The Wisdom of Working in Peace and Joy

anxiety blog emily p. freeman joy next right thing peace work Jun 19, 2019

If you’re like me, you often have a very long “to do” list going. I recently found myself looking at a list that had grown to many dozens of items. Some of them were ideas I wrote down a while back. Some were ideas others had suggested that sounded good at the time. Some related to steps of development for our many current writing and ministry projects.

Lists like that can eventually become paralyzing for me. I see what looks to me like a million things I must do, and then I become overwhelmed and don’t know where to start. I’m sure I’m the only one who has ever felt this way, right?

On Monday, we released our latest podcast episode: an interview Gem had with our friend, Emily P. Freeman about her latest book, The Next Right Thing. We also recorded a conversation with her that we’ll share with our Unhurried Community next month.

As Gem and I spoke with Emily, I shared a quotation by Meister Eckhart, a fourteenth century theologian and mystic, that I’ve often returned to over the years: “Wisdom consists in doing the next thing you have to do, doing it with your whole heart, and finding delight in doing it.” (Meister Eckhart, a fourteenth century theologian and spiritual mentor).

I love the process implied here. As God guides us, he shows us some next good thing to enjoy and engage in. As we work at that, we learn to let our minds and hearts focus on doing this work in the presence of God. We resist the temptation to carry everything else we have to eventually do at the same time.

True multi-tasking is really a myth. Try, for example, writing a book and counseling someone at the same time. I can multi-task at walking and chewing gum, but I can’t do two key elements of my work concurrently. Good, strategic work requires presence and focus.

So, once we’ve seen the good work to do in the moment before us, we seek to be fully present to God in that work. We might imagine ourselves in the yoke with Jesus doing that work together. We resist the temptation to worry about the next item of work we may be doing together. We’re just not there yet. We want to remain with Jesus where he is—here and now.

And then, when we realize that we can simply do the good work before us with God, and do it with our whole attention, we discover that the main joy in our work isn’t actually accomplishment or productivity (though these are hugely joyful things).

We find that our main joy is in the One with Whom we are doing our work. The deepest joys are the fruit of communion with God in our lives and our work. Doesn’t that feel inviting?

For Reflection:

  • How would you describe your anxiety level as it relates to your work these days (whether that’s job work, family work, ministry work, or whatever work you do)?
  • What would it look like to choose one good thing before you to do, and then do it as aware as you can be that God is with you in that work?
  • How would that feel? How might you experiment with that today?

Photo by Glenn Carstens-Peters on Unsplash