by Jon Bloom
What do you not feel like doing today?
You know what I mean. It’s that nagging thing weighing on you.
You know you should do it.
If you did it, it would honor God because it obeys his law of love (John 15:12), or it’s a work of faith (2 Thessalonians 1:11), or it puts “to death the deeds of the body” (Romans 8:13).
You know it would be good for your soul or your body or your family or your vocation or your neighbor or your church.
But you don’t feel like doing it. At all.
You know that God promises you more blessing if you do it than if you don’t.
But you’re struggling to believe that promise because it feels difficult.
It’s like you have weights on your ankles and wrists. You don’t want to muster the energy it’s going to take. And every distraction glows with attraction.
The Strange Pattern of Progress
While it’s true that this feeling has its roots in our remaining sin nature and is a weight we must 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.
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 moderate indulgence to go to pot.
- You have to make yourself pick up that nourishing but intellectually challenging book while flipping on the TV or popping in a DVD is as easy as coasting downhill.
- You frequently have to force yourself to get to devotions and prayer while sleeping in or cleaning that clutter or checking Facebook just has a gravitational pull.
- Learning to skillfully play beautiful music requires thousands of hours of tedious practice.
- Excelling in a sport 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 in everything is this: the greater joys are obtained through struggle and difficulty and pain—things you must force yourself to do when you don’t feel like it—while brief, unsatisfying, and often destructive joys are as inviting as couch cushions.
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 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).
Understood this way, each thing we don’t feel like doing, great or small, becomes an invitation from 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 gospel hope right into the futility of creation (Romans 8:20–21).
Each struggle to overcome 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, back to that thing you don’t want to do today.
Don’t let “not feeling like it” reign as lord (Romans 6:12). It’s not your master; you don’t have to obey it.
And even though it’s counseling comfort for you, it’s not your friend either. It’s a whiny, lying joy-stealer. It’s pointing you to feeble joys and away from deep delights.
Instead, through this feeling see your Father pointing you to the reward he has planned for all who endure to the end (Matthew 24:13).
Transpose it from reluctance to a reminder that God is calling you not to indulgence but endurance.
Then lay this weight aside and run with faith the race he has set before you. God will meet you with the grace you need (2 Corinthians 9:8).
And the thing is:
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)
Do it for the joy!