This article was first published in the TREASURE issue of The Joyful Life Magazine
I take my time making the bed, fluffing the pillows and inhaling the quiet. Before I know it, this will be what every day is like, I think to myself. When the kids are all grown, this will be normal.
My husband and soon-to-be 4-year-old son were away for a few days, and I was at home with our older girls. Without Lucas tearing around, the house felt quiet—no toys strewn about, no early-morning wake-ups or little body in the bed at night. The freedom to get up when I was ready, go about my day at my own pace and actually complete tasks, had me projecting ahead to when this would be my reality, and yet I had no desire to rush forward in time to that moment. I wanted to enjoy this season—even if all the demands on my time were stretching me and sleep deprivation wearing me thin.
If you met me some twelve years ago, though, it would have been a different story. After five years of marriage, my husband and I found ourselves broke and living back at home with my parents, a new baby in tow. Nothing about my life was going as I had anticipated. Disappointed and disillusioned, I longed for life to look different. Desperate to be done with this chapter of my story, I wanted to turn the page and start a new one as fast as I possibly could. Tomorrow could not come soon enough.
Then, one day, I was asked a question that ignited a new way of thinking and operating.
I was sitting across from my work supervisor, unloading my frustrations about my current season, when she interrupted me with a question: “Where is God for you right now?”
That’s easy, I thought. I know the answer to this one. So I confidently replied, "He’s in His promises." Certain that my answer was not only the right one, but also a very good one, I was somewhat dumbfounded when she shook her head and told me it was not, in fact, a good answer--that I had a problem. Instead of being able to enjoy God’s presence with me and appreciate His current activity in my life, I saw Him as waiting for me in my future.
So she sent me home with an assignment: to watch the Adam Sandler movie “Click.” If you haven’t seen the movie, Sandler plays an overworked architect trying to juggle his family and burgeoning career, who stumbles upon a universal remote that enables him to pause, skip, and fast-forward through life. Without divulging too much of the storyline, he gets to a point where he regretfully realizes he has used this power to 'click' his life away.
What my supervisor wanted me to understand that day, was that while God’s promises were a good thing to hold on to, I also needed to be awake to the things God had for me right now—He wanted to be alongside me no matter how painful, messy, or ordinary that 'now' might be. But I was in danger of 'clicking' my life away.
CLICKING OUR LIVES AWAY
We do it all the time, don’t we?
We wish our lives away with phrases like ‘if only’ and ‘one day when...’
Back then, I wanted to be able to fast-forward or even skip whole scenes of my life altogether because of how painful and disappointing they were--these days, I can be tempted to grab the remote and change the channel to escape how mundane life can feel. I want to escape the monotony of laundry and dishes, lesson-planning and carpooling and... So I zone out and scroll social media, idealizing the lives of people I don’t even know.
But God used Adam Sandler to teach me a valuable lesson all those years ago: Now matters. Now matters not only because how we steward it shapes tomorrow, but because no matter what ‘now’ looks like, it is filled with divine purpose. Now is a powerful opportunity to experience God and serve Jesus right where we are--right as we are.
We don’t have to wait for tomorrow to find meaning and purpose. We can discover it today.
CHANGING OUR FOCUS
“Slaves, obey your earthly masters in everything; and do it, not only when their eye is on you and to curry their favor, but with sincerity of heart and reverence for the Lord. Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving” (Colossians 3:22-24, NIV).
These verses are set in a section of Colossians titled, ‘Instructions for Christian Households.’ Earlier, Paul had been talking generally about what it looks like to belong to the family of God, reminding us to put on love so that we can walk in unity (v. 14). Now, he gets more specific about how that should look in particular relationships, addressing husbands and wives, children and fathers, slaves and masters--and it is the slaves (who had the lowest rank and the least freedom of all), whom he charges to work wholeheartedly for their masters as though working for the Lord.
Paul is deliberate in referring to Christ as ‘kyrios,’ the Lord, in these verses. A ‘lord’ was he to whom a person or things belong, about which he has the power of deciding; one supreme in authority. He was reminding slaves who had to answer to a ‘master’ that they still had the freedom to choose who their true master was—he knew that this truth had the power to transform how they did their work.
While we will likely never experience slavery in the form Paul was addressing, we can often feel like slaves to our circumstances. And the same truth applies to us: We may not be free to choose our circumstances but we are free to choose whom we will serve in them. We can choose a different ‘master’ because we have been set free to choose Jesus--to serve and honor Him in all of our ‘whatevers.’
Turning our focus back onto Christ transforms even the most menial role into a privilege. If we will allow Him to be Lord, instead of our circumstances, then right now—whatever season we find ourselves in, whatever tasks are before us—can become an opportunity to serve God. Even if the task seems lowly, even if the season is a humbling one, there is still God-given purpose and blessing in it.
