Three Encouragements for Difficult Projects

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I just finished a massive home renovation, and, to be honest, I’ve been wondering if it was worth all the work.

If you’ve ever been in the midst of a long, challenging project, you know the war you experience with regret, frustration, and self-flagellation.

  • “Why did I ever think this was a good idea?”
  • “I’ll never finish!”
  • “Why was I so stupid?”

As I was asking myself last night if I regretted taking on this year-and-a-half-long home renovation, I realized a few things about challenging projects, and I wanted to share them with you.

Just because you wouldn’t choose to do it again doesn’t mean it was a bad decision.

There are certain things I would do differently if forced to do it over again—hire someone to do the drywall instead of doing it all myself, being foremost among them!

But now that it’s over, I don’t actually think regret is the right word. It was just really, really hard. And I wouldn’t choose to do it again. But I’m still glad I did it. And I don’t think that’s a contradiction.

We live in a world that values comfort like it’s a virtue. So when difficult seasons come—especially the ones we invite by taking on a big project—we often assume we must be doing something wrong.

Somewhere along the line, we’ve gotten it into our heads that life should be easy. So when it’s not, we assume that must mean something is amiss. But that’s not the truth. Just because a decision turned out to be more difficult than you thought it would be doesn’t mean it was a bad decision.

Big projects are always hard, and often much harder than we anticipate.

I saw a clip this week from an interview with Jensen Huang, Founder & CEO of the wildly successful tech company Nvidia. The interviewer asked Huang what he would do differently if he could go back to the start of the company. Huang’s answer surprised me. I think it surprised the interviewer, too, because he initially burst out laughing, thinking Huang was joking.

Huang’s answer: “I wouldn’t do it.”

Huang said that building a company like Nvidia was more challenging than he ever thought it would be.

If we had realized the pain and suffering, just how vulnerable you’re going to feel, and the challenges that you’re going to endure, the embarrassment and the shame, and the list of all the things that go wrong, I don’t think anybody would start a company. Nobody in their right mind would do it.

There are many projects we wouldn’t take on if we knew how hard they would be. I know I would not have undertaken this home remodel had I known how long it would take. But I think there’s a grace in that.

Jesus told us to count the cost of following Him, but God frequently God calls us to do difficult things for which we can’t calculate the cost in advance, at least not fully. And our ignorance of the cost may be a blessing. If we knew the difficulties of the road that lies ahead of us, we might be too fearful to walk it.

Walking by faith means that we obey even when obedience requires us to step into dangers and difficulties as yet unknown.

Purpose pushes back discouragement.

The one thing that kept me going during this long process of building this home was that I remembered why I was doing it. The result of all that blood, sweat, and tears would be a home for my family. That’s what I reminded myself with on the though days.

I imagine it was similar for Huang in building Nvidia—the purpose kept him going even amid the difficulty of building his company.

Purpose is really powerful. And the bigger the purpose, the more powerful it is.

I have often commented that one of the most undervalued benefits of being a Christian is the great purpose God has given us. Believers have the most potent purpose of all—we are here to glorify God. That means we can resist even the most substantial waves of discouragement, not because we believe our efforts will earn us a multi-billion-dollar company or a roof over our heads, but because we believe that if we do our work “as unto the Lord,” our efforts are not in vain. (Colossians 3:23–24). It is this understanding of a higher purpose to our work that enables us to not grow weary in well doing.

“And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.”

Galatians 6:9

The fact that you’re facing difficulty in an endeavor you’ve consecrated to the Lord isn’t a sign that you shouldn’t have done it. It’s a reminder to look back at why you are doing it. This is the motivation equation in action.

In whatever you are doing, if the ultimate aim is to glorify God, you can find encouragement to keep going and know with confidence that the labor will have been worth it.

So don’t regret the big difficult projects just because they are difficult. Because often the most difficult things are the things most worth doing.

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