Written by Q. Jackson, USA
Over a year ago, I found myself worn out and exhausted—greatly taxed from a job that didn’t seem to give much in return for my effort.
My personality type thrives in a super-fast paced, dynamic, ever-changing environment where efficiency and innovation are not just helpful for the job, but absolutely vital for survival. Because of this, I was really good at my job. Opportunities opened up for me and I was moving up quickly. During the work day, I didn’t have time to think about how it was wearing on me. It was on the commute home that the full impact of the day would hit me.
I was spending my days working for a company that existed solely to sue individuals for money they owed. I was pouring my time and talent into a purpose I didn’t support. Quickly, the days were piling into weeks and months and building towards years. I knew that if I did not intentionally make a change, I would keep working there. I wrestled with this realization regularly, but the dawn of each new work day yanked me back into the blinding rhythm.
We Want to Make a Difference
Because we have more access than ever before to what happens all around the world, our perspectives about who we are and how we fit in shift. Having grown up in an increasingly globalized world, I certainly wanted to spend every day making a positive impact in this broken world.
The generation currently joining the workforce has had more visual exposure to the hurts and realities around the world than any previous generation. How could we not try to find jobs where we can make a difference? Desiring to make a difference is good.
My mistake was when I drew up specific expectations about what “meaning” in my job looked like, instead of looking to God to show me. My mistake was believing that my days couldn’t be meaningful enough because I worked in a money-hungry law office. Even so, God is the patient author of our story. He placed me where I was for a reason, and He was gracious enough to show me why.
There is Meaning in the Mundane
Over time, I learned that many of my tasks, though demanding, were not all mentally taxing in nature. I could handle some of them while I also engaged my office-mate in conversation. So, I started sharing thoughts and meditations about God and Christianity that were on my heart. I trust that God orchestrated many of our conversations. It seemed that when I was willing to obediently share my testimony of God’s work in my life, He took care of guiding the conversation where it needed to go.
Eventually, God was opening doors for conversation about purpose and the meaning of our existence, about hardships in life and the evil that exists in our world. I got to boldly explain the hope that I have in Christ, and how He stands as my advocate so our good God can look on Christ’s perfection instead of my sin. My office-mate was not shy in asking questions. Forty hours a week with a person trapped in your office is a fine place to “do ministry.” So, there it was: God showed me meaning.
Understanding how I could find meaning where I was did not discourage me from continuing to look for a different occupation. I still had a sense that this wasn’t where I was supposed to be long-term. However, my new-found understanding did transform my attitude. I no longer looked at work the same. The way I prayed about work changed. My goals at work changed. The work and the position were still exhausting. Some weeks, the weight of my workload prohibited lengthy conversations. However, in the midst of the weariness and the busyness, I clung to the truth that God had a plan for it all, and my part was to listen to His guidance and act when He led me.
Seek Out Meaning
I would argue that most jobs, at least to some degree, involve other people. Other people should be our focus, and sharing Christ with the world should be where we find meaning. Maybe you have a job where you can strike up meaningful conversation with a co-worker. Do it. Maybe you have a job where your attitude is your greatest witness. Be a light! Regardless of what you do, where you work, or what occupation God has placed you in, it should be meaningful. If we don’t get so wrapped up in our own ideas of what “meaning” looks like, and when we pray for God to open our eyes to the Spirit’s work around us, He will use us for His kingdom work!
I had an incredibly meaningful job at a spiritually dark law office. Starting there helped me to develop a tendency to search out meaning, whether or not it’s an expectation of my occupation. If I were to rely on my job title, or even my field of work to make me feel like I’m having a positive impact, I probably would not have a very positive impact at all. Instead, I find it is best to search for meaning in relationships, conversation, and service to others. That applies in every aspect of my life, not just my job.
Make a Difference Where You Are
Eventually, I did receive a job offer elsewhere. But after investing deeply in ministry at the law office, I felt torn about leaving. In one sense, it was very obvious that I needed to leave. I knew that if I were to stay, the ever-growing job demands would continue to grind me down, and that the wear would seep into my life outside of work. It was a clear choice for me to leave, but it was also very hard choice for me. I spent years trying to focus on investing in relationships there, but now it came time for me to leave those relationships. I found solace in a passage in 1 Corinthians, written by the apostle Paul:
What, after all, is Apollos? And what is Paul? Only servants, through whom you came to believe—as the Lord has assigned to each his task. I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God has been making it grow. So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow. (1 Corinthians 3:5-7)
In this passage, Paul emphasizes that he and his fellow servant, Apollos, were co-workers in God’s field. We may work in the field to plant seeds or water them, but ultimately, it is God who actually grows the plants. This reminded me that we all have a part to play in God’s kingdom, and though I may never see the plant grow in the lives of my old co-workers, I know that it is in God’s hand to see the seed through to growth.
As Christians, we should seek meaning in everything that we do. We must remember, however, that God is much, much bigger than our idea of what “meaning” looks like. It is important that we actively seek to glorify God in whatever situation we’re in, while also carefully listening for His direction which might guide us to new situations. So, yes. Your job is supposed to mean something. Every job, every city and every person needs the light of Christ. So, make a meaningful impact wherever you are, whatever your job is.