Whether you work for a church, a corporation, independently, or in the home, you still work. It’s part of being an adult, and work is actually a good thing. If you look back to the very beginning of creation, you’ll see that one of the first things God did when he planted Adam in the garden was to give him a job to do:
“The Lord God took the man and placed him in the garden of Eden to work it and watch over it” (Genesis 2:15).
Work is in our DNA. It’s part of who we are as humans to do work, to contribute, and in so doing, to be an extension of God’s common grace into the world. In a perfect world – in the Eden world – that work would be hard, but joyful and satisfying. But work, like everything else, has been corrupted by the fall. And now we don’t just work – we toil. What was meant to be satisfying and fulfilling is now drudgery. And we feel it, don’t we?
Get a group of people for very long, and chances are at some point the conversation will turn to work, and rarely will that conversation will be positive. It will instead focus on the terrible monotony of doing the same thing every day; that boss who doesn’t appreciate you; the thankless tasks you do that no one notices; how you should be compensated more. And in the end, for more people than now, the fact that you spend the bulk of your days doing something you never imagined you would be doing.
If that’s the case for you, then you can of course quit your job, pursue your dream, launch out into the great unknown – all that stuff. Maybe that’s the right thing for you to do. But before you write that letter of resignation you can’t take back, would you consider for a moment that this job you hate so much might actually be the best thing in the world for your soul?
But before we get to those specific reasons, it’s important that we understand something about the nature of discipleship. Namely, that discipleship doesn’t happen in a vacuum; it’s not an intellectual exercise. Instead, real discipleship is about real life. All of life. Every circumstance in our lives is a tool in the skilled hands of our God, who is committed to fashioning us into the image of Jesus. That means discipleship doesn’t just happen in a church building; it happens in all arenas of life as God uses those circumstances to mold and make us. Now onto the specific issue of work, there are 4 reasons why it might indeed be the case that your terrible job is good for your soul.
1. You are forced to define yourself by Jesus.
Think about the way people typically introduce themselves to other people. It starts with a name, but where do you go from there? Usually to vocation. That ought to tell us that the tendency in our culture is to define each other, and ourselves, by what we do to earn money and make a living. That’s a great thing if you get to answer the question, “Well, as a matter of fact, I do the very and exact thing that I love the most in the entire world, and I get paid real money for it.”
When you can’t answer the question like that, though, it’s not only an awkward pause in the conversation; it makes you deeply consider just what in the universe gives you significance and worth. Surely it can’t be this job that you never thought you would end up doing. And when our focus is (sometimes painfully) removed from our vocation, we are forced back to the fundamental truth that we belong to Jesus. That job you hate so much can be a moment by moment reminder of the fact that ultimately, your self-worth, validation, and identity are found in the Son of God and His love for you.
2. You are forced to confront the idol of self.
If we despise the job we are in, it might just be a pretty strong hint that we are still worshiping the idol of self. Perhaps we think we are too good to do this job; that we are entitled to something more or better. Or maybe we think our talents are being wasted. Or perhaps we are talented in another area, and yet we find ourselves doing this job instead of having a career in that field. Whatever the case, one of the questions at the bottom of it all is this: What is life really about?
Most of us, at least at some level, still think that life is about getting what we want. That it’s about fulfilling our own desires, pleasures, and ambitions. And if the job we are in is one we hate, then we are daily coming face to face with our own idolatry of self. The answer in this case is not a new job; it’s repentance. It’s turning from our ultimate commitment to ourselves and instead embracing the very tangible avenue in front of us to die to ourselves every single day.
3. You grow the discipline of thanksgiving.
Sometimes it’s easy to give thanks. When there’s plenty of money in the bank account, everyone is healthy, and the weather is 70 degrees and sunny. Those are the days when we really feel the thanksgiving. But what happens when you’re spending 8-10 hours a day in circumstances that are hard for you?
Those circumstances don’t negate the biblical command to give thanks. In fact, those circumstances actually cultivate our capacity to give thanks. It’s during times like that when you come to understand the discipline that is thanksgiving, and not just the feeling that is thanksgiving. This is good for our souls, for it reminds us that as pithy as it might sound, there is indeed always reason to praise the Lord. But we won’t grow in that discipline until we are forced to do so, sometimes by a job that we don’t like very much.
4. You grow in your capacity for perseverance.
“If we endure, we will also reign with Him; If we deny Him, He will also deny us…” (2 Timothy 2:12).
But how do we develop endurance? It’s through challenging circumstances. We should not neglect the fact that a job we don’t wake up every morning excited to get to can help us develop this core characteristic that will help us continue to move forward in faith. The truth is that our jobs are neither the best or the worst things that will happen to us in this life. Even so, they can be used in the hand of God to create in us the resolve to live by faith. To keep going. To define ourselves by Jesus. To die to self. To give thanks in all circumstances. And in the end, to just flat out keep going.
So, friends, it might be that today is the day you need to chase your dream. Quit your job. Pursue your ambition. But before you do, you might ask yourself if by doing so you are actually neglecting the work God might be doing in your soul by staying fast.