Pondering Misguided Diligence

destdil·i·gence: careful and persistent work or effort.

Earnest and persistent application to an undertaking; steady effort; assiduity. Attentive care; heedfulness.

“The plans of the diligent lead to profit as surely as haste leads to poverty.” – Proverbs 21:5

“Lazy hands make for poverty, but diligent hands bring wealth.” – Proverbs 10:4

“Diligent hands will rule, but laziness ends in forced labor.” – Proverbs 12:24

When I read these verses, the word lazy and poverty stand out to me like a bright flashing light. These two words scare me. I don’t want to be either lazy or living in poverty. Frankly, I want to help those who are living in poverty. The lazy, I am not sure of how much I can really do for them. But, the fact is, I read these verses and those words and my immediate reaction is to start to doing a lot of something, anything that will make me feel like I am neither of those two.

In this, we become diligent in a real hurry. But, what about misguided diligence? In this, I let my emotions and circumstance drive the focus of my diligence.

Yet, it’s not about suddenly becoming diligent. Aren’t we already diligent about something? We know how to be diligent, good or bad. Perhaps it is what we have become diligent towards as well as what we have allowed to drive our diligence to that matters most.

Life can set us up for this. It can lull us asleep and cause us to misplace our diligence from the things that matter to the things that don’t. Then, when crisis occurs, we sprint out of the blocks blazing a trail of anything but attentive care and heedfulness.

Arriving here shouldn’t be something we only do when crisis occurs forcing us to play our hand. This should be a lifestyle. Otherwise, like a yo-yo, life just keeps going up and down with no apparent consistent patterns other than run, crash, run, crash, run.

I think being diligent towards the right things in life is like placing a rudder on the very ship one sails throughout life.

A good friend of mine spoke this into my life recently and it struck me. In this, what he said was that we need to be diligent in:

  • Our relationship with God
  • Our relationship with others
  • Our acts of obedience

I love the one definition of diligence in attentive care or heedfulness. For me, this looks like a posture that simply seeks to do the next right thing. One that seeks divine purpose with each step.

It kind of reminds me of this passage from Matthew 25:23:

“”His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things.”

If you have been reading my recent posts, you will know that I have been struck with some immediate financial challenges. Of course, the optimistic part of me would call them opportunities. Yet, what it feels like is an all out crisis.

When crisis occurs, generally we respond with all out war. But wars aren’t won with aimless abandon.

When events like this happens in one’s life, it reminds me of the quote I read on a wall in a back hallway in Nordstrom once:

10% of life is what happens to you. 90% is how you respond.

In life, there is no doubt that the 10% will always be among us. So with this, what are we doing to learn from our past execution of the 90%? Why not bring this cycle of recidivism to conclusion?

Wars aren’t won on lack of preparation either.

When I lost a major client recently which was a high percentage of my monthly income, I immediately saw the words lazy and poverty flash before my eyes. I let them devour me. I was scared to death. The paralysis from analysis was squeezing the life out of me. My fear of abandonment was ruling the day.

Frankly, I was being diligent. But towards the wrong things. Driven by the fear that a watched pot never boils or the early bird gets the worm, without a rudder, I became diligent towards such an aimless approach to helping me get out of this situation that all it did was make me feel even more hopeless.

Not having a rudder on one’s ship has a way about making one feel hopeless.

Certainly my motivation was right. I wanted to fix the situation. I wanted to find a solution. And certainly there was a sense of urgency. But this is no call for blindly approaching the situation with misguided diligence.

What I wanted was a clear path that I could see for miles.

Yet, as I reached out to close friends for prayer and counsel, what I began to find is a peace in only seeing a clear path for one step in front of me.

As I began to fill my head with scriptures that I could then treasure in my heart, I began to find a hope that things were going to be okay.

In the midst of this storm, I was finding trust. For diligence towards our own understanding will lead to despair, but diligence towards my relationship to God will lead to my path being made straight.

And then I read something I had read a million times before that appeared like I had never read it before in my life.

“So do not throw away this confident trust in the Lord. Remember the great reward it brings you! Patient endurance is what you need now, so that you will continue to do God’s will. Then you will receive all that he has promised.” – Hebrews 10:35-36

When we adjust what we are diligent towards back to God, He has a way of making hope a centerpiece to your current chaos in a way that brings courage to even the faintest of hearts.

Perhaps in all of this, what I have learned is that when crisis occurs, I can learn how to get back on course by reverse engineering what I am diligent about as well as by identifying that which is fueling the crosshairs of my diligent pursuit.

Being diligent towards anything is not hard. But being diligent towards the right things takes courage.

What I am finding is that in the longterm, this should be a lifestyle. However, in the short term amidst the chaos, I also find it as the way out.

Is your diligence misguided? You can fix it by identifying what’s driving it and surrendering it to God. It’s not too late to get back on track. Let go and let God. He will carry you.

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