It’s 2am and I’m getting into a cab after another 16-hour day in the office – the third one this week. I feel awful. I want to call a friend, but it’s far too late and they’ll be asleep. To make it worse, it’s likely that my presentation will be completely reworked by my boss in the morning. This is, after all, the same boss who once came in on a Friday afternoon, gave me a piece of work (that I had no idea how to do) with instructions to learn about it over the weekend and submit the completed work on Monday morning. You can imagine what that weekend was like. So, sat in that taxi at 2am, I genuinely wonder what on earth I’m doing with my life.
This was my first proper job, working for a small management consultancy in London. The role seemed fantastic when I went to the interview; interesting clients, great colleagues, stimulating work. Even the likelihood of working until 8pm most evenings didn’t put me off. But in reality, it didn’t materialise as I’d expected. The work swung between very difficult and mind-numbingly boring. I had believed this job was God’s will for me, yet I was confused as one of our clients sold, among other things, ‘adult messaging’. (Could I really justify working for them?!)
I’m pretty sure my story’s not unusual. I’ve spoken to loads of recent graduates who find the start of working life difficult. No wonder so many of us live for the next holiday and dream of retiring as soon as possible.
But work is a central part of God’s design for our lives. It was given to Adam and Eve before the fall – they were given the garden to work and take care of it. The very work we do has intrinsic value as the goods and services we produce help mankind flourish. But, when sin entered the world, we read that work became “painful toil”. The original design became frustrated and so there is struggle in our work. Does that mean that God’s good purposes for work are lost?
Well over the past three years, I would say work has been the main place that I have learnt how to love people unconditionally, to forgive people and to receive forgiveness from others (and God). You could say it’s where I have learnt most about discipleship.
With one senior colleague, we went through many months where I would do something that would annoy her, or go against her wishes. When I’d done something wrong, there was really no escaping it. I had to swallow my pride, apologise, and ask for her forgiveness. We got into the habit of regularly saying sorry and forgiving one another. We both learnt a lot about grace from that experience.
As I have found it difficult to love specific colleagues (thinking back to the boss I mentioned above), I have learnt to come to God, asking for His help, to see my colleagues as He sees them and to find specific ways of blessing them – so loving my colleagues is not just a feeling, but something I get to try to live out in a counter-cultural way each day.
In the middle of really challenging circumstances, you can become good friends with your colleagues. There is nothing like working till 2am to bind people together! As I’ve grown closer to my colleagues, I’ve enjoyed sharing my faith with them; challenging each other with different perspectives and exploring spiritual questions. One colleague was so intrigued to learn that I went to church, that over the course of a couple of months we discussed who Jesus is and eventually he made a commitment for himself.
So, even with 2am finishes, challenging bosses or just plain difficult work to do, I know work is a great place to learn how to follow Jesus. With the right perspective, it is possible to see God’s purpose even in the most difficult circumstances.
You can read the other myths about work here.
Image by Scott Liddell via stock.xchng images.