 1. It’s free.
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