At 4:30 every Sunday morning, I trudged out to the barn for morning milking. For some, this may sound like a punishment, but I enjoyed my job. Teenage-me soaked up my employers’ inherent trust; they trusted a high-schooler to bring their cows in, set up the milking parlor, and begin milking all by herself. No matter what you do, the formula for finding joy in ordinary life is the same. Purpose + Effort = Joy. Joy ≠ Fun.
Real-life isn’t all fun, I know…
Before you ditch this post as fluff with no substance, hear me out. I am not glossing over the fact that life is hard and downright exhausting and terrible at times.
Believe me, I get what it feels like to be overwhelmed by responsibilities and tasks that no one appreciates. Imagine being the person whose job is to audit data and processes. No one appreciates calls about missing information or errors in data entry. Albeit discouraged regularly, I continued for years because the results were valuable to the business and I was really good at it. But, it was still hard to be the only person excited about what I did each day.
Although I’m starting to get baby amnesia (the mysterious fog that replaces the unpleasant memories of small children with a highlight reel), I don’t remember any of my kids thanking me for changing their diapers, making them clean up their toys, or insisting they eat their vegetables. If your kids are little, don’t worry the thankless tasks come in handy as they mature into reasonable human beings. Nonetheless, when your days feel like an endless loop of thankless tasks it’s hard to be excited.
Real-life isn’t all fun. Frankly, for periods of time, it isn’t even mostly fun. Real-life is real life, comprised of ordinary tasks, interruptions, decisions, consequences, and moments of joy. Joy keeps us going.
A short word on purpose, no matter what you do
Lately, I see lots of people debating what women are and are not supposed to do within the church. As someone who struggles with confidently embracing the ways God has gifted me, I cherish constructive conversations about the topic. But when people pick a side, dig in their heels, and refuse to consider others—I’m out.
For years, I struggled with finding my place because God created me to be strong, outspoken, and not as nurturing as some expect a mama to be. People with their judgmental “suggestions” tried to convince me I should play more with my kids or be more flexible with our schedule, maybe even expect less from them. The more they suggested, the deeper I dug in and tried to defend myself. I was also wrong.
God’s purpose for me is not competing with God’s purpose for you.
Although I’m not sure I will ever look back on 2020 and 2021 with complete gratitude, there are a few things for which I’m thankful. One of those things is the opportunity to watch the way some of our friends make big changes. In the last year, I’ve seen friends move their kids to private schools, switch to homeschool, and make other big changes I would never consider.
As they’ve started to find their purpose, I get to cheer them on. They’re doing well by doing things their way. God’s plan for us is always best.
No matter what you do, what you do matters! Don’t let someone tell you otherwise.
Purpose + Effort = Joy
Let’s get to the good part of unappreciated jobs, choices other people don’t understand, and ordinary tasks severely lacking fun.
God promises to reveal his purpose for you.
“For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” Ephesians 2:10
What you are doing is important, no matter how small or unremarkable it feels today.
“Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.” 1 Corinthians 15:58
God produces results beyond our imagination.
“And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.” Galatians 6:9-10
Your joy and validation are not dependent on people.
“Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ.” Colossians 3:23-24
The formula is the same for everyone: Purpose + Effort = Joy.
But remember, Joy ≠ Fun.
What you do may feel meaningless. Quite possibly, you’re just trying to survive one day in hopes of something better the next. I’m not offering fun; I’m suggesting you search for joy.
When we acknowledge God’s purpose for us, we also open ourselves up to the possibilities of validation beyond what we offer others. Choosing to live out God’s purpose is the only way to truly receive the joy, peace, and contentment he offers.
Your Next Step:
Redefine joy and its importance in your everyday, ordinary life.
To experience joy, what do you need to release from your current life—unrealistic expectations, harmful relationships, past hurts and insults you’re holding on to, whatever is standing between you and the way God wants you to experience his purpose for you?