Sometimes, things are hard and worth doing.
But sometimes, things are just hard.
How are we supposed to know the difference?
It seems to be a common theme on the blog in the past couple of weeks or so to talk about hard things and how to persevere despite the difficulties. And while that’s all well and good, I think it would be a great disservice to only talk about doing the hard things that are worth doing and not the other side of that coin.
When to Not Do the Hard Things
My parents have graciously provided financially for me for the past year, so that I can attend The Company and pursue my dreams and calling. I’ve been so thankful for them, and I won’t lie; having my finances taken care of has made my journey in Ohio ten times easier.
But I’m twenty-four years old, and one of my biggest fears is becoming that thirty-year-old man living in his parent’s basement, playing video games and chugging Mountain Dew—which is funny because I am neither a man nor do I enjoy Mountain Dew, so as far as fears go, that ones pretty unrealistic. Regardless, I’ve been praying for a job for a while. I love that my parents support me, but I don’t want them to have to help me forever.
Each time I pray for a job, miraculously, the Lord provides something. This has been a common theme in my life since I was young. And, just like always, this past month, I started praying for a job, and The Lord provided.
Except it wasn’t a consistent job. It was a one-time thing I was going to get paid for.
Forging my path
“Oh, that can’t be God!” I thought to myself as I rolled up my sleeves and started scouring the internet for jobs. “Because I asked for a job—and this isn’t enough money.”
I quickly found a job at a fast-food restaurant and was elated. I could save and build out my finances with a consistent job that paid a little above minimum wage. I could be more generous—give people more things! So many good things were waiting for me with this job, right?
There was also a lot of pride. I haven’t worked a regular job since I got sick a couple of years back (listen to this podcast for the full story). I wanted to prove to myself (and maybe everyone around me) that I could work and wasn’t useless.
After just two days working at this fast-food restaurant, my body was nearly right back where I’d started a year ago. My joints were swollen. My body hurt. I could barely move for days. Bitterly, I thought I couldn’t handle it. Pridefully, I decided that I was going to push in deeper anyway. Work harder. Do Hard Things, I told myself as my managers threw ice cream at each other, then handed me the mop and told me to clean it up.
Multiple people told me to quit. I remember distinctly, Monday night, as I was falling asleep and praying to God, I asked Him what I should do.
The answer was firm but quiet. I pressed my lips together and pushed my face further into the pillow.
Is it God or Me?
How am I supposed to know if that was God’s voice or my own? What if I was just being lazy? I asked God to please confirm, for sure, that it was His voice.
The following day, I walked into school. My fingers had swollen to the point that I couldn’t wear my rings. My legs hurt so bad I could barely cross them when I sat down. Every move brought pain. We sat down for worship. I closed my eyes to sing, and one of my friends cleared his throat and asked to share something.
He shifted, his hands on his knees, and said, “I don’t know why I want to share this, but something I was just thinking about and talking with God about is faith. And if we put faith in anything outside of God, It’s sin.”
My mouth nearly dropped.
Coincidence, the voice inside my head hissed. He’s not talking about you.
Then, my mentor gave us a new memory verse for the week, Psalm 127:1-2.
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.
It is in vain that you rise up early
and go late to rest,
eating the bread of anxious toil;
for he gives to his beloved sleep.Pslam 127:1-2 (ESV)
After worship, I hurried upstairs, called my manager, and told them I was quitting. I didn’t need any more signs. I needed to be obedient, despite if I agreed with God or not.
It’s so important to trust God’s timing and His plans.
He calls us to do hard things, yes. Sometimes, we do have to work in a terrible job. Sometimes, we must hold our nose and take the plunge. But a good distinction to make is to ask yourself this question.
Has God asked you to do this hard thing, or is it an expectation you’ve set for yourself? Is God putting this task on your heart, pulling you closer to Him, or are you doing it out of your strength? Are you doing the hard thing simply because it’s hard? Or is there a purpose to it?
I was putting faith in my ability—and very quickly realized God has me where He wants me, and that’s where I should put my faith. In Him, not me.
What are you putting your faith in?
You know what you shouldn’t quit on? Pursuing joy! Check out my joy-votional!