“I don’t know how much longer I can take it,” my friend lamented. “My boss keeps scheduling me on Sundays and making me work late nights. I’m doing the work of three people and getting the salary of one. When I brought it up to him, he promised I would get a raise soon, but I haven’t seen it yet. I know I’m supposed to work hard to glorify God, but I’m just so exhausted.”
My friend is just one of many people who have expressed their work-related troubles to me. I once met a Muslim woman working as a tour guide at an ancient historical site halfway around the world. A language barrier limited our conversation, but when I asked if she liked her job, she replied in perfect English, “I’m fed up!” Apparently, disliking your job is a common experience around the world.
Until recently, my husband also struggled in a difficult job in order to make ends meet. I hated watching the manual labor physically wear him down while all the potential of his mind was seemingly wasted. He applied and interviewed for all kinds of jobs and we prayed diligently, but for two years there was no change. Whenever we shared our frustration, it seemed like people didn’t know how to respond (and I can’t blame them, because neither did I). Everyone said the same thing:
What kind of job are you looking for?
I think such-and-such company is hiring — have you tried applying there?
Are you on LinkedIn?
God has the perfect job lined up for you — just be patient.
As his job wore on with no end in sight, having the same conversation over and over started to get old. We needed a heartier answer than “you just need to network more.” Few people were able to enter our situation and just be present with us; they wanted to do something about it. It seemed there was little hope for us if God chose to keep him where he was; every solution was based on changing our circumstances.
In other words, their responses were just a Christian version of what the world has to offer when people don’t like their jobs: Make a change. Go back to school. Follow your dreams. Find what you love. If work problems are a global phenomenon and we have Christ, shouldn’t Christians have a better answer for people who are “fed up” with their jobs?
Next time you find yourself talking to someone who hates their job, here are five questions to help deepen the conversation and point them to Christ:
1. What is that like for you?
Christ didn’t shy away from suffering; rather, He stepped into our world and took on human flesh, so He can sympathize with our weaknesses.
Step into this person’s world and take the time to find out where it hurts the most. You can start by asking practical questions, like “how many hours are you working?” Follow up factual questions by asking, “What is that like for you?” It sounds a little corny, but I ask this all the time in counseling because the person’s perception of the situation is just as important as the facts. To some people, a 50-hour work week is no big deal. To others, it’s oppressive and affects their health and /or family life. Don’t assume you know how they feel; ask them.
2. What do you think is the cause of suffering in work?
This question will reveal a good deal about their theology. Most people are all too familiar with the beginning of Genesis; few realize the impact that original sin has on their daily lives. Genesis 3 says that sin affected every area of life, including work. Adam’s job to cultivate the ground suddenly required much more toil and sweat, with only thorns and thistles to show for it.
I once spoke with a woman who had been through 11 jobs in as many years. Each time she started a new one she expected to find fulfillment, and each time she was disappointed. It blew her mind when I told her that all work is cursed due to original sin. As a result, not only will we not find total fulfillment, we should expect at least some degree of difficulty or frustration with every job. This brings a healthy dose of reality to the situation, but it also provides an opening to talk about how Christ is redeeming all things, including work!
3. What do you think work will be like in the New Heavens and New Earth?
People joke about winning the lottery so they can just stop working altogether, but the absence of work is not the end goal in God’s plan of redemption. Rather, through Christ, He is reversing the effects of the curse, taking away all the thorns and thistles so that our work may be enjoyable and productive again. God is restoring work, not getting rid of it.
God is restoring work, not getting rid of it.
Each day we punch the clock, we’re one day closer to a time when Christ will make all things new and wipe every tear from our eyes. There will be no more pain, and we’ll be removed from the presence of sin which makes work so frustrating right now. Christ, our faithful and loving King will be seated on the throne, and it will be our honor to serve Him in cultivating the new creation!
The answer to a terrible job isn’t getting rid of work; it’s the restoration of creation to God’s perfect plan. Help your friend catch some excitement for the future promised to those who follow Christ.
4. What does it look like to suffer well while we wait on Christ?
Even if someone understands the beginning and end of God’s story, they still need to know how to live in the middle. 1 Peter 2:18-25 demonstrates what it looks like to endure a job under less-than-ideal conditions. After all, Peter argues, what credit is there in persevering when you love your work and have a wonderful boss? Anyone can do that. Only those who suffer as Christians in difficult circumstances receive a commendation from God.
When we think we’d like to take this job and shove it, we have to look to our example: Christ. He bore our sins in His own body on the cross, and by His suffering we are healed. When you ask your friend what it means to follow His example, don’t accept vague or trite answers; press for specifics–names of real people and situations at work that need to be handled by following in Christ’s footsteps. Remind them that in doing so, they are being conformed to His image and bearing it for others to see. The world expects them to give up, to respond to sin with sin or to seek a change in circumstances. It does not expect them to suffer patiently with hope.
5. How can we help you?
Even as you encourage your friend to faithful endurance, don’t let them do it alone. Ask how the church can surround them with love and support. Maybe there are chores around the house that have been neglected due to a crazy work schedule. Offer to watch the kids one night so he and his wife can have a date, or send a midweek text of encouragement. When the body of Christ helps share the burden, it becomes all the more bearable, and you may help them catch a glimpse of the coming kingdom!
We can all relate to the experience of a horrible job; we’ve either had one, we’re in one right now, or we know someone who is. Due to the all-encompassing effects of sin, this is a worldwide experience and one that we need to get better at dealing with. These five questions can give you a basis for starting a conversation and pointing people to hope in Christ rather than finding a new job.
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image credit: FreeImages / Mark Puplava
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