Stepping into the Hard Things

We are pleased to welcome Rhonda Smith back to the Editor’s Corner this month. This month, Rhonda encourages us to depend on God in the midst of difficult circumstances and the monotony of modern life.

I spent a few years working as a social worker for hospice and most of my days consisted of visiting patients in their homes. I once arrived at a patient’s house and found him in his orchard. Gardening was his passion and so long as he was able to drive the tractor from his garage to the orchard, he was going to continue providing the meticulous care it deserved. That day I arrived, he was slowly moving broken tree branches to a pile. I offered to help and tried to beat him to the harder things because it was obvious the labor was becoming burdensome for him. I knew he loved to garden but this particular job did not seem a task he was enjoying.

I don’t recall much of our conversation that day, but I do remember after I asked if we should stop for a while, he said, “Most of the things done in this world were done by people who didn’t want to do them.” It caught me off guard and I did not want that to be true. It was a disheartening thought.

As much as I did not want his statement to be true, I think what he said was right. Hard things are done by people who don’t want to do them. Fixing dinner night after night is tedious, yet still done because the children in your home require nourishment to live. Demanding jobs are exhausting, folding laundry is boring, waking up to an alarm clock ordering us to work is the least favorite part of most people’s day. Of course—and thankfully—life is not always this way. God has allowed enjoyment in the work he has given us, but the mundane and the difficult are there too and that is the hard part.

The man I visited loved his orchard. He loved it for the fruitful parts and the hard parts. At that point in his illness, many would have expected him to give up the hard parts, but he didn’t. He had a profound sense of duty. He understood hard things must be done regardless of momentary feelings. In order for him to see the fruitful parts, the hard parts were necessary. 

Sometimes our walk with Christ is this way. There are hard things to be done and if honest, we would rather skip to the fruitful parts. It is not easy to obey and abide and often difficult to remain faithful and steadfast to the work set before us. I was recently in a meeting where the speaker challenged us to step into the good work God has for us, even when we lack desire to do so. She emphasized that we will never know on the front-end of stepping into the work how we will bless someone or what purpose God holds in the task. It cannot be known if we will see fruit from the work, but if we are obedient to what God has for us, then he will work through us. 

Philippians 2:13 says, “for it is God who works in you to will and act in order to fulfill his good purpose.”[1] Nothing we do on our own can produce fruit apart from God working in us. Living a life devoted to God is hard, but He works through us to fulfill his purposes. In 1 Corinthians 3:6, Paul reminds the church, “I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth.” God is the one to give the growth in all our works. When we remember it is he who bears the fruit and not us, the pressure is taken off ourselves to confidently step into His good work.

A portion of the General Thanksgiving from The Book of Common Prayer reads, “We thank you for setting us at tasks which demand our best efforts, and for leading us to accomplishments which satisfy and delight us. We thank you also for those disappointments and failures that lead us to acknowledge our dependence on you alone.”[2] That portion of the prayer stuck out to me. No matter whether we desire the hard task in front of us or not, it was given by God and demands our best efforts. We can thank him for that because He knows what will lead us to satisfaction, as we are ultimately made to work for and glorify Him. It is followed by a gentle reminder that we are also called to thank Him for our failures and disappointments, because it is there that we recognize our utter dependence on Him alone. Stepping into the hard things—the hard work that we don’t want to do—is often where we learn to depend on him.

This patient, in his orchard that day, had been a missionary to a hard to reach area for much of his life. He endured sicknesses, violence, oppression, and less than desirable living situations. He could have given up the hard parts and opted for an easier life, but he remained faithful to what was set before him. I presume there were days he did not want to do the work he was called to, but I believe from his numerous stories and exemplary life that he still stepped into the good work God had for him, even when the task was hard. As he neared the end of his life here on earth, he continued to consider others as more important than himself. Every visit he preferred talking about how I was doing rather than how he was doing. Frequently during visits, he asked to pray for me, my work, and the other patients I would visit. In his limitations to serve, he stepped into the good work God put right before him.

When we love the work God calls us to, but do not desire a particular task, there is perhaps no better exhortation than what we read in Philippians 3:14: “…press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” God is working through us to help our desires match his and sometimes pressing on is as simple as stepping into the good work right before us.

[1] All scripture quotations taken from the English Standard Bible (ESV).

[2] The Book of Common Prayer (New York: Church Publishing Incorporated, 1979), 836.

Rhonda serves as a social worker at a nursing home and writes on faith and spirituality. 

Be on the look out for an upcoming title by Rhonda to be announced later this year.

In the mean time, check out more of Rhonda’s writing at

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