What do you want from life? I’ve asked myself this question at least 100 times. I bet you’ve asked it a time or two. Maybe you want a family, an intimate relationship with your spouse, a job that connects your passion with a greater purpose or a deep, authentic faith. I don’t know what you want. But you do.
Why is it so few of us get what we want? Have you ever thought about that? Why are inspiring lives and healthy marriages so hard to come by? We’re asking the wrong question. “What do you want from life?” is an OK question. But it only goes so far. Usually about as far as the first disappointment, letdown or failure. At that point, we give up on the thing we want.
Here’s a much better question, one that has the power to transform your life.
What crap are you willing to endure?
Too often, we fall in love with the idea of something – marriage, mission work, whatever – without counting the costs. And costs there will be, my friend.
“Everything sucks, some of the time” as blogger Mark Manson says.
This sobering reality hit me as I sat down to write recently. I love writing. Nothing gives me life and energy like writing. And, unlike almost everyone, I receive compensation for the thing I’m most passionate about. That’s rare, I know.
Writing is not my only job description, though. On this day I was editing, managing web site stuff and responding to e-mails. You might think these tasks are different shades of the same color. They’re actually quite different, though. The biggest difference being I hate doing them.
Before my current gig, I worked full-time at a local church, full-time. Like most pastors, I enjoyed certain aspects of my job. I loved teaching, discipleship, preaching, and building relationships with people. You know how much time I doing these things? If you’re answer is higher than 40%, you’re wrong.
I’ll put an end to this dog and pony show. Yes, I’m aware I used that out of context. Don’t judge me.
No matter what you do with your life, you can’t avoid the poo. Oh, the dollars I would give to have realized this before 30. I spent the first half of my life chasing the perfect job, a great marriage, great health and good friends. I was unaware that perfect jobs don’t exist, great marriages require enormous time and energy (and grace) and close friends don’t grow on trees.
So, I jumped jobs and careers when the stuff I didn’t enjoy doing exceeded the stuff I loved. I was often disappointed with my marriage and couldn’t understand why I was losing contact with many of my friends. What the poo?
I’m glad you mentioned poo. If you want to make something of your life, you better get used to it. To experience even the slightest taste of security, love or connection, you will suffer. You will go through hard times. I’m not trying to be Debbie Downer. I’m keeping it real, hoping you will re-consider your perspective on worthy pursuits.
When you sign up for joy, you also sign for pain. When you embark on a life of purpose, struggle tags along. To use Christian vernacular, if you want to experience resurrection, you must carry a cross.
There’s no other way. You can spend 30 or 40 years avoiding this reality. Or you can accept it now and avoid some unnecessary disappointments and frustration.
Most of us want the same things from life. But very few are willing to do what it takes to make those things a reality.
Most people want a thriving marriage or a job they love, but few are willing to endure the struggle required to receive these things.
I haven’t met a human who walks down the aisle on wedding day thinking they will one day walk in a divorce lawyer’s office. But many do. What happens? The ideal of marriage, the one you watch in theaters, clouds the reality that healthy marriages are dang hard work. Your spouse will say something that wounds you. You will have conflict, lots of it. Then, there’s kids. Even sex, while awesome, requires work. The car doesn’t exactly run smoothly when you drive it off the lot.
Most people want to lose weight and live a healthier life. But your high cholesterol and love handles won’t disappear by osmosis. Being healthy requires sacrifice and pain. There’s no other way. If you’re not willing to endure the sore muscles, you will never lose weight.
And what about your career? I don’t believe anyone enjoys showing up to a job they hate. Yet more people have heart attacks on Monday morning than any other time during the week. Coincidence? I think not. Perfect jobs don’t exist. That’s the point of this article. At the same time, not all jobs are created equal. To do work you love, you must be willing to embrace risk and uncertainty. You must be OK with failing, a lot. And particularly early in the game, you must be willing to put in time and energy to grow and improve at your craft.
This opportunity didn’t exactly fall from the sky. All the hands in California couldn’t count the hours I spent reading, writing, researching, learning how to build a website, etc. Prior to this, I was a stay-at-home dad to two boys, four and three at the time. I did this for a year, and my amazing wife worked full-time to support our family while I tried blogging full-time. I received a big break six months into unemployment. A large Christian blogging platform offered me a job. I was fired four weeks in. I waited another five months before accepting a position as lead writer and editor for a blog.
I’m not trying to toot my own horn. I tried the trumpet in junior high and sucked at it. Failure, uncertainty and risk are necessary players in the quest for meaningful work. That’s what I want you to see.
Now let’s talk for a second about faith. There’s a toxic haze over Christianity in America that says following Jesus is easy. Even though Jesus invitation to his followers included words like suffering and sacrifice, we somehow think that’s not for us. Being a Christian is about having fun and volunteering at church.
So, what happens when struggle comes, when becoming a Christian doesn’t cure your ailing marriage or you find out your pastor cheated on his wife? Well, we blame God or walk away from him altogether. I’ve seen it so many times.
Christianity never has and never will be the answer to life’s problems. Faith in Jesus gives you a new framework for dealing with hard times, adding grace and humility and hope, among others, to the mix.
Yes, following Jesus brings joy and peace, but not without struggle.
What is true of marriage, parenting and meaningful work, is also true of faith. If you want the benefits, you must accept the costs.
Wait, accept the costs? That sounds like something Jesus said.
In Luke 14, crowds flock around Jesus. His ministry has gone viral. He pastors the most popular new church in town. People come from everywhere to listen to an engaging message and witness a miracle. Dude even challenges the religious system and its leaders. Talk about entertainment.
I would be in that crowd. You would too.
As the crowd high-fives the latest miracle, anticipating the next verbal showdown with the Pharisees, he does something unexpected. He turns to the crowd and starts with this crazy talk about hating your mother and father, carrying a cross, and building towers.
Now, watch this. Jesus ends with these words:
If you want to be My disciple, it will cost you everything. Don’t underestimate that cost!
Wait, huh? What just happened?
These crowds, you see, wanted the benefits of following Jesus – the miracles, teaching, etc. – without the costs.
And that’s not possible. It wasn’t back then. It’s not today. If you want the benefits of following Jesus, you must pay the price. This should be a wakeup call for everyone, but especially for church leaders. Are we drawing people to Jesus on the basis of self-interest or self-sacrifice?
I’m not against passion. Be passionate. But, passion alone won’t cut it. If you want the benefits of Jesus, you must count the costs. Otherwise, as Jesus implies in Luke 14, you will look silly.
This is true, in fact, of most everything in life. If you want a great marriage, you must be vulnerable and prioritize your spouse. If you want out of the 8-5 hamster wheel, you must take risks and accept failure. If you want to be debt-free or travel more, your shopping habit and golf game must take a back seat. And if you want the joy and peace that come from following Jesus, you must wrestle with doubt and endure hard times.
Rather than asking “Who am I passionate about?” ask “What struggle am I willing to endure?”
So, rather than asking the typical questions, “What do I want from life?” or “What am I passionate about?” maybe you should ask, “What struggle am I willing to endure?”
Go out in search of your passion. Nothing evil or wrong about that. But once you can answer the question, “What am I willing to suffer for?” you’re onto something my friend. Because when all’s said and done, the struggles you endure will determine the measure of your life.
The struggles you endure will determine the measure of your life.