I don’t know about you, but I’ve always imagined using my life to do glamorous things for the Lord. Hard things, courageous things, life and world changing things. I envisioned helping orphans in Africa, or leading youth to Christ in the U.S. I pictured spending my life traveling the world to make disciples of all nations, to encourage the believers and spread the gospel to those who have never heard it. I imagined doing things no one had ever heard of before, making an impact in millions of lives, making a difference, and changing the world. I mean, aren’t all of those noble ambitions? Don’t tell me you haven’t had similar dreams before!
What I didn’t picture was sitting in my room at midnight, my eyes welling up with tears, heart aching, because I was alone. I didn’t imagine resisting the urge to get online instead of study for a test. I didn’t dream of working hard all day to get ready for a move I loathed. I didn’t think I’d be sitting in my room with my cat in my lap, blogging my complaints, if you will. That’s not my ideal life! Instead of helping orphans in Africa, I’m watching my spoiled, bratty toddler brother (whom I love with everything in me; he’s just battling some serious sin nature right now!). Instead of traveling the world to make disciples, I’m at home doing school and the honorary job of unpacking. And I sit here moaning, “Why? Why, God, would you leave me here, when I have such a vision for my life? Why do you have me here when I could be out doing great things for you? Why aren’t you using my heart to reach out and touch many souls? Why won’t you let me go and do hard things? Why, God?”
Just because I’m not helping orphans in Africa doesn’t mean that I don’t have a purpose where I’m at now. Just because I’m not gallivanting across the world, digging wells and helping end starvation, doesn’t mean that I’m not here for a reason.
We’ve created this mental image of “doing hard things” as something glamorous and people-pleasing; something heart-wrenching, something moving, touching, with an eye-catching headline in the newspaper. We didn’t picture the “hard thing” as investing in our brother, or learning how to handle a friend’s insensitivity with a gentle answer. You won’t see the “Girl Refuses To Sing A Song: ‘I don’t think it’s right to sing this’” headline in your local newspaper (true life story of mine, by the way…). If we were to compare most of our lives with the common standard of “doing hard things”, we would come up as lazy slobs who weren’t even remotely interested in doing hard things! Not all of us have lived the glorious life of translating Bibles into another language or fighting abortion in the States. We don’t all live up to these (rather unrealistic) expectations.
The truth of it is, we won’t all live up to those expectations. Not all of us were made to be public speakers, to be overseas missionaries, to save orphans in Africa. Just because we weren’t made to do those things, doesn’t mean that we’re not doing hard things at home.
That’s what took me so long to realize.
The church where I spent 3 ½ years of my life, emphasized missions and missionaries. It supports every missionary it can get its hands on. Every kid there has read the missionary biographies, knows the missionary quotes, and everyone participates in the kids outreach ministries. Evangelism is strongly emphasized. Naturally, as first budding in spiritual growth there, I soaked up everything I heard. I already had a heart for missions, but this kindled it even more so! They made missionaries sound so glamorous, and I was inspired by almost every missionary that came through those doors. They made missions seem like such a hard thing, such a noble thing, that I aspired to do go. I wanted to do hard things.
I grew discontented with life at home. My brothers irritated me, my school work aggravated me, and my daily, menial tasks grew burdensome. I wanted to be in Africa, helping people, saving lives, making a difference! I wanted to be turning the world upside down for Christ! It wasn’t until a few months ago when it suddenly hit me – that light-bulb moment, that duh factor. Even though I had read Alex and Brett Harris’ Do Hard Things and Start Here (both of which I HIGHLY recommend – no, insist that you read), and knew that they had even mentioned that hard things didn’t always mean things like overseas missions, I still “dreamed big”. But I was overlooking the things God had already placed in my life. I was ignoring my sibling relationships, I was neglecting my school work, I was giving my daily life minimal effort, placing my thoughts in the future and days to come. I was living ahead of myself, if you will.
Responding to my sibling with grace instead of witty back-and-forth banter is hard. Ignoring my online social world so I can focus on studying for a test is hard. Waking up to another day of the exact same thing is hard. Exhausting myself physically, mentally, and emotionally for a full day for something I don’t enjoy is hard. Putting others’ needs before my own is hard. (Ignoring the ice cream in the freezer is hard…) The list goes on and on. These would be considered the “small” things of life, right? But are they easy? No…
The main point I want to make is this. Don’t disillusion yourself (as I did). Don’t think that the big things, your main goals, your dreams, are the only hard things in life. Yes, they’re hard, but so are the “small” things. Hard things aren’t just the glamorous, world-changing things. The “small” hard things are just as important. The Lord sees your heart; He knows your motives. He appreciates your faithfulness in the little things just as much as in the big things. Do the small hard things faithfully, with joy – “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.” (Col. 3:23-24)