Each of you should look not only to your own interests but also to the interests of others. (Philippians 2:4)
When I was researching my next book, I read tons of dense books with “paragraphs” that spanned entire pages—sometimes multiple pages. Every time I approached another mammoth passage, I felt exhausted before I even began reading. It felt like the cognitive equivalent of staring up at Mount Everest before an ascent.
After complaining about my own pain long enough (first-world problems, I know), the Lord reminded me that I’ve written some long paragraphs myself. And if long paragraphs made my work feel arduous, my longwindedness probably makes your reading feel arduous too.
So I went back through the manuscript I was writing and took a machete to the document, chopping every paragraph down to size.
That’s a small example of one reason I think we can all give thanks for the “thorns and thistles” that make our work difficult: Painful work can create empathy that leads us to make work less painful for others. Through the power of the Holy Spirit, thorny work can lead you to, “look not only to your own interests but also to the interests of others” (Philippians 2:4).
Let’s apply this principle to your own work today.
Maybe you feel overwhelmed by the number of meetings you’re being asked to attend this week. Instead of sitting in your own frustration, what if you channeled that pain into love for your neighbor? What if you looked at the meetings you’ve invited others to and questioned whether or not those meetings would serve them well?
Or let’s say you’re frustrated by emails that distract you at all hours of the day. Instead of focusing on “your own interests,” what if you looked “to the interests of others” who work for you? What if you sent them a message letting them off the hook for feeling like they have to respond immediately to your emails so that they can work with less distraction?
If you took those actions, you could certainly give thanks for the thorns and thistles in your work, because they will have led you to better love your neighbor as yourself.
Spend a couple of minutes in silence this morning naming which aspects of your work are most frustrating to you. Pray that God would allow that pain to lead to creative ideas for making work less painful for those you work with. And then give thanks that God can use even the broken things of this world for his glory and the good of others.