Will it ever get better? Are all of my classes going to be this difficult? Will this new change at work make a difference? Maybe I should just leave and find a better job. Should I drop this class and change my major? Why do things have to be so difficult at every turn?
Do you ever find yourself pondering these questions? Maybe your stress and frustration with difficulties at school or work have reached a boiling point. You have vented about it for years and you're just ready for something different.
What about God? Where is God in all of this struggle? Doesn't He want me to be happy? Is this what the "blessing" of God looks like in my life?
The reality is that we all face stress and difficulty in some way. Whether your calling has you as a full time student, a stay at home mom, a business executive living out of airports, or maybe an under-appreciated public servant, the reality is that no matter what your season of life, we all face hardships and difficulties in these callings.
Are these full-time vocations just a necessary means to an end? Or, does God have something more in view when He places these callings on our lives?
Consider Genesis 2:15:
"The LORD God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it."
In this verse we learn that God designed work in the very beginning. This is before sin entered the world and turned everything on it's head. We can know that our calling in life is good. God has put in us a desire to work in a way that brings honor to Him.
We must balance this reality with Genesis 3:17-18:
"...cursed is the ground because of you; in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life; thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you;"
We live in a fallen world that is full of thorns and thistles at every turn. This is a universal reality. No matter what you put your hands to on this earth, those things will be a mixture of good fruit and also thorns and thistles. Work will be difficult. People will drive you crazy. You will make mistakes and do things that compound the difficulties. School will be hard and teachers will seem unfair at times. These are realities of life in a fallen world.
On top of that, we are often the problem. How many times do you step back and see that the "difficulties" at school or work are primarily a result of you dropping the ball? Maybe cramming for that exam all night wasn't the best idea. Maybe going to that meeting unprepared has brought even more hardship to you. Part of dealing with the stress of work and school is taking an honest evaluation of how you approach the calling God has on your life? Are you striving to be a great student or employee, or simply just striving to get by? We have to be honest about our own role in this before we can move forward in healthy ways.
Let me close by giving 3 encouragements to help deal with stress in work and school:
1. Count it all joy: Not if you face trails, but when you face them. Consider them joy because they are producing something good in you. Take a look at the difficulties at work and school right now, and consider them joy. Pray this. Meditate on this truth. This will change the way you respond to the difficulties, but not necessarily change the difficulty itself. Remember, God is for our joy!
"Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing." (James 1:2-4)
2. These afflictions are "slight and momentary": They probably do not feel very slight or momentary, but these trials can prepare in us a greater hope in what is to come. The weightiness of eternal glory will begin to make these present trials seem slight and momentary. The key is that we must learn to look to the things unseen, not focusing on the temporary things in front of us today. When eternity with God starts to grip us, the hardships of this life on earth "seem" lighter.
"So we do not lost heart. Though our outer nature is wasting away, our inner nature is being renewed day by day. For this slight momentary affliction in preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal." (2 Corinthians 4:16-18)
3. God gives grace to endure unjust treatment: The reality is that some of you will be working or going to class and dealing with unjust or unfair treatment. Some will work for the selfish boss who cuts corners and doesn't appreciate the effort you give. When we are "mindful of God", we are able to graciously endure sorrows that come from suffering unjustly. The hope is that we have great bosses and supervisors and teachers. There are many who find themselves in that situation and are thankful. If not, be mindful of God and graciously endure.
"Servants, be subject to your masters with all respect, not only to the good and gentle but also to the unjust. For this is a gracious thing, when mindful of God, one endures sorrows while suffering unjustly." (1 Peter 2:18-20)
Lean into the hope of knowing Jesus as you follow Him through these stresses of life. His grace is sufficient for our weakness. Praise God for that!
This is a follow-up post to our second Equip night on Stress, Fear, and Anxiety. Join us March 6th for our 3rd night: Epidemic. For more information and to register go to www.brookstonechurch.org/epidemic