What the self-help books don't say.
Go to the self-help section of your local bookstore to discover the world's answer for living a rat race life. You know, quit your job, move to a farm or perhaps a cave, kill animals for food, plant and tend a garden, and live happily ever after. It's the dream of moving from the rat race to a quieter, less demanding, and stress free life. Right? Well, not exactly. Some people make it in la la land but many others don't. The dreams of living on less, developing passive income, or re-inventing the mouse trap aren't the answer for many people in the commute congestion every morning. This is because the world's answers are so often trendy fads rather than clear truth. There's more to the rat race thing than just being frustrated or stressed. Declaring that the "rat race will have to do with one less rat" is actually an internal, spiritual attitude adjustment. Many people live joyful and abundant lives while in the motions of the maze or the treadmill.
You see, there's also the wiring thing. Careers, jobs, vocation, and the energy with which we fulfill them are an admixture of personal components, one of which is how we are wired at birth. Like King David we are "fearfully and wonderfully made" (see Psalm 139:14), formed and knitted together by our Glorious Creator. Those attributes. along with our background, education, personal giftedness, skills and training, strengths, passion, worldview, faith, calling, and many other components determine our fit for roles in God's world. Even more, there are God's wonderful promises for living the life he intended. More and more I rely on what Simon Peter wrote in his Second Epistle---
His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness,
through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence.
2 Peter 1:3, ESV
These words are reminders of God's provision for life, and the truth that Jesus came that we might have life and have it more abundantly (see john 10:10).
When I've announced that "the rat race will have to do with one less rat" on numerous occasions since college graduation forty-six years ago, my resolve was more about my attitude in living life than finding a new one. Yes, God's call moved us from banking and hospital financial administration to seminary and thirty-five years of pastoral ministry. In that preparation was the spiritual discovery that God would give me joy, hope, and peace regardless of my pressing circumstances. That's because these spiritual graces---joy, hope, and peace, and many others---are not circumstantially governed. That's what the self-help gurus and their volumes don't say. Their fixes for living in a rat race world are just temporary remedies, treating the symptoms of life and not the deeper issues that can make life unbearable.
When the Apostle Paul wrote to the Roman church he included this wonderful prayer---
May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the
power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.
Romans 15:13, ESV
It's a prayer I prayed every Monday morning for thirty-five years. And, yes, Virginia, pastors find themselves in the rat race world every day too. The prayer for joy and peace and abounding hope was the attitude adjustment I needed for living in a world like this one.
Our son's murder in 2011 reminded me that life is brief and uncertain. This joy, hope, and peace refocused my aim about the finish line too. Today the morsels of cheese so alluring in the world system aren't so appealing to me. Again, the Apostle Paul wrote---
Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord,
the righteous judge, will award to me on that day, and not only to me but also to
all who have loved his appearing.
2 Timothy 4:8, ESV
The self-help books don't say much about the crown of righteousness either.
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