“Find joy in the mundane.” I hear or read it often and I want to divulge, upfront, that I very much agree. I too am glad that we can find joy in the drudgery of life. But I also believe that finding it begins counterintuitively—by understanding and learning from the curse.
In the third chapter of the Bible, after Adam disregarded God with his sin, God told Adam, “cursed is the ground” (Genesis 3:17). Our strides cover this same ground—each day, we pace across what is cursed. God continues, speaking to Adam, “cursed is the ground because of you” (Gen. 3:17, emphasis added). God says that, in sin, we became suited for each other, this curse and us.
From the ground, through our feet, into our homes, through our hands, and into our work come the effects of it. It causes Ecclesiastes 2:18 to have a familiar, dull ring in our hearts: “I hated all my toil in which I toil under the sun.” Jobs can be stressful. Relationships can be endless work. Routines can become drudgery. Our efforts can seem to make little progress, and all for what?
This is part of the curse.
Against this backdrop of understanding, God’s common grace is bold and bright, for mankind can still enjoy making friends, marrying, having children, being satisfied with a job well-done, beholding beauty, giving and receiving gifts, and more.
“There is nothing better for a person than that he should eat and drink and find enjoyment in his toil.
This also, I saw, is from the hand of God, for apart from Him who can eat or who can have enjoyment?
For to the one who pleases Him God has given wisdom and knowledge and joy.”
The Curse Is Part of Life
However, true, lasting enjoyment comes through a further grace, the grace we have been given in Christ by His sacrifice. After all, common grace is not enough to be the people He has created us to be. As diligent as I may be at staying present in the moment, or finding joy in the small things of life and of God’s common grace, my good tries for full enjoyment are always going to be inadequate because the curse is a part of this present life.
When I form a few tears as I pack my daughter’s baby clothes into a box because she has outgrown them—and I recall while folding them up how many times I have heard that I need to enjoy my moments with her before they’re up—a looming failure threatens. I do enjoy my time with her; I make a point of this. Yet, it still doesn’t feel sufficient. And that is part of the curse I cannot overcome.
“What is crooked cannot be made straight, and what is lacking cannot be counted.”
Rather than necessarily telling us that we are not enjoying our moments correctly or adequately, these lacking feelings actually indicate that we already did something to make our experience become filled with a monotonous ache—original sin. Disregarding God necessarily caused us to assume this drudgery because His presence and instruction, which we disregarded, were always meant to be our drudgery-less joy.
Use the Drudgery to Know God Better
In Part 2 of this series, we’ll see how Christ overcomes the curse, and we’ll consider what that means for our present monotony. Before we get there, let’s consider the curse itself and how it can help us to grow. We can use our experience of toil, monotony, and drudgery to be informed about our spiritual state and about how specifically to grow nearer to God in at least four ways.
- Through the curse, we can grow in grateful humility. While I have felt that my time with my growing daughter is short, thinking of God in the garden brings a new vantage point. God didn’t get the time, honor, and praise that He deserved with us, His image-bearing children, in the good garden He created. We did not live our lives in the complete enjoyment and blessing of His full presence, to His glory. Yet, the God we dishonored decided to humble Himself for us in Christ; what better consideration than this to develop our own humility!
- We can remember how great is the grace of God. As we feel our moments are lacking, we can revisit how lacking and poor, in and of ourselves, we are (Matt. 5:3); we are far poorer than the curse of this earth is crooked because His great grace alone allows for us to be here at all and not already in the lake of fire because of our sin (2 Pet. 3:9; Lk. 13:28). This fallen earth is a partial separation from God—with the gracious opportunity for reunion with God through Christ. The small drudgeries of life make me remember the larger picture of my grace-filled salvation and give me gratitude that I have so much more than I deserve.
- Through the disconnected and lagging dissatisfaction of the curse, we can gain perspective. We can theologically rewind our minds to Genesis 3 and recall the principle that our lives only have meaning in God. Each toilsome, dissatisfied feeling can be used as a new impulse to draw nearer to Him. We can ask God to examine us, remembering that any corner of our lives we may be keeping from Him can only equal emptiness there too, just as it did that first time in the garden. Seeing the fall from the garden of Eden in every act of sin we are tempted to commit helps us flee, far!
- Finally, we might assume that we are failures at enjoying God’s common grace; God’s gifts of children, marriage, or friendships; or God’s gift of simply the present moment if we cannot feel a full enjoyment. Mothers who have grown children can often remind us to be present in the moment with our young children, for example, and they do help us to appreciate the precious days and gifts we have, as well as we can (thank you!). At the same time, mothers giving these reminders speak about what they were never able to do themselves, not necessarily because they weren’t cognizant of how quickly time moves but because they, too, are in the curse with us. Most of all, they are sharing with us the retrospective longings of their own hearts, just like the longings we presently have. This carries us to our ultimate reliance on Christ, who alone can restore us to the level of joy that God originally created us for and take the curse away. We rejoice that one day, there will be no more monotony, drudgery, or toil—only complete joy.
Whereas we cannot do anything to reverse the ache of the monotony, we can gain encouragement by dwelling upon how God already did—promising us that He will not leave us who are in Christ to our curse.
This is the first post of two in a series on joy in the monotony—watch for the next post on Christ, who overcomes the curse.