Beloved: In the Lord, Your Labor Is Not in Vain

“But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord, your labor is not in vain.” – 1 Corinthians 15:57-58

beloved your labor is not in vain

When we serve Jesus, there always seems to be a little lying voice that invariably springs up whenever it gets the chance.

The voice says, “Give up. It’s not worth it. Nothing will come of it.”

Give up on getting up half an hour earlier to read your Bible. It’s not worth it.

Give up on talking to that person. It’s not worth it.

Give up on praying for that sickness. It’s not worth it.

Give up on your marriage. It’s not worth it.

Give up on holiness. It’s not worth it.

Give up on worship. It’s not worth it.

Give up on trusting people and being vulnerable. It’s not worth it.

Give up on fighting temptation. It’s not worth it.

Give up on church. It’s not worth it.

Give up on this ministry. It’s not worth it.

Give up on that relationship. It’s not worth it.

Give up on waiting for a change. It’s not worth it.

It’s too hard. It’s taking too long. Give up. Get swept under. Lose hope. Lose faith. Give up. It’s not worth it.

But Jesus says, “Be steadfast. Your labor is not in vain.”

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Jesus’ life was surely one of perseverance and steadfastness as much as it was a life of grace and love.

As little as we know of his childhood, he likely endured a certain level of contempt regarding his birth, which looked scandalous and disgraceful to world. During his ministry, he endured temptation, rejection, the unbelief of others, the great wear and tear his ministry must have taken on his body, reviling, constant attempts to entrap him by those who hated him, great crowds of people seeking him for his teaching but perhaps more for his miracles, and being very misunderstood, even by those closest to him.

And then, after all that, after a life of enduring, of persevering, of exemplifying steadfastness, he endured more, persevered more, exemplified steadfastness more. He endured the physical torment, abuse, and shame of the cross as well as the unspeakable emotional and spiritual anguish of the wrath of God, his Father.

And none of it was in vain. In all of it, Jesus was and is perfectly victorious.

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“But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord, your labor is not in vain.” – 1 Corinthians 15:57-58

Your prayers and tears and grief for your grown child to come back to God are not in vain.

Every week you lose sleep to get up early and get to church early to set up so that the service can run smoothly is not in vain.

The anxiety attack that hits you while you’re trying to lead in worship is not in vain.

The words you’ve invested in others—from the long, deep conversations to the simple “hello”—are not in vain.

The decision to deal with a crabby, missed-a-nap baby in favor of going to church is not in vain.

Every single time you open your Bible, it is not in vain.

The small group that struggles or seems hard is not in vain.

The acts of fidelity you make every time you turn away from sin of all kinds are not in vain.

The forgiveness that is hard, that you wrestle with, is not in vain.

The prayers for salvations or your own sanctification are not in vain.

The song you lift in worship when it hurts the most is not in vain.

Every risky letter or text you send in love is not in vain.

Every weight of depression you press through is not in vain.

Every scrap of loneliness you refuse to let ebb into self-pity is not in vain.

Every hardship or setback you meet as you toil along the climbing way, looking for the day Jesus welcomes you home, is not in vain.

It. is. not. in. vain.

It is not in vain because Jesus will always accomplish what he intends to in every act of faithfulness, no matter how weary you are, no matter how thin your faith seems, no matter how many times you slipped and fell along the way, no matter if you had no idea how it would ever be for your good.

Jesus bought the victory—which he gives to you—with his own blood, his display of ultimate steadfastness and fidelity.

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So entrench, beloved.

Where it seems like you’ve been slipping, like an avalanche is always one misstep away, when it seems fruitless and hopeless, when you can’t see God moving in your ministry or your life, when you wonder if it matters for anything, when you can’t see the point, when the enemy would have you doubt if it’s even the work of the Lord anymore, entrench.

It may still be hard. It may not turn out how you think it should. It may hurt. But it is not in vain.

Beloved, don’t give up.

Beloved, Jesus gives you his own victory.

Beloved, be steadfast, immovable, despite the doubts and questions and pain.

Beloved, always abound in the work of the Lord.

Beloved, in the Lord, your labor is not in vain.

