Working man trapped in calendar

Stuck in a Job You Don’t Like?

Written by Leslie Koh, Singapore

After spending a number of years in the media, Leslie finally decided to move from working with bad news to good news. He believes in the power of words (especially when they’re funny). He works as an editor in Our Daily Bread Ministries.


This must be a rite of passage that almost everyone goes through at some point: to be stuck in a job you don’t like. (If you feel that you’re in the best job in the world—well, lucky you!)

And you’ll be all too familiar with the feelings that come with it:

  • That feeling of dread that starts on Sunday evening and peaks on Monday morning as you wake up and think, Here we go again.
  • That sense of ennui you get in the office, going through your tasks robotically and listlessly, staring out the window and wishing you were someplace else.
  • That temptation to sweep everything off your desk, chuck your laptop into the bin, and walk out. (Personally, I’ve also entertained hopes that the office had burnt down overnight so I don’t have to go to work, but that’s a different story.)

So, what can we do in this situation?

If we were not followers of Christ, we would just have to think about practical issues, like whether or not we can afford to quit, or how to negotiate for a better position. Google “What if I’m stuck in a job”, and you’ll probably find tons of articles giving good, practical advice.

But as Christians, we want to respond in a way that honours God. We want to make sure that our decisions are in line with His way and will, so that we don’t say or do anything regretful.

That makes things all the more challenging, because there may not always be a “right” or “best” answer. What if God wants us to stay in a boring or tough job because He has important plans for us down the line? Or, what if He actually has a better job lined up, but we need to go out and look for it—or wait for it to come?

With God in the picture, many of our considerations will change. Yet, that doesn’t mean we should simply throw our hands into the air helplessly, and wait for the “inevitable” to happen. While the Bible makes clear that we are to subject ourselves to God’s will (James 4:13–15), it also emphasises the importance of wise, careful planning. Proverbs 21:5, for example, observes that “the plans of the diligent lead to profit”.

I’ve found that whenever I’ve felt demoralised, asking myself two key questions (and the questions that naturally follow) has helped me think through my situation more meaningfully. In turn, that has allowed me to be more targeted and detailed in my prayers, as well as in my practical plans.


1. What exactly don’t you like about your job?

It’s easy to say, “I hate my job!”, but it would be wise to drill it down further and ask ourselves: Exactly what don’t I like about my job? For instance:

  • If it’s the nature of the job itself, is there something you can do about it?

Can you ask for a change of job scope, or a transfer? Can you talk to your boss about how you can do more of the things you like, and less of those you don’t?

Can you consider a change of perspective, remembering that to do a task we like (in my case, editing or writing), we often have to put up with parts we don’t like (administrative tasks like meetings, composing emails)? Can you learn to appreciate more what you like, and accept the other parts as, well, part of “life”?

  • If it’s your colleagues or your boss, what is it about them you that bothers you?

Is it a specific behaviour you could talk to them about honestly—but discreetly and sensitively?

Is it possible to avoid engaging someone on issues and discussions that trigger you? Or, if needed, to keep conversations with a foul-mouthed or discouraging colleague to a minimum? Perhaps we can be guided by Paul’s advice in Romans 12:18: “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.”

Dealing with people in a godly way is always a challenge; it may not be possible to resolve conflict with every individual. However, when we remember our own sinful nature and how we are still “works in progress” who have been forgiven and are being transformed by the Holy Spirit, we can learn to extend grace to others. Remember that they, too, may be on a journey of development.

  • What purpose might God have for you there?

Once, while thinking about leaving a workplace, I realised that God might want me to stay for reasons other than the work itself—like making a difference in the way I dealt with colleagues, and simply staking a Christian presence in the workplace.

Could your work now be a place of opportunity to share God’s love and show the world how a disciple of Christ behaves?

  • Do you just need a break?

A former boss once advised me of the value of frequent leave breaks, and he was right! I used to try to accumulate my leave entitlement for a long holiday, but that meant no breaks for the other l-o-n-g 11 months of the year.

No wonder God instructed the Israelites to rest in the form of Sabbath. And when the prophet Elijah felt burnt-out and demoralised, God’s first response was to let him eat and sleep (1 Kings 19:3–9). Even great servants of God needed mental breaks and physical rest!


