Balancing Effort and Surrender: My Quest to Enjoy My Work

#Hustle #Slay #Grind.

Work hard. Work harder. Work the hardest.

I’m in the middle of launching my own business. Well, by the time you read this, it will be up and running! There are endless things to be done. Write this, print that, post this, look up that, file that document, learn more about this thing and that thing, write some more, put together a promotional pack, welcome pack, intake sheets, go meet with local pastors, set up meetings with local pastors….you get it.

About six months ago I was in the middle of the worst health crisis I’ve ever experienced. Stress had caused my body to pretty much shut down on me in more ways than one and in the span of 3 months I had taken 3 trips to the ER, a week of “stress leave” and had a procedure done for a mystery ailment.

Cliff notes version of the last 6 months…I surrendered all my pride and quit the job that defined me as “successful,” at least in my eyes after the Lord made it clear I should do so.  I moved to Idaho to rest for a while and took some time to travel. The story of how and when I felt the permission to finally strike out on my own is awesome but for another time. For the sake of this blog, I want to focus on what the Lord is teaching me today. Right now.

Only a few months past the epic stress-induced, anxiety-ridden meltdown, I’ve been tempted to go right back to the old habits and ways of thinking that I had just been delivered from.

Perhaps all working women feel this way, but I know as a single woman, I feel an enormous amount of pressure to work hard and provide for myself. I also feel like I have to “be successful” because if I’m not a wife and a mom, well then, I have to at least be killing it at my career, right? The natural drift of my heart is towards self-reliance. I like the pretty Pinterest posts that say “Wake up, slay, repeat” and “Dreams demand hustle.” My flesh responds to every #girlboss quote I see. Yes, girl, YOU can do it. Get it done! Work hard. Work Harder. Work the hardest.

Yet, as I am embarking on this exciting and demanding time in my life, a time when #hustle should pretty much be tattooed on my forehead, I feel the Holy Spirit telling me to stop. Slow down. Rest.

God has just delivered me from a life and mental addiction to overworking, over-worrying and self-reliance. I will not go back to it. The trial was so severe that the truths I’ve learned are like “well-driven nails,” (Eccl. 12:11) and I am so, so thankful. I have been refined, and Satan will not trick me again.

So instead, as I prepare for the launch of a new life, a life where my income relies solely on how hard I work, I am not rocking a cute T-shirt that says “Wake Up. Slay. Repeat” I am contemplating and seeking wisdom about what the balance between effort and surrender really means for me, in real life, every day.

Here is what I’m learning.

Taking a break does not make me less productive

It makes me more so. Read more about this awesome truth here.

It's ok to step away from work when there is still work to be done

Jesus did it. Why can’t I?

We are not told to work harder but we are told repeatedly to rest, take refuge and trust harder

67 verses in the Bible talk about taking refuge in God. 71 verses talk about resting physically. More than 120 verses talk about trusting God, which implies mental rest. One of the 10 commandments actually requires that we rest, weekly, not just two weeks a year.

Jesus was never hurried

Jesus never lets anything, not even the death of his friend (John 11:6) force him into a hurried pace of life. 

As I started to contemplate NOT working too hard, I thought of the verse “There is a time to work and a time to rest” and wondered what it might teach me on the topic. Are we really meant to grind away all week and just fall on our face on Sundays and binge watch The Office? Are we really meant to just push and push and push and then spend two weeks once a year in Hawaii?

Guess what, no such verse exists. The verse I was thinking of actually reads “There is a time to plant and a time to harvest” (Ecc. 3:2) and it implies that work is done is rhythms, not that we live a compartmentalized life or work until we are so exhausted, anxious and stressed and that we have no choice but to stop.

What was even more interesting to me was what I found a few verses later. Verse 11 says “I perceived that there is nothing better for them than to be joyful and to do good as long as they live, also that everyone should eat and drink and take pleasure in his toil, this is God’s gift to man.”

Woah. Hold up.

Those are some seriously strong words. Be joyful and do good? Take pleasure in our work? This is God’s gift to us? This is revolutionary stuff. This is what I want. 

So...what does abiding look like for me to make sure that I am joyful? How often do I need to pause, bask and reflect in order to take pleasure in my work? How seriously do I need to surrender worry about finances, reputation and the approval of others in order to just enjoy my toil as God’s gift to me?

Work honors God. Worry does not. Can I do the former without the latter?

With the Holy Spirit's help, I can. The Spirit is loud in my heart right now and I'm determined to listen this time. Trust in my provision and not in your hard work. This trust is what actually allows me to enjoy my work. This trust must be fought for daily and I fight by simply living as if God's got it. This means stepping away from work to let God continually provide rest for my soul and to refill me. It's simple things like taking a walk, going to grab a coffee, eating and drinking, singing a few worship songs in my car or calling a friend when I “should be writing.” It's a new way of life, a new way of work, to consciously allow Him to be the source of all my strength and all my provision. 

Suddenly, familiar old verses are coming to life in a new way.

Matthew 11:28–30 “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

Philippians 4:6–7 “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

I will leave you with a snippet from my most recent journal entry.

“I feel you, Lord, granting me the faith to trust that you will provide for me. You are leading me step by step in this unfamiliar dance. My nature wants to learn the steps now, be good at it, and take over the lead. But with a tug in my spirit here, a pull there, a spin here, a nudge and a pause – you are asking me to just enjoy this once in a lifetime dance. 

For me, surrender (trust) is stopping, often and believing that You can and will take care of me. And in this stopping, I am finding you waiting there, to refuel me, to inspire me, to receive my offering of thanks. Then back to work I go, happy.”

It feels really good to be happy. 

I’ll miss you, you sassy slogans, you. Slay, Hustle, Grind. You sure made me feel important.

But from now on I’ll be all about the #comeallwholabor (Matthew 11:28) #bejoyfuldogood (Ecc. 3:12) #takepleasureinyourwork (Ess. 3:13) #workbutdontworry (Matthew 6:31) #ineverythingpray (Phil 4:6-7) #dwellintheshelter (Ps 91:1-2) #myGodwillsupply (Heb 4:19) kind of life.