With love,


p.s. – there won’t be a post here on Penprints next week! Details to come to those subscribed to my newsletter!

My Dear Future, [an open letter]

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My Dear Future,

I do not know what you hold. You are the great unknown. You strike fear into my heart. I lose sleep. I bite my fingernails to nothing.

People ask me questions about you. I hate it when they do because then I must admit that I simply do not know you, my own dearest, daunting Future.

You are the next three days.

You are the next three months.

You are the next three years.

You are the next three decades.

Oh, my dear Future. I see so many painful inevitabilities. I see in you unexpected death, broken relationships, rejections, heartache, tears, confusion, new failings, and goodbyes that will break me.

And what is still more frightening is the knowledge that you, my dear Future, quickly become my Present. In what seems like a single pulse of my heart, tomorrow will become today, and next year will become this year.

I will make goals that I will not meet. I will let relationships dissolve. I will watch people I once knew grow and change from a distance. I will make promises only to break them. I will start days with joy and singing and end them with silence.

But I try to put on a smile when it comes to you, my dear Future. I make my plans, answer the questions that just won’t stop, and pretend I know what this whole thing is about.

I don’t know how to talk about you, my fear-drenched Future. I don’t know how to ask for help, am terrified to show weakness, for it seems that once people realize just how much I don’t know, there will be blood in the water. I fear rumors and raised-eyebrows and being seen for what I really am.

But now I see how I’ve gotten this all so wrong. I see that I’ve been following the wrong stars in my thinking. It is, as it turns out, ridiculously simple (but then I am often ridiculously slow).

Here it is: you, my dear Future, are not about me.

My Savior King is the centerpiece, the end of you, the sum of you, my dear Future.

And the fear I have for you, my dear Future, is treason. The fear I have for you—the kind that changes the way I think and make decisions all on an axis of self—should not belong to you. My Savior King is the only One with a rightful claim to my fear, my attention, my decision-making—all on an axis of Jesus.

In so many ways, you are unknown, my dear Future. Unknown to me. But not to my Savior King. And when I am afraid, I can trust in him, can remember who he is. Because my Savior King is the Most High God, the Lord of hosts, King Jesus.

And you, oh Future, hold only my good and his glory.

One day, someday in you, my dear Future, he will return in his glory, and on that day, he will be known as God and King in all the earth.

That day seems so far off, but it is the most real thing I know of you, my dear Future. And it is that one known, promised day that must define every breath drawn into my lungs.

The goals for my near future—the days leading up to my Savior King’s return—are all at once fuzzy and in sharp focus: love God; love people; worship; make disciples; magnify my Maker.

These are my next three days.

These are my next three months.

These are my next three decades.

These are the rest of my life.

And, no, my dear Future, I don’t know what that will always look like—where or with whom. And, yes, I know I will make many mistakes. But I am by no means significant enough or powerful enough to derail the plans of my Savior King.

And when the goodbyes break me, he will lift my head. And when I fail in new ways and all the old ways too, he will pick me up and remind me that his grace covers me. And when relationships fall apart, he will tell me that love covers all offenses.

And, yes, dear Future, I am still afraid of you, but my Savior King does not condemn me for even this treason.

Instead, every day, bit by bit, he calls me to grow more and more confident in him. Every day he gives me what I need to walk on water until one day I will look at you, my dear Future, with no fear or dread. I will be treasonous no more for I will remember always that the greatness of my Savior King knows no equal.

My dear Future, my hopes and dreams live in you.

So I will build my life—this short existence on this pale blue dot—upon the Cornerstone. And he—not I—will bring to pass things more splendid than I can imagine, treasures of silver and gold that will echo into the eternity I spend with him.

My dear Future, I do not know most of what you hold, but that is okay.

With love,


When Hope Is Gone

I shared in this post a little bit of my struggle with hope recently, and we’re going to explore the battle for/with hope in today’s post.

However, I do want to say from the outset that this is not a post about depression—at least not the go-to-counseling, take-some-medication, etc. kind of depression. This is more about the situational depression that most—if not all—Christians will face at least once in their life, the times when hope is gone.