2. What are your options?

Another sweeping statement I often hear (from myself) is: “I have no choice! I’m just stuck here!” To which I can hear another voice gently respond: “Really?”

One of the biggest sources of frustration and discouragement is living with the feeling that we’re stuck and we don’t have a choice. But this could be an assumption that we need to look into. Here are some questions to consider:

  • How stuck are you in your job?

Some of us may be in situations where quitting is really not an option. Perhaps you’re the breadwinner of the family, you’ve signed a contract you can’t afford to break, or you’re doing something you cannot just abandon, like a family business or a project you’ve started. Or, you’re doing National Service.

That is tough, and my heart goes out to you! Perhaps—and this is certainly not easy—what might help is to focus not on what you wish you could do (but can’t), but on what you can do. Constantly thinking “if only” or “what if” will only make us more miserable. If God has placed us in a trying circumstance for a reason we cannot yet fathom, I believe He will give us the strength and wisdom to go through the darkest valley.

That said, for the rest of us, it’s likely that there are options, only that they may not be easy ones, and there may be huge costs involved. You may have to pay a penalty for cutting short an employment contract. You may have to give up a car that you’ve just taken a loan for. Or even give up plans for a bigger home which entailed a burdensome mortgage that kept you stuck in the first place.

In which case, we may discover that the answer to the question, Can I quit?, is actually, Yes, but it’ll cost me. The question now becomes: Is it worth it?

This may change our perspective of our dissatisfaction in our jobs. Instead of seeing it in isolation, we can begin to balance our need for fulfilment against other needs and desires. We may decide that perhaps this job isn’t so bad after all, if it pays for our dreams or enables us to enjoy work-life balance. Or, we may make that difficult but necessary decision to change jobs, if, for example, it’s our mental health that’s at stake.

  • Is there something else you can do?

Before you make that decision to quit, you might want to ask yourself: “What else could I do?”

Does looking at postings for other jobs excite you? Do you want to explore a different environment or job scope? How prepared are you to learn a new skill, or adapt to a new workplace?

I once thought that I’d had enough of writing and editing as a career, so I quit to try something else. Months into the new job, I realised how much I missed my old job. Trying something else helped me figure out what I really liked to do. So when I went back, I no longer felt demoralised. Nothing had changed other than my perspective—and the realisation that I wasn’t really prepared to do something new.

There are times when we may just need to step out in faith and see what happens. But there may be times when we might benefit from thinking through possible scenarios first, to help us see our current situation from a different angle.


Bring it all to God

When Asaph, the writer of Psalm 73, was discouraged by the injustice of life, he dug deep into his own feelings and told God exactly what he was unhappy about. “I envied the arrogant when I saw the prosperity of the wicked (Psalm 73:3),” he said, before going on to complain about how the rich and wicked were flourishing while the poor and innocent continued to suffer.

Digging deeper into our dissatisfaction can help us analyse the real source of our discouragement, and help us to address it wisely and objectively. We can take these details to God, talk to Him about it, and pray for His wisdom to respond in a way that pleases Him.

In Asaph’s case, his reflection eventually led him to take comfort in the truth that God would bring justice in His time and help him through his circumstances. “Whom have I in heaven but you?” he concluded, “My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.” (Psalm 73:25–26)

Do we need divine help and godly wisdom to cope with specific issues in our jobs or the people we work with? Or do we need to address something deeper, like our own expectations of ourselves, our expectations of job satisfaction, or even a quarter-life crisis? Do we need a change of heart and perspective that only the Holy Spirit can give?

If we constantly seek the Lord in our struggle and put His way and will above ours, I believe He will honour our faith. We may find some of His answers and directions challenging, but we know that the loving Father always has our interests at heart.

Proverbs 16:9 offers us a reminder as well as a comfort: “In their hearts humans plan their course, but the Lord establishes their steps.”

The reminder is, God is the ultimate decider of what happens: man may make his plans, but the sovereign God has the last say. Yet here’s the comfort: as we plan our course (with godly wisdom and care), we can take heart that our loving God will take care of where our steps land, and establish us firmly on His way.

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