Editor’s Note: This post is adapted from an excerpt from ”Beholding and Becoming: The Art of Everyday Worship” by Ruth Chou Simons, that releases on September 10, 2019.
The eighteenth-century German poet, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, penned these words, which I painted as a reminder to preside over my daily chores:
Cease endlessly striving to do what you want to do and learn to love what must be done.
In other words, we must stop constantly trying to gain the circumstances we’d rather have, the things we’d rather be doing, the success we’d rather be achieving, the challenges that would be easier to traverse, the praise we’d rather receive. We strive so hard to do what we naturally desire and are so unhappy until we get it. Notice how Goethe didn’t say “learn to grit our teeth and do what must be done,” but rather “learn to love what must be done.”
Goethe was not a Christ-follower, but he understood this principle: It’s our love that drives our joy and regulates how we move through life. That’s why Jesus always gave people a new perspective when he gave them a new purpose.
I could try to persuade you to pull yourself up by your bootstraps and love your life and every aspect of motherhood. But you and I both know that just muscling through in itself is unsustainable and will never produce joy. It’s how and what we love that most shapes our joy. Peter says it this way in his letter to believers facing suffering and unwelcome circumstances:
Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls. (1 Peter 1:8-9)
What would cause joy inexpressible in the midst of difficult conditions faced by believers in exile? It’s love for Christ, fueled by remembering all that he has done for them, that leaves them rejoicing. We too can rejoice because the transforming power of redemption makes us love what we ought and not only what comes naturally.
Jesus woos us by his love and causes us to love him in return. If I trace every complaint about my circumstances back to its origin, I find that my addiction to productivity, efficiency, and comfort are always at the center of my unhappiness. Never is this reality made more clear than in how I parent my children. At the root of my discontentment is what I love most…and without my loves being reordered and remade by Christ, I will always chase endlessly after what was never meant to satisfy—including peace and quiet, more sleep, well-behaved children or a clean house.
It’s natural to love what we can see, feel, and tangibly benefit from. That’s easy. It’s supernatural to be transformed and changed in heart so that we are able to love God though we have not seen him…to trust Jesus though we’ve never touched him.
When God spoke to Israel through the prophet Ezekiel, he described the heart change that only God can do:
I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleanness, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh, And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules. (Ezekiel 36:25-27)
When we turn to Jesus for the forgiveness of our sin and trust him for the new life we live to his glory, he breaks the bond of idolatry of comfort, ease, pride, and unrealistic expectations. He gives us a new mind and will through a softened heart that desires to please him. What God revealed here to the Israelites long before the birth of Christ ultimately found its fulfillment in the sacrificial death of Jesus, who enables us through the Spirit to walk with him, obey, and learn to love what must be done—even if what must be done is another diaper change, more discipline, making lunch for our kids, or confronting sibling conflict head on.
We’re not duped into loving dutifully; no, the life hidden in Christ gives us a new heart, transplanted through faith in Jesus, which, enabled by the Holy Spirit and powered by the Father’s love, causes us to love him back.
So learning to love what must be done—what is assigned for you to do as a daughter of God, a wife, and a mother, what circumstances you have to traverse—is not a form of self-help, attitude adjustment, or esteem building. Rather, it’s choosing to do what Peter saw believers doing—preach to ourselves the truth of how we’ve been rescued and then respond with rejoicing in the here and now.
If faith in Christ means that we are new creations in Him, is it any wonder…
…that we begin to love what he loves?
…that what he calls valuable, we learn to find worthy?
…that when the Scriptures tell us that we can do all things to the glory of God, including the things we don’t desire to do, the things not according to plan, the harder-than-we-can-stand things, the unwelcome pain…that when they tell us, “whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31), we can and are empowered in Christ to do just that?
The weary mom can become the persevering mom.
The impatient mom can wait with hope.
The numb mom can become compassionate.
The bitter mom can forgive.
Those who live a story they weren’t expecting—in the mundane or in pain—can “rejoice with a joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith,” as Peter says, and learn to love what must be done.
Copyright © 2019 by Ruth Chou Simons (art and text)
Published by Harvest House Publishers
Eugene, Oregon 97408
Ruth Chou Simons is a bestselling author, entrepreneur, and speaker. She shares her journey of God’s grace intersecting daily life with word and paintbrush through an online shoppe at GraceLaced.com and her Instagram community of more than a hundred thousand. Ruth and her husband, Troy, are grateful parents to six boys—their greatest adventure. Ruth's first book, GraceLaced, won a 2018 Christian Book Award.