Working hard, serving Jesus, not controlling

Is it possible to work hard and not “overdo it” or succumb to some sort of slave-like long hours and culture?  I was described by a friend last year as someone who is a “type A personality, trapped in a type B body.”  Essentially that means that I am a person who drives, pushes hard, is ambitious, conscientious and responsible, but unfortunately doesn’t have the body to match that!  So I can work myself into sickness, seemingly unable to stop in time.

I have had poor health for many years, so have had to really work hard on how to manage my emotions, my stress, and the pressure I put myself under (or am under through circumstance).  This has had the most transformational effect on me.  I have been able to be much more productive, much more efficient and effective, and actually work less.

In fact I think I am doing so well, I am finding questions from friends about my health, whether I am “overdoing it” or whatever quite frustrating, especially as nobody seems to believe me when I say that I am actually doing really well.  Sometimes I am tired (but apparently even normal people get tired!), but I am well.

Therefore one question that comes back again and again to me, is to understand the difference between working hard and driving oneself to do amazing and fun things that make you tired but not broken…. and pushing yourself daily to succeed out of pure effort, hard work, determination, and feeling quite broken all the time. Telling the difference can be hard.

I guess it all depends on context and season.  There are probably some seasons where you have to just hold your breath and keep going no matter what. But I have discovered over the years, that there are people who are driven and striving and stressed, even in times and seasons that don’t really need it. They are forever launching themselves from one crisis to another.  I identify with this, as much of the last 10 years have been filled with some pretty crazy hard times living in Zimbabwe.  We do have a much more stressful environment with more uncertainty and frustrations than some other places. Yet I also have been struck recently by the enormous importance of being at peace deep within one’s self, and have an assurance of doing what God has called you to do, and then just doing it. No faffing or shouting or messing around, or getting stressed and moody.  Just getting up everyday and doing it.  Mostly the days are fun and fulfilled, but even when they are not, there is still an energy.  Here are some points that have helped me to check where I am at…

  1. Having God at the center of our work has to be the most important thing of our lives. Particularly seeing as most of us will spend 30-35% of our entire lives “at work”.
  1. I guess there are some of us that are at work out of an obligation to raise money to pay for a mortgage, rent, school fees, and a “lifestyle” we have resolved on. Really? Do you really need all those things?  Is it really worth working 9 hours a day on something you hate?  Is there really no other way?  Well perhaps you are trapped.  Perhaps you can’t do anything else, or certainly not now.  BUT that doesn’t mean this thing called work destroys you, eats away and ruins you.  I think we need to reimagine a workplace where we go to it with an incredible deep sense of peace and freedom, to be like Jesus, do like Jesus and not fret, worry, stress, and be pushed around or push others around.
  1. I have seen in my own life that I really have been trapped in cycles of pushing, driving and getting hugely stressed in seasons where I am trying to make it all happen. I guess I would have started from a place of asking God, “is this what you want me to do?” and then walking with Him into it. But somehow, somewhere, I take over the reins.  Pushing myself to work longer and harder to make it happen.  Getting frustrated over roadblocks (metaphorical and physical – remember I live in Zimbabwe), and wondering why this battle just won’t break and blessing come!  But actually, I am driving the agenda, and I am asking the Lord to do his thing once I have all the pieces in place.  I have seen such a break through this year, to grow in a deep sense of peace with the Lord, working with him, and resting in him at the same time.

This morning I realised I couldn’t do the work I had planned because the internet was broken, and seemingly a pain to fix, and I was waiting on projects from others, so I thought, let me go play 9 holes of golf.  So off I went, played golf, went back to the car, opened the boot and got some cash to pay for my round and shut the boot.  With the keys inside. As in, the car is not central locking and the boot is shut, and all the doors are locked, and the keys are inside. And I thought: Oh, interesting, I am going to be here a long time.  Oh well.  I made a call, my colleague drove to my house (20 minutes away) to find a spare key, and spend time trying to fix the internet and then drive all the way back across to the other side of town to open the car.  I sat outside the golf club staring at the 18th green for 1 hours 50 minutes.  It was lovely. There is no way I would have managed that 2 years ago.  Peace.  Knowing that there is nothing I can do, and what I need to do I will do, and God will, and does, do the rest.


I have no idea if I will feel like this tomorrow.  But today went well. I got back to my office hours later, and had a fantastically productive 2 hours.  Perhaps “I” don’t have to do it all.  Our language and thought processes need to change. I can work hard. That is good. But only in the fact that I need to work hard in the rest and peace God gives me.