What do you not feel like doing today?
You know what I mean. It’s that thing that’s weighing on you, which you know would honor God because it obeys his law of love (John 15:12), or is a work of faith (2 Thessalonians 1:11), or puts “to death the deeds of the body” (Romans 8:13). You know it would be good for your soul or body or family or vocation or neighbor or church.
But you don’t feel like doing it. You know that God promises you more blessing if you do it than if you don’t. But you’re struggling to believe it because it feels difficult. It’s like you have weights on your ankles. You don’t want to muster the energy, and every distraction glows with attraction.
The Strange Pattern of Progress
While it’s true that this is our indwelling sin of which we must repent and fight to lay aside (Hebrews 12:1), the experience of “not feeling like it” also can become for us a reminder of a gospel truth and actually give us hope and encouragement in this battle.
“If we want true joy, we must walk by faith in a promised future and not by the sight of immediate gratification.”
Think about this strange pattern that occurs over and over in just about every area of life:
Healthy, nutritious food often requires discipline to prepare and eat while junk food is convenient, tasty, and addictive.
Keeping the body healthy and strong requires frequent deliberate discomfort while it only takes constant comfort to go to pot.
You have to make yourself pick up that nourishing but intellectually challenging book while popping in a DVD is as easy and inviting as coasting downhill.
You frequently have to force yourself to get to devotions and prayer while sleeping in or reading the sports or checking Facebook is almost effortless.
Learning to skillfully play beautiful music requires thousands of hours of tedious practice.
Excelling in sports requires monotonous drills ad nauseum.
Learning to write well requires writing, writing, writing, and rewriting, rewriting, rewriting. And usually voluminous reading.
It takes years and years of schooling just to make certain vocational opportunities possible.
You get the idea. The pattern is this: the greater joys are obtained through struggle and difficulty and pain, while brief, unsatisfying, and often destructive joys are right at our fingertips. Why is this?
Why the Struggle and Difficulty and Pain?
Because God, in great mercy, is showing us everywhere, in things that are just shadows of heavenly realities, that there is a great reward for those who struggle through and persevere (Hebrews 10:32–35). He is reminding us almost everywhere to walk by faith in a promised future and not by the sight of immediate gratification (2 Corinthians 5:7).
“Greater joys come through struggle and difficulty, while brief and often destructive joys sit at our fingertips.”
Understood this way, each struggle becomes an invitation by God to follow in the faithful footsteps of his Son, “who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12:2).
Those who are spiritually blind only see futility in these struggles. But for those who have eyes to see, God has woven hope (faith in his future grace) right into the futility of creation (Romans 8:20–21). Each struggle becomes a pointer saying, “Look ahead, past the struggle itself, past the temptation of the puny, vapor joys to the great, sustained, substantial Joy set before you!”
Endurance, Not Indulgence
So today, don’t let “not feeling like it” reign as lord (Romans 6:12). Rather, through it see your Father pointing you to the reward he has planned for all who endure to the end (Matthew 24:13). Let it remind you that his call is not to indulgence but endurance.
Then lay this weight aside and run with faith the race he has set before you.
This light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal. (2 Corinthians 4:17–18)