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As Christians, our lives are based on hope—hope in our Christ, hope for the future given to us by our Christ, hope despite the world of death we live in. Our hope is our confidence in Christ, our trust that He is who He said He is, that He’ll do what He said He will, and that in the end, we will be with Him.

But sometimes our hope can falter or collapse altogether. These are the seasons when our hope for the present time is deferred, and our hearts get sick. We get caught in a situation that beats the confidence right out of us—not the confidence that it will all be okay in the end but the confidence that we can make it through tomorrow.

Pain dims our vision, and it makes it seem like Jesus and all His triumph are so far away, too far away. We know in our heads that God is good. We know in our heads that this mess will end up for our good, eventually. We know in our heads that it will be all right, that God is righteous and kind and trustworthy.

Countless situations wring the hope right out of us. The death of a friend. The unfaithfulness of a spouse. The indifference of a child who’s walked away from God. The church that tears itself—you included—apart. The job that’s draining the lifeblood out of you. The storms that just. won’t. end.

The longer a trial goes on, the harder it is to walk through it with hope, and each of us has a breaking point, the point where pain gets to be too much, the point where we reach for hope and it’s just gone, completely out of reach.

I wish I could give five steps to reclaim hope, but it’s not that simple.

It’s never simple when you try to pray but you can only sit in silence or cry at God. It’s never simple when you’re sobbing four different times in one day. It’s never simple when you try to worship but you can’t lift your head past your hurt. It’s never simple when you need to talk about it but you don’t know how.

It’s never simple when you call out to God and beg for good things, things that are in His Word, things that seem like they would bring Him glory, things that seem like they would be His will, and He says “no” again and again and again and again and again until you don’t know what to pray for.

But hope is never truly gone, and that is what we have to remember.

Hope is never truly gone because God is never gone. Yes, it can feel like He’s far away, but He’s not. Yes, sometimes we have no way of knowing when it will get better—or even if it will get better—but someday it will, even if that day isn’t until we go meet Jesus in the clouds.

Yes, eternity can seem like it’s a lifetime away and the present can be like a millstone, but our hope cannot be fixed in the present. We are a people crafted for an eternity with God. We are a people set apart as priests and prophets and exiles always looking toward our home.

Recently, this was hard truth for me to swallow. I wanted hope for now, but instant hope is flimsy hope. I learned that Jesus alone must be enough, and that He is enough because He is all that is sure and steady in life.

When I came to the end of my hope and I sat on the floor trying to pray while I cried, I encountered comfort from the Holy Spirit. At the end of my strength, He had more than enough. When I wasn’t sure when life would get better, that was all right because He’s promised that eternal life will be better than my wildest imaginings. When my faith and hope gave way, there was an ocean of grace for me to fall into. When I failed, He did not.

And He’s where I fix my hope.

Whenever I come up short, in any way that I come up short, He has plenty.

So when your hope is gone, keep your eyes open. Wrestle with God. Look into eternity. Don’t believe the lies your heart tells you; what you feel does not change what’s true. Weep and mourn when you must. Keep moving with endurance. Remember that God is infinite and far too high for us to always see how He’s working it for good. Read and reread Hebrews—it’s all about faith and hope. Learn to sing when there’s no light at the end of the tunnel.

Hold fast to your confidence in Christ. Don’t lose heart. Don’t give up. With God, hope is never truly gone. Our Prize is far too valuable to give up now.

With love,


P.S. – thank you to all of you who gave encouragement when I first mentioned my struggles with hope a few weeks ago, especially Gabby and Moya. <3

P.P.S. – this is such a huge subject, and I hardly went into WHY we cannot give up or faith’s relationship with hope, so if you guys are interested, we might be exploring this a little more in the coming year.

8 Songs for Hope

I wanted to do a post about finding hope when hope is gone this week, but I’m not ready for it.

For the past month I’ve been embroiled in the most difficult fight for hope and joy I’ve had so far. It was never about not having hope and assurance in eternity… it’s just that heaven and forever and Jesus seem so far away sometimes.

