I was recently blessed to be able to go on a cruise. A cruise ship is a very interesting environment. Many people want to take a cruise. They may save up for years to be able to take a week and sail to some exotic destination. Most of the time all the food you can eat is included in the price. Entertainment is included. Breathtaking views are included. So it is a really special experience.
But none of that just happens. There are hundreds of people making it a special experience. This is the crew. From kitchen staff, to housekeeping, to sales associates, and many others, it takes a small village to provide 24 hour service that wows the traveler. Most of these workers are from countries other than the United States. They leave their homeland to work on a cruise ship. That may sound a little more luxurious than it is.
It is an intense work environment where they deal with some very difficult people who are only there to be pleased. They live in a cubicle smaller than the kitchen in most of the travelers houses. They always have to be on. They have to smile after receiving an insult. Sure, they get to see some pretty cool places, but many of them have to stay on the ship when in port, because the travelers expect things to be phenomenal on board when they are finished with their island excursion.
On the last night of the cruise I was talking to some of the crew friends I had made. One lady from Mexico had been working on the ship for a couple of years. Another from Russia had been on board for 20 days. I know it was 20 days because in the course of our conversation about the trials and triumphs of crew life she corrected my mistake about her being on board for two months by saying, "I have been on board for 20 days."
At this point, her friend, and on-board mentor quickly said, "When you are on the ship, you know how many days you have been on it because it is such a difficult experience." Turning to her Russian friend she said, "Don't measure your time on the ship by the number of days you've been on board. Measure your time by cruises. Count the cruises... not the days."
I immediately thought... man... how many times do I measure my life by the difficult minutes, when I should be measuring it by the wonderful moments? We can so easily get bogged down in the daily living that we miss the big picture of a grand life. This is how burnout happens. Frankly, we do have to press on through the trials of living in a broken world. Sometimes life is difficult because others make it so. Other times it is difficult because we make it so. Regardless, there are some beautiful and powerful things happening in your life. And these are the things that should mark our days.
The apostle Paul went through many difficult experiences. He was beaten, left for dead, ship-wrecked, abandoned by his friends, arrested on false charges, etc. So he knew a little bit about the hard life. But he also realized he was on a great adventure and mission. He was able to put it into perspective...
"Since we have been declared righteous by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. We have also obtained access through Him by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. And not only that, but we also rejoice in our afflictions, because we know that affliction produces endurance, endurance produces proven character, and proven character produces hope. This hope will not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us." (Romans 5:1-5)
Jesus is our example. But even He had to focus on what was most important to get through some great difficulties...
"Let us run with endurance the race that lies before us, keeping our eyes on Jesus, the source and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that lay before Him endured a cross and despised the shame and has sat down at the right hand of God’s throne. For consider Him who endured such hostility from sinners against Himself, so that you won’t grow weary and lose heart." (Hebrews 12:1-3)
I'm not suggesting we forget our struggles. They are real. They help form us. They will likely be some of the most powerful memories we carry. But they do not have to be the heavy clock around our neck. Crew members on a cruise ship are not working simply to have a difficult life anymore than they are working just to be able to play at every beach. Most have a goal... a plan... a dream. They must be willing to endure the difficult things, which most of us don't see, in order to enjoy the blessings of a life they only see in their mind.
We should measure our lives by the glorious cruises, and not the difficult days. Living by the hope in us, we can endure the hardships that come to us. Today you will have some difficult minutes. Do not let them steal the joy of the moments. Let your focus be on the big picture and not the small problem. God has not brought you here to leave you here. He has brought you here to take you to where you need to be.
[Bible quotes are from the Holman Christian Standard Bible, unless otherwise noted.]
Find more of David’s work at Heart Of Ministry.
My name is David, and I want to know God more, and help other people find Him.