By Mikaela Carrillo '21
Photograph by Eunae Ko '23
Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men.
- Colossians 3:23 (ESV)
Sitting in the rising waters of an impending finals period, contemplating the over-booked, overworked, impossible one-week period quickly encroaching upon my sanity, I wonder what’s the point of it all.
Why am I expected to complete so much in so little time? Why exactly do I need to remember this much? Write that much? Do this much?
I’ve been pondering these questions all semester.
Just shy of a year ago, I trudged across campus back to my dorm after another long day of studying. In the dwindling hours of the day, the cold winter air bit at my neck, and my backpack weighed heavy on my shoulders. There, on a desolate, dimly-lit street, the Lord suddenly met me and revealed His overwhelming love for me. The Lord showed me that He had chosen me, even though I had done nothing to deserve it. He looked upon my helpless state, the weight of imperfection on my shoulders, and said, “I want you.” He filled me with a newfound, rich understanding of undeserved love, and I spent the rest of the night overflowing with zeal. I wanted to serve God with my entire life.
“Nothing else matters,” I gushed over the phone to my mom less than an hour later. “All these things we put our purpose in and chase after, whether it be academics, or relationships, or our careers, don’t matter without God. They mean absolutely nothing if not done for His glory.”
This past year, I have questioned and uprooted my old motivations for doing my work, ones that were rooted in worldly perspectives on the meaning of work and achievement. Even though I have been raised to pursue excellence in my work for the purpose of success and adulation, that has seemed more and more fleeting and purposeless. Through classes, casual mentions, and Facebook posts, I heard about my peers’ accolades and academic and professional conquests, but I now questioned the angst I felt to measure up to them and to be perceived as successful. While I understood that work is an inherent part of living and necessary for survival, the rat race that I felt surrounded me—the endless busyness and pursuit of awards, success, and the next best thing—seemed to be motivated by a vision of work where it was not just a necessity, but also an avenue for financial gain, personal fulfillment, pride, and identity. It felt like people were chasing work for the purpose of tasting success and constructing meaning to their lives. It felt like people were chasing their own glory. But I didn’t really care for it anymore. My glory didn’t matter.
However, I have wrestled with God. I have asked him how to cultivate a motivation to do my work for His glory and have struggled to even understand what it looks like to do everything for Him. Many nights, with eyes struggling to stay open, I dragged myself to my desk, forcing myself to chip away at a never-ending to-do list. Heavy with lethargy, I felt that my motivation was more about just getting the required things done rather than doing my work “as for the Lord.” And that work—well sometimes it felt so irrelevant to the most important things in life, so far-flung from the things of God, that it seemed like it took every last drop of energy I had to accomplish it, let alone do it for His glory. What does it look like to study for a biology test, to write a paper, in a way that glorifies God?
To be honest, I haven’t yet figured out exactly how to do both—to do all things for His glory and to let that construct a newfound motivation in me.
But I am pressing into the Lord to help me.
During this finals period, I am seeking the Lord and asking that He begin to renew my mind—that He would help me change the way I see my work, that He would give me a new motivation, grounding me in His purpose, and that He would show me how to do all things for His glory.
I am coming to Him with questions, in full humility of how much I don’t yet know.
I am asking:
Lord, how do I glorify You in all that I do?
Lord, how should I view the work that I do?
Lord, as a Christ-follower, what relationship do I have with my work?
Lord, how can I use my work to spread the gospel?
I don’t have all the answers, but I am pressing in, knowing that God has the power to renew my mind and make me more like Christ.
During this finals period, my prayer is that I would continue to draw close to the Lord in my most stressful moments and ask that He teach me to see my work as He intends.
Lord, teach me what it means to do my work “as for the Lord and not for men.” Help me to walk through finals with strength, endurance, peace, and grace, using this season as an opportunity to trust you more deeply and be refined, rather than obsess over my success. You alone deserve the glory. Amen.