Monday, July 3, 2017

What Are You Striving For?

HERE IN THE UNITED STATES we like to proudly pronounce that if you work hard enough, you can be anything you want to be. Exclamation point! Work hard, keep your nose to the grindstone, strive, keep trying harder, and you can be a success, if you want to be. Through your hard work you can earn it.
            The problem is that it’s not entirely true. Hard work never guaranteed anyone anything. There are all sorts of obstacles that can get in the way, like not having the natural talent to achieve what you dreamed of achieving (particularly in sports), or not having the brains to do the math required to be an scientist. My older son had a college English professor who told him that he had always wanted to be an engineer, and he was convinced that it was his poor high school teachers not being able to teach math correctly that held him back. Then, when he got into college and took his first math class in engineering, he realized he didn’t have the brains required to be an engineer. So he became an English professor.
            And what about parents who hold their kids back, for any number of reasons, or the problem of graduating from college just about the time the economic takes a sharp downward plunge, leaving most jobs and careers untouchable. You end up waiting tables for a decade until it recovers, at which point you are considered pretty old and out-of-touch with your major to be expecting an entry-level job in it. Or you major in something that isn’t very useful to society, and you end up waiting tables anyway after graduation. Then there’s family or personal illnesses or accidents that derail and warp dreams.
            The point is: hard work never guarantees you anything, except maybe some satisfaction in your hard work, and perhaps the moniker of workaholic. But we tell ourselves and others not to give up, to push through, to strive for the good life so we can retire and (probably) do nothing useful for the rest of our natural lives. And we strive for all of the benefits of success, telling each other that we deserve them. And then we get to the end of our days, and none of that matters anymore; we regret the time we didn’t spend with family and friends. We wonder what all of the striving was for. We kick ourselves for forgetting that souls of men are the most important thing in the world, and that people’s time is the most precious commodity they possess.
            Yes, there is the 1% of the population that actually has a calling, the kind of God-given purpose that demands attention every waking moment. Something that takes years to study, develop and perfect, like brain surgeon; something that possesses a deep, moral obligation to people and requires every last ounce of energy you can give it. But these are rare. And so often today you hear college students complaining about how parents, teachers, and other adults have told them for years that they can do anything, and then they find out it isn’t true.
            When that happens, where does it leave us emotionally and spiritually? Frustrated? Angry? Heartbroken?

            It doesn’t have to leave us feeling any of these emotions. Why? Because we have a great Savior who did all of the striving for us, who won the battle. We don’t need to struggle over what He already took care of over two thousand years ago. It’s what the music group MercyMe calls “The Best News Ever”. So if you need to be reminded what the point of the cross was, then listen and be renewed spiritually, emotionally, and physically.

               Then, after enjoying that song, you can put on your cheerleading outfit, gather up your rah-rah pom-poms, and do a victory dance! This next song has become my husband’s personal anthem. Being a recovering work-striver, it really hits home for him. It’s a reminder that Christ-followers have many things in common: doubts, wondering if it’s worth it, feelings of worthlessness, heartbreak, and something else we often forget. We have something bigger than all of our problems. So if you feel as though you’ve been knocked down so many times that you just can’t, and don’t want to pick yourself up, listen and be reminded—We win!

             And since we’ll be celebrating Independence Day tomorrow in the United States, I’m including a patriotic song, performed by the United States Army Field Band.

And finally, if you’re discouraged about the turns life is taking in this country, or any other, listen to Reba McEntire get to the honest basics of what it takes to restore hope and purpose to a nation.

Reba McEntire’s “Back to God”

Happy Fourth of July!

May the rest of your day and week be blessed!

Until next week.

May you prosper in all things and be in health, just as your soul prospers (3 John 2).

Photos courtesy of Google Images