The toil and circumstances of our lives are God’s means of sanctifying us. Our circumstances are administered to us like medicine, to address our specific heart issues. Whether you need more patience, peace, compassion, trust or kindness, you will find your circumstances address those deficiencies directly. They may not be the circumstances you think you need or challenges you think you need but we don’t know ourselves as well as God does.
We all need to grow in our faith and our circumstances are meant to show us our dependence on God’s provision, protection and goodness. We must submit to God’s will and seek His Spirit to have the grace for the toil and circumstances he has ordained for us or our toil and circumstances will overcome us. The circumstances of our lives work on our hearts like sandpaper or hammers. Our toil works on our hearts like the purifying fire of the crucible or the consuming flames of a house fire.
In Genesis 3:17 God assigns us our toil. God curses the ground because of Adam’s disobedience. This implication is that by the sweat of man’s brow mankind brings forth sustenance from the ground. Season will follow season and we will have to plant, tend, water and weed our crops. We’ll harvest them, eat their substance and plant new ones in the spring. Our modern setting is not different. How often do we have to wash the dishes, open the mail, water plants, debug the computer, change diapers, make food, weed the garden, mow the grass, run updates on our electronics, write a memo, process billing, make car payments, timesheets and on and on. Our lives are full of repetitive toil. It is frustrating. Life is full of mundane repetition; full of futility.
But it only appears futile from our perspective under the sun, where we can only see a few moments in one tiny corner of the world (Ecclesiastes 1:14). However, from God’s point of view above the sun, from where He guides all things, sees all things, knows all things; our circumstances are the tools in His hands (Genesis 50:20). God wields these tools to chip away on us like marble, until His image is drawn out of the rock of our hearts. The repetition of our toil is like waves eating away the solid rock of the shore. As we change those diapers; dying to ourselves to humbly serve our little ones, God is changing us. As we wash that same dish, again today, like we did yesterday and find joy in this simple task, we find God is washing us.
This process is called sanctification.
Westminster shorter Catechism question 35. Sanctification is the work of God’s free grace, whereby we are renewed in the whole man after the image of God, and are enabled more and more to die unto sin, and live unto righteousness.
Ezekiel 36:27And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules.
Philippians 2:13 for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.
2 Thessalonians 2:13 But we ought always to give thanks to God for you, brothers beloved by the Lord, because God chose you as the firstfruits to be saved, through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth.
Sanctification is not merely a work of the Holy Spirit. We find that our Father, who cares so much for us, ordained whatever occurs in our lives. He knows us and knows what challenges and toil we need and He has known it since before we were born. But we can’t do what our gracious Father has ordained for us. We can’t fulfill His will. We can’t submit to the yoke. We are like the preacher in Ecclesiastes who saw all that man did and judged it as vanity, vapor, futility.
So Christ came to remove the impediments to our obedience. Christ washed us, restored us to fellowship with God. Jesus overcame every temptation and fulfilled God’s will perfectly so that Jesus could ascend His throne and send His power to us in His Spirit, the comforter, illuminator and guide.
The Holy Spirit is the active agent, the member in our midst; giving us access to all the authority on heaven and earth we have in Christ. The Holy Spirit unites us to our Lord. This union and communion is the source of our joy, acceptance, purity, hope, strength and righteousness. In this Union and Communion with the Son, by the Spirit we can fulfill the Father’s will and submit to the toil and circumstances the Father has ordained for us.
We need to step back from our toil and our circumstances to pray that God gives us a divine perspective or at least the trust in His goodness to go about our labors joyfully. God does not want disgruntled laborers, God wants joyful laborers. That greasy pan may seem overwhelming, but the Father ordained it before time, Jesus died so you could overcome your fleshly desire to curse the Father’s ordination of it and sent the Spirit to give you the patience, peace and joy to submit to your toil and give glory to God. All that in a little greasy pan, in your neighbors’ sin, your brother’s lie, your sister’s pain, your baby’s stinky diaper.