Tag Archives: Fear

The Compass

Religion offers us a map. Take a right turn here, a left turn there. Fill this spot, check that box. Do this, not that. At the end of the road we are offered our prize. The problem though, is that destination we find ourselves at is never the one we wanted to get to.

The Gospel offers us a compass. Always pointing a singular direction, regardless the obstacles that might stand ahead. Rocks and boulders, forests or swamps… just go around… the compass will keep pointing to your destination.

Though the map feels safer, important work has always been done with a compass. Lewis and Clark didn’t have a map. Neither did Columbus.

Important work today and tomorrow will be done with a compass as well, rarely a map.

Today you will almost certainly have the opportunity to do something new, or act in some bold way: share the Gospel with a coworker, take initiative on a project, serve a customer or superior in an unexpected way that isn’t in your job description.

None of those opportunities will be on your map. By definition, they can’t be. All of those opportunities will be important – To you. To God. To the expansion of the Kingdom.

When in doubt, follow the compass. Forget the map. (It’s out of date anyways.)

The Function of Struggle

“Hope is a function of struggle.”
-CR Snyder

People really hate math class. They love to say, “I’m 40 and I’ve never once used calculus.” But you never hear people say, “I’m 40 and I’ve never once used the knowledge that Genghis Khan died in 1227 AD.” Why is that? It’s weird. Especially since math is everywhere. Even in suffering and struggle.

My mom is a math teacher, and the other day she was commenting to me how she appreciates that algebra math students are now instructed to solve a function rather than just solve for a variable.

For her, f(x)=1+x^2 > y=1+x^2. (Don’t worry, all the math in this post is made up and unnecessary to understanding the main point. It is fun though, to find a Gospel application even for algebraic notation.)

At first, this made no sense to me. It’s all the same, right? It’s just a semantic difference. Swap y for f(x) for z for the word banana… it’s all just a representation of a variable right?

But no, she said. Functions are different than variables. Once you solve a function, you can apply it to any number set, or combine it with any other function. Functions become building blocks that can be combined, transformed, modified and shifted. They are much more than an individual variable, they are a single component in a broader tapestry of understanding the world around us. And it’s not just math. Functions are everywhere and can be applied to anything. Once you start thinking with functions, you can better understand almost any causal relationship.

CR Snyder (who I don’t know… obvi) didn’t know I had that conversation with my mom. He did, however, give us an interesting function to test our theory with.

So: If hope is a function of struggle, what are its properties? What are its components? How do we get from struggle to hope? How do we define the struggle function? (What does “function of” mean?)

Multiple choice tests taught me that it’s always easier to work backwards (and that’s the only thing), so let’s start with the product. What is hope a direct function of?

Hope is a function of character.

Brene Brown describes hope this way: “Hope is not an emotion, but a cognitive behavioral process that we learn when we experience adversity, when we have relationships that are trustworthy, when we have faith in our ability to get out of a jam.” That cognitive behavioral process could be described as your character. After all, who you are… what your character is… is just a combination of all the different behavioral processes you exhibit. (That’s as clinical as it gets… stick with me.)

Hope is not an emotion. Hope is a function of character.

hope = hope(character(x))

Or: more character leads to more hope.

Character is a function of endurance.

We have a useful start, but remember we can modify functions, we can combine them and transform them. So what is character a function of? Endurance.

Endurance is the ability to continue through discomfort. Research shows that the best distance runners in the world have a higher pain tolerance than the average person, but not a higher pain threshold. That means they feel pain at the same point but don’t succumb to it as quickly as you or I. They have trained themselves to be able to endure.

Which sounds a lot like this function which produces character right? Things in our lives will hurt, they will be uncomfortable, but in enduring (and in properly addressing and dealing with those issues) we build character. The ability to do it again tomorrow, but better. We’re distance runners building our endurance.

character = character(endurance(x))

Or: more endurance leads to more character.

Endurance is a function of struggle.

Maybe you saw this when we were talking about building endurance, but you can’t have endurance if there is nothing to endure. I mean, by definition, endurance implies pain or discomfort. The Google definition for endurance is, “the fact or power of enduring an unpleasant or difficult process or situation without giving way.” The without giving way part is interesting because it implies a control or effort being exerted. A resistance to the pain being presented.

There is no endurance without struggle.

endurance = endurance(struggle(x))

Or: more struggle leads to more endurance.

And with that, we have all we need to make our proof:

hope = hope(character(endurance(struggle(x)))

Or: more struggle leads to more endurance leads to more character leads to more hope.

CR Snyder’s logic was right, but it wasn’t complete. Hope is a function of struggle, but what is struggle a function of? What sets this whole chain reaction in motion?

Struggling is a function of suffering.

Endurance is “the fact or power of enduring an unpleasant or difficult process or situation without giving way.” It’s the ability to prolong your struggle, which can only be brought about by struggling. We can only struggle in the face of pain. In the face of suffering. I mean, try to struggle while comfortable on a beach with a tiki drink in your hand. Just as we cannot build endurance without first struggling. We cannot struggle without first suffering.

struggling=struggle(suffering(x))

hope = hope(suffering(x))

Or: more suffering leads to more hope.

Solving the suffering function gives us hope.

And are we surprised?

Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. (Romans 5:3-5 ESV)

All of this is to say that in a non-intuitive way, your suffering today is a gift. The losses and difficulties are building in you a hope for the one who will not disappoint you. Tomorrow might not be brighter than today, but there is coming a day that will be much much brighter.

Take a minute to think about a struggle you have had. What is something you struggle with at work? Can you feel traces of endurance building up? Can you see shadows of your character strengthening? Do you find even the smallest amount of hope where previously there was none?

Now, what’s a hard or painful thing you could do at work today? What is a pain or suffering to struggle against? Start struggling.

Forgive Yourself

You must, oh dear beloved, forgive yourself.

You must forgive yourself for not being the fastest, strongest, smartest, or best dressed. You must forgive yourself for missing that deadline, breaking that program, failing those clients. Forgive yourself for not winning every promotion, negotiation, or sale.

You must also forgive yourself for the times when you were selfish or rude or hateful or disparaging. Forgive yourself for wounding others. Forgive yourself for your self-destruction, your self-inflicted wounds, your self-loathing moments.

Forgive yourself for being afraid.

Because through his son, the God of the Universe has already forgiven you. He has forgiven your weakness. He has forgiven your fear.

For you to refuse to forgive where God has already forgiven ignores his sacrifice. It denies his love. It adds back burdens that he has already removed.

But.

Don’t ever let yourself off the hook for not caring or not trying. Don’t forgive yourself for minimizing your shortcomings. Your failures, after all, do carry a great cost. You just don’t have to pay for them.


This was a scary post to write for me because the inspiration, structure, and some phrasing, comes from this secular blog post by Seth Godin. It’s important though, because as believers we have a reason to forgive ourselves. Non-believers don’t.

It’s not about them

Some people, maybe most people, won’t understand what it is you’re up to.

Are you really trying to tell me that your work is worship?
Are you really trying to tell me that going out drinking with those people is obedient?
Are you really trying to tell me that working 80 hours a week is faithful?
Are you really trying to tell me that eating that is alright?
Are you really trying to tell me that going there is ok?

Ignore ‘em.

Faithfulness isn’t about them. Their perceptions, reactions and comments are immaterial. You have to impress just one person (and that guy, as it turns out, is already impressed with you.)

 

Manifesto

I want you to come alive. Maybe even for the first time.

I want your answer to the questions, “What do you do?” and “What do you want to do?” to be the exact same thing. Life is too short, and the world too desperately needy for what you you have to offer, for anything else.

Can I tell you a secret? That’s what God wants for you as well. God isn’t interested in your mediocre. He’s not interested in you curbing your dreams and desires because you are scared, or tired, or ill-equiped (or any other excuse you like to use for that matter.) God created you for something specific, and he’d be ever so pleased if you woke up to that fact and started doing what you were created to do. (You know you’d  be pleased too.)

But our reality is much different from what we, or God, want: We sit at jobs we don’t particularly like, doing tasks we don’t particularly enjoy, for pay that’s less than we think we deserve. We work for bosses who don’t seem to appreciate us, see our family and friends less than we’d like to, waste the free time we do have, and generally feel kind of ‘ick’ at the end of each week. We carry a nagging guilt because our day jobs “aren’t holy”, or because we aren’t spiritual enough, or because we don’t evangelize enough… (and the list goes on and on.)

It’s draining. Every day is draining.

And is this really all there is? Is this what God planned for us? Does God want us to lead unfulfilling lives of compromise?

Hell no! And I’m here to prove it.

God wants you to be fully alive. God wants you to be fearless and focused. God wants the best of you and for you.

And that’s where this blog comes in. It isn’t about guilting you in to being a better person. It’s not about shaming you into working harder, or using fear to drive you to advancement. It isn’t even about quitting your job, or taking a life changing trip across the globe, or starting a side business.

Task and Toil is about you seeing that everything you do has meaning and purpose, no matter how mundane it may first seem. It’s about igniting your passion and showing you that the opportunities are limitless. It’s raw power – for the most menial of tasks and the largest of life’s decisions. But it’s not for the faint of heart.

Our journey together will not always be easy, but it will be built on a solid hope, a firm foundation. Exuberant yet restrained. Calm but driven. Punch-drunk but sober. It’s a tangled mess of seeming contradictions that are beautiful in every sense of the word. It’s built on the Gospel. The true Gospel. The living and breathing Gospel. The Gospel of Power. The Gospel of Might. It is good news that matters. Not theory. Action.

Task and Toil is a quiet whisper of confidence: you can do this because you have support. You can do this because you aren’t defined by this. You can do this because you are loved for who you are. You can do this because you are free.

Task and Toil is about uncovering what you were put on this earth to do, coming to grips with who you truly are, kicking fear square in the chest, punching sin right in it’s stupid face, and coming alive… truly alive… maybe for the first time even.

If you’re reading this right now, there is no doubt in my mind that I know two very specific things about you:

  1. You are entirely unique – there’s no one on this planet like you.
  2. You were put on this earth to do something entirely unique that no one else could ever hope to do.

(Argue with me about those two if you want, but you’ll be wrong.)

Wouldn’t it be a shame if you never did what you were created for? Don’t let that happen.

Everyone has a different calling. Let’s figure out what yours is.

And then, together, let’s get out there and do it.

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