IN WORD AND DEED
“And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him” (Colossians 3:17, NIV).
This verse, along with the subsequent ones addressing slaves, are underscored, encircled, and marked up in my Bible. Words like ‘whatever,’ ‘do it all,’ ‘giving thanks,’ and ‘all your heart’ challenge my thinking. I’m happy to do the fun things of life with gusto and enthusiasm—but suffering? Or servanthood—with all its menial, unseen, and unapplauded tasks? While I might be going through the right motions, my words usually betray the true posture of my heart. They reveal whether I am working as ‘unto the Lord’ or whether I resent my current season.
When my words are tinged with complaint or bitterness, it’s usually a sign that not only have I lost sight of the privilege of serving Christ, I’ve also stopped relying on Him. I’ve ceased to abide and begun to strive.
Paul uses this convicting phrase, ‘whatever you do,’ in both Colossians 3:17 and 23. The word that he used for ‘do’ is the Greek word poieō, and is the same word that Jesus used in John 15:5 where He tells us that “Apart from Him, we can do [poieō] nothing.” It describes a productive action and has the primary meaning of producing or making. Throughout Scripture, it is used to describe the activity of God. In contrast to the other word used for ‘do,’ ergazomai, which is often translated as ‘work,’ it is not about laboring and striving, but creating. God’s heart is that ‘whatever’ His children put their hands to, it would be productive and fruitful.
So He invites us to do ‘whatever’ for Him, and also to do it with Him—to do it in His name. Throughout the New Testament, we see that those who performed miracles, those who declared the gospel and baptized new believers, did so in the ‘name of Jesus.’ The power and authority they drew on to do these things was not their own—it was Christ’s. And this is how Paul urges us to live also: to draw not on our own strength and resources, but Christ’s.
“As you learn more and more how God works, you will learn how to do your work. We pray that you’ll have the strength to stick it out over the long haul—not the grim strength of gritting your teeth but the glory-strength God gives” (Colossians 1:10-11, The Message Paraphrase).
I had frequently tried to pick up the remote and change the channel on my season of life because I felt so inadequate and dissatisfied. I had been trying to make my own way through. Worn-down and depleted by our family’s circumstances, the thought of ‘one day’ offered a form of escapism. But God wanted me to learn that if I would stop trying to ‘click’ my life away and instead keep my eyes firmly fixed on Him, He would teach me how to live out of His glory-strength.
As I learned to be present to where He had positioned me, I discovered that the gift He continually gives me, both in times of lack and times of abundance, is the gift of His presence. I can be wholeheartedly and thankfully present to my ‘now,’ because He is with me.
REAPING AN INHERITANCE
Slaves had few to no rights in ancient Rome, and their lack of legal status meant that they could neither own property nor were they entitled to inherit—yet Paul promised them the reward of an inheritance. This reward was both ‘now’ and ‘still yet to come’ in nature. While they looked forward to the day when Christ appeared and they would also appear with Him in glory (Colossians 3:4), they had already been given the gift of the Holy Spirit within them. He was the guarantee of the inheritance they would one day possess in full (Ephesians 1:14), enabling them to live for Christ’s glory right now. And He is our guarantee also.
We serve a God who brings honor to the dishonored places of our lives; He is able to give us an inheritance even if the circumstances of our lives seem to oppose one.
He redeems our suffering.
He values our sacrifices and esteems our servanthood.
He sees the unseen.
But when I continually long to fast-forward or skip scenes of my life altogether, I risk robbing myself of the treasures--the inheritance--God has for me.
All those years ago, God encouraged me with a promise from Isaiah:
“I will give you the treasures of darkness and the hoards in secret places, that you may know that it is I, the LORD, the God of Israel, who call you by your name” (Isaiah 45:3).
It was a promise of purpose in and from my suffering--a reminder that He desires to fill my life with His riches. But it wasn’t a promise for the distant future. It was a promise for me to unearth right then—He wanted me to find Him in the dark, secret places that were unseen by many, but so very seen by Him. He wanted me to know that I was not forgotten, but called by name. And I did. So much so, that the very struggles I once tried so hard to escape, I now see as a rich treasure trove of His generous, redemptive activity in my life.
Moving in with my parents was far from the end of our struggles--much of the next decade would be marked by hardship and trials, the consequences of which still linger in part today. While there are still days in my humanity where I plead for God to please bring change, I more readily pause to ask what He is doing now and how I can partner with Him in it. I am learning to not ‘click’ my life away, but to honor the places He has positioned me in by being wholeheartedly present to them and to Him, my Lord. Only then can I begin to unearth the treasures He has for me to discover.