There’s a secret about adulthood that no one tells you when you’re a child. Even when I was in high school and college, I had no idea what was coming. I’m glad for this, because I wouldn’t have been able to handle it then. Now, however, through my own experience and the privilege of pastoring others, I know the truth: Sometimes, adulthood is a grind.
By the time we are teenagers, most of us know that sometimes life is good, and sometimes life is hard. There are highs and lows. But as life goes on, we discover that there are also a whole lot of in-betweens. When you are a young mother, not getting enough sleep and never interacting with other adults, life isn’t terrible, but it isn’t a tropical vacation, either. When you are getting up every morning and going to a job you don’t love because you have a family to provide for, the days can blur together. And sometimes there’s nothing to do but just keep going.
When Adam and Eve sinned against God and chose to live life cut off from His blessings, this is what God said to Adam:
Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat food from it all the days of your life.
It will produce thorns and thistles for you, and you will eat the plants of the field.
By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food
until you return to the ground, since from it you were taken;
for dust you are and to dust you will return.”—Genesis 3:17-19
Life outside of Eden will always involve toil. This is true even if you have a job you love. It is true even if you are a believer in Jesus Christ, filled with the Holy Spirit, headed for heaven. Last week, our small group met for the first time after taking four months off because of COVID-19, and the common theme in all of our prayer requests was weariness. “I’m so tired of…”. After this last year, all of us are ready for a break, ready for some relief. Sometimes believers think that if they feel this way, they must be doing something wrong. Surely, we think, if I prayed enough, If I had enough faith, I would be full of joy all the time. In a way I think this is true, but let’s make sure we have the right definition of joy. I think there are times when joy means still being grateful for Jesus, still having hope for the future, still finding God-given strength to love others well, more than it does being, to use my brother’s phrase, “Facebook-happy.” You might not be able to flood social media with pictures of the wonderful time you and your loved ones are always having. But if you can look into your heart and still find faith, hope, and love, you’re doing something right.
So what is the solution to the reality of the grind? If you wanted to sell a lot of books, I’m sure you could come up with 5 Easy Steps to Continual Bliss, and maybe even find Bible verses to make them sound spiritual. (Actually, it’s probably too late. I’m sure that book already exists.) But if we want to take a truly biblical approach, let me suggest we focus on a couple of boring, unpopular words: diligence and faithfulness.
The book of Proverbs talks a lot about being diligent. Dilligence means faithfully doing the right thing, the right way, day after day, year after year. It means we put in the work, and we do it for two reasons: 1) it’s the right thing, and we love God and want to honor Him in what we do. And 2), we know it will pay off. In the long run, it will be worthwhile. There will be fruit from our faithful labor.
Our world tells us that if we aren’t experiencing happiness right now, this instant, we need to change something so that we are. Satan whispers to us that if pleasure isn’t found within God’s plan, then we need to write our own rules to get what we want. People make foolish choices and shipwreck their lives trying to find the happiness they aren’t finding in the grind of adult life. They get lost in addictions, medicating themselves because they can’t find joy in the everyday.
The Bible offers us a different path. It says that the grind isn’t pointless. You’re not a hamster in a wheel, you’re a blade being sharpened. You’re a statue being carved. You are in a process that God has designed to shape you, bless others, and glorify Himself. And sometimes, it’s a long, slow process. In the end, though, you will look more like Jesus, you will reap the rewards of faithfulness, and you will look back and acknowledge that God knew what He was doing all along.
One of the great examples of faithfulness in the Bible is the life of Daniel. Most of us know about Daniel from the story of the lion’s den. We forget that in that story Daniel is an old man, having served faithfully as an administrator for a foreign government for decades. Years and years of getting up every morning and doing his job, doing the right thing. I’m guessing that at times it felt like a grind. I’m also guessing that right now, Daniel has no regrets.
This is how God has designed our world: If you practice the piano regularly for years, one day you discover that you play pretty well. If you run or lift weights, you won’t look that different from one day to the next, but over time your body will transform in dramatic ways. If you read the Bible every day, you get to the point that you find the Word of God is a part of your very thinking. It shapes you. Sometimes those things aren’t especially enjoyable in the moment, but the results are well worth it.
So don’t despair. God is in the grind. He is up to something good. Hang in there and keep trusting. Diligence will be rewarded. Faithfulness isn’t flashy, but its fruit is delicious.
Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.—Galatians 6:9