Joy in the Hustle
2020 was the year of survival. People are literally trying to survive a virus that, in 1 year, has killed 2.6 million people worldwide. Parents were trying to survive distancing learning with their children and work from home. Many are trying to survive economically. Countless people have lost their jobs and business. Many have been placed on furlough. Children were trying to survive hunger and abusive homes, because they no longer had the sanctuary of their school houses. Others are trying to survive depression, anxiety, disappointment. Then on top of all that, we have all the other junk that we have been dealing with before the virus; human trafficking, social unrest, political discord, polarised communities.
Surviving and Adapting
Many of us have constantly been battling the feeling of treading water. We feel like we’re doing everything we can some days to just keep afloat. There is nothing we can do when life has us hustling around from one thing to the next. But life can be more than a reduction to just doing everything we can to get through the day, the week, the meetings, the marital arguments. Survival mode is not living how God wants us to live and we don’t have to any longer.
To survive one has to adapt, which is a good thing, but when we are constantly hustling to adapt and react to the multiple things coming at us daily it will wear us out. Being in survival mode is to be in a reactive position. It feels like being a goalie, you are just standing there in a defensive position, waiting and waiting for the shot to be taken, not always knowing where the shot will be taken from or when.
A few years back I spent some time with a church in Liverpool, UK and the man who took me in, like everyone there, was a huge soccer fan (or football as they call it.) In the evenings we’d watch the game and he’d explain it to me and that’s when I learned that in a penalty shot or shoot-out the goalie is really just making an educated guess on where the shooter will kick the ball. The shot comes so quickly there is hardly any time to react. So the goalie will prepare and scout and know the kicker’s tendencies, but at the end of the day the goalie is just reacting the best he can to stop the goal.
How many of us feel like this these days? Doing our best to prepare and be ready for whatever might come up in the day or the week ahead, but really we find ourselves just reacting the best we can, throwing ourselves at the next thing, jumping at a moment’s notice to stop whatever is flying at us? After a while of being on the defense and constantly reacting we get worn out.
We are constantly hustling and adapting to get structure back in our life; we hustle to find consistency and bring it back to our life, and when you find it (or some resemblance of it) something else is thrown at us and we're back to adapting, trying to make the calendar work, trying to find childcare, trying to hit that deadline at work. A fire flares up at the office and you have to adapt find a way to put it out. The doctor visit happens and you have to adapt to the disappointing news you were not expecting. The next round of chemo is up and you have to adapt mentally once again to get through it—to survive it.
Thriving and Abiding
When we are in these seasons we don’t want to just merely get through it, we don’t want to just survive it, we want to thrive in it.
The difference between surviving and thriving is this: Surviving is about just that; surviving, staying alive. Thriving is about actually living, finding joy in the season of suffering. Although we may feel exhausted outwardly some days, when we start thriving we will also find revitalization or rejuvenation inwardly, spiritually. Life may still have its hustling but we can have joy in it, we can have joy in the hustle. How?
Where surviving is about adapting; thriving is about abiding. How do we abide in such a way to not grow weary, not give up, not lose heart, but find life, encouragement, and joy? Hebrews 12:3 tells us to “consider Him who endured such hostility by sinners against Himself…” In other words, look to Jesus who endured His suffering. The word “endure” here means to remain or abide under. To endure something doesn’t mean we escape it or wiggle our way out from under it, but abide under it, to make it our home for the time being.
Now, why in the world would we want to remain or abide under our suffering or trial or whatever it may be? Hebrews 12:7 tells us it is for our discipline we endure or it is for us to be trained by God. A few verses later Hebrews 12:11 tells us “afterwards, enduring yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness” James 1:3 tells us that the perfect result of enduring a trial (or abiding under it) is being made spiritually mature and complete, lacking nothing.
So why do we want to abide under our suffering? The outcome is us behaving more righteously, our faith being made more mature and complete, lacking nothing. Ultimately it will result in us being more like Jesus. So that’s the why, so let’s get back to the how.
How do we abide under our suffering? We abide in Jesus. We are empowered to abide under our suffering to become more like Jesus, when we choose to abide, first, in Jesus. Jesus taught His disciplines in John 15:5 “I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing.” Jesus is the conduit of life and when we connect into Him, just as a branch finds life when connected into the nutrient giving vine. This state of being connected to Jesus is what Jesus meant by abiding in Him. To stay, remain, make our home connecting with Him.
What does the outcome of abiding in Jesus look like? The answer is: obedience. By faith we obey Him; by faith we follow Him, even when He is leading us where we don’t want to go. When He’s leading us toward that thing we think we can never endure. We say, by faith, You are good and You love me so I’m sticking with You and I will follow you through this because I know it will produce the fruit of righteousness in me.
So when Hebrews says to consider Jesus who endured such hostility from sinners against Himself, the author is telling us to follow Jesus’s example who also followed His Father when He was being led to the cross, to take on the full wrath of God on our behalf for our sins; for our rebellion. Hebrews 12:2 says, “for the joy set before Him He endured the cross, despising the shame…”
Jesus did not want to follow the Father to the cross, and even asked if the cup may pass, but regardless of the answer Jesus’s answer was, "not my will be done but Yours” Obedience to the will of His Father, no matter the cost, no matter the pain. How did Jesus do this? How could He face such horrible circumstances and continue to abide under them; to abide under the cross? Jesus knew, that although He was facing death, there is life in obeying the Father. There is life pumping in us when connected to God through our obedience. Then comes this strange joy that only comes from obeying the Father. For the joy set before Him, He endured—He remained—under the cross. And now He lives, seated at the right hand of the Father.
When teaching His disciples about abiding Jesus also taught them about the joy that flows from Him into us when we abide or stay connected to Him. John 15:11, “These things I have spoken to you so that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be made full.” There comes about this strange joy when facing and endure the things we never thought we’d be able to handle. There is a strange joy that arises when we stare down that fear we never thought we’d be able to face. This joy is experiencing Jesus’s life in the midst of the life’s disruptions, trials, hurts, and heartaches. A life and joy that is experienced when we choose to abide in Jesus, to obey the call to follow Him, not around but through our suffering. This is when we learn what it means to thrive. To find joy in the midst of the hustle.
Let the joy found in obeying the call to follow Jesus where you don’t want to go excite you to abide in Him, so that you will be empowered to abide under whatever it is that you are going through today and as a result you thrive in the midst of whatever seasons of suffering you are facing.
Eric Austin holds his Master of Theology degree from Dallas Theological Seminary in Dallas, Texas, USA. After almost seven years as a pastor he stepped out of vocational ministry to support his wife in her recovery of Borderline Disorder (BPD). Eric was born and has lived his life with an extremely rare bone disease, a disease which has profoundly impacted his personal views on suffering. In recent years, as a result of walking alongside his wife’s own suffering, he has learned the emotional and psychological pain that often comes from living with a loved one having a personality disorder. Eric is passionate about teaching the Bible and seeing the grace of God radically alter people into looking more like Jesus through the suffering that has drastically altered their lives. He is the host of The Altered Podcast a podcast in which he attempts to do just this. Eric lives in Stillwater, Oklahoma, USA with his wife Heidi and three children.