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The Bread of Anxious Toil

  1. When the podcast ends, do you immediately have to fill that space, or does your heart enjoy a moment of prayer?

  2. When you lay in bed, does your mind spin with anxiety over business projects, or rest in a Sovereign God?

  3. When you wake up in the morning, do you fill your heart with Jesus, or do you jump right into work?

There are two ways to be an entrepreneur.

The first way is to work from a place of self-reliance and striving, as Psalm 127:2 describes…

It is in vain that you rise up early and go late to rest, eating the bread of anxious toil; for he gives to his beloved sleep. Psalm 127:2

Bread is what we are supposed to eat to sustain us. So the bread of anxious toil is when we believe the lie that OUR effort is sustaining us. And of course, if it’s our effort that sustains us, we can never rest, lest our lives come apart at the seams. We have to hold it all together. We have to keep all the plates spinning. It’s exhausting.

Are you as familiar with this bread as I am? Are you tempted to skip your Bible reading because you just have “so much to do today”? Do you work long hours, never feeling like you can do enough? Do you feel like you always need to be doing something productive? I do.

Jesus gives us another kind of bread-

Then Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry.” John 6:35

All of us are eaters. It isn’t a question of whether you will eat bread this week, but which bread you will be eating. Just as we are all worshippers, we are all “hungerers” looking for sustenance. Will our hearts find rest in Jesus, or will we continue to eat the bread of anxious toil?

I can’t help but think of another bread as well- the bread of communion that reminds us of Jesus’ body broken for us. I love that Jesus knows how weak and forgetful we are and gave us a visible reminder of His sacrifice. It’s only because of what Jesus has accomplished that we can rest from our works.

I used to live my life on the bread of anxious toil. Let me let you in on the journey God took me on in my business…

I started my first business with high hopes. I had been studying entrepreneurship for a while, and I was so eager to finally own my own business. This is the year, I thought. This is the year when I’m gonna really meet my goals and create an amazing business. This is my year!

But my eyes weren’t on Jesus, my eyes were on the influencers whose podcasts I listened to. I wanted to have a business from selfish motives, because I wanted to fashion a certain kind of lifestyle for myself. And a lot of those motivations were good. Financial freedom, more time with my family, the ability to give to those in need… there were many good reasons to want a successful business. But my hope wasn’t in the God who gives those gifts, my hope was in the gifts themselves. I was emulating the women whose lives I wanted to copy and paste into mine. I wasn’t really open to God having different plans for me. I was going to make this business happen by sheer willpower.

The boss babe world is marked by a lot of toxicity, self-aggrandizement, mysticism, misaligned work-life balance, and selfishness. I did my best to weed through the blatantly unbiblical parts, but I still ended up believing some of the subtle lies of that culture, like:

  1. I believed the lie that I needed to hustle for my own success, instead of seeing that God is a God of generosity and grace, and that HE was the one who gives success, it’s not earned (even though we do work for it). That lie led me to overworking and then burnout, followed by shame because of my “failure”.

  2. I compared myself to the HIGHLIGHT REELS of others, and told myself that I was a failure and that everyone else wasn’t struggling as much as I was.

  3. While my words would never say that I was building MY OWN EMPIRE, my actions reflected that heart posture and I left God out of my business decisions.

  4. I believed the lie that my lack of success was because I wasn’t BELIEVING in myself enough, and I just needed to pump myself up with more motivational quotes.

All of these lies led me to a place of anxiety, burnout, discouragement, and shame.

But God had his own plans for me, plans that were so much better than my own.

Not only was it a tumultuous year, but I also became unexpectedly pregnant with our first child. I had always been excited to be a mom, so it was an exciting change, but it threw my plans out the window as I struggled for much of my pregnancy with intense sickness, fatigue, and perinatal depression. It just hadn’t been what I had planned. The year came to a close, and I took maternity leave to bring my beautiful daughter into the world and adjust to a new season of motherhood. After a few months of leave, I began to think about going back to entrepreneurship and realized that a desperate feeling had begun to sink into my heart. I couldn’t keep doing business as I had been. I had to change the way I was operating. My eyes had been so focused on my own success and self-aggrandizement, instead of on serving Jesus and others. I felt betrayed by my own selfishness.

The one word that sums up how I was feeling during that time is DESPERATE for Jesus.

Something in me had finally broken and come to the end of myself. I was unwilling to let my discouragement kill my entrepreneurial heartbeat, but I was unwilling to do business in my own strength any longer. I just couldn’t.

“There just has to be a different way to do business,” I thought.

I was tired of the constant striving.

I was tired of feeling like my spiritual life and business life were disjointed.

I was tired of building something that God wasn’t really in.

At the end of the year, I bought a coffee mug that says, “This is my year.” But the word “my” is crossed out, and written next to it is the word, “HIS”. This is HIS year. It will continue to sit on my desk and remind me of the lesson that year taught me- that “the mind of man plans His way, but the Lord directs His steps.” Prov 16:9

So that’s what started me on my journey of exploring what it means to be dependent on Christ while running a business with excellence. I wanted Jesus to infuse every last inch of my workday and my business. I’m still on that journey, and I know that I will never “arrive”.

As the apostle Paul says in Philippians 3:12…

“Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me.”

But it’s actually through business that I have learned the secret of abiding in Christ and relying on His strength daily, because business is where my self-reliance rears its ugly head the most.

There is a different way to do business.

My business life has gone from one marked by striving to one marked by joy; and yours can too. Together, let’s discover what that looks like.

Do you resonate with this? I’d love to hear what God has taught you about this in the comments!

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