Scripture of the Week – Genesis 3:17-20: “…The ground is cursed because of you. You will eat from it by means of painful labor all the days of your life. It will produce thorns and thistles for you, and you will eat the plants of the field. You will eat bread by the sweat of your brow…“
Look, we’ve all had those days where nothing goes right from the start. You stub your toe going from the bed to the bathroom in the morning, spill your coffee, get caught in traffic where it never exists and everything goes down hill from there. It happens to everyone. These are many of the days we long to forget and unfortunately, for most of us, there are seasons when it feels like most days. How can we find encouragement in these times? Here’s the reality – this is toil. For bible-believing people this is the result of one thing: the presence of sin in the world. Genesis tells us as much so we should not be surprised when we toil more than we work. But there is hope – if we go back in Genesis to before the Fall, Genesis 2:15 tells us the original intent for Adam and all humanity was to work taking care of the Garden. If this is true, let’s look at toil and how we might redeem it.
So what exactly is toil? Toil is hard, continuous work that is exhausting (not life giving). Words in the definition include battle, strife, struggle, difficulty, weariness, pain. I think this pretty much sums it up. And if we accept this is a result of sin and sin is the disorder of God’s intention, thus separating us from God, its easy to see how sin and toil go so closely together. Sin is a disorder of how God intends us to live and toil is the disorder of how God intends us to work.
Josh (The Consultant) was once upon a time hired to help a senior leader manage 900 primary and specialty care physicians. If you know anything about medicine, getting providers to do anything in unison is the ultimate definition of herding cats. In this example, everything was harder, took longer, and required more effort for every project, meeting and conversation. Josh’s client was an executive leader who was out of touch with any current principles of management which made him irrelevant in the eyes of almost anyone he was trying to lead. The organization was in love with meetings which kept most people from actually doing their jobs. The culture was infected with an internal war between two halves (health plan vs provider group) which rarely was seen externally but was boiling internally. Finally raging egos from nearly all the providers and administrative leaders made it easy to gather lots of work but little path to get it all done. This is a picture of toil.
So how does God desire us to redeem it? Well we know the original desire for work was included in created order so redeeming toil does not mean retirement (more on that modern, western idea in another blog). Jesus came to help us overcome the problem of sin and so it seems if toil and sin are closely connected, this may also provide us the path to overcome toil.
Unfortunately, this story is not a nice, clean story of how Josh applied some redemption formula to the example above and magically overcame toil. Rather, he burned out and burned out hard. He decided after a string of similar experiences there must be a better path to use his God-given abilities. This was actually the catalyst to becoming a consultant and even further down the road, a deeper understanding that redeeming work starts with allowing ourselves to be redeemed. By living as redeemed people, we can then apply our redemption mindset to the toil we face and begin looking for redemption opportunities. God who is perfect in His steadfast love for us calls us to pursue Him and redemption in his world with the same character. We can’t possibly succeed but by rooting ourselves in the daily pursuit, redemption happens in ways we might never expect.
History is full of examples of normal people who have brought about great change simply by how they pursued redemption. What are ways you see toil in your own working life? Look closely – its probably there every day. How do you cause toil for those in your company? Or at your home? Or other places you frequent like restaurants, gyms, etc; Take note of these and start redeeming toil every day.
What are some ways The Consultant and The Coach help their clients deal toil? Here are some insider tips:
- When is the last time you reviewed your mission, vision and values? Your strategy? And compared that to the culture of your company?
- When you listen to your customers and employees, do they reflect back what you hope to hear? What you fear most? Where do they need redemption?
- How does your company cause toil for your employees? What’s your role in that and how do you show up differently?
- When is the last time you conducted a 360 assessment of your leadership and how did you act upon the results?
- When is the last time you applied this approach to your family life?
- What kind of community do you have surrounding you to help you be a person of redemption every day?
Thanks everyone! We hope this gives you some encouragement to overcome the toil you face and the role you play in redemption.