Category Archives: Challenges and Frustrations

A place to rest

Resting Securely

Long weekends are hard for me. Vacations are even worse. Regular old weekdays I can handle: I get up at the same time, start my morning routine (with or without kids, depending on the time of year), and leave for work. At work, the first thing I do is start a new day’s entry in my work journal, list out any appointments I have, and identify any tasks that I need to get done that day. Throughout the day, if I get off track or distracted, I can return to that initial entry for the day and reorient myself to what I should be doing.

When I’m off work, though, it can be hard for me to relax. I often have a nagging feeling that I ought to be doing more: writing more, working in the yard more, exercising more, fixing up the house more, playing with my kids more. Instead of a day for rest and restoration, the day becomes filled with guilt and regret.

What’s going on here? What’s behind this sense that every day, even a day of vacation and rest, has to used for maximum productivity? Why is resting so difficult?

The root issue is the false idea that the worth of a day is measured in how much has been accomplished. By extension, the worth of a life is measured in the same way. How much have I gotten done? How many tasks have I checked off my list? How does my list compare to everyone else’s?

But the worth of a life is not measured in this way. A life has inherent worth, even if it seems futile or wasted. The worth of a life – the worth of my life – is based on the truth that a human life is made in the image of God. Each day of my life is worthy, even if nothing gets checked off my list.

I can rest securely from my labors because there is great value in simply being. Doing has its place – many places, in fact – but we have to make space for being. If we don’t, then instead of resting, we will collapse from exhaustion. Our bodies will force us to rest, whether we want to or not.

On this Labor Day, and on every day of rest, remember in whose image you are made. Remember your inherent worth as a person. Take pride in the good work you have accomplished at the appropriate times. And rest securely in the knowledge that God is with you.

Photo credit: Angelo Amboldi via Flickr

Green with Envy

When Envy Invades Your Vocation

In 2013, Salon’s Andrew Leonard revealed that novelist Robert Clark Young had been editing Wikipedia for years in a systematic campaign to downplay the achievements of other writers and make himself look better. Young deleted references to prizes that others had won, removed positive comments about their work, and reduced the length of their bibliographies. In several cases, it appears that Young had quarrelled with the targeted novelists in the past, and that he thought that he deserved the acclaim that they had received. None of this effort actually made his own writing better or changed the accomplishments of other novelists; it only made Young look better by comparison. In other words, Young’s work was motivated by envy.

This is hard to write, but I have struggled with envy for the past few years. Not with everything: seeing someone with a nicer car, a nicer house, or nicer clothes rarely makes me feel much of anything. And the accomplishments of strangers don’t effect me much. But if I see that someone I know has been published in a prestigious magazine, been appointed to a high-profile role, or received some sort of public recognition, I feel a stab of resentment.

That should have been me. What makes them so special? They don’t deserve that.

It’s an ugly, poisonous reaction. It has been included in the Seven Deadly Sins for good reason. Envy is the darker cousin of discontentment, because it’s accompanied by resentment toward others and a desire to have what belongs to them.

Why Envy Is So Destructive

Envy blinds us to our blessings. When we envy, we focus on what others have and what we lack, rather than taking stock of the many good things we have received. Envy may be a particularly easy sin to commit in the social media age, when we can so easily review the most post-worthy achievements of our network of friends and acquaintances. So far as I’m aware, there is no social network dedicated to reflecting on the good things that we already have in our lives. Envy, though, predates social media; it has always been more tempting to covet the possessions of others than to give thanks for our own. Continue reading When Envy Invades Your Vocation


Dealing with Discontentment

Discontentment is a feeling that I struggle with on a regular basis. It’s a common vice for Americans to be discontent with the things that they have – wanting a bigger house, a better car, a more important job – but my discontentment takes on a very specific character: the nagging worry that I’m not doing enough, not performing well enough, not working hard enough. This discontent makes it hard for me to feel a sense of accomplishment in my work or family life. Weekends and holidays, instead of being times to relax and have fun with my family, are spent worrying when I’ll have enough time to work on side projects (like this blog).


The other day, my wife challenged me on this. “Just relax,” she said. “It’s okay to have downtime.” She’s right, of course, but it’s still difficult for me to accept that truth.

Can others relate to this nagging feeling of discontment? As I reflected on this struggle, I realized that my discontent was both a blessing and a curse: it motivated me to keep trying new things (sometimes entire new careers), but it also often kept me from enjoying the fruit of these new experience. The constant worry that I ought to be doing something more important also prevents me from focusing on the moment in front of me.

Evaluate the roots of your discontentment

If you, like me, experience this sense of discontentment, where does it come from? It likely has a mixture of both positive and negative origins. Simply because it’s an uncomfortable feeling doesn’t mean that it’s not an appropriate feeling. Yet, by its very nature, discontentment often springs from motives that are less than pure. Continue reading Dealing with Discontentment