By Dan Weiss
I grew up doing hard work. As a child I spent time with my dad splitting and stacking wood so we could burn it in our fireplace. I mowed grass and raked leaves. I worked in corn fields in the summer and shoveled snow in the winter.
There are plenty of people who worked harder than me, but I did my fair share of labor. I learned the value of working hard to achieve something and it felt good to look back at my accomplishments after a long day of work.
Something in me changed when I became a teenager.
Despite learning the value of hard work, I also learned that some things came to me easily. Success in school and sports were two of those things and I took advantage of the situation. My study habits and practice effort were subpar, but up to a certain point I was still finding success in those areas.
Once I reached my sophomore year of high school my natural abilities in sports no longer allowed me to be among the best players on my basketball teams. My golf game was stuck at mediocre. My grades were still high, but certain subjects were becoming more challenging.
As a freshman in college my dreams of playing basketball at the next level had already died, and now school was becoming a major problem for me. I hadn't developed good study habits because there was never a need for them. But college requires a greater level of discipline and my grades were dipping to levels I had never known before.
My work ethic hadn't left me, but I wasn't using it in every area of my life. I was still good at manual labor and didn't mind breaking a sweat or earning a few blisters on my hands. Reading hundreds of pages or spending long hours in the library, however, were not in my repertoire.
Eventually, I settled into a groove in college and graduated on time - not with honors, but with a degree!
As an adult, I have started to see my need to apply the work ethic of my childhood to my grownup issues. Marriage, parenting, following Christ, working in ministry and being a good friend are all areas that require hard work. In order to find success (however you define it) in those areas, there are times we need to put in some long hours or extra effort so that we can improve, understand, connect, act and love well.
The world is full of resources that can help us grow as followers of Christ and carry out His commands to love God and love others. However, oftentimes we settle into a comfort zone that simply doesn't harm anybody and doesn't disappoint God. We stop trying to grow, to learn, to "work out our salvation with fear and trembling." (Phil. 2:12) We don't put in any work.
(I'm not saying that we can earn salvation through work or effort. Absolutely not! I believe salvation comes through faith by God's grace. I am saying that we can work hard at becoming more Christlike, at loving people better and at being better servants.)
When we hit roadblocks or come across issues that confuse us, we have choices to make. Will we put in the work to overcome the challenge and gain more understanding? Or will we stay in our comfort zone, refusing to make an effort that may lead to growth?
So many of the issues we hear about in the news, on social media and in conversations with friends are confusing and scary. They are presented in such a way that often makes us want to cover our heads, retreat to a place where we feel safe and hope it will all go away. This is a reasonable response, but it may not be the best response.
If we are in Christ, we have no reason to fear. We have no need to cover ourselves or hunker down. We can face confusion and opposition head on, knowing that the Lord of Lords is the one who protects us. That protection opens up a world of freedom in the face of a changing world. But we have to put in the work to fully understand the issues, to hear the Holy Spirit amidst all the noise, and walk in the direction that pleases and honors God.
It's not easy to research, to pray for long hours, to scour the Scriptures for wisdom, to speak with and listen to experts. It takes time and hard work. But it's worth it!
The We All Need Each Other podcast is meant to be a resource for people to grow and gain understanding. We don't have all the answers, but we want to encourage you to listen and then keep seeking other resources. Together we can become a better representation of the Body of Christ!