Lots of things have changed over the past 18 months. Some of these changes are readily apparent; some of them are still in process. But thanks to the pandemic, lots of stuff is different.
Take, for example, our cars. None of us have driven very much over the last year, and it probably will make us think a little differently about what cars we buy in the future. At the very least, it will probably prolong, at least for a while, the current cars we have.
Or consider the way we eat. There are many among us who have discovered – or rediscovered – what it looks like to cook at home. And many have found it to be not only healthy, but actually enjoyable. Some of that will likely carry through into the future as well.
And then we come to the subject of work. And boy, have things changed. We have set up permanent, or semi-permanent, offices in our homes. Many companies have embraced on a permanent basis the idea of working remotely. We have had to adjust to meeting via zoom rather in person, and have had to make allowances for casual side conversations that normally would have happened in hallways or popping into offices.
All of that change, combined with the overall uncertainty about the future, has made work difficult for many. And of course that’s true – it’s been a hard, hard season at work. That’s true for believers and non-believers, for Christians and non-Christians. The struggle is common, but the response should not be. That’s because Christians ought to have a different perspective on work, as we ought to have a different perspective on all things. What, then, should the Christian do when struggling at work? At least these three things:
1. Their job.
This one is simple. When a Christian is struggling at work, he or she should do their job:
Whatever you do, do it from the heart, as something done for the Lord and not for people, knowing that you will receive the reward of an inheritance from the Lord. You serve the Lord Christ (Col. 3:23-24).
Notice that Paul doesn’t say we need to get a new job; he doesn’t even qualify the kind of work that we are doing. Instead, he makes a holistic and inclusive statement about whatever work it is we are doing. It is possible, according to Colossians, for us to mow grass, work on spreadsheets, crunch numbers, or rebuild engines as unto the Lord. This is a different perspective indeed that just “putting your nose to the grindstone” in order to bring home a paycheck.
Part of working as unto the Lord involves remembering who our true authority is. No matter what our vocation is, we are ultimately doing so under the authority of Jesus. He is our true boss, no matter who it is that gives us our annual reviews. So when we are struggling at work, the first thing, as a Christian, we ought to do is our job.
2. Cap their emotions.
When we are having a difficult time at work, it can be an all-consuming thing. We wake up thinking about it, muddle through it all day, and then go to sleep thinking of it. Day after day passes and the stress and anxiety builds until it starts to boil over into other ares of our lives. We blow up at our children, isolate ourselves from our other relationships, and can’t find joy in much of anything else in life. Surely it doesn’t have to be this way.
The Christian is daily bringing every part of themselves under the lordship and authority of Jesus. That includes our emotional lives. It is a good and right thing to care – and care deeply – about the work we do. But it is also a good and right thing to set ourselves an emotional cap – to know that we can care only so much, and no more. There is a discipline that comes with that resolution – it’s a discipline that makes us shut down the computer at the right time, and to not check our email first thing in the morning. It’s a discipline that pushes us to create practical boundaries for our lives and stick to them. For our own sake, we can. We must.
3. Choose their perspective.
When we are struggling at work, we tend to have tunnel vision on our particular job. It’s like our whole world collapses into this time, this moment, with these circumstances. When we find ourselves doing that, it’s helpful for us to zoom out to a greater perspective.
Part of that perspective is understanding the true purpose of work. There is something more going on here than just going to the office. Work is part of God’s plan for humanity, not just as a means for providing for ourselves and our families, but for providing for the common good of His creation. Ordinary people like you and me are the sovereignly designed means by which God is caring for the people of the earth. He has ordained that we, as human beings, exist in a state of interdependence on each other. That doesn’t mean God has isolated Himself from the world; it simply means that God is providentially using the talents, opportunities, and regular old jobs of regular old people to provide and care for humanity.
Think of that. As we work, we are the means of God. We become like the rain that falls on the just and unjust alike—the means of common grace through which human life and well-being is sustained and provided for. When we see it like that, a sense of great wonder and awe returns to our everyday working life, for we come to see that God is channeling His love through us as we work.
I recognize that this is an overly simplified post. And I hope you’re not reading this to say that there is not a time to seek a new role at a new place, because there certainly is. But even as we are making that search, we can still work with honor, truth, and goodness, bolstered on and persevering in the work before us each day. As we do, may we seek to honor Jesus who is our true authority.