The Hardest Job (Prayer Devotional for the week of May 10, 2015)

My first job (not including babysitting) was working the cash register at a drycleaner. I remember a customer got upset because his jeans were only extra-starched, but not stiff enough to double as drum skins. It was laughable, but that wasn’t the hardest job, by any means. Several years later, I worked as a newspaper reporter, and I once got chewed out by my editor. That job got on my nerves, but even it wasn’t the hardest job.

 

Then, there was the time I had to eat scorpion and dog meat (not in the same meal) at my teaching job in China, or else risk offending the host. That was a little freaky, but certainly not the hardest job I’ve had. There was also the job where a bunch of people got fired, and I eventually left for a much lower paying position just to save my skin (and my sanity). That job took a toll on my emotional health, but even it wasn’t the hardest.

 

For me, the hardest job is parenting. I used to think it was tough when the kids were little and needed constant care and attention, but sometimes it feels even more difficult now that they’re older and can voice their feelings and opinions. I can think of few things more humbling than having a person whose poop you’ve wiped and whose puke you’ve caught with your own shirt tell you that they don’t want you as a parent, or that you’re “so mean” to them, or that you “never” do anything nice for them.

 

Yes, parenting is certainly one of the most delayed-reward jobs on the planet. There are verses like Ephesians 6:1 and Colossians 3:20 that we can encourage our children to memorize and put into practice, but Proverbs 22:6 is the epitome of all parenting verses, as it gives us hope that one of these days, we’ll eventually see the fruit from our labors.

 

Some of you are still in the diapering days; others are already enjoying grandparenthood. Some are not parents, but you still have influence over the children in your life. May we be examples for them to emulate our love and respect for God, so that they will take it to heart and … excuse me, I have to go … someone was apparently playing catch with a rock in the backyard and caught it with his face. Sigh.

Right vs. Easy (Prayer Devotional for the week of January 5, 2014)

Out of curiosity, I researched a few studies about New Year resolutions to see how many of us actually stick to our guns. The findings, while unsurprising, are pretty pathetic. Results vary, of course, but roughly a third of us can’t even make it through January before tapping out; half to two-thirds bail by Easter; and less than 20% (some studies said less than 10%) follow through completely on the resolution.

That may sound a bit depressing, but it does serve as a reality check for each of us. We set goals in order to challenge ourselves. If it was easy, then we might have already done whatever it is we are resolving to do! The fact is, we will face hard times that try to derail our plans (and not just New Year resolutions). Oftentimes the roadblocks are our own fault, but sometimes life throws us a curveball, like Ecclesiastes 9:12 (NIV) says, “… people are trapped by hard times that come when they don’t expect them.”

How do we manage those unexpected hard times? How do we overcome in the face of obstacles? I love this line from the movie Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (2005, Warner Bros.): when negative circumstances caused people to doubt themselves (and each other), Albus Dumbledore responded, “Soon we must all face the choice between what is right and what is easy.” Such decisions are seldom a cinch, but the journey – and the final result – is worth the effort.

Consider these encouraging words from 2 Corinthians 6:4b (NIV) about having a godly perspective during tough times: “We serve [God] by holding steady. We stand firm in all kinds of trouble, hard times and suffering.” Again, in 2 Timothy 4:5, Hebrews 12:7, and James 1:12, we read that our perseverance through difficult times honors the Lord. Whether the challenge you face is simply sticking to a New Year resolution, or if you encounter trials of a different variety this year, let God teach and grow you through the experience.