There are lots of things rolling around in my head and heart–things I’ve learned for the first time and things I’ve had to relearn. I want to offer a helpful, encouraging post to others who can’t see the hope in the dark right now–and I probably will someday–but for now I can’t. I still have to sort through some things first.

Instead, I’m sharing some songs that have helped me (the story of my life is basically throwing a book or a song at my problems).

(Also, I’ve been tracking I Am They for the last week as they’ve released songs from their new album “Trial and Triumph”, so it’s kind of an I Am They post (and when the album is titled “Trial and Triumph” you know it’s basically all about hope)).

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No Impossible With You by I Am They.

Right now I’m staring down a giant,
Right now I can’t see past my pain,
And right now my songs have turned to silence,
And You’ve never seemed so far away.

But I still believe,
I still believe.

There’s no heart You can’t rescue,
No war You can’t win,
No story so over it can’t start again,
No pain You won’t use,
No wall You won’t break through,
It might be too much for me… but
There is no impossible with You.

Find the whole song here.

God of All My Days by Casting Crowns.

Each step I take,
You make a way,
And I will give You all my praise,
My seasons change, You stay the same,
You’re the God of all my days,

In my worry, God, You are my stillness,
In my searching, God, You are my answers,
In my blindness, God, You are my vision,
In my bondage, God, You are my freedom,
In my weakness, God, You are my power,
You’re the reason that I sing,
‘Cause You’re the God of all my days.

Find the whole song here.

Scars by I Am They.

Darkest water and deepest pain,
I wouldn’t trade it for anything,
‘Cause my brokenness brought me to You,
And these wounds are a story You’ll use.

So I’m thankful for the scars,
‘Cause without them I wouldn’t know Your heart,
And I know they’ll always tell of who You are,
So forever I am thankful for the scars.

Find the whole song here.

Christ the Sure and Steady Anchor by Matt Boswell.

Christ the sure and steady anchor,
In the fury of the storm;
When the winds of doubt blow through me, and my sails have all been torn.
In the suffering, in the sorrow,
When my sinking hopes are few;
I will hold fast to the anchor,
It will never be removed.

Christ the sure and steady anchor,
As we face the wave of death;
When these trials give way to glory,
As we draw our final breath.
We will cross that great horizon,
Clouds behind and life secure;
And the calm will be the better,
For the storms that we endure.

Find the whole song here.

Every Giant Will Fall by Rend Collective.

There is hope within the fight,
In the wars that rage inside,
Though the shadows steal the light,
Your love is my battle cry,
The anthem for all my life.

Every giant will fall, the mountains will move,
Every chain of the past, You’ve broken in two,
Over fear, over lies, we’re singing the truth,
That nothing is impossible.

Find the whole song here.

Shoulders by For King and Country.

You mend what once was shattered,
And You turn my tears to laughter,
Your forgiveness is my fortress,
Oh Your mercy is relentless.

My help comes from You,
You’re right here, pulling me through,
You carry my weakness, my sickness, my brokenness all on Your shoulders,
Your shoulders,
My help comes from You,
You are my rest, my rescue,
I don’t have to see to believe that You’re lifting me up on Your shoulders,
Your shoulders.

Find the whole song here.

Move (Keep Walkin’) by TobyMac.

I know your heart been broke again,
I know your prayers ain’t been answered yet,
I know you’re feeling like you got nothing left,
Well, lift your head, it ain’t over yet, ain’t over yet so…

Move, keep walkin’ soldier keep movin’ on,
Move, keep walkin’ until the mornin’ comes,
Move, keep walkin’ soldier keep movin’ on,
And lift your head, it ain’t over yet, ain’t over yet.

Find the whole song here.

The Water (Meant for Me) by I Am They.

There is power, victory,
Hope for the broken-hearted,
Healing meant for me,
There is goodness, justice,
Rest for the weak and weary,
Love that’s meant for me.

This far, He has lead us,
Through the darkness to the light of day,
This far, He has shown us,
Love and mercy and unfailing grace,
When my hope is lost in the shadows,
This promise, You have made,
It’s not far, not far.

Find the whole song here.

That’s all I got for today, kids!

Have you heard any of these songs? Which is your favorite?

With love,


P.S. – I Am They, amiright